NHL Rumor Mill – March 30, 2020
The latest speculation on James Neal and Kyle Clifford in today’s NHL rumor mill.
COULD NEAL BECOME A BUYOUT CANDIDATE?
THE ATHLETIC: Allan Mitchell suggested James Neal as the obvious contract buyout candidate for the Edmonton Oilers, either via a normal buyout or if the NHL and NHLPA agree to compliance buyouts if the salary cap is lower than projected. His age (32), production (19 goals, 31 points in 55 games), and contract length ($5.75 million annually through 2022-23) make him a no-brainer as a compliance buyout candidate.
Mitchell also argued Neal would be worthwhile buying out under normal circumstances. It would cost just over $1.9 million annually against the Oilers’ cap over the next six seasons. Mitchell feels Neal’s contributions can be replaced for that price. The move would also give the Oilers some additional flexibility when other clubs face cap challenges and free agents find few options on the open market.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Mitchell makes a compelling case for buying out Neal. Whether Oilers general manager Ken Holland shares that view remains to be seen.
LEAFS, CLIFFORD HAVE MUTUAL INTEREST IN NEW CONTRACT
SPORTSNET: Mike Johnston recently reported Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan indicated the club has a mutual interest with Kyle Clifford in working out a new contract for the 29-year-old winger. Clifford was acquired last month from the Los Angeles Kings. He’s proven to be a good fit for his new club. He’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. Shanahan praised Clifford’s grit, toughness, and leadership.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With an annual average value of $1.6 million on his current contract, Clifford shouldn’t be an expensive signing for the Leafs. Finding sufficient salary-cap space, however, will be an issue.
The Leafs have nearly $77 million committed to 16 players for next season and will have to replace defensemen Tyson Barrie and Cody Ceci when they depart via free agency later this year. If the cap remains at $81.5 million, the Leafs could be forced to make a cost-cutting trade or two to find sufficient room for Clifford and replacements for Barrie and Ceci.