NHL Rumor Mill – May 4, 2020
Check out the latest Oilers and Flames speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.
SPORTSNET: In a recent mailbag segment, Mark Spector was asked if Edmonton Oilers winger James Neal would be a compliance buyout candidate if the NHL allows for such buyouts this off-season. He believes they should, for while he believes the Oilers won the Neal-Milan Lucic trade with the Flames, it would be a good idea to shed the winger’s $5.75 million annual average value for the next three years.
(NOT MARK) SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ll leave the debate over who won the Neal-for-Lucic trade for Oilers and Flames fans. If the league allows for compliance buyouts, I will be surprised if the Oilers don’t use it to shed Neal’s cap hit. While his stats improved playing for the Oilers, his best seasons are behind him. Getting his cap hit off the books would free up space to bring in a younger, perhaps more affordable replacement.
The Athletic’s Jonathan Willis has suggested going the normal buyout route with Neal if the compliance option isn’t on the table. While it would leave the Oilers with over $1.9 million in dead cap space over the next six years, Willis felt it would be worth it in a summer where every NHL team faces salary-cap challenges.
Speaking of compliance buyouts, there’s an assumption among some NHL followers that this is going to happen because of the effects of the pandemic upon league revenue. However, that’s not a certainty right now.
If the league and the PA agree to keep the cap at $81.5 million for 2020-21, they could decide there’s no need for compliance buyouts. I can only see that option implemented if the salary cap declines.
EDMONTON SUN: Jim Matheson recently reported the Oilers could attempt to re-sign Tyler Ennis because they like his ability to move up and down the lineup. He speculates the 30-year-old Edmonton native might accept $1 million to play in his hometown. He also thinks Oilers general manager Ken Holland wants to bring back Riley Sheahan, but only if he’s paying him as a fourth-line center. Sheahan spent part of this season in a third-line role.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Scott Cruickshank recently speculated over which players could depart the Calgary Flames in the off-season. He lumped T.J Brodie, Travis Hamonic, Derek Forbort, Erik Gustafsson, Michael Stone, Cam Talbot, and Sam Bennett among the “could stay or go” category. All but Bennett are unrestricted free agents at season’s end.
Cruickshank suggested keeping one of Brodie or Hamonic and one of Forbort or Gustafsson. Talbot’s future in Calgary depends on whether he still sees himself as a starting goalie again. He also wondered if the Flames should remain patient with Bennett or trade him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flames salary-cap space and how much those pending UFAs seek will also determine who stays or goes. As per Cap Friendly, they have over $64.5 million invested in 13 players for 2020-21.
Cruickshank also included Tobias Rieder and Zac Rinaldo among that group. While they would be affordable to retain, I believe they’re more in the “go” category.