NHL Rumor Mill – May 7, 2020
Next season’s salary cap could affect the Golden Knights’ roster, Jesse Puljujarvi could become a more attractive trade candidate, and an early draft will affect the Canadiens’ efforts to rebuild. Check out the details in today’s NHL rumor mill.
THE GOLDEN KNIGHTS AND NEXT SEASON’S SALARY CAP
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Jesse Granger recently examined how the salary cap remaining around $81.5 million for 2020-21 could affect the Vegas Golden Knights roster. They have over $72 million already invested in 17 players, with over $46 million committed to 10 forwards, over $20 million in six defensemen, and $7 million invested in goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
If the Golden Knights hope to re-sign free-agent goalie Robin Lehner, they’ll have to shed salary unless he agrees to a significant hometown discount. If the NHL implements compliance buyouts this off-season, Granger doesn’t think they’d use it on key players like Fleury, Paul Stastny, or Max Pacioretty. If worst came to worst, they still have significant trade value. Should the cap decline, the Knights would have to let Lehner walk or shed a top-six forward.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Most reports I’ve read and heard indicate the NHL and NHL Players’ Association don’t intend to let the cap decline. It’s believed they’ll maintain it at $81.5 million and see what next season’s revenue looks like. Under that scenario, we might not see compliance buyouts.
I don’t see how the Golden Knights can afford Lehner under a flat cap. After getting one-year contracts from the New York Islanders and Chicago Blackhawks, he’ll want a lucrative long-term deal this time around. They’ll have to shed one of their forwards in a cost-cutting deal or attempt to move Fleury if they intend to re-sign Lehner.
COULD THE OILERS MOVE PULJUJARVI IN AN EARLY DRAFT?
EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples cited Oilers Now host Bob Stauffer and Sportsnet’s Mark Spector speculating Jesse Puljujarvi’s trade value could increase if the NHL stages an early draft next month. Under that proposed scenario, the league could allow draft picks, prospects, and players outside the league whose rights remain owned by NHL clubs (like Puljujarvi) to be traded during the draft.
Puljujarvi spent this season in Finland after requesting a trade from the Oilers. He remains a restricted free agent without arbitration rights. With no NHL veterans available as trade bait during the draft, the young winger could be more valuable to clubs seeking a second- or third-line winger next season, especially those with a surplus of draft picks in this year’s draft.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: We can’t dismiss that possibility. Interested teams might prefer seeing Puljujarvi play next season before taking a chance on him. Nevertheless, a club with lots of picks in this year’s draft, like the Ottawa Senators or Montreal Canadiens, might be willing to take the gamble if they can sign him to an affordable one-year deal.
LATEST ON THE CANADIENS
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Arpon Basu believes holding the draft before resuming the season throws a monkey wrench into Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin’s efforts to retool his roster. Under a normal draft, Bergevin could peddle those picks to cap-strapped clubs looking to shed salary.
The Canadiens have 14 picks in this year’s draft and had 21 in the last two years. They face having 35 prospects enter their system, pushing them very close to the league maximum of 50 players under contract in a given season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Like most observers, I believe Bergevin loaded up with draft picks in this year’s draft to use some of them as trade bait to bolster his roster for next season. Those deals won’t be possible if the draft is held before the season resumes in July unless the league allows for a second trade deadline. Bergevin could use the prospects he selects as trade candidates, but draft picks tend to be more attractive than prospects in the trade market.