Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – May 3, 2020
Check out recent Blues and Sabres speculation in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.
HOW WILL THE BLUES FREE UP SALARY TO RE-SIGN PIETRANGELO?
STLTODAY.COM: During a recent live chat with his readers, Tom Timmermann was asked if Blues fans should be worried about Alex Pietrangelo departing via free agency after this season. He didn’t rule out it, suggesting the 30-year-old defenseman will take a business-like approach to the situation. If Pietrangelo gets a better offer from a rival club, Timmermann thinks he’ll take it.
Given the possibility of the salary cap remaining at $81.5 million, most clubs won’t have the cap space to make Pietrangelo a lavish offer. Nashville Predators blueliner Roman Josi’s annual average value of $9 million is considered the yardstick. Nevertheless, Timmermann feels the Blues will fight hard to keep their captain.
Timmermann’s colleague Benjamin Hochman shares this view, pointing to the Blues’ lack of salary-cap space next season. It could mean shedding one or two players to free up sufficient room. They could trade goaltender Jake Allen and buy out the final season of Alex Steen’s contract, though the Blues rarely do contract buyouts.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pietrangelo’s status will remain a hot topic for conjecture until this season is finally over. With $79.4 million tied up in 20 players and restricted free agent Vince Dunn also to be signed, the Blues must shed salary if they hope to re-sign Pietrangelo.
There’s lots of talk among fans and pundits suggesting compliance buyouts could return this off-season to help cap-strapped clubs as a result of the pandemic’s effect upon league revenue. However, if the league and the NHL Players Association agree to maintain the cap at $81.5 million, that could rule out compliance buyouts. If so, the Blues would have to go the conventional route to buy out Steen, which would only free up $2.33 million of his current $5.75 million cap hit for 2020-21.
Speaking of Allen, Timmermann was asked about bundling the goalie with Ivan Barbashev as a cost-cutting move. He feels Allen would be enticing to clubs seeking help between the pipes, but that move would only free up $5.8 million, not enough to re-sign Pietrangelo.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As Timmermann points out, that’s why folks keep turning to trading or buying out Steen.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Joe Yerdon recently examined the salary-cap issues facing the Buffalo Sabres next season. They’re currently around $1.25 million over the $81.5 million salary cap because of bonuses owed to Rasmus Dahlin and Henri Jokiharju.
Should Dahlin finish in the top-10 among defensemen in assists, he’ll be owed another $2 million. It would push the Sabres’ overage to $3.275 million, leaving them with $78.225 million available next season.
Yerdon observes the Sabres have over $47 million committed to next season’s cap payroll, but those potential bonus overages make that cap space a bit of a mirage. They could make low-ball offers to their restricted free agents or trade one or two players (like Rasmus Ristolaninen) to loosen the salary cap pressure.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabres’ RFAs include Sam Reinhart, Victor Olofsson, Brandon Montour, Dominik Kahun, and Linus Ullmark. Their UFAs include Wayne Simmonds, who was acquired from New Jersey at the trade deadline.
Re-signing them will take up a sizable chunk of their cap space, leaving less to replace the others or to address their ongoing roster needs. A $3.2 million overage penalty will complicate things.
Ristolainen frequently surfaced as a trade candidate this season, as did Montour whenever pundits discussed the Sabres’ need for another scoring forward. One or both could get moved before next season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cirelli would be an intriguing fit for any NHL club. However, I don’t believe the Lightning intend to move him. He’s a restricted free agent coming off his entry-level contract without arbitration rights.
With over $76 million invested in 15 players, the Bolts don’t have enough cap space to re-sign him and their other free agents. However, media speculation suggests they could look at moving one or two veterans (like Alex Killorn) to clear space to re-sign Cirelli and Sergachev to affordable bridge contracts.