NHL Rumor Mill – July 15, 2020
In today’s NHL rumor mill, we examine the latest on the Flames and Oilers, plus how the elimination of the UFA interview period could be a win for the players.
LATEST ON THE FLAMES AND OILERS
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Scott Cruickshank recently examined the effect of a flat salary cap ($81.5 million) on the Calgary Flames for next season. With nine forwards, four defensemen, and one goaltender under contract, they have less than $17 million to work with.
Of their restricted free agents, Cruickshank assumed the Flames will retain Andrew Mangiapane and Oliver Kylington. He suggested shopping Mark Jankowski’s rights or letting him become an unrestricted free agent by not qualifying his rights.
Cruickshank doesn’t expect the Flames can afford to keep both T.J. Brodie and Travis Hamonic. Both are unrestricted free agents at season’s end. He suggested re-signing Brodie and letting Hamonic walk or shopping his rights for a pick at the 2020 NHL Draft. Trade deadline acquisitions Erik Gustafsson and Derek Forbort are unlikely to be re-signed. Cruickshank expects UFA goalie Cam Talbot could seek a starter’s job elsewhere, leaving the Flames in need of an affordable backup (like Anton Forsberg) for David Rittich.
That won’t leave much room to pursue a free-agent star such as winger Taylor Hall unless they make a couple of significant cost-cutting moves.
SPORTSNET: Eric Francis also speculated the Flames will retain Brodie during a recent mailbag segment. He was also asked if the Flames might replace Talbot and winger Johnny Gaudreau with Robin Lehner and Hall. Francis felt there’s a remote possibility to sign Lehner but it made no sense to dump Gaudreau to sign the more expensive Hall.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Francis also noted the trade speculation dogging Gaudreau over the past year-and-a-half, expecting such a move will eventually happen. The 26-year-old has fallen out of favor with Flames fans since a disappointing performance in last year’s playoffs followed by sub-par production during this season.
Another dissatisfying postseason effort on Gaudreau’s part will ramp up the trade speculation during the off-season. He lacks no-trade protection for next season, but his $6.75-million annual average value could be difficult to move under a flat cap.
THE ATHLETIC: Jonathan Willis recently examined the Edmonton Oilers’ cap situation. For next season, they could use their leverage to re-sign Ethan Bear (no arbitration rights) to a cheap one-year contract. Trade deadline acquisition Andreas Athanasiou (restricted free agent) could return at his current salary ($3 million) while veteran goalie Mike Smith (UFA) should return.
Willis speculates winger James Neal and defenseman Kris Russell could be bought out, though the latter could be shopped with 50 percent salary retention (in real dollars worth only $750K to his new team).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I expect most of Willis’ scenario for next season will play out as expected. Smith is in the twilight of his career and could accept another one-year, bonus-laden deal with a $2 million base salary.
ELIMINATION OF UFA INTERVIEW PERIOD COULD BE A WIN FOR PLAYERS
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin believes the recent elimination of the five-to-seven day window for clubs to interview pending UFAs in the CBA extension is a win for the players. With little time for general managers to prepare, it could spark a return to the opening-day bidding wars of the past.
Larkin suggests it will be the end of media leaks leading up to the noon ET start of free agency. It could also mean fewer signings on opening day.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: While this isn’t a rumor, this will affect the UFA market going forward. The absence of the interview period means there will be more intrigue leading up to the start of the free-agency period. It will also mean we could see some notable UFAs taking several days to sign.
The flat cap could also affect the market value for the top UFA. Larkin speculates that could change in a year or two as hockey-related revenue improves, thus raising the salary cap.