NHL Rumor Mill – July 6, 2020
Check out the latest speculation on the Oilers and Sabres in today’s NHL rumor mill.
OILERS FACE A CAP SQUEEZE
EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples recently reported the Oilers will be squeezed by the salary cap remaining at $81.5 million for 2020-21. With over $71 million already invested in next season’s payroll, general manager Ken Holland will have around $10.5 million available.
The Oilers restricted free agents include Ethan Bear, Andreas Athanasiou, and Matt Benning. Their unrestricted free agents include Mike Smith, Mike Green, and Tyler Ennis.
Staples feels $10.5 million should be enough to retain those free agents or bring in potential replacements. However, it rules out the possibility of pursuing a big-ticket free agent. He knows some Oilers followers would love to see the club bring back winger Taylor Hall, but that doesn’t seem possible, especially with younger players like Bear, Kailer Yamamoto, and Evan Bouchard in need of contracts down the road.
It could also be difficult to re-sign Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Adam Larsson if the cap stays flat for 2021-22. Both are due to become UFAs next summer.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Allan Mitchell also examined the difficulties facing the Oilers under a flat cap.
He speculates useful UFAs like Smith and center Riley Sheahan could find cost-conscious offers unacceptable. The Oilers could also trade or walk away from RFAs like Athanasiou or Benning, who have arbitration rights.
For those without arbitration rights like Bear, Mitchell speculates they could get an affordable one-year bridge deal. They could also consider trading Kris Russell or Alex Chiasson or buying out winger James Neal’s contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The fates of some of those free agents could depend upon their play in the upcoming playoff tournament. The same goes for Russell, Chiasson, or Neal. I agree that those players lacking arbitration will probably have to accept bridge deals for a year or two.
As Staples observed, Russell could be enticing to a cost-conscious club looking to reach the cap floor. He carries a $4 million cap hit but will earn just $1.5 million in actual salary after being paid his $1 million signing bonus for 2020-21. That’s assuming one of those clubs will be on his 15-team trade list for next season.
Cap Friendly indicates buying out Neal would free up over $3.8 million, leaving just over $1.9 million against the Oilers cap. However, it would also be that much dead cap space annually for the next six seasons.
Holland could be reluctant to move Chiasson. He carries an affordable $2.15 million cap hit for next season.
LATEST SABRES SPECULATION
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): John Vogl recently examined several potential free-agent forwards who could help the Sabres improve their road record. He suggested Vancouver’s Tyler Toffoli, Nashville’s Craig Smith or Mikail Granlund, Colorado’s Vladislav Namestnikov, or Florida’s Erik Haula.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Toffoli, a skilled two-way player with Stanley Cup experience, would be the best bet. Granlund struggled following his trade from Minnesota last season but improved when John Hynes took over as Predators coach at midseason.
Both could provide a welcome boost to the Sabres’ secondary scoring. Signing them, however, could be difficult given the Sabres’ recent reputation as a dysfunctional franchise.