Ottawa Senators winger Alex DeBrincat (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators acquired DeBrincat this summer from the Chicago Blackhawks. A two-time 40-goal scorer, the 24-year-old winger is in the final season of his contract with an average annual value of $6.4 million.
DeBrincat earns $9 million this season in actual salary, which is what it’ll cost the Sens to qualify his rights. He will also be a year away from unrestricted free-agent eligibility next July.
With New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal recently signing an eight-year contract worth an AAV of $9.15 million, DeBrincat could get something between $9 million and $9.5 million. However, his camp could prefer waiting to see how this season plays out. Another 40-goal campaign could push DeBrincat into the $10 million AAV range.
The Senators have $60.9 million invested in 11 players for 2023-24. A new deal for DeBrincat will take a big bite out of their $22 million in cap space.
HOW WILL THE RANGERS FREE UP SALARY-CAP SPACE?
THE ATHLETIC: Arthur Staple wondered if there are any ways the New York Rangers can give themselves extra cap room now. They have just over $1 million in projected space to start the season.
They could attempt to acquire the contract of a player on permanent long-term injury reserve such as the Vancouver Canucks’ Micheal Ferland or the Arizona Coyotes’ Andrew Ladd. However, they can only exceed the cap by the equivalent of the sidelined player’s AAV. Doing so also means the Rangers won’t be able to accrue salary-cap space throughout the season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Staple doesn’t see the Rangers going this route at the present time. They don’t have a need to add that much cap space right now unless they’re about to acquire someone via trade and that player’s cap hit fits within the LTIR amount. He concludes it’s too complicated right now.
The Stars can afford to sign him to an average annual value of between $7 million and $8 million. Robertson’s camp could be seeking something comparable to the $9 million AAV being earned by Minnesota Wild winger Kirill Kaprizov.
Dallas Stars forward Jason Robertson (NHL Images)
Yousef points out that only three teams (Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes and Buffalo Sabres) have sufficient salary-cap space to sign Robertson to a lucrative offer sheet. The compensation of two first-round picks, a second and a third would be sacrificing a lot for those rebuilding teams.
The Sabres would have to offer up over $10.5 million AAV because they lack the required compensation as the Vegas Golden Knights own their 2023 third-round pick. The Stars would also have the opportunity to match any offer sheet.
Yousef acknowledged the Stars could trade Robertson but there are few NHL clubs right now that can afford to pay him a better contract. There’s also no indication that contract talks between the two sides have gone that sour.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The longer this drags on and the more playing time Robertson misses, the worse it’ll be for his performance this season. In turn, it could hamper the Stars’ playoff hopes. Yousef also points out that the two sides have until Dec. 1 to hammer out a new contract or he’ll become ineligible to play the remainder of this season.
As for Puljujarvi, Seravalli doesn’t know if teams are going to get a lot of value out of a player earning $3 million on a one-year contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, no real change for either player. Chychrun will stay in Arizona until a rival club like the Kings or Senators step up to meet the Coyotes’ asking price. Puljujarvi will have to improve this season to bolster his trade value but that could also make him more valuable to the Oilers.
CANUCKS AND PENGUINS COULD BE PLANNING SOME MOVES
DAILY FACEOFF: Seravalli also reported the Vancouver Canucks have been attempting to trade the contract of Micheal Ferland to a team that has already had injuries or is already using long-term injury reserve and could use a boost.
Ferland has a $3.5 million AAV but is earning $2.75 million in actual cash. A potential problem, however, is his contract isn’t insured, meaning whoever picks it up would have to pay the full $2.75 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ferland, 30, is permanently sidelined due to concussion issues. His contract will expire at the end of this season.
Seravalli also reports the Pittsburgh Penguins have informed the other 31 NHL teams that Pierre-Olivier Joseph is available via trade. They have nine defensemen under NHL contracts and risk losing one of them to waivers. Seravalli wonders if they’ll keep Joseph or risk losing Chad Ruhwedel or Mark Friedman to waivers.
A look at possible Canucks trade candidates plus the latest Stars speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.
LATEST ON THE CANUCKS
THE ATHLETIC: With trade rumors swirling about the Vancouver Canucks, Thomas Drance looked at which players are likely to become trade candidates if management decides to shake things up or being overhauling the roster.
Vancouver Canucks forward J.T. Miller (NHL Images).
Drance believes J.T. Miller’s competitive style, experience and versatility would interest clubs in “win-now” mode. He said there are teams monitoring the Canucks fortunes with Miller’s short-term future in mind, including the Minnesota Wild.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Miller, 30, is also signed through 2022-23 with an annual cap hit of $5.25 million and lacking no-trade protection. However, his agent told Drance’s colleague Rick Dhaliwal they haven’t had any conversations with Canucks management about trades.
Drance also addressed recent speculation about Canucks winger Brock Boeser. While acknowledging the 24-year-old winger’s talent as a sniper, he felt Boeser’s $7.5 million in actual salary this season is too expensive for most clubs in a flat-cap era. He’s a restricted free agent next summer with arbitration rights.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dhaliwal also reported Boeser’s agent said he doesn’t believe his client will be traded but he’s aware it could happen. He said Brock has faith in the Canucks team and his teammates to get through their struggles.
Players slated to become unrestricted free agents next summer, such as Jaroslav Halak and Tyler Motte, are the most likely to be moved if the Canucks become sellers by the March trade deadline.
Drance also suggested Micheal Ferland’s permanent long-term injury reserve status could have some value for cap-strapped clubs seeking creative solutions. He also didn’t rule out the possibility of moving players like Travis Hamonic, Jason Dickinson and Tanner Pearson who still have term on their contracts.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks could surprise by moving one of their talented core players. However, I think Drance’s assessment is spot on and I recommend reading the entire piece if you have a subscription to The Athletic.
A rival club could make an offer for someone like Miller or Boeser before the trade deadline that’s too good for general manager Jim Benning (or his replacement?) to pass up. Still, it could be difficult to put that type of deal together during the season.
With three goalies on the roster, the Stars don’t have enough cap space to call up any extra forwards or defensemen. DeFranks indicated they could trade Holtby ($2 million) or Khudobin ($3.33 million) but that would deplete depth between the pipes as sidelined starter Ben Bishop’s status remains unclear.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Stars signed Holtby not because they lacked confidence in Oettinger but rather they wanted him to get a little more seasoning in the AHL before bringing him into the roster on a full-time basis. His performance this season shows his effort in the shortened 2020-21 campaign was no fluke.
Oettinger remains waiver-exempt so the Stars can send him down to their AHL affiliate once Holtby returns from his lower-body injury. Trading Holtby or Khudobin, however, would be an easier way to address this. The uncertainty over Bishop, however, remains a nagging issue. He’s reportedly eligible to come off LTIR but still isn’t physically ready to play.
The Stars shouldn’t have much difficulty moving Holtby or Khudobin if they go that route later in the season. There are already some clubs (hello there, Buffalo Sabres) in need of experienced goalie depth who could come calling.
Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty (NHL Images).
Doughty acknowledged the club’s been rebuilding but feels they have the salary-cap space to make some big moves. “There’s no point in just waiting for these prospects to develop when you’ve got guys in their prime, hungry to win, and sick of losing,” he said. When asked if he’d be happy if big moves aren’t made, Doughty simply replied, “No.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kings general manager Rob Blake has patiently built up his roster with promising youngsters but his veteran core wants to return to playoff contention and a shot at winning the Stanley Cup again.
Doughty has six more seasons left on his contract with an annual average value of $11 million. Kopitar has three more at $10 million annually, Quick has two years at $5.8 million and Brown one year at $5.875 million. Blake could trade one or two of those players but their age or hefty contracts would be difficult to move.
Cap Friendly shows the Kings with over $20 million in cap space for 2021-22 with all their core players under contract. There’s room to make a big offseason move to accelerate the rebuild. That’s why the Kings have been linked to Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel in recent trade rumors.
We’ll have to wait and see what Blake has in store for his roster this summer. If he sticks with his current plan, however, he’ll have an unhappy No. 1 defenseman on his hands. And that will raise questions about Doughty’s future in Los Angeles.
LATEST ON THE CANUCKS AND SENATORS
THE ATHLETIC: Thomas Drance included reallocating salary-cap space among his list of offseason priorities for the Vancouver Canucks. Once restricted free agents Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes are re-signed, there won’t be enough cap room to rebuild the blueline, upgrade their bottom-six forwards and add a top-six winger.
They could get some relief if the Seattle Kraken select goalie Braden Holtby (4.3 million) in this summer’s expansion draft. A contract buyout or two is possible. Drance also proposed bundling a future asset to move an additional contract or attempt to move Micheal Ferland’s contract to a cap-strapped team.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks have over $65 million tied up in 15 players. Most of that will be used up signing Pettersson and Hughes.
GM Jim Benning could be squeezed by the Kraken for a draft pick to take Holtby off his hands. Ferland and Jay Beagle could start next season on long-term injury reserve. However, it would be less complicated if one or both could be shipped to teams better equipped than the Canucks to carry those contracts. Those moves also mean including a draft pick, prospect or young NHL-ready player into the deal.
Benning attempted to trade disappointing winger Jake Virtanen this season but couldn’t find any takers. His $3.4 million in actual salary for next season combined with his recent off-ice issues could give Benning little choice but to buy out Virtanen.
THE ATHLETIC: Ian Mendes includes the acquisition of a top-four defenseman among his suggested offseason priorities for the Ottawa Senators. He feels they need a veteran blueliner who can log over 20 minutes per game.
Mendes proposed targeting teams with expansion draft protection issues or those with salary-cap issues in the trade market. They could also go the free-agent route.
OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports the Senators want to add another center and perhaps a top-four defenseman. GM Pierre Dorion could attempt to address those needs from within but could shop around first.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators have over $53 million invested in 17 players with Brady Tkachuk and Drake Batherson as their notable free agents. They’ll have plenty of salary cap room once those two are re-signed, but that depends on how close to the $81.5 million cap owner Eugene Melnyk is willing to spend.
Lightning captain Steven Stamkos hits the ice for training camp, the Wild name Jared Spurgeon captain, an update on Joe Thornton, the latest contract signings and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: After missing all but one game of the 2020 playoffs to a core muscle injury, Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said he’ll be a full participant in training camp. He also expects to be ready for the start of the season on Jan 13.
Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A healthy Stamkos should help the defending Stanley Cup champions offset the absence of winger Nikita Kucherov, who’s expected to miss the regular season recovering from hip surgery.
TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild named Jared Spurgeon as their second full-time captain in franchise history. He replaces Mikko Koivu, who was their first full-time captain for 11 seasons until his departure via free agency in October.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Spurgeon gets the nod over long-time Wild stars Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. The 31-year-old defenseman has spent his entire NHL career with the Wild, becoming an underrated but invaluable part of their roster core.
TSN: Joe Thornton will begin Toronto Maple Leafs training camp playing left wing alongside Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see how long that line stays together. There will be concerns over whether the 41-year-old Thornton can keep pace with his younger, faster linemates.
NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: The Blackhawks signed Dylan Strome to a two-year contract with an annual average value of $3 million. The 23-year-old center is expected to take on a larger role this season with centers Jonathan Toews and Kirby Dach sidelined by illness and injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks couldn’t afford to let Strome’s contract negotiations keep him out of training camp. With Toews and Dach on the shelf, they need all the help they can get at the center position.
Strome played well during his first season with the Blackhawks (51 points in 58 games during 2018-19) but his numbers tumbled to 38 points in the same number of games in 2019-20. This will be a golden opportunity for Strome to prove his worth to the Hawks and earn himself a more lucrative long-term deal in two years’ time.
TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins signed defenseman John Marino to a six-year contract extension beginning in 2021-22. The annual average value is $4.4 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Marino, 23, enjoyed a promising NHL debut with the Penguins, netting 26 points in 56 games while averaging over 20 minutes of ice time per game. This contract could be a bargain for the Pens if he blossoms into a full-time first-pairing defenseman.
NEW YORK POST: The Islanders are downplaying Mathew Barzal’s absence from training camp as contract negotiations continue with the restricted free agent.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Barzal is in New York and it’s expected a new contract could be announced sometime this week.
THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks winger Micheal Ferland won’t be in training camp and his playing career could be in jeopardy as he continues to deal with post-concussion symptoms. He saw action in just 14 regular-season games last season. GM Jim Benning said Ferland is expected to miss the start of the upcoming season.
SPORTSNET: Benning also said the club intends to sign head coach Travis Green to a contract extension. Green has one year remaining on his current deal.
CBS SPORTS: The Calgary Flames signed defenseman Michael Stone to a professional tryout offer. Stone spent the last four seasons playing with the Flames
SPORTSNET: The province of British Columbia has become the second Canadian province to officially approve NHL games this season. Alberta last week also issued its approval for its NHL teams to stage games in Calgary and Edmonton.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s expected the other three provinces with NHL franchises (Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec) will follow suit this week.
The Blue Jackets sign Dubois, the Blues ink Vince Dunn, plus the latest on Mathew Barzal, Zdeno Chara, Brent Burns, Nico Hischier, Micheal Ferland and more in the first NHL morning coffee headlines of 2021.
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Blue Jackets yesterday signed Pierre-Luc Dubois to a two-year, $10 million contract. A restricted free agent before the signing, the 22-year-old center will earn $3.35 million this season and $6.65 million in 2021-22. The annual average value is $5 million.
Pierre-Luc Dubois yesterday signed a two-year contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A skilled two-way player, Dubois enters this season as the Jackets’ No. 1 center. Coming off his entry-level contract, Dubois had little leverage other than to stage a contract holdout or demand a trade. It’s an affordable short-term deal for the Blue Jackets and a reasonable raise for the young center, but he’ll be in line for a more lucrative deal in two years’ time when he has arbitration rights.
Before the signing, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported there were “rumblings” from a few clubs around the league that Dubois wanted a “change of scenery.” I’ll have more about that in the Rumors section.
STLTODAY.COM: The St. Louis Blues yesterday signed restricted free agent Vince Dunn to a one-year, $1.85 million contract. Like Dubois, the 24-year-old defenseman was coming off an entry-level deal and lacked sufficient leverage to seek a better deal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dunn deserves more than that but the Blues are pressed for cap space this year. While they’ll place Alex Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko on LTIR for this season, they need to ensure sufficient space for the latter’s anticipated return in March.
The Blues also have winger Mike Hoffman in training camp on a tryout offer and must ensure sufficient cap room to sign him to a one-year deal. I daresay Dunn can expect a much better deal next year when he has arbitration rights and the Blues have more cap room.
NEW YORK POST: The Islanders had yet to sign Mathew Barzal to a new deal but general manager Lou Lamoriello said the RFA center is in New York and contract discussions are ongoing. Lamoriello also revealed the Isles have signed winger Matt Martin, defenseman Andy Greene and goaltender Cory Schneider.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With training camps opening for last season’s 24 playoff clubs on Sunday, Jan. 3, don’t be surprised if Barzal and the Isles reach an agreement on a new contract as soon as today. No details yet on the new deals for Martin, Greene and Schneider but they’re probably affordable one-year contracts.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Former Bruins captain Zdeno Chara revealed the club wanted him back for this season but in a reduced role as they transitioned toward younger defensemen. He also said the Bruins made him a contract offer months ago. Chara signed a one-year deal with the Washington Capitals earlier this week.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It sounds like the Bruins envisioned Chara filling the role of a seventh defenseman, meaning he wouldn’t see anywhere near as much playing time as he’s used to. He admitted he’s got no guarantees with the Capitals but he’ll have the opportunity to compete.
THE MERCURY NEWS: San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns spent part of the offseason making a guest appearance in two episodes of the Amazon Prime series “Vikings”.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Burns does look like a modern-day Viking so he’d be a natural for a bit part in that series. His most recent acting gig was a commercial during the 2020 playoffs for Kit Kat Chunky.
NORTHJERSEY.COM: New Jersey Devils center Nico Hischier is listed as week-to-week with an injured foot. While it’s not considered serious and doesn’t require surgery, the injury could sideline the 21-year-old center for the start of the season on Jan. 13.
THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks forward Micheal Ferland won’t be in Vancouver on Sunday for his training camp physical and is expected to undergo testing remotely with team doctors. Ferland’s agent revealed his client is still attempting to recover from post-concussion symptoms suffered last season. If the winger fails his physical, the Canucks are expected to place him on long-term injury reserve for this season.
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The Flyers are attempting to turn oft-injured defenseman Samuel Morin into a left winger for the coming season. Morin, who said he’s “fighting for his career”, approves of the move. He could become part of the Flyers’ taxi squad for the upcoming season.
WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres have reportedly hired former NHL defenseman Dan Girardi in a player development role.
TSN: Players on Canada’s seven NHL teams will be exempt from the country’s 14-day quarantine rule. The Canadian government has approved of the teams’ training-camp plans to mitigate the risk of importation and spread of COVID-19 but all teams must operate within provincial guidelines for regular-season play. Alberta is the first province to approve NHL regular-season games.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: All seven Canadian teams are able to stage training camps in their respective cities. If the other provinces don’t approve regular-season games, the Canadian clubs could start the season playing their games in a hub city like Edmonton. However, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly recently reiterated the league believes it has clearance to play in all seven Canadian cities.