Red Wings Will Be Better, But Still Far From Good
In today’s NHL morning coffee headlines: Alex Pietrangelo reportedly close to signing with the Golden Knights, the Blackhawks core aren’t happy with management’s recent moves, and the latest notable free-agent signings.
THE ATHLETIC’s Jeremy Rutherford reported hearing Alex Pietrangelo and the Vegas Golden Knights were getting close to a deal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rutherford speculated it could’ve come as early as last night. Nothing so far as of this posting but they could reach an agreement later today. Cap Friendly indicates the Golden Knights currently have $1.875 million in salary-cap space. A new contract for Pietrangelo could cost over $8 million annually on a long-term deal.
They are allowed to exceed the cap by 10 percent during the offseason, but they’ll have to shed significant salary to fit that deal under the cap before the start of next season. I’ll have more about that in the Rumors section.
THE SCORE: cited The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus reporting the Chicago Blackhawks veteran core players (Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and captain Jonathan Toews) are fed up with management’s offseason moves. Lazerus cites a source claiming they’re “pissed off” and have “had enough”.
The Blackhawks let Corey Crawford depart for New Jersey via free agency, traded Brandon Saad to Colorado for Nikita Zadorov, and didn’t tender qualifying offers to Drake Caggiula and Slater Koekkoek. Toews said the recent moves came as a shock, adding he was never told the club was going through a rebuild.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman deserves criticism for his management of the club’s cap payroll. They have little room to maintain a playoff-caliber roster. However, a big chunk of those cap dollars is invested in those core players. I can sympathize with their frustration, but they have no business being pissed off when their contracts annually eat up over $33 million in salary-cap space.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Stars re-signed center Radek Faksa to a five-year contract worth $3.25 million annually.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Faksa, 26, has become an effective shutdown center on the Stars’ third line. This is an affordable deal that’s pretty much in line with market value for a center of his skill set.
THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings signed forward Vladislav Namestnikov to a two-year, $4-million contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Another good, affordable signing by Wings GM Steve Yzerman. Namestnikov is a versatile two-way forward who can play center or wing. He also wanted to play for Detroit. He’s the nephew of former Wing Slava Kozlov and lives in the area.
STLTODAY.COM: The Blues signed forward Kyle Clifford to a two-year contract worth $1 million annually.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blues sit above the salary cap by $1.175 million with defenseman Vince Dunn to re-sign. While they could make a cost-cutting deal, they will likely start next season with Vladimir Tarasenko and Alex Steen on long-term injury reserve, allowing them to exceed the cap by their equivalent salaries until such time as they return to action.
TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs signed forward Jimmy Vesey to a one-year, $900K contract.
Recent Red Wings, Avalanche, and Devils speculation in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.
RED WINGS OFF-SEASON NEEDS
MLIVE.COM: In a series of articles last week, Ansar Khan examined the roster needs of the rebuilding Detroit Red Wings. He believes they’ll require a top-six forward if they don’t win the draft lottery and land top prospect Alexis Lafreniere in this year’s draft. Theyll also need a pair of free-agent defensemen and a backup goaltender.
Khan listed the top free agents available at each position this summer. Forwards include Arizona’s Taylor Hall and Florida’s Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov. St. Louis’ Alex Pietrangelo, Boston’s Torey Krug, and Toronto’s Tyson Barrie are among the noteworthy defensemen, while goalies include Washington’s Braden Holtby, Vega’s Robin Lehner, and Vancouver Jacob Markstrom.
Asked in a recent mailbag if the Red Wings will buy out any players this off-season, Khan doubted they’ll go that route. He felt the Wings don’t want a player’s contract on the books for additional years, even at a reduced rate. Under normal buyout rules, most buyouts count as two-thirds the remaining value of the contract over twice the remaining term.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $46.2 million invested in 11 players, the Wings have sufficient cap space to re-sign key players like Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi and Robby Fabbri, and have enough left to land one or two quality free agents. The problem, however, is enticing them to join a rebuilding roster that’s several years from playoff contention.
We also don’t know if general manager Steve Yzerman is keen to invest big bucks in big-ticket UFAs to accelerate the rebuild. I don’t doubt he’ll try to bring in some short-term veteran help, but I can’t see him overspending to do so.
Maybe Yzerman tries to land Lehner or Markstrom, but he could find some decent backup options in Jaroslav Halak, Thomas Greiss, or Anton Khudobin. There’s been some media talk suggesting Krug, a Michigan native, could sign with the Wings, but I believe he’ll re-sign with the Bruins. Perhaps the Wings GM can add a UFA blueliner like Justin Schultz or Sami Vatanen.
The Wings might not want to go the traditional buyout route, but perhaps they’d consider a compliance buyout if the league and the PA agree to that rumored plan this summer. Frans Nielsen or Justin Abdelkader could be prime candidates.
WILL THE AVALANCHE RE-SIGN NAMESTNIKOV?
THE ATHLETIC: Ryan S. Clark recently wondered what the Colorado Avalanche should do with Vladislav Namestnikov. Acquired from the Ottawa Senators at the trade deadline, the versatile 27-year-old forward proved to be a solid addition before the schedule was paused.
Namestnikov’s an unrestricted free agent at season’s end completing a two-year deal worth $4 million annually. The Avs have over $24 million in salary-cap space, but also have several restricted free agents (include Andre Burakovsky, Ryan Graves, and Nikita Zadorov) to re-sign.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Namestnikov’s future with the Avs could be determined by whether the season resumes and how he performs if it does. He appeared to be a playoff rental player, but maybe that changes if he plays well and would accept an affordable short-term deal.
DEVILS NEED BLUELINE HELP
NORTHJERSEY.COM: Abbey Mastracco recently examined the New Jersey Devils’ pressing need for depth on their defense corps. She felt they need another rearguard or two or three on their blueline, especially on the left side.
Any upgrades could come via trades, as the Devils aren’t in a position to throw big money at free agents. They have plenty of currency in draft picks and salary-cap space. She doesn’t rule out signing a veteran free agent on a short-term contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Devils must first decide who their general manager will be before making significant off-season decisions. They have over $55.2 milliion committed to 13 players. They have three picks in the opening round of the 2020 NHL Draft, but two of those are conditional picks. They also have two fourth-round picks in this year’s draft, plus two third-rounders and two fifth-rounders in next year’s draft.
The latest on the Blackhawks and Sabres in today’s NHL rumor mill.
LATEST ON THE BLACKHAWKS
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Ben Pope recently reported the Blackhawks will finish the season with Corey Crawford and Malcolm Subban as their goalie tandem, but the future between the pipes appears murky. General manager Stan Bowman said his club will have a proven NHL goalie signed for next season, but didn’t shed light on who it’ll be.
Pope doesn’t expect Subban fits into the Blackhawks’ future. All eyes will be upon Crawford, who’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and has a concussion history. If Crawford departs, Bowman’s options in the UFA market could include Brady Holtby, Jacob Markstrom, Jaroslav Halak, Anton Khudobin, Thomas Greiss, Mike Smith, and former Blackhawk Robin Lehner.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Crawford is 35 now and his best seasons are behind him. Perhaps he’ll agree to a one- or two-year deal for less than his current $6-million annual average value. If he agrees, I can see the Hawks trying to land an affordable backup via trade or free agency.
If they part ways with Crawford, I doubt they can afford Holtby or Markstrom. Halak, Khudobin, and Greiss are experienced backups, but they’ll try to get the best deal possible if they hit the open market. Smith, 37, is in the twilight of his career. Lehner didn’t sound happy over his dealings with Blackhawks management this season and could seek a long-term deal elsewhere.
THE ATHLETIC: Scott Powers speculates it could get expensive for the Blackhawks to re-sign Dominik Kubalik. The 24-year-old winger leads all rookies with 29 goals and is tied with Patrick Kane for the lead among Blackhawks scorers.
Kubalik’s completing a one-year contract worth $925K and will be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer. The Blackhawks’ limited salary cap space will be a factor.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks’ goaltending situation could also affect what they can comfortably afford for Kubalik. Powers said both sides sound like they don’t want to go the arbitration route. Perhaps a one-year deal around $3 million can be worked out, with the promise of a more lucrative contract if Kubalik builds upon his rookie season.
LOOKING AHEAD TO THE SABRES’ OFF-SEASON
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ryan Kennedy examined potential off-season moves following another disappointing season for the Buffalo Sabres. Bolstering their offense could be the priority. The Sabres will free up a lot of salary-cap space if they allow Michael Frolik, Jimmy Vesey, Zemgus Girgensons and Johan Larsson to walk this summer. Wayne Simmonds might be worth retaining for toughness and leadership for the right price. Recent acquisition Dominik Kahun could be an affordable re-signing.
Kennedy feels they need to improve their penalty killing, suggesting Derek Grant and Vladislav Namestnikov as possible UFA targets. He advocates giving the starter’s job to Linus Ullmark but also suggests checking to see if Robin Lehner would be open to returning to Buffalo, or pursuing Jacob Markstrom if he doesn’t re-up with the Vancouver Canucks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabres currently have just over $47 million invested in 10 players. Part of their cap space will be taken up re-signing RFAs like Kahun, Sam Reinhart, Victor Olofsson, Brandon Montour, and Lawrence Pilut. Nevertheless, they’ll have enough to address some of their needs via trades or free agency.
I anticipate GM Jason Botterill will be busy in both markets, with bringing in a top-six scorer (preferably a center) his priority. I daresay we’ll also see defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen resurface in the trade rumor mill.