NHL Offseason Lookahead – Chicago Blackhawks
More Rangers speculation and what the Penguins will do with their free-agent goaltenders in today’s NHL rumor mill.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks believes the Rangers are in need of a first-pair defenseman. He feels Brendan Smith is not up to logging those minutes alongside Jacob Trouba. Brooks points out Trouba was still trying to adjust to his new club when paired with rookie Libor Hajek earlier this season. Perhaps they might be a better fit next season. Promising K’Andre Miller might be able to fill that role one day, but it would be expecting too much for him to step into that position next season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Rangers have over $68 million invested in 16 players next season, with Ryan Strome, Tony DeAngelo, Brendan Lemieux, and Alexandar Georgiev becoming restricted free agents with arbitration rights in the off-season. They would get some cap relief by trading or buying out Henrik Lundqvist, but that won’t be enough to re-sign those four and acquire a top-pairing blueliner via trade or free agency.
LOHUD.COM: Vincent Z. Mercogliano examined the Rangers’ possible off-season moves. He noted they’ll have about $13.5 million to spend on re-signing their free agents and can’t afford to keep them all.
Strome and DeAngelo earned the right to seek multi-year contracts, but their play against the Carolina Hurricanes in the qualifying-round series didn’t help their cause. To address their defensive issues. Mercogliano believes general manager Jeff Gorton will explore trade possibilities, with Strome, DeAngelo, and Georgiev as bait.
Regarding Henrik Lundqvist, if he’s unwilling to return as Igor Shesterkin’s backup next season or if the Blueshirt stick with Georgiev, Mercogliano speculates they could buy him out. Retirement is also possible but perhaps a long shot.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gorton has some big off-season decisions to make. Landing a top-pairing defenseman could involve shopping DeAngelo in a package deal. Still, acquiring that type of rearguard would eat up a lot of their cap room. Perhaps he’ll consider more affordable moves while waiting to see how things shake out next season with their younger players.
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: In a recent mailbag segment, Joe Starkey was asked about the long-term implication if the Penguins chose to re-sign goalie Tristan Jarry over Matt Murray regardless of the outcome of this postseason.
Starkey believes the Penguins cannot afford to re-sign both for even more than one season. They’re each slated to become restricted free agents with arbitration rights. It could come down to what each goalie seeks on his next contract. Murray’s performance in this year’s playoffs could also be a determining factor.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Murray appeared in the Penguins’ first three games of their qualifying round series against the Montreal Canadiens, but he’s been out-played by the Canadiens’ Carey Price. If the Penguins are eliminated with Murray in net, that could have implications for his hopes of re-signing even a one-year deal.
The latest Rangers’ speculation involving Henrik Lundqvist, Ryan Strome, Alexandar Georgiev, and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.
NEW YORK POST: With the Rangers’ season over, Larry Brooks believes Henrik Lundqvist’s long goodbye with the Blueshirts is over. He wonders how the goaltender and the club will part ways after 15 seasons as it transitions toward a tandem of Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev.
Lundqvist has a year left on his contract with a salary-cap hit of $8.5 million. Brooks praised his handling of this situation, but he doesn’t know if the former Vezina Trophy winner will accept being a backup with the Rangers or another club.
The Rangers must shed salary to re-sign restricted free agents like Georgiev, Ryan Strome, and Tony DeAngelo. Brooks doesn’t see a legitimate Stanley Cup contender pursuing Lundqvist at this stage in his career, or another club taking him on even if the Rangers absorbed half of his cap hit. The other option is buying out his contract once the playoffs are over. Retirement is also a possibility.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A difficult decision faces Lundqvist and the Rangers. I agree with Brooks’ take regarding his trade value. The 38-year-old netminder has enjoyed a stellar career but he’s no longer the type of starting goaltender a contender would covet. Even if the Rangers absorbed half his cap hit, it would make him an expensive backup.
As Brooks observed, if Lundqvist retires his $8.5 million cap hit won’t count against the Rangers’ cap payroll for next season, but he’d forfeit the $5.5 million he’s owed in actual salary. If they can’t trade him to another club, a buyout would create $3 million in savings but still leave some dead cap space.
Brooks indicates the Rangers received no significant offers for Georgiev before the February trade deadline, nor did management especially dangle him in the trade market.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Georgiev’s name surfaced a lot in this year’s rumor mill, though most of it was pundits dreaming up potential destinations for him. Barring a surprising swerve where the Rangers keep Lundqvist, Georgiev appears destined to be Shesterkin’s backup next season.
Brooks examined other possible off-season moves for the Rangers. Popular check-line winger Jesper Fast is expected to depart via free agency. They must decide whether to sign Ryan Strome to a one-year contract that might be worth $5 million. He’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. Strome didn’t improve his chances for a long-term deal or his trade value with a dismal performance against the Carolina Hurricanes in the qualifying round.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Strome had a couple of assists against the Hurricanes but his overall performance was disappointing. Maybe they consider trading him if they anticipate a difficult contract negotiation. Then again, perhaps the flat cap works in their favor if comparable players on other clubs start accepting less money on one-year deals.
The Rangers now have a shot at winning the upcoming second draft lottery and the right to select top prospect Alexis Lafreniere. Brooks, however, suggests the Rangers could instead consider selecting big Sudbury Wolves center Quinton Byfield. He points to a looming top-six opening at center over the next couple of years.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Brooks could be talking about Strome if the Rangers ink him to a one-year deal in the off-season. However, I suspect he’s referring to Mika Zibanejad, who becomes eligible for UFA status in 2022 and could seek a pay raise that proves too hefty for the Rangers to carry.
Landing Byfield might be a more sensible pick if the Rangers win the draft lottery. They already have Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider at the left wing, with both guys carrying expensive contracts and full no-movement clauses.
Playing Lafreniere on the third line isn’t a good option, and shifting him to the right side takes him out of his comfort zone. They could move Panarin or Kreider to the right side but could face the same problem.
If the Rangers win the first-overall pick, maybe they trade down with another club to ensure they get Byfield and something else.
What say you, Rangers fans? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
Latest on the Ducks and Rangers in today’s NHL rumor mill.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Eric Stephens recently listed five players he thinks the Anaheim Ducks could add from cap-strapped teams in the off-season. They include Chicago Blackhawks center Dylan Strome, Toronto Maple Leafs winger Kasperi Kapanen, Arizona Coyotes goaltender Antti Raanta, St. Louis Blues winger Jaden Schwartz, and Vancouver Canucks winger Jake Virtanen.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stephens provides an excellent, detailed examination of those players and why they could be available. I’ll just add my two cents here.
Strome and Virtanen are restricted free agents, with the latter having arbitration rights. Of the two, Virtanen seems the most likely to be available. He was relegated to the press box during the Canucks tune-up game last week against the Jets. Virtanen has decent offensive skills but his consistency and poor defensive play are ongoing issues. The Canucks could be ready to move on from him following this season.
Raanta puts up solid numbers when healthy. Problem is, he’s been banged up a lot in recent years. He’d make a good backup for John Gibson but also carries a $4.25 million AAV for next season. That would make him a pricey understudy for Gibson. If the Coyotes move Raanta it would be to shed some cap payroll to make room to re-sign Taylor Hall. They won’t be keen to retain part of his salary.
The Blues must dump some salary to clear space to re-sign Alex Pietrangelo and Vince Dunn. However, I don’t think they want to move Schwartz. Their leading trade candidate could be goaltender Jake Allen.
Kapanen would be a nice addition to the Ducks. He’s signed through 2021-22 with an affordable $3.2 million annual average value. The Leafs don’t want to part with him but could have little choice if management can’t find another way to shed salary for next season.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports the Rangers could face a difficult decision with Jesper Fast. The popular winger won the club’s Player’s Player Award as voted by his teammates for a record fifth straight year.
Fast is due to become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. Brooks believes the hardworking winger will seek much more than the $1.85 million annually that he’s currently earning. However, it could be difficulty squeezing that raise into the Rangers’ limited salary-cap space.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: According to Cap Friendly, the Rangers have over $68 million invested in 16 players for 2020-21. They must also re-sign restricted free agents such as Ryan Strome, Tony DeAngelo, Brendan Lemieux, and Alexandar Georgiev.
Unless they shed significant salary (contract buyout for Henrik Lundqvist, perhaps?), they won’t have enough to keep everyone. Fast could become the odd man out.
The latest on the Rangers, Red Wings, and Senators in today’s NHL rumor mill.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks believes a strong postseason by Tony DeAngelo could increase his value when he negotiates his new contract and in the trade market. The Rangers defenseman is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights at the season’s end.
Brooks feels the only path for a long-term deal for the young blueliner is moving him to the left side of the Rangers’ blueline. Trading DeAngelo would leave the Blueshirts scrambling to find an affordable veteran third-pairing, right-shot rearguard via free agency.
A strong playoff tournament by third-line center Filip Chytil could affect how the Rangers management approach contract talks with second-line center Ryan Strome, who’s also a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. Brooks would be shocked if they give Strome a long-term deal, especially when they’ll have to pay Mika Zibanejad $10 million annually to keep him off the UFA market in 2022. It would also keep Chytil relegated to the third line.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Rangers have over $67 million tied up in 15 players for next season, with DeAngelo, Strome, Jesper Fast, Brendan Lemieux, and Alexandar Georgiev among their notable free agents. It could be a tight squeeze fitting them within their cap payroll unless they shed a salary, which explains in part the speculation suggesting they could buy out the final season of Henrik Lundqvist’s contract.
MLIVE.COM: Ansar Khan reports acquiring a goaltender is among this off-season’s top priorities for Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman. He’s skeptical the rebuilding Wings can entice any of this summer’s notable UFA goalies unless they overpay.
Khan suggests Yzerman go shopping via the trade market. Possible options include Matt Murray or Tristan Jarry of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Jake Allen of the St. Louis Blues, or Alexandar Georgiev of the New York Rangers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Khan suggests bringing one of them in as long-term or stop-gap measures. Yzerman could prefer the long term.
Murray, Jarry, and Georgiev are restricted free agents with arbitration rights. The Wings GM could swing a deal acquiring one of them after they’re signed to a new contract.
Allen is a year away from becoming an unrestricted free agent. Assuming Yzerman was interested, he could seek assurances Allen would re-sign before trying to acquire him.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Hailey Salvian recently examined which Ottawa Senators’ free agents are staying or going. She doesn’t see them keeping Craig Anderson, Mikkel Boedker, Scott Sabourin or Matthew Peca, and feels it’s 50-50 UFAs Ron Hainsey and Mark Borowiecki are re-signed.
Find out how a flat salary cap could affect the Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers in today’s NHL rumor mill.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Ben Pope reports Brent Seabrook’s contract creates a salary-cap headache for the Blackhawks. The 35-year-old defenseman has four years remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $6.875 million.
With the salary cap remaining at $81.5 million, Seabrook’s AAV will make it difficult for the Blackhawks to re-sign some key players. It will also affect efforts to improve their roster.
Seabrook has a full no-movement clause until 2022. It also means he must automatically be protected in next year’s expansion draft unless he agrees to waive it.
A huge portion of his salary is tied up in signing bonuses, rendering any buyout pointless. There won’t be any compliance buyouts under the proposed CBA extension.
Despite his recent surgeries, they won’t be putting him on long-term injury reserve as he appears on track to return to action.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Blackhawks have over $74 million tied up in 16 players for next season, with Corey Crawford, Dominik Kubalik, Dylan Strome, and Drake Caggiula to re-sign.
Seabrook was the topic of trade speculation in 2018-19 but his contract was considered unmoveable even then. If he agreed to waive his clause, the flat cap makes it unlikely the Hawks will find any takers now.
Blackhawks winger Brandon Saad was frequently mentioned in this season’s trade rumors. Don’t be surprised if his name resurfaces as a cost-cutting trade candidate.
THE JOURNAL NEWS: Vincent Z. Mercogliano recently examined the effects of a flat cap for next season upon the New York Rangers. He believes it’ll leave them with around $13.5 million in cap space.
Re-signing Ryan Strome and Tony DeAngelo are the priorities. Mercogliano speculates each could cost $5 million annually but it behooves the Rangers to get that down to $4 million each or risk losing winger Jesper Fast to unrestricted free agency unless he’s willing to return for a minor raise over his current $1.85 million. RFA winger Brendan Lemieux must also be re-signed.
If Fast departs, Mercogliano suggests re-signing RFA Phil Di Giuseppe, adding an affordable player via the UFA market as a replacement, or perhaps letting a young forward like Lias Andersson to step into that role.
They could also explore trading Strome or DeAngelo, buy out the final season of goaltender Henrik Lundqvist’s contract, or entertain trade offers for RFA goalie Alexandar Georgiev.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lots of options to choose from here. Most of the Rangers speculation suggests Lundqvist could be bought out, but that’s not a certainty. There has been some media trade chatter about DeAngelo, Georgiev, and Andersson.
Something’s got to give in the off-season and it’ll be interesting to see what general manager Jeff Gorton has in store. One of those players noted above probably won’t be a Rangers when next season begins.