With the offseason now in full swing, it's time to look at the league as a whole going forward. COVID-19 has affected businesses across the globe and the NHL is just another on that long list. With all 31 teams feeling the effects how will it impact teams personnel decisions? Frank Servalli of TSN wrote an article covering the effects of the pandemic in the league.
According to the article, the Sabres are considering an internal cap in the low 70 million range. The Arizona Coyotes who were late paying player bonuses may be operating with an internal cap under 70 million. Even the Penguins are planning on an internal cap in the low 70s. A total of fifteen other teams have also reduced salaries for staff and coaches. How many of those teams could also be operating with an internal cap? Team's like the Ducks and Senators have been internal cap teams even in normal years how much will the pandemic affect their budgets? Vancouver and Florida are also rumored to be joining the cost-cutting group. With a decent amount of teams to work with who could the Bruins try to steal away for cap reasons?
Potential Trade Targets
For now, let's just focus on the teams mentioned to be cutting costs. So that leaves the Ducks, Sabres, Coyotes, Penguins, Panthers, and Canucks. The Senators won't be on that list because they need to spend some money just to hit the cap floor. The six teams listed should all be on Don Sweeney’s speed dial. Let's kick the list off with the Ducks.
The Ducks after moving Erik Gudbranson still have under 4.5 million in cap space. With the Bruins likely losing Krug, Josh Manson could be a possible replacement. While the 28-year-old defenseman isn't known for his offense he did have a 37 point season in 2017-18. At 6’3” 224lbs he brings some much-needed size and grit to the Bruins defense. Manson is also under contract for two more years with a 4.1 million dollar cap hit. The actual money owed is 4.45 million both year's but that is still an affordable number for the Bruins.
Next up are the Arizona Coyotes. Once again looking like a financial mess after being late on player bonus payments Arizona has said they are in cost-cutting mode. Oliver Ekman-Larson is their top name on the cap cutting list with a cap hit of 8.25 million. We actually already covered what a potential OEL trade could look like in another article. Even with the OEL camp deadline for a trade now over he could change his mind once the season starts. OEL has been on Arizona his entire career and a serious scaling back on the roster could motivate him to move on to a winning team.
Buffalo is next up on the list and as a division rival a trade could be tough to come by. While a trade seems unlikely some Sabres fans would tell you they have a 6’4” thorn in their right side. Of course, we are talking about Rasmus Ristolainen. With two years left and a 5.4 million dollar cap hit Risto could be a defenseman, the Bruins are interested in. Scoring over 40 points in the last 4 full seasons and 33 points in 69 games this year he would replace some of Krug’s offense. Ristolainen also brings a physical edge to the game dishing out 203 hits and blocking 82 shots last season. A role with decreased defensive responsibilities plus a move to the second pair could be just what Rasmus needs to live up to his current contract.
The Panthers are another team rumored to have an internal cap. As a team that already struggled with attendance not having any fans makes an already bad situation even worse. A popular target for many Bruins fans will be Keith Yandle. The Boston native has been in rumors to return home for years. The only problem with this is most of his 44.45 million dollar contract has been paid. Yandle is only owed 13.2 million over the last three years of the deal. So while he has a cap hit of 6.35 million he is only getting paid an average of 4.4 million per year.
Another possible target could be one of the newest Panthers, Patric Hornqvist. The two-time Stanley Cup winner has been a physical presence on the ice for over a decade and can still provide some decent offense. With eight 20 goal seasons to his name and topping 100 hits each of the last five years, Hornqvist could be just what the Bruins forward group needs. Florida would need to retain some of his 5.3 million dollar cap hit. Bringing back a cheaper younger asset might just make them inclined to do so.
The Penguins are rumored to be operating with a low 70 million dollar cap. After the Jarry signing Pittsburgh currently has a cap hit of over 78 million dollars leaving just over 3 million in cap space. With such little room to improve their roster, a potential trade target could be Jason Zucker. While Zucker was their big deadline addition last season his 5.5 million dollar cap hit might be too much for them to pay. Zucker also has a base salary of 4.8 million this season which jumps to 6.25 million next year. If Penguins ownership is still in financial trouble moving a potential 6.25 million dollar expenditure might sound like a great idea. Zucker has scored 20 goals in five of the last six years but hasn't been able to match his career year of 33 goals from the 2017-18 season.
Finally we come to the Vancouver Canucks. After the signing of Holtby Vancouver has just under eight million dollars in cap space. With several key free agents still to sign and departures to replace they could use some cap space. To make matters even worse both Elias Petterson and Quinn Huges will need new deals following next season and could get serious pay raises. With Vancouver in desperate need of some extra spending money, a potential trade target could be Tanner Pearson. Pearson found new life with Vancouver and even set a career-high in points last season with 45. He also topped 20 goals for the second time in his career. At 28-years-old you know what you're getting with Tanner. With 1 year left making 3.75 million moving his deal clears a decent chunk of the cap for Vancouver to work with.
All of these potential trade targets would come at a price. However with the Bruins core in win-now mode losing some picks and prospects to make the team better now maximizes their cup window. The Bruins have the financial flexibility and as one of the more profitable teams, they can take advantage of other teams in a financial pinch. Getting any of the players mentioned won't be free but with teams looking to cut costs, their prices could be severely reduced. If the Bruins miss out on some free agents look for the trade market to be where they make improvements. Today is just day one of free agency so expect a number of moves to be made around the league and until next time stay safe out there and LET’S GO, Bruins!
Featured image courtesy of Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press.