I know round two is not over yet, but this is about the right time to put this article out, and Capped doesn’t deviate from Thursdays. Tonight, we have the highly anticipated Nashville vs. Winnipeg game seven, that we all saw coming as far away as the date when first round matchups were set. It has been said already, and it will be said again, but if you only watch one game these playoffs, this finale between the top two teams in the league is the one to hunker down for. One is going golfing, and the other gets a date with the shiny new toy in the NHL, the Vegas Golden Knights.
In the other matchups, we saw three good teams eliminated. Between Boston, Pittsburgh and San Jose, it was the Penguins getting upset that busted the most brackets. So where do these three teams look to find the reason they are home earlier than June?
They have no one to blame but themselves. As a result, of their higher profiled free agents, what do we expect salary and production wise from them moving forward?
Contract information from Cap Friendly.
Rick Nash – Boston Bruins
Current Cap Hit: $7,800,000 (UFA, July 2018)
Nash (Rick – not to be confused with Riley) looked dangerous all series against the Leafs, but still only managed one goal and one assist through the seven-game series. He didn’t fare much better in the series against Tampa Bay (three points in five games, pointless in the last two).
Nash’s regular season numbers have also been declining for years, while his playoff numbers have been respectable (before this year) over the same period. Had he performed well this spring, he may have been able to swing for one more, big contract. Unfortunately for Nash, he goes into the offseason with a black cloud hanging over his head, with his postseason numbers crashing as well.
Verdict: Someone will overpay on name-value alone, however Nash still left money on the table with the lacklustre numbers in the playoffs this year.
Joe Thornton – San Jose Sharks
Current Cap Hit: $8,000,000 (UFA, July 2018)
Now Joe Thornton may not be able to carry the blame for San Jose’s elimination, but that does not mean the glaring zero in the games played column does not come back to bite him. Jumbo Joe apparently tore the same MCL and ACL in his right knee that he injured about a year ago in his left knee. With that kind of track record, it would be a testament to his agent if he is able to get more than a one-year deal with any NHL team.
The thing is though, Thornton’s play this post season (good or bad), may not have affected his next contract that much. I have a theory for this summer, that Thornton signs a one-year deal at a miniscule amount, with the best team to offer him a shot at a Stanley Cup. Last summer, he signed a one-year deal with San Jose for a larger amount of money than expected. Both sides squeezed another year out of the current Sharks window, while Thornton also banks enough to cover taking a small salary next year to chase a cup.
Verdict: Injury ensures he won’t be overpaid this summer. Could actually be underpaid as a depth option on a contender.
Depth Players – Pittsburgh Penguins
Current Cap Hit: Less than $1 million
Pittsburgh has a single player coming off the books that makes more than $1 million, and don’t expect Riley Sheahan to be returning either. Not that he wasn’t contributing for the Penguins, but they need some turnover in the bottom-six, and he will likely be too pricy for them to keep on. What we will likely see, is the promotion of a few AHL players, Daniel Sprong chief among them. The Penguins do extremely well at bringing up new talent every year, and this coming year will be no different.
With Patrick Hornqvist signing an extension to avoid hitting the open market, Pittsburgh won’t be losing any big-ticket players. The core needs a rest and will be back as hungry as ever next season to chase down another Cup. You know exactly what you are getting with these players, and there is no reason that should be changing next season.
Verdict: The most interesting part of the Pittsburgh situation may be monitoring which of Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith wins the backup role out of camp next season. No surprises this summer for their cap situation.
Winnipeg Jets / Nashville Predators
You would be hard pressed to find two better teams that are set up to contend over the next half-dozen years (aside from maybe the Maple Leafs if they can get past Boston – too soon?). The Jets and Preds have reliable bluelines, depth at all three forward positions, youth coming up through the pipelines, and a long-term plan in net. Nashville is a year or two ahead in the contention window and has almost their whole core locked up to long term deals they are perennial contenders in the West. Should their season end tonight, the UFAs will walk, RFAs Jusse Saros and Ryan Hartman will be re-signed, European rookie phenom Eeli Tolvanen will jump into the lineup, and the engine will keep churning.
The Jets on the other hand have a few contracts to sort out, but the room to get it all done. Between their key RFAs, Adam Lowry, Connor Hellebuyck and Jacob Trouba, there is probably $15 million eaten up on new deals. The team may be in a state of salary transition here but even a loss tonight would not spell the end of their success. Once their three key RFAs are signed, that puts the roster at 17 players, and a projected $70 million of the salary cap used. This would leave $1.5-2 million left per player to fill out the bottom of the roster. Between Sami Niku, Jack Roslovic, and others, Winnipeg may be able to roll four lines better than any team in the NHL next season.
Verdict: I fully expect these two teams to battle it out for the number one seed in the NHL again next season, with cap room to spare. Every cap-manager’s wet dream.
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That caps off another Thursday, enjoy the game tonight folks!
Comment with anything you would like to see covered through the summer, the months of July and August are pretty open for content right now, and I’m looking for a feature topic or two.
If you want to talk hockey, salary caps, or anything even remotely related, you can find me on twitter any day of the week @alexdmaclean