There is never an offseason for fantasy general managers in cap leagues.
Even if rosters, trades and waiver claims are frozen, GMs still need to keep atop of the players on their teams that are free agents and what their potential salaries might be. Too many big raises could put you way over your league’s salary cap.
Last year, David Pastrnak went from a cap hit of $925,000 to $6.67 million, Leon Draisaitl from $925,000 to $8.5 million, Evgeny Kuznetsov from $3 million to $7.8 million and Jonathan Drouin from $925,000 to $5.5 million.
All of a sudden, a fantasy GM who owned these four guys saw their cap hits go from a combined $5.775 million to $28.7 million. That would have forced some owners into making bad trades to get under the league cap.
Below are 10 players that fantasy general managers are keeping a close eye on.
10. Noah Hanifin
If Hanifin wants a significant raise, he doesn’t need to look further than what his teammates are earning. In the past year, Brett Pesce signed a six-year deal that sees him get paid $4 million per year, while Jaccob Slavin signed a six-year deal that will see him earn $5.3 million. However, Hanifin has easily been the team’s number two power play QB and led the Hurricanes dmen in goals and points. He only made $925,000 this past season.
9. Jason Zucker
It might be tough to keep Zucker in Minnesota, even though he just posted his third 20-goal season and had a career-high 33 goals and 64 points. He’ll be looking for a significant raise from the $2 million he was making. The problem is Minnesota has $7 million in cap space and also has to re-sign Matt Dumba. The team already has seven forwards making at least $3.2 million next year. Do they want to add an eighth to the list?
Will William Nylander get a huge pay raise from his current deal of $894,167 after back-to-back 61-point seasons? Will he be locked up long-term to a big money deal as part of a core, similar to what Edmonton did years ago to Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins? Or will he be forced to sign a lower bridge deal so the Leafs can first deal with long-term contracts to Auston Matthews and Mitchell Marner? Truthfully, I can see almost any scenario happening with Nylander, including him being dealt as was rumoured this season.
Carolina can’t dicker around with Lindholm on these negotiations, but they need to be wary of a big-money deal. Despite giving Lindholm top minutes and lots of power-play time, the 23-year-old centre has a career high of 45 points from two seasons ago and had just nine power-play points this year. However, he is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in two summers from now. That means Carolina needs to lock him up long-term, but this contract could look really bad in two years if he’s paid as a top-line player but produces like a third-line player.
I combined these two guys into one grouping as they are pretty much in the same situation as Vegas defensemen. Miller made $1 million this year, but led the Knights defense in goals, assists, points, shots and power play points. Theodore made $863,333, but after missing some games due to AHL time and injuries, took a significant amount of power play minutes and is expected to be the top defenseman in Vegas for years. The Knights have plenty of cap space, but fantasy owners may not have that same luxury.
5. Jacob Trouba
Trouba might be the most interesting free agent on this list. Remember, he sat out the Jets first 13 games of the 2016-17 season and demanded a trade, before eventually signing a two-year deal for $3 million per. Will he demand another trade? Will he be able to command $6-million plus, considering he’s only played more than 65 games once in five seasons, doesn’t play the power play and isn’t an offensive player? Can the Jets afford to keep him with the bevy of talent that are going to be free agents in the next few years?
4. Dylan Larkin
Detroit could be in trouble unless they can convince some other teams to take on some salary. The Wings are paying too many players too much money to be average to below-average. They have just $18 million in cap space, but have to re-sign Anthony Mantha, Mike Green and either a number one goalie or a backup goalie (depending on your thoughts on Jimmy Howard). Then there’s Larkin, who is at the end of his rookie contract, and led the Wings in points with 63. Pretty impressive for a 21-year-old who should be getting two-thirds of the power play time (but gets just 46 per cent).
3. Mark Stone
Stone will be the first real big test for this Ottawa Senators regime in their quest to show the management really does want to ice a competitive team and make the fans happy. Stone is at the end of a three-year deal that saw him make $3.5 million a year, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he at least doubled that number. Stone was a fairly consistent player in his first main three seasons (his points-per-game mark ranged from 0.76 to 0.81), but this year he took that next step with a 1.07 points-per-game mark (62 points in 58 games). Cody Ceci is the only other key free agent on Ottawa, who will have about $15.5 million of cap space for next year, so this should be fairly easy for the Sens.
The 24-year-old goalie is about to get paid, big-time. In his first season as the Jets’ number one goalie, he led the league in wins at 44, posted a 2.36 GAA and a .924 SV %, netted six shutouts, and is shining in the postseason. Imagine his contract if the Jets win the Stanley Cup. His deal is going to be extremely tricky though. He’s about to enter his prime years, so he’ll want a big deal, but the Jets have 10 free agents this year, and Blake Wheeler, Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor to sign next year. The Jets will have to move some players if they plan on paying Hellebuyck and Trouba what they are worth.
It might weird to say it, but it is quite conceivable that William will be the highest-paid Karlsson in the league at the start of next season. Currently earning $1 million, Karlsson was easily the biggest surprise of the league this year, finishing third in goals with 43, first in plus-minus at 49 and 23rd in points with 78. His 11 points in 11 playoff games is only helping him in negotiations. The Golden Knights have almost $25 million in cap space for next season, so he will be paid. It will just be a question of how much.