Hopefully everyone had a fun Halloween. It was a little disappointing only having one NHL game on the slate though, so let’s make up for it with a record long Capped article. Over 3500 words coming right at you!
A month into the season, we have enough of a sample size to start drawing conclusions about what kind of scenarios may play out this season. The cap makes things tougher on teams, but it also lends itself to a lot of patterns and predictability if you’re looking in the right places. Here’s a starting point for each NHL team.
The biggest storyline in the cap world of the Anaheim Ducks is how they build/rebuild around John Gibson. Gibson is the early Vezina leader, but the rest of the team has struggled to produce much at all. With youngsters Troy Terry, Sam Steel and Maxime Comtois stepping up, the window is anything but shut, however, there are a few bigger contracts to be sorted out. One of Ryan Kesler or Corey Perry will have to be moved out if the younger players are to grow. With Carlyle and some older contracts around, the growth will continue to be stifled.
Next year’s roster has a Cap hit of $75 million, with only 15 player contracts accounted for. Something’s going to give, and a change of scenery may help Perry.
Arizona has managed their cap fairly well, but be ready for another sell off come trade deadline time. Richard Panik and Jordan Oesterle could be useful depth pieces for contenders, but a trade would likely mean pushing them even farther down the lineup (bad for their fantasy value).
The Coyotes are also at the max 50 contracts on the books, so a couple minor league trades may occur before that point to give them a little more flexibility come deadline day.
Off the top of your head, who is the Bruins’ highest-paid forward? It’s not Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand or David Pastrnak; David Krejci holds the honour, and is signed for another three seasons. The Bruins need that depth scoring to pick up, otherwise they aren’t going to keep up in a surprisingly upstart Atlantic division. Your best fantasy bets are Jake DeBrusk and Ryan Donato, both on very friendly contracts, and good positive regression candidates.
With approximately $10 million coming off the books between Matt Moulson and Jason Pominville this offseason, Buffalo could take a run at one of the 2019 free-agent defencemen. As we know, that worked so well for them last time, using an amnesty buyout on Christian Erhoff.
Whatever the direction may be, they are also going to have to keep in mind that they want to show Jeff Skinner why he should be sticking around. Otherwise he may turn into one of the biggest prizes of the 2019 UFA class. He will continue to be given the best linemates.
Matthew Tkachuk is an RFA, and he is going to take a decent payday to get re-signed, but it will get done.
The big storyline for the rest of the year is what happens in net moving forward. Mike Smith has the contract, but is playing poorly. David Rittich is the backup for now, but is playing better than Smith. Jon Gillies is the goalie of the future, and has a one-way contract starting next season making him the odds on favourite to be the starter at that point. Smith likely gets let go at the end of the year, and if he is going to be gone anyways, we could see the starts favour Rittich after the All-Star break.
Carolina has the lowest cap hit in the league this season, and may actually be a buyer at the trade deadline for the first time in a while. They have the space to make a push for a Mark Stone or an Artemi Panarin, so keep an eye on those forward line combos, as things may shake up as the season moves on. This means we may see some of their rookies get pushed down the lineup.
Bold move: The Hurricanes have the capital and the cap space to acquire both Sergei Bobrovsky and Panarin, and they swing for the fences trying to bring the Stanley Cup to Carolina for the first time since 2006.
Predictably with Chicago, the narrative covers the core five. They have rebounded nicely with a winning record thus far. However, Chicago has not been able to keep higher salaried players around because of these contracts before. This year will be no different, especially with Brandon Saad’s contract looking immoveable too. Look for a new wave of rookies to come up next year, and maybe see if you can get in ahead, before guys like Victor Ejdsell, Dylan Sikura, and Matthew Highmore are on the common sleepers lists next summer.
Does it matter what is happening with the salary cap when the top line trio is as hot as they are? Well, yes it does, especially since Mikko Rantanen needs a new contract. My contract model has him right now with an eight digit AAV, which goes to show how great he has been playing. That being said, he won’t get that much. There’s no benefit from a bridge deal either, so something similar to what David Pastrnak got from Boston may be a good comparison (adjusted for inflation of course). Nathan MacKinnon took a little less money, and Colorado isn’t going to let Rantanen greatly usurp his contract number.
Columbus Blue Jackets
As covered a little in the Carolina section, Columbus is either going to have to seriously contend this year, or take a hard look in the mirror and move out Panarin and Bobrovsky. They need to learn from the Islanders. My bet is that at least Panarin gets moved, which is unfortunate for his linemates, but will also open up a hole for Boone Jenner to step up to the top line.
With Jason Spezza and Mark Methot coming off the books, and no large extensions upcoming (Tyler Seguin already re-signed), this team may be able to build up their forward depth, and contend a little more seriously next season. Bishop would be a good goalie target for those looking ahead and not wanting to pay for a top of the line starter.
Detroit Red Wings
The team with the highest cap hit is also sitting at the bottom of the standings. Dylan Larkin and all of their impressive rookie defencemen will still not be enough to save them. Gustav Nyqvist, Jimmy Howard, and Niklas Kronwall should all be gone by next summer, and that will kick start the rebuild. In the meantime, just stay away from anyone not named Larkin or Dennis Cholowski (dude is a stud).
Edmonton is going to turn themselves into the 2015 Chicago Blackhawks before they even have a chance to win a cup, let alone the three the Blackhawks had by that point in the cap era. What did we learn from Chicago? Well that Alex DeBrincat is the most valuable piece coming through among a sea of overpaid players. What does that mean for Edmonton? Well it means that one of Jesse Puljujarvi or Kailer Yamamoto should get the opportunity to turn into a big scorer. Now is the buy low moment for Yamamoto.
An older tweet from James Mirtle shows a relevant topic four years later. The 39-year-old Roberto Luongo has four years left on his contract, and when he retires has a large impact on both the Florida Panthers and the Vancouver Canucks. Both teams will have to make sure they have the cap space to manage the possible penalties. The Panthers have done a good job of managing their cap situation, and with no one of importance up for free-agency, it looks to be status quo with them.
That is until management has had enough of losing, and decides to really shake things up with a blockbuster trade.
Los Angeles Kings
This team needs a rebuild (that was evident even before news broke that Jonathan Quick would be out for 3-6 weeks). That’s an unfortunate thing to need with $138 million due to Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty over a combined 13 years, starting next year. I’m not sure who is in worse shape, LA or Anaheim. The Kings have 18 players signed for next season, and are already at $77.5 million. Tanner Pearson may become the casualty to a lucky team that puts him in a position to succeed.
Think Minnesota wants a do-over on the Zach Parise/Ryan Suter contracts? I sure would. After this season, there is still six years and over $45 million left on both contracts. Plus, Minnesota has their best cap bargain (Eric Staal at $3.5 million) expiring as a UFA. Let’s hope new GM Paul Fenton can make some maneuvers out from under the collapsing situation Chuck Fletcher left him. Otherwise the Wild will see themselves quickly surpassed in the Central division.
Carey Price’s new $10.5 million AAV contract has kicked in, and it doesn’t look like a disaster. If Shea Weber can come back healthy for the second half, this may actually be a bubble playoff team. Artturi Lehkonen will need a new contract (likely a bridge signing), and the Karl Alzner deal needs to disappear, but there are some solid fantasy contracts to be found here. Especially one of my personal favourites, Brendan Gallagher.
Still the model of contract gold, there is a new set of key RFAs looking for a fresh contract this summer. Colton Sissons and Ryan Hartman have arbitration rights, while Kevin Fiala doesn’t. Don’t expect either of Hartman or Sissons to actually hit arbitration. David Poile will get them locked up like he did with Calle Jarnkrok, Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson. Meanwhile Kevin Fiala will get a one or two-year bridge deal to bring him to arbitration. This will be less than most people are expecting him to receive, before he breaks out and gets paid on his future deal.
New Jersey Devils
Keith Kinkaid can be a starter in this league, and will likely move on in search of a starting job elsewhere. The native of Long Island may look to the Islanders first, but between Robin Lehner playing well, and Tomas Greiss succeeding on top of having one more year on his contract, the timing may not be right. Instead, Kinkaid may look a touch West of his current home, filling a spot we will discuss a little later.
Back to the Devils, the other big name due an extension is Will Butcher. He may not get quite the same amount of coin, but he reminds me a little of Tyson Barrie with the Avalanche, who got a bigger contract than expected despite being mainly an offensive catalyst. Don’t be caught unaware expecting a bridge deal.
New York Islanders
After losing John Tavares, Lou Lamoriello tried to replace quality with quantity. Unsurprisingly it’s not having quite the desired effect. The Isles’ brass will have to work hard to make sure it doesn’t repeat mistakes of last year, this time with Anders Lee. Currently on a bargain contract, the team captain Lee deserves a big raise, and is going to get it. The Isles are primed to overpay Lee just to get him to stay, and they have the cap space to do it too. Winger Jordan Eberle may be allowed to walk, as he is probably going to be looking to win something other than the 2009 World Juniors (that is never going to get old).
New York Rangers
The Rangers are “rebuilding” in their own special way, but that doesn’t mask the fact that Mika Zibanejad is one of the best cap bargains that no one talks about. Already at nine points through 11 games, Zibs could keep up a 70-point pace through the season with the top minutes he’s getting for the Rangers. What they decide to with him and his contract though is another story. If the Rangers truly want to bottom out, they would have plenty of suitors lining up hefty packages in return for the 25-year-old. In the meantime, names such as Kevin Hayes, Ryan Spooner, and Mats Zuccarello will remain on the trade block. All three could benefit from a change in scenery.
With two key free-agents this summer, things could (and will) look a lot different in Ottawa next year. However, until ownership changes, they will be bogged down by the same problems, and things won’t really change. Maybe they can exceed Eugene Melnyk’s expectations next year and ice a full 23-man roster of rookies, minus Craig Anderson. Lots of good opportunities to get in here with some cheap ELC production.
With both goalies having contracts that expire in July, plus the brass wanting to bring along Carter Hart extra slowly, the door opens for Keith Kinkaid. Between him and Hart, the goalie carousel may finally be coming to an end in the short term. Expect Wayne Simmonds to walk straight into free-agency with Brian Elliott and Michael Neuvirth.
On top of that, Ivan Provorov needs a new contract, and he may top what Matt Dumba got from Minnesota. Aaron Ekblad’s $7.5 million AAV could be closer to what he’s asking for right away. He deserves it too.
Someday Daniel Sprong will arrive. In the meantime, Sidney Crosby will continue to buoy players like Brian Rust into earning their livelihood on one contract. As another option, with Derrick Brassard, Carl Hagelin, and other contracts coming off the books, the Penguins could dip into a winger-rich free agent pool next summer, coming out with a player such as Stone, Panarin, or Skinner. The goalies and defence are pretty much set, so why not beef up the forward group even further.
San Jose Sharks
With only 10 skaters signed past this year, and many needing raises (including Erik Karlsson and Joe Pavelski), this team is going to look very different next season. As a result, their window is as open right now as it is likely to be in the next number of years, but they are also right up against the salary cap. They may make a few smaller moves for this year, but the real fun will start once they are eliminated from the playoffs (or win it all). Joe Thornton can’t keep coming back forever, can he?
Didn’t see this one coming did you? Well Seattle remains on track to join the league for the start of the 2020-2021 season, and if we’re looking ahead, you can’t discount the impact another expansion franchise will have. The team will bring more skaters, more points, more revenue, more games, and more decisions for general managers. With having had Vegas join the league back in 2017, we can be better prepared this time around. In the cap era, a team can do a lot of damage if they bring together solid parts without being weighed down by anchor contracts. If Seattle is to succeed, that will be the key. Don’t expect them to make the finals in their first year, but there will be some fantasy gems to be mined.
St. Louis Blues
Jake Allen has gone from what was supposed to be one of the best goalie contracts in the league, to one of the poorest performers this season. The Blues have the depth at forward and on defence to be real contenders, but if their goalie keeps letting them down, they are in danger of narrowly missing the playoffs again this year. Unfortunately for them, they don’t have the cap space to bring in someone to help. Either their AHL starter Ville Husso is going to grab the reigns and channel his inner Matt Murray to a deep playoff run, or we are going to see the tailspin continue until Mike Yeo is let go. A coaching change is probably the only thing that saves Allen’s value at this point.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning only have three defensemen signed past this season, but good thing for them it’s their top three. What this means is that we could see a prospect or two jump to the third pairing next season. Former first rounder Cal Foote has a good chance, as do Erik Cernak and Dominik Masin. These prospects, have an even better shot if the Tampa brass can’t get rid of Ryan Callahan, and still wants to re-sign recent breakout forwards Yanni Gourde and Brayden Point. Gourde has been one of the best fantasy bargains not on an entry level deal, while Point has been producing well before most expected him to. Both will be due a significant raise similar to Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson re-upping in 2017. With cap inflation, expect the two new deals to be closer to $6 million than $5 million.
Toronto Maple Leafs
See the Florida Pathers write up, plus they signed a bunch of bad free-agent contracts, and are even farther away from the playoffs.
If they can us their abundant cap space to get Brock Boeser signed long term, then between the trio of Boeser, Bo Horvat and Elias Pettersson, there is a core to build around. A few years avoiding free-agent frenzy, and not having $25 million on the IR will go a long way to moving the Canucks slowly up the standings. In the meantime, there won’t be much fantasy growth outside of the aforementioned top trio.
Vegas Golden Knights
After showing the hockey world how great you can be without an anchor contract or two, Vegas is slowly joining the pack. The seven-year, $4.75 million AAV contract to Alex Tuch could very well turn out to be a good one, but the six-year, $5.95 million AAV deal to Nate Schmidt is very much above market value, and doesn’t leave as much room to either re-sign Pacioretty or look for some other depth scoring. Vegas has $72.2 million locked up in 14 players going into next season, so they may not be able to bring in another piece to bump them back into that top tier in the Western conference.
Contracts due to RFAs Andre Burakovsky, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, and others, will be very telling towards who has a shot at taking the top line gig during Tom Wilson’s next suspension of a full season. All of the core players are signed for at least another year, and most for longer. This team is going to consistently be a fantasy haven, where you get what you pay for, plus a high powerplay point bonus.
Last but not least, there are a couple Jets that need gassing up before taking off next season. Patrick Laine and Kyle Connor are going to get similar money to that discussed for Matthews and Marner (the Jets’ duo is also featured in the same article as the Leafs’ pair – again, linked here).
The real fun storyline
in the middle of nowhere, will be between the Jets and Jacob Trouba. Trouba is going to take a look at the recent contracts to Matt Dumba, Ryan Ellis, and Cam Fowler, saying he deserves at least that. He may have a point, but that doesn’t mean Winnipeg can oblige. The Jets have a whole set of other key players on larger contracts, and plenty of young defensive talent in the pipeline. A trade would make the most sense, likely for a similar skater who will take on a smaller cap hit to play with a contending team in Winnipeg. As a top pairing defenceman elsewhere, Trouba’s value would take a big jump – not up to the top tier, but possibly inside the top 10-15.
If you read the whole article, cheers! If you just skimmed some and skipped to your favourite team, that’s fine too. Let me know in the comments if you agree with what was said about them, or if you think there was something missed.
Previous Capped articles:
Last plug in the articles, get the enormous fantasy resource that is the DobberHockey 2018-2019 Fantasy guide. Keep your eyes open for the mid-season guide too. We won’t let you miss it.
That caps off this week’s record article, thanks for reading. As always, you can find me on twitter @alexdmaclean.
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