Well that certainly was an exciting finish on Monday afternoon! Most of the big names moved, a few players signed extensions, and we saw a bit of a power shift towards the West. The Tampa Bay Lightning still have to be the Stanley Cup favourites, but Nashville and Vegas certainly upped their chances with some bold moves.
There have been plenty of articles thus far covering the winners, losers, and fantasy impacts of deadline day. Here I want to review a few of the moves made by Columbus and Minnesota and discuss salary cap flexibility.
Minnesota may be going about things the wrong way, but at least you can see what direction they are trying to follow. Swapping out Nino Niederreiter (I am never not going to have to look up how to spell his name), Charlie Coyle, and Markus Granlund, for three players with lower cap hits and more years of control, gives the team more flexibility with a retooling effort, and allows the younger forwards some room to grow. However, being a team that was in a playoff position, with a 32-year old goalie, in addition to Ryan Suter and Zach Parise signed for over $7 million each until the end of time, this wasn’t the right time to try and turn over a new leaf.
Trading for young players like Ryan Donato and Kevin Fiala is a good start, but acquiring Victor Rask looks like a step backwards. That being said, this looks like a team that will have the reigns handed to the young skaters next season, where there will be space for them to thrive. Acquiring one or two of these youngsters could pay dividends for your fantasy squad, but like Minnesota, you will have to surround them with some support veterans, and they aren’t going to be cheap for long.
Pontus Aberg, Kevin Fiala, Ryan Donato, and Joel Eriksson Ek all need new contracts for next season. The flexibility that initially appears to give the Wild the options to bring in more players is going to be disappearing fast, while the team shipped out more talent than they got in return. It’s unlikely I’m going to own many, if any, Wild players to start next season, and I would recommend you proceed with caution here as well.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Columbus Blue Jackets have gone all-in for this season, leaving themselves with over $24 million in cap hits coming off of the books next season, and only two draft picks this coming June. They have done all this while they sit just a point ahead of the current ninth placed team.
Columbus currently has their 2020 first round pick tied up in a condition where if Duchene re-signs in Columbus, then the Blue Jackets send that first to Ottawa. Assuming Duchene doesn’t sign, as it seems he has wanted to pick his own destination since he asked out of Colorado, then Columbus will own all of the firsts necessary to make a run at a big offer sheet this summer. Between Mitch Marner in Toronto and Brayden Point in Tampa, there are two cap-strapped teams with a young star available to be poached. Or, they could target a few free-agents such as Erik Karlsson, Joe Pavelski, and Jeff Skinner, to try and load up again without giving up the same assets as through an offer sheet. With this kind of flexibility, GM Jarmo Kekalainen can navigate the cheapest, and most efficient roster through the summer, as deals become available. In one of my leagues last summer, I was able to take advantage of a similar situation and ended up landing Evgeni Malkin for two future draft picks, and a couple of smaller pieces, mainly because I was able to absorb his whole cap hit.
Looking back on it, things might have made more sense for both sides to have Minnesota push themselves all-in before retooling, while Columbus may have made more sense as the seller with eyes on next year duo to their young, high-ceiling core. That being said, the Metropolitain division is wide open, and any team could come out to a likely matchup against a beat-up Tampa Bay in the third round. Knowing your window is important, Columbus sees that now, and we get to sit back, watch, and enjoy.
Eric Staal – Minnesota Wild
Cap Hit: $3,250,000 for two years
This one doesn’t make much sense, as Eric Staal took less money, to re-sign with a team that is not a top contender, that appears to be going in the wrong direction. My prediction model had him earning a three-year contract with an AAV around $5 million. I can imagine if he made it to free-agency he would have had a few offers even above that. Perhaps since he has already won a Stanley cup, a World Championship title, and an Olympic Gold Medal, he doesn’t have the drive in him to leave Minnesota just to win. If that is the case, we could see him retire in Minnesota after this contract expires, concluding his age-36 season.
Mark Stone – Vegas Golden Knights
Expected Cap Hit: $9,500,000 for eight years
This one is everything but official, as Stone can’t technically sign an extension in Vegas until March 1st. This expected contract is also below market value, with Stone’s estimated AAV coming in on the model at around $10.75M. At this reduced cost, Stone should be able to maintain his effectiveness through to its expiry (at age 34). Patrick Kane has managed to make his contract worthwhile, and at slightly reduced production, Stone can maintain a similar value to that cost versus production level in cap leagues. With his Selke caliber style of play on top of that, he will certainly live up to the contractual value in real life.
Frank Vatrano – Florida Panthers
Cap Hit: $2,533,333 for three years
Vatrano has had an under-the-radar season, putting up career highs in goals and assists, while playing the role of utility man up and down the Panthers’ lineup. He will have solid value for you to close out the season, with two games this weekend, four games next week, and a current cap hit under $1 million to boot.
That caps off this week’s article, thanks for reading. As always, you can find me on twitter @alexdmaclean.
Previous Capped articles:
All salary info from capfriendly.
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