Is this the day the Mathieu Schneider trade goes down?
Good question. The Anaheim Ducks feel as though there have been a few days in the past week where it was about to happen, only for it not to materialize.
There is no question Ducks' GM Brian Burke would like it to happen sooner rather than later - today is a possibility but there is nothing to say it can't drag on into next week - because the Ducks' can't sign Teemu Selanne to his contract until Schneider is dealt and salary cap room is freed up.
Schneider had asked for permission to stay home until the deal is consummated, but since it's dragged on longer than anyone would have liked, he's going to get back on the ice and prepare himself for the NHL season, wherever that may.
When Schneider is dealt, it's possible it could be rolled out to a larger deal. Some teams have inquired about forward Bobby Ryan's availability and the truth is Ryan, the second overall pick in the 04 draft behind Sidney Crosby, may be expendable on this Ducks' roster.
Right now, Ryan is penciled in to skate alongside Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry on the Ducks' No. 1 line with Brendan Morrison between Selanne (when he's signed) and Chris Kunitz on the second unit.
But the absence of the Performance Bonus Cushion this season means that Ryan is counting as a hard $1.9 million against the salary cap this season and he could get caught up in a financial numbers game in Anaheim.
Travis Moen, Sami Pahlsson and Rob Niedermayer are set as the third line, leaving five NHL veterans - Todd Marchant, Brad May, George Parros, Brian Sutherby and Ryan Carter to play on the fourth line and as the 13th forward. None of those depth players, however, are realistic long-term options to play in the Ducks' top six.
One option for the Ducks is package Ryan with Schneider and that would free up enough cap space to not only sign Selanne but go out and sign or trade for a more experienced winger who could fit well with Getzlaf and Perry or with Morrison and Selanne, if Kunitz were to move up to the No. 1 line.
The other option would be to send Ryan to the minors, as he does not need to go on waivers. As for Schneider, if he can't be moved, the Ducks could free up his salary cap room by burying him in the minors but while that's a feasible financial solution, it's the last thing any self-respecting NHL team that has hopes of signing unrestricted free agents in the summer wants to do.
In any case, what the Schneider situation tells us is that it's very difficult to move contracts at this time of year and in this environment, especially in light of there being no Performance Bonus Cushion. Teams know Burke has to make the deal so they will try to grind him to take back players and salary obligations he isn't interested in. He may even find himself in New Jersey territory, where the Devils had to throw in a first-round pick with Vladimir Malakhov to get a team, San Jose, to take Malakhov off New Jersey's hands. And it's not as if the Ducks can put Schneider on re-entry waivers. They simply don't have the cap room to take the $2.8 million hit (50 per cent of Schneider's salary, which the Ducks would be responsible for if he were claimed on re-entry waivers) to NOT have Schneider on the roster, although at some point that could become an option if Schneider cannot be traded at all.
Another veteran player on a big ticket - Washington Capital centre Michael Nylander, who has another three years with a cap hit of $4.875 million per year - is apparently available and while there is considerable interest in him, finding a team with the right financial fit is a challenge. Nylander also has a no-trade clause. The Chicago Blackhawks, who could use a veteran presence in the second-line centre slot, are one of a number of teams that may be trying to work something with Washington on Nylander.