May 23, 2019
Off-Season Watch: Wild moves ahead?
Each day through the NHL Draft on June 21 and free agency on July 1, TSN.ca breaks down the latest news and rumours around the NHL. In Thursday's roundup, more changes could be coming for the Minnesota Wild, the off-season outlook for the Sharks and a cap crunch in Washington.
Each day through the NHL Draft on June 21 and free agency on July 1, TSN.ca breaks down the latest news and rumours around the NHL.
According to Michael Russo of The Athletic, Wild general manager Paul Fenton should be active in the trade market once again this summer after parting with Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund during the season.
Russo writes that Fenton is willing to move forward Jason Zucker. TSN Hockey Insider Pierre LeBrun reported in February that Zucker almost joined the Calgary Flames at the trade deadline.
With $61.5 million already committed to the salary cap for next season, Russo believes Fenton will look to shed salary in order to be active in the free agent market on July 1.
Other trade options at forward for the Wild, according to Russo, are Joel Eriksson Ek, Marcus Foligno and Victor Rask, who was acquired for Niederreiter back in January. On defence, Russo believes Greg Pateryn is available, while Fenton may at least consider trading moving Jonas Brodin or Nick Seeler.
Should the Wild move Zucker in exchange for current NHL player, Russo believes acquiring Phil Kessel from the Pittsburgh Penguins could be an option.
Zucker, 27, has four years left on his contract at a $5.5 million cap hit. Listed at No. 4 on the TSN Trade Bait board, he scored 21 goals and posted 42 points in 81 games this season.
The San Jose Sharks are entering an off-season filled with uncertainty with Joe Pavelski, Erik Karlsson, Joe Thornton, Joonas Donskoi and Gustav Nyquist all slated to hit unrestricted free agency on July 1.
Curtis Pashelka of The San Jose Mercury News reports there has been little dialogue between the Sharks and Pavelski, the team's captain, and adds that term on the 34-year-old's new deal could be a sticking point for either side.
Pashelka wonders whether the Sharks will be willing to commit long-term to Karlsson, after the defenceman missed significant time do to injury in the regular season and returned at less than full strength for the playoffs.
“Maybe the best defenceman in the world, or in that conversation,” Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer said of Karlsson. “We had him healthy for six weeks and dialed in. The first two months of the season, he was getting used to us, two and a half, I thought he got dialed…and we were maybe the best team in the league in that stretch. And then he wasn’t healthy again.”
Pashelka believes the team will be able to retain Donskoi, if they choose to, but notes that Nyquist's future with the team may come down to whether or not he's squeezed out if Karlsson and Pavelski are re-signed.
In any case, changes appear to be coming for the Sharks.
“Some of the guys you may not see until you play them the next season,” forward Logan Couture said after the team was eliminated from the Western Conference Final. “So it’s the worst part of playing in this league. There are many positives. That’s probably the biggest negative. But we expect there are going to be changes and right now it’s just too early to think about it.”
The Sharks have $58.3 million committed to the cap for next season with 15 players under contract.
Feeling the Squeeze
The Washington Capitals are facing a cap crunch with $72.9 million committed to their cap for next season with five restricted free agents to sign and four players headed for unrestricted free agency.
Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan told The Athletic that negotiations will restricted free agent Jakub Vrana, who broke out with 24 goals and 47 points this season, will determine a key part of the team's salary cap outlook.
“We’ll have some decisions to make,” MacLellan said. “We’ll find out which direction we’re going on Vrana with a term deal or a bridge deal. Some of it is money decisions. Some of it is we need to make a couple changes.”
Chris Kuc of The Athletic writes that the Capitals have opened talks with Vrana and are exploring a two-year bridge contract or a slightly longer term. Kuc adds that the Capitals have also opened initial talks with trade deadline addition Carl Hagelin, who, along with UFA Brett Connolly, MacLellan likely wants to keep.
The Capitals could clear cap space by trading 32-year-old defenceman Matt Niskanen. He has two years left on his contract at a $5.75 million cap hit and Kuc writes that moving the veteran is the "widely speculated move" for the Capitals. Kuc adds that the team is likely to opt against tendering Dmitrij Jaskin and Devante Smith-Pelly, allowing both to reach unrestricted free agency on July 1.
Looking long-term, Kuc notes the team will look to keep cap space clear for the 2020-21 season and beyond to save room for extensions to Nicklas Backstrom and Braden Holtby, both of whom are entering the final year of their deals.