Central Division salary cap issues | #predators | #childpredators | #kids

While the New York Rangers have a salary cap issue, it isn’t as bad as other teams and they could use that to their advantage

The salary cap for the 2020-21 season has not been announced yet, but the expectation is that it will be flat at $81.5 as a result of losses sustained during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The New York Rangers are not flush with cap space, but they are in better shape than a number of NHL organizations. Over the next few days, we’ll be taking a look at the cap situation for other NHL teams, starting with the Central Division.

The Rangers

At a flat cap of $81.5 million, the Rangers would have $13.466 million in cap space headed into next season.  With that $13.5 million, they have to re-sign Tony DeAngelo, Ryan Strome,  Alexandar Georgiev, Brendan Lemieux  and Phil DiGiuseppe.   They would have to replace or re-sign Jesper Fast and Greg McKegg as well.

Considering the seasons Strome and DeAngelo had, that could be an issue, but they have options of coming up with more cap space through buyouts.  If they buy out Henrilk Lundqvist, it will free up $3 million while costing the team $1.5 million in 2021-22.

A buyout of Marc Staal would free up $2.1 million in cap space. Buying out Brendan Smith would save the team about $1.5 million.

If Lundqvist retires with one year left on his contract, it would result in a cap savings of $5 million.

The good news is that if the Rangers draft Alexis Lafreniere and he plays in the NHL he will make the maximum Entry Level Contract with a cap hit of less than $1 million.  If Vitali Kravtsov makes the team, the cap hit will be even less.

That would leave about $11.5 million to sign the five RFA’s, barring any trades.  Add in the additional cap space from a retirement or buyout and there may be some cap space left to go out and sign a lefthanded defenseman.

That’s where the flat salary cap comes in.  There are some NHL teams in very serious cap trouble and they will be looking to shed salary.  Since teams don’t like to make deals within their own division or conference, we’ll look at the teams in the Central Division first and see which teams are in cap trouble.  All salary cap data is courtesy of capfriendly.com and cap space for 2020-21 is projected.

Chicago Blackhawks – Cap Space: $7,353,205

Key UFA’s:
Corey Crawford,  Goalie

Key RFA’s: 
Dominik Kubalik, , Right-Left Wing (arbitration eligible)
Slater Koekkoek, Left Defense  (arbitration eligible)
Dylan Strome,  Center
Drake Caggiula, Left Wing (arbitration eligible)
Malcolm Subban, Goalie (arbitration eligible)

The Blackhawks are in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this summer courtesy of the Qualifier format.  Capwise, they are still suffering the consequences of winning three Stanley Cups in the last decade.  Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith all have huge contracts and they have doled out big bucks recently to Brandon Saad and Alex DeBrincat.

The Hawks have no NHL goalies under contract next season with Corey Crawford a UFA and Malcolm Subban a RFA.   While Crawford is the only important UFA, they have a number of RFA’s including Drake Caggiula, Slater Koekkoek, Dominik Kubalik  and Dylan Strome with the first three arbitration eligible.

Kubalik is a Calder Trophy finalist and is coming off a 30 goal season (second on the team).  He is arbitration eligible and made $925k.   The Hawks are in big trouble, yet again.

This does provide an opportunity for the Rangers. Slater Koekkoek is a lefthanded defenseman who is an arbitration eligible RFA.  He made $925k this season, starting as a spare blueliner and ending the season as a solid second or third pair defenseman.  Considering the Hawks cap issues, they may be forced to deal Koekkoek who played 42 games this season.  He’s a former first round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning  and is 6’2″, 193 pounds and is still young at 26.

Colorado Avalanche  – Cap Space:  $22,364,405

Key UFA’s:
Vlad Namestnikov, Center-wing
Matt Nieto, Left wing
Mark Barberio, Left defense
Kevin Connauton, Left defense
Michael Hutchinson, Goalie

Key RFA’s:
Andre Burakovsky, Winger (arbitration eligible)
Tyson Jost, Left wing-center
Valeri Nichuskin, Winger (arbitration eligible)
Vladislav Kamenev, Center (arbitration eligible)
Nikita Zadarov, Left defense (arbitration eligible)
Ryan Graves, Left defense (arbitration eligible)

When it comes to well run organizations, the Avalanche have a great reputation in the hockey world.  They have the most cap space of any team in the Central Division.  They have a number of RFA’s and UFA’s, but no one is going to break the bank.   The big hit will be for arbitration eligible Andre Burakovsky who broke through with a 20 goal season.

When it comes to the Avalanche, they will be buyers and not sellers this off-season.

Dallas Stars – Cap Space: $19,464,168

Key UFA’s:
Mattias Janmark, Left wing
Corey Perry, Right wing
Roman Polak, Right defense
Andrej Sekera, Left defense
Anton Khudobin, Goalie

Key RFA’s:
Radek Faksa, Center (arbitration eligible)
Denis Gurianov, Left wing
Roope Hintz, Left wing-center

The Dallas Stars are sitting on a decent amount of cap space, helped greatly by Martin Hanzal’s $4.75 million salary coming off the books.  They have to sign some key RFA’s including Roope Hintz, Denis Gurianov and Radek Faksa, but the Stars will be looking to add assets and they have the cap space to do it.

Minnesota Wild – Cap Space: $16,200,578

Key UFA’s:
Mikko Koivu, Center
Alex Galchenyuk, Center-winger
Carson Soucy, Left Defense

Key RFA’s:
Luke Kunin, Right wing
Jordan Greenway, Left wing

General Manager Bill Guerin will be starting his second season with the team and in one year, he got the Wild into a decent cap situation.   He cleared some cap space by trading Jason Zucker at the deadline, but has to decide on whether to try to re-sign Alex Galchenyuk who he got in the deal.  Longtime Wild  center and team captain Mikko Koivu is a UFA, but he is also 37 years old and will probably take much less than his current $5.5 million to play another year if the team wants him.

Guerin inherited onerous long term deals with Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and Mats Zuccarello and tried to unload Parise at the deadline, but overall, the Wild are in decent cap shape.   They have no major UFA’s to sign except Galchenyuk and the only two RFA’s they need to ink are Jordan Greenway and Luke Kunin and they don’t have any leverage.

They are helped by the addition of Kirill Kaprizov who signed his ELC after starring in the KHL.  The Wild have done a good job getting their cap situation under control and are well prepared for the flat cap next season.   They won’t be a team that the Rangers will be able to take advantage of.

Nashville Predators – Cap Space: $9,267,190

Key UFA’s:
Mikael Granlund, Center
Craig Smith, Right wing
Colin Blackwell, Center
Dan Hamhuis, Left defense
Korbinian Holzer, Right defense
Yannick Weber, Right defense

Key RFA’s: None

The Predators missed the playoffs, losing in the Qualifier and look to be a team in transition.  Their biggest problem are long term contracts.  They have seven players locked in through the 2023-24 season for a total of about $44 million.

They have some key players in Mikael Granlund and Craig Smith in need of contracts and combined, they made $10 million this season.  There goes the cap space.

The Predators are one team that the flat cap will hurt, but the question is whether they have assets worth pursuing.  Their goal will be to dump salary they have committed to players like Kyle Turris  and that’s not what the Rangers are interested in.  30 year old Mattias Ekholm would be a good fit for the Blueshirts, but he’s signed for the next two years at a reasonable $3.75 million so the Predators may not be willing to surrender him in a deal to save cap space.

St. Louis Blues – Cap Space: $2,047,501

Key UFA’s:
Alex Pietrangelo, Right defense
Troy Brouwer, Left wing

Key RFA’s:
Vince Dunn, Left defense
Jacob De La Rose, Center (arbitration eligible)

Like most successful teams, the 2019 Cup winners are going to be absolutely crushed by a flat cap. After spending the entire season trying to figure out how to afford team captain and UFA Alex Pietrangelo, it looks like they will have no options. Even without him, the Blues have a deep and talented blueline and they won’t be selling assets cheap to keep him.

The big problem for the Blues is not just Pietrangelo, it’s that with a flat cap they are going to be hard pressed to keep young defenseman Vince Dunn, a pending RFA.  He is the perfect target for an offer sheet.

The Rangers could see an opportunity to help their center position by dealing with the Blues and targeting Oskar Sundqvist or Ivan Barbashev.  They are both schooled in the physical game the Blues play and they went through the postseason wars to win a Stanley Cup.  Barbashev opted out of the playoffs for the birth of his child, but is remembered for the 87 hits he recorded in the playoffs last year.   Sundqvist is signed for $2.75 for the next three years while Barbashev has one more year on his contract at $1.47 million.  Another player the Rangers would like, but the Blues would like to keep is winger Sammy Blais who is the kind of player that teams hate to face.

You can be sure that Jeff Gorton will be in touch with the Blues GM Doug Armstrong, testing the waters.

Winnipeg Jets – Cap Space:  $15,577,145

Key UFA’s:
Dmitry Kulikov, Left defense
Nathan Beaulieu, Left defense
Dylan DeMelo, Right defense
Luca Sbisa, Left defense
Anthony Bitetto, Left defense
Cody Eakin, Center
Nick Shore, Center
Logan Shaw, Center-wing
Mark Letestu, Center-wing
Gabriel Bourque, Left wing

Key RFA’s:
Jack Roslovic, Right wing
Jansen Harkins, Left wing
Mason Appleton, Right wing (arbitration eligible)
Sami Niku, Right defense

The Jets have done a good job of freeing up cap space and despite their offensive prowess, their blue line is their biggest issue, a situation that doesn’t help the Rangers.  While they have a ton of free agents, most are not going to take big dollars to sign or replace.

If the Blueshirts were interested in some help on defense, Dmitry Kulikov would definitely be a UFA option to pair with Jacob Trouba with Luca Sbisa a candidate as a veteran depth blueliner.

Central Division wrap  up

The Rangers would love to deal with a Central Division team,  but the only teams in serious cap trouble are the Blues and the Blackhawks.  In the next report in our series, we will take a look at the Pacific Division, a division with more cap issues and better options for roster moves.

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