The National Hockey League schedule remains paused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but that hasn’t stopped the rumor mill churning over off-season free-agent moves and trade candidates. Here’s a look at the past week’s notable chatter.
Could the Calgary Flames consider a big move this off-season?
After finishing atop the Western Conference last year, the Calgary Flames struggled to remain a playoff contender this season. When the schedule was paused, they were clinging to one of the final Western playoff spots.
If the Flames missed the playoffs or failed to advance beyond the opening round, Sportsnet’s Eric Francis felt it would’ve been clear to management to shake up the roster core. “When we say core, we mean Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan,” wrote Francis.
If the season is canceled, Francis believes the young Flames stars will get another opportunity in 2020-21. Nevertheless, the suggestion of moving either player would’ve been unthinkable a year ago.
The decline in Gaudreau’s and Monahan’s stats contributed to the Flames’ difficulties this season. Shopping either player for one bad season would be an overreaction. Nevertheless, Francis wondered if one or both might be moved if the right deal came along.
That’s unlikely to happen this year, especially if the season is canceled. However, a sub-par effort by Gaudreau and Monahan next season will raise questions about their long-term futures in Calgary.
The New York Islanders would match an offer sheet for Mathew Barzal
The New York Islanders will enter this off-season (whenever it may be) carrying over $71 million invested in 18 players. Should the salary cap remain at $81.5 million for 2020-21, they won’t have much space to re-sign restricted free agents Mathew Barzal, Ryan Pulock, and Devon Toews.
Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello, however, remains confident of re-signing them before next season. The club’s limited salary-cap space, however, could make Barzal a tempting offer-sheet target.
Lamoriello said it wasn’t his intention to allow negotiations to reach the point where the 23-year-old first-line center could receive one. If he does, however, the Isles GM indicated he would match it.
Teams are allowed to spend over the salary cap by 10 percent during the off-season, but they must be cap compliant when next season begins. If Lamoriello did match an offer sheet, he’d have to make a cost-cutting move elsewhere.
Offer sheets are rare in the NHL. Before the Montreal Canadiens inked Carolina Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho last summer (which the Hurricanes quickly matched), it had been over six years since a player received one from a rival club.
With NHL clubs potentially facing a lower-than-projected salary cap for next season, it’s unlikely anyone will attempt to sign Barzal – or any other noteworthy restricted free agent – to an offer sheet.
The New York Rangers could face a difficult decision with Anthony DeAngelo
Entering this season, the rebuilding New York Rangers weren’t expected to be a playoff contender. They surprised the experts by surging their way into contention for a wild-card berth before the schedule was paused.
Defenseman Tony DeAngelo contributed to the Rangers’ unexpected rise. The 24-year-old mobile blueliner sits fourth among NHL rearguards with a career-high 53 points in 68 games.
DeAngelo is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer. Unless the two sides can agree to an affordable bridge deal, the New York Post‘s Larry Brooks suggested re-signing the young defenseman to a long-term deal could cost the Blueshirts at least $6 million annually.
Brooks anticipated a cap crunch soon for the Rangers. Signing DeAngelo for $6 million per would eat up half of their roughly $14 million in salary-cap space for next season. They’ve already got Jacob Trouba under contract for the next seven years at $8 million annually.
With Ryan Strome, Brendan Lemieux, and Alexandar Georgiev also RFAs with arbitration rights, there might not be enough room to retain them all unless management sheds salary. If DeAngelo proves difficult to re-sign, Brooks proposed shopping him for a top-nine forward with top-six potential.
Team and player salary info via Cap Friendly.