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John Locher/Associated Press
The official announcement of the NHL‘s training camp dates and the Jan. 13 start to the season sparked a resumption of player movement. As general managers started signing available free agents, the trade market has also finally returned to life.
There hadn’t been much trade activity since early October. Between Oct. 12 and Dec. 11, the only moves were the Vegas Golden Knights shipping defenseman Nate Schmidt to the Vancouver Canucks and the New York Islanders acquiring forward Dmytro Timashov from the Detroit Red Wings.
Now that the NHL calendar for this season has been determined, business has picked up.
Over the weekend, the Arizona Coyotes traded Derek Stepan to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for a second-round pick in the 2021 NHL draft. The Senators also shipped sidelined Marian Gaborik and Anders Nilsson to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Braydon Coburn, Cedric Paquette and a 2022 second-rounder.
Other teams could soon follow suit. Some, such as the Golden Knights, could make a cost-cutting trade to become salary-cap compliant before the season opens next month. Others, such as the Winnipeg Jets, could attempt to address a roster issue before the puck drops.
Here’s a look at five NHL clubs that could make moves before the coming season begins on Jan. 13.
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Winslow Townson/Associated Press
The Boston Bruins need to shore up their defense corps before the curtain rises on the 2020-21 schedule. The departure of Torey Krug to the St. Louis Blues via free agency and the ongoing uncertainty over whether to bring back Zdeno Chara leaves the Bruins weak on the left side of their blue line.
Cap Friendly lists Matt Grzelcyk and John Moore as the Bruins’ only full-time left-side defensemen currently under contract. They could shift a right-side rearguard such as Connor Clifton or Jeremy Lauzon to the left side or promote Urho Vaakanainen or Jakub Zboril.
With $3.0 million in cap space, the Bruins could also look toward the free-agent market for an affordable option.
They could still bring back Chara, but the 43-year-old is no longer capable of playing a full-time role among their top four. Meanwhile, pickings are slim in the UFA market. Besides Chara, the best of the bunch includes Sami Vatanen, Ben Hutton and 38-year-old Andy Greene.
That’s prompted speculation the Bruins could go the trade route for help. On Dec. 21, The Athletic’s Fluto Shinzawa cited a league source who said it feels like they are waiting to see if anything shakes loose in the trade market before considering if they’ll bring back Chara.
The Bruins could sign Chara or another UFA to a one-year deal or promote from within. Nevertheless, if they still consider themselves a Stanley Cup contender this season, going the trade route could be the best way to address their blue-line needs.
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Duane Burleson/Associated Press
Entering his second season as Detroit Red Wings general manager, Steve Yzerman continues to rebuild his club back to Stanley Cup contention. With $9.5 million in salary-cap space, he could target a rival looking to shed salary in hope of landing a quality player.
Yzerman was busy earlier in the offseason, signing goaltender Thomas Greiss and forwards Bobby Ryan and Vladislav Namestnikov. He also dipped into the trade market, acquiring defenseman Marc Staal from the New York Rangers.
On Dec. 22, MLive.com’s Ansar Khan reported Yzerman might not be done dealing. The Wings general manager admitted he was “definitely poking around,” saying he’s always looking for ways to improve his roster.
The rebuilding Wings could use additional secondary scoring to take some of the burden off first-line forwards Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi and Anthony Mantha. Another experienced top-four defenseman couldn’t hurt.
As of Dec. 29, 15 NHL teams have less than $2 million in salary-cap space. One of them could be willing to offload a veteran player to the Wings for a draft pick or prospect to garner some cap flexibility for the coming season.
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Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press
The Tampa Bay Lightning entered the offseason needing to shed salary. Pressed against the $81.5 million salary cap and with restricted free agents Anthony Cirelli, Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak to re-sign, they had to become salary-cap compliant before the start of this season once those three were back under contract.
Retaining them helped push the Lightning well above the cap. Under league rules, they can sit above it by 10 percent during the offseason but must be under it when the regular season begins.
A hip injury to Nikita Kucherov, however, provided some much-needed wiggle room. So did shipping Braydon Coburn and Cedric Paquette to the Ottawa Senators for Marian Gaborik and Anders Nilsson on Sunday. Those two are expected to join Kucherov on long-term injury reserve, providing the Lightning with a combined $17.0 million in cap relief and leaving them $1.1 million under the cap.
Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois might not be done making moves.
On Dec. 23, The Athletic’s Ryan S. Clark reported BriseBois was seeking opportunities to free up cap room. He indicated he lacked sufficient maneuverability and was speaking with a couple of teams.
The deal with the Senators certainly helps, but it still leaves the Lightning with limited room for other moves that could become necessary later in the season. Earlier this offseason, BriseBois placed winger Tyler Johnson and his $5 million annual cap hit on waivers but couldn’t find any takers. He also attempted to trade the 30-year-old winger.
Perhaps he’ll revisit those efforts in the coming weeks.
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John Locher/Associated Press
The Vegas Golden Knights approach training camp sitting just over $974,000 above the salary cap. They could become cap compliant by demoting or trading a lower-salary player. However, recent speculation suggests general manager Kelly McCrimmon could have a bigger move in mind.
On Dec. 9, TSN’s Frank Seravalli reported the Golden Knights had “doubled down” on their efforts to trade winger Max Pacioretty. He indicated shopping the 32-year-old winger and his $7 million annual average value would provide sufficient flexibility to shed cap space and perhaps add a more affordable high-profile free agent.
The Athletic’s Jesse Granger followed up Seravalli’s report, indicating winger Jonathan Marchessault and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury were also being shopped. Fleury’s name surfaced in the rumor mill earlier in the offseason after Vegas re-signed goalie Robin Lehner.
Golden Knights owner Bill Foley wasted little time dismissing the Pacioretty rumor. During an interview with KLAS TV in Las Vegas on Dec. 9, he stated Pacioretty wasn’t going anywhere. As for Fleury, NHL.com reported on Oct. 14 that McCrimmon stated the veteran netminder was staying put.
However, there’s been no comment from the Golden Knights regarding Marchessault’s status.
On Dec. 14, TSN’s Travis Yost suggested the winger would be an ideal trade candidate. He pointed out the 30-year-old is younger than the 32-year-old Pacioretty, his $5 million AAV is more affordable and he’d be a good addition to a rebuilding club like the Detroit Red Wings or Ottawa Senators.
The Golden Knights could be shopping around to see if there’s a market for Marchessault. Failing that, they could make a lesser move to get under the cap ceiling before their regular season begins.
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Andy Clayton-King/Associated Press
The Winnipeg Jets approach training camp with two notable forwards facing uncertain futures and a need to shore up their defense corps.
Jets winger Patrik Laine has been the subject of frequent trade speculation during the offseason. On Oct. 15, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported the 22-year-old sniper’s agents had indicated their client’s unhappiness over his role with the club. They suggested it might be mutually beneficial if he were traded.
Nothing has happened yet, but that hasn’t silenced questions about his trade status.
On Dec. 21, Mike McIntyre of the Winnipeg Free Press reported Jack Roslovic, 23, was looking for a new home. A restricted free agent, he’s seen mostly third-line duty with the Jets. McIntyre said general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff had explored Roslovic’s trade value but hadn’t found anything to his liking.
McIntyre also suggested Roslovic could be peddled in an attempt to bolster the Jets’ defense corps. The departures of Jacob Trouba, Dustin Byfuglien, Tyler Myers and Ben Chiarot since June 2019 have depleted their once-vaunted blue line.
Cheveldayoff doesn’t have to rush into anything. Laine becomes a restricted free agent with arbitration rights next summer, and Roslovic lacks leverage coming off his entry-level contract. The Jets also sit above the salary cap by nearly $698,000 but are expected to get cap relief by placing sidelined center Bryan Little and his $5.3 million cap hit on long-term injury reserve.
Nevertheless, the Jets general manager could move Laine or Roslovic before the regular season begins if the right deal can be found.
Player salary and team salary cap info (as of Dec. 29, 2020) via Cap Friendly.