This NHL offseason, there will be plenty of teams looking to make changes. In fact, you expect that all of the 31 teams, even the eventual Stanley Cup winner, will try and make moves to not only improve their team but rid themselves of contracts that aren't wonderfully flexible. There will be players needing new contracts, others who might be looking for new homes and available free agents interested franchises will pursue.
There are few choices that each team has at their disposal. From trades to signing free agents, buying out certain contracts or sending players to the minors, most NHL general managers aren't completely stuck. So too, the most exciting part of most NHL summers for fans is seeing which big names from which teams go where?
There are rumours that names like John Tavares in New York might be moved, but the Islanders will do whatever they can to re-sign him. What about a player like Corey Perry in Anaheim? He hasn't really pulled his weight for a couple seasons and is making big bucks. Franchises like the Edmonton Oilers disappointed and brought in an almost completely new coaching staff while the Montreal Canadiens need to make big changes to stay competitive.
Here is a list of 31 Teams each doing at least one thing that could improve their chances of being or staying competitive during the 2018-19 NHL season.
31 Anaheim Ducks: Corey Perry (Trade)
There comes a point where, as an NHL star, you're making more money than the value you are providing. For some players, that time comes sooner than later but in the case of Corey Perry, he's had a great run with the Anaheim Ducks. It's only now, after a long career that included a Hart Trophy and many All-Star appearances is Perry proving he's being paid well more than what he's offering. Perry is still a good player but he's not $8.625 million good for the next three seasons and it the Ducks can trade him while another team might be willing to take on most or all of his salary, it could be wise to do so.
He scored 49 points in 71 games for the Ducks last season and he can be partially blamed for their early-round exit from the playoffs this season where he scored no points in four games. Anaheim is a team that likes to be competitive every year and before Perry's game really regresses, they'd be well-served to move him if there's a taker. He's too expensive an option to buy-out so a trade seems like the most likely option to explore. The trick is he has a no-move clause so the team will have to convince him to waive it.
30 Arizona Coyotes: Max Domi (Sign)
The Arizona Coyotes have some business to take care of this summer and while the eyes of the world will be on Oliver Ekman-Larsson and what happens with his $5.5 million contract next season, the immediate concern is what to do with forward Max Domi. Domi is a young talent whose ceiling is likely quite high but he didn't have the best year in 2o17-18. That means he's going to be undervalued by an organization that is already known for going cheap on contracts and trying to build a team with the lowest possible cap hit.
Can the Coyotes figure out a way to keep Domi in the fold while not breaking the bank to do so? They'd better hope to try because at only 23-years-old, he still has a lot to offer. The Coyotes are not expected to be a very good team next year and the last thing they want to do is remove a player who has the potential to get them 50 points per season. He won't fetch that kind of return in trade so the clubs best bet is to try and get him on a sweetheart deal that doesn't overpay and makes him tradeable should he have a bounce-back year in 2018-19.
29 Boston Bruins: Brad Marchand (Trade)
This might not be a popular opinion, but there's something about Brad Marchand's behavior that suggests he could be more of a problem for the Boston Bruins than an asset. That's saying a lot because he's one heck of a hockey player. Marchand spent most of the postseason this year trying to explain why he was licking and kissing players on the opposing team. It clearly pi$$ed off the opponents but it also upset his teammates, his coaches and the NHL who had to threaten disciplinary action against him if he didn't cut it out. This is just the latest in a long line of weird behaviour Marchand has exhibited and the Bruins are not afraid to trade a strong player if he doesn't fit their culture (see Tyler Seguin).
Marchand is locked into a long-term contract making just over $6 million per season, which at his rate of scoring 80-plus points each year is a good deal.
The Bruins could rake in a lot on the trade market if they decided he needed to be someone else's headache. Many teams will overlook his issues to acquire his skill. If he declines in production, he'll never be worth what he's worth right now in trade.
28 Buffalo Sabres: Ryan O'Reilly (Trade)
Ryan O'Reilly said all the right things at the World Hockey Championships but it doesn't change the fact that at the end of the 2017-18 season, he called out himself, his passion for hockey, his willingness to lose games and insinuated that it may be because he was stuck in Buffalo where the team has been lousy. He likely didn't mean it the way it sounded but he's going to have to do a lot of repair work to mend the relationship he now has with the fans who were shocked to hear their leader practically announce he'd given up.
If he has, in fact, called it quits on trying in Buffalo, the organization needs to move him. They should get a strong return but the issue here is O'Reilly makes a boatload of money per season and some teams might be concerned with his attitude versus his value at $7.5 million until 2023. O'Reilly should be excited about this coming season in Buffalo. The team has never been afraid to try and get better during the summer and they have the No. 1 overall pick in this year's NHL Entry Draft. This could be the start of something good for the Sabres but maybe it's too little too late for O'Reilly there.
27 Calgary Flames: Troy Brouwer (Buyout)
To say Troy Brouwer has been a disappointment in Calgary would be one of the biggest understatements in the last couple years. He was given $4.5 million per year over four years and expected to provide offense and leadership. He's done neither posting 22 and 25 points in his last two seasons with the Flames. He's just not providing value and it looks like his game is getting worse, not better.
The Flames need to take responsibility for this signing as it was always an overpayment. His best season was the year before his new contract where he scored 43 points with the Washington Capitals and that was hardly worth justifying handing out $22 million. His buyout would save the Flames $3 million per season over the next two years and his cap hit over the next four would be $1.5 million per season. This is well worth it if he's going to chug along at his current pace. The Flames need to find a more productive forward to play top-six minutes and they've now seen enough of Brouwer to know he doesn't likely have that in his game any longer. He's a depth guy worth $2.5 million per season at best.
26 Carolina Hurricanes: Justin Faulk (Trade)
The Carolina Hurricanes are looking at major changes this coming season and should be one of the busier teams in the summer. With a new management team, new coaches and a desire to shake things up a bit, they have a pretty strong core of defenders and rumours are, almost everyone is available via trade. That leaves the door open to former Norris Trophy candidate Justin Faulk who has still been a strong player but is no longer in that Norris conversation.
There are lot of teams that would be eager to add his $4.8 million salary over the next two seasons knowing he can quarterback a power play, is a shoe-in for 30-45 points and can eat big minutes as a top-four blueliner. The Edmonton Oilers are rumoured to have interest and he could be part of a bigger trade that includes other assets as well. It might be the best plan to actually trade Faulk and the Hurricanes might regret making huge changes but they need to do something as their recent results have dictated that change is necessary. He's worth something on the open market and the Canes' can afford to lose a defender if they get something back in return.
25 Chicago Blackhawks: Brent Seabrook (Trade)
Brent Seabrook isn't a great option for a buyout because he's going to cost the Chicago Blackhawks money over the next 12 seasons if they choose to go that route. They can't re-sign him because he's got six seasons left on his current deal. That means if the Hawks are going to try and rid themselves on a player making $6.875 million for a good chunk of time, they'll need to trade him. Seabrook used to be considered someone the club would never consider moving. As a defender, he was instrumental in helping the Blackhawks win repeated Stanley Cup Championships. Today, the Blackhawks are struggling, missed the playoffs and are constantly under the pressure of the salary cap that forces them to move good pieces and trade strong players.
They did it last season with Artemi Panarin and they're likely to do something wild again.
Because Seabrook's production is declining, he's a strong candidate to be someone the organization dangles out there to see if there are any takers. There may not be and that shows you how quickly perception can change in the NHL these days. The organization may even have to be willing to eat some of his salary to find a good trade that provides something of value at a lower price point.
24 Colorado Avalanche: Tyson Barrie (Trade)
If the Colorado Avalanche look to trade Tyson Barrie, it is because they believe he's going to return the most assets at this point than at any other time in his NHL career. An offensive-defenseman who was signed and then often rumoured to be traded by the organization had a huge year in 2017-18 with 57 points in 68 games and he's the club's top blueline for production. He'd look good on a number of other teams and those teams would be willing to give a lot to get him.
There is a risk here. If Barrie's previous season is more an indication of what he could do, the Avs are moving a guy they can't possibly get equal value for in return. But, if this .83 PPG clip is an anomaly and he's more prone to going back to the .63 PPG and under, moving him now is a great option if the Avs are looking to take in a huge haul. Barrie isn't necessarily that strong defensively, but there are worse and he can quarterback a power play as well as produce five-on-five while playing solid minutes on any NHL roster. You can line up the number of teams that would like to have a player of his skill set on board.
23 Columbus Blue Jackets: Boone Jenner (Sign)
Boone Jenner had a bad year for the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2017-18. There's really no other way to put it. He finished the season with 32 points but didn't get his 10th point until December 20. A back injury that caused him to miss the opening part of the season didn't help matters. That doesn't mean the Blue Jackets should write him off as a potentially strong asset for them. He came on strong towards the end of the year and had three points in six playoff games.
Jenner heads into this offseason a restricted free agent and is only three seasons removed from a 30-goal campaign. He's one of the team's leaders but he's going to have to pull up his socks and get back to work since his ice time has declined each season as has his production. The trick will be whether the Blue Jackets and Jenner can find common ground on a new contract. He may not be willing to accept a smaller contract but the club likely sees what's been going on with his career and has concerns. He made $2.9 million last season. Does he expect to get as high as $4 million moving forward. That seems unlikely but it is possible given his status inside that locker room.
22 Dallas Stars: Jason Spezza (Buyout)
Jason Spezza is the example of a player who has seen the game start to pass him by a bit. Still one of the better centers in the NHL over the past five seasons, his game the last two has really regressed and it's time the Dallas Stars make a tough decision and sit him down to talk about his future with the club. It's likely, not strong he stays on with the team.
Spezza is slated to make $7.5 million next season and with only 26 points in 78 regular season games, Dallas would be nuts to pay him that kind of money for that level of production. Since no one will trade for him without Dallas eating at least half his salary (even then it's a firm maybe), a buyout seems most likely. Buying out Spezza would cost the Stars $2.5 million on their cap over the next two seasons but save the team $5 million in 2018-19 which they could use to add to their blue line. Their defense is an area of weakness and that money could be put to good use. Spezza will undoubtedly land with another team but his career is on the back nine, probably somewhere around hole 15 or 16.
21 Detroit Red Wings: Dylan Larkin (Sign)
The Detroit Red Wings may be rebuilding but they'll need pieces to rebuild around and Dylan Larkin is one of those pieces. At only 21 years old, he's a restricted free agent and is coming off a strong season in which he had 63 points in 82 games. He should be able to produce more as he grows and he'll get paid for what he brought and for some of that potential the team knows he has.
He's got blazing speed, terrific hands and ability to generate lethal scoring opportunities at an extremely high pace of play. Frankly, if you're the Detroit Red Wings, you don't play around here and you don't give up on that in an NHL that is becoming a league built around speed. The Red Wings could go with a bridge deal if the asking price is outrageous but the team hopes to give Larkin a long-term deal with no more than a $5 or a $6 million per season mark to get things locked in and allow the club to have someone they know will grow with the team. This is not an if but a when the Red Wings get this done. There is the potential another team offer sheets him but that happens less and less in today's NHL because draft picks are so dang valuable.
20 Edmonton Oilers: James Neal (Sign)
The Edmonton Oilers have determined that they need help up front this coming season and that means spending some money to get a proven scoring forward who can offer the team 20-30 goals per year playing with anyone from Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to Leon Draisaitl and Milan Lucic. James Neal fits that bill well. He's currently in the midst of a playoff finals series for the Stanley Cup and once his season ends (win or lose) he's going to earn himself one of the richer free agent contracts in the NHL. Vegas is going to lock up a number of their value contracts to long-term deals but they'll also need to make some tough decisions to avoid getting into the same financial cap trouble as every other team.
That could mean letting quality players who are a little bit older walk away.
Again, that could be Neal. Neal won't have a shortage of offers to consider but perhaps the idea of playing with McDavid is enticing enough to give the Oilers a strong look. At 30 years old, he's probably looking for a five or six year deal in the range of $5-$6 million per season. He's had 20 goals or more every season since 2009. He's probably worth it.
19 Florida Panthers: James Reimer (Trade)
The Florida Panthers have been taking a beating in the vote of popular opinion this playoff season. They probably should be. After all, they gave 2/3 of one of the best lines in the Western Conference to the Vegas Golden Knights for next to nothing and the Knights have parlayed those players into a postseason run that will see them competing for the Stanley Cup. Some people think Florida could have been that team had they kept Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith. That said, Florida has a good group of young players that could be competitive if they shake loose some salary and add the right pieces.
People shouldn't expect the team to be busy buying or signing guys this summer but to move some salary makes sense and they may start with their goaltending which has almost $8 million tied up into two netminders. Robert Luongo isn't going anywhere so that leaves James Reimer as a trade piece that could open up space to do other things. It won't be easy to get his $3.4 million for the next three years off the books but if Florida can do it, they'll be able to acquire a lower-cost goalie and solve other problems.
18 Los Angeles Kings: Drew Doughty (Trade Or Sign Extension)
Drew Doughty is one of the best defenders in the NHL. He's also in the news a lot because he likes to talk and sometimes he says things that give the impression he could care less if he stays or leaves the Los Angeles Kings. This is a player who plays more than half of every game, gets tons of points on offense and takes the toughest matchups on defense, so the Kings would be crazy to move him. Yet, there's always that talk behind the scenes that he might leave.
If there's word that he's looking at other options, the Kings need to move him and his $7 million for one more year. Almost 30 teams would find a way to fit Doughty into their lineup if he shook loose and the Kings could completely reshape their roster in one transaction by lining up the pieces they'd want in return. The closer the season comes to an end, the less the value he has so a place like the NHL Entry Draft is the ideal time to move him if the team believes they should. It's nuts to think about Doughty getting traded but it's not unreasonable to see teams move big names anymore. P.K. Subban, Taylor Hall, Shea Webber and others were all moved in the least year or two.
17 Minnesota Wild: Matt Dumba (Sign)
At points throughout Matt Dumba's career, there have been whispers he might be traded. Looked at by some as one-dimensional, it was considered moving him could mean getting an asset in another area. There were even whispers at one time the Edmonton Oilers were considering moving Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for Dumba which would have been a great get for the Wild and the Oilers. But, the trade never materialized and Dumba went on to play over 20 minutes per game, tallying 34 points and establishing himself as a strong option on the power play all while having a decent year defensively.
Dumba is a restricted free agent this summer and it would be wise for the Wild to get him locked up. His numbers get better each and every season and at only 23 years old, he has a lot to offer. What would a deal look like? It could be anywhere from $5 million per season to $7 million? The Wild need to consider their cap situation and try to get Dumba to take a favourable deal. Dumba is a guy the Wild can't afford to lose so if it takes moving other pieces to fit him in, the team may just have to do that. Minnesota can't give away the farm, but they should consider him part of the future plans.
16 Montreal Canadiens: Max Pacioretty (Trade)
On paper, it doesn't make a lot of sense to trade your best goal scorer, especially when he's on a reasonable contract and you don't have a lot of other scoring options But, that's what it looks like the Montreal Canadiens are doing when it comes to Max Pacioretty. Pacioretty was on the top of most trade bait boards at the 2017-18 NHL Trade Deadline last season and while he wasn't moved, rumors are, it wasn't for a lack of trying or seeing what was out there.
So, if the Canadiens are keen to trade Pacioretty because he may be one of the few roster pieces who could fetch a significant return, the Canadiens should get to it otherwise Pacioretty may feel the need to leave on his own. And, once the public knows he wants out his trade value will drop. If the Canadiens are not going to try and move him, they should put the rumors to bed immediately and get on with improving the team in other ways. The one defence to the Canadiens way of thinking here is that they do need help in some pretty key areas and Pacioretty could help them find some of the pieces they need.
15 Nashville Predators: P.K. Subban (Trade)
Another name that seems shocking when it comes to players potentially available on the trade market is P.K. Subban. Nashville Predators' GM, David Poile is super smart so there's a reason Subban is on the block if some of the speculation is true. But, that's a big if. Subban is one of the Predators best defensemen and he's a huge part of that team's identity. It would take a monster of an offer to move him.
The reason why his name seems to keep popping up is two fold.
First, his name always pops up. He's such a strong personality and he makes so much money, it's hard to ignore the idea that he potentially is more about himself than he is about the team. This is despite how productive he can be. Second, because he makes so much money, moving him opens up the opportunities to do other things. In Nashville's case, that could mean signing Ryan Ellis to an extension. After this next season, Ellis is going to command a huge raise and Nashville always has a strong pipeline of defenders on the way up. Subban will fetch a hefty return and may be deemed less valuable then Ellis. Poile is not shy about making big moves and because the Preds were eliminated from the postseason unceremoniously by the Jets. Maybe they do a little shuffling.
14 New Jersey Devils: Patrick Maroon (Sign)
The New Jersey Devils picked up Patrick Maroon at the trade deadline last season from the Edmonton Oilers and while Maroon didn't steal the show, he was effective with 13 points in 17 games and a goal in the postseason. He might be worth taking a look at re-signing if the price is right. The trick here is that Maroon is looking for a long-term deal to solidify his financial future and has been underpaid for years considering what he's brought to the last two teams he's played with. He'll be looking for at least three or four years at $4 million or more per season. That may be too rich for the Devils who might be going after some bigger fish this offseason in an attempt to maintain the success they found in 2017-18.
The other deal here is that Maroon has said he has interest in going back to Edmonton if the Oilers will have him. They couldn't work out a deal, which is why he was traded before, but if his asking price for a team he knows well and a city he likes has come down, Edmonton might be where he ends up. Still, New Jersey should have a chat with him before moving on.
13 New York Islanders: John Tavares (Sign)
The New York Islanders are in a world of hurt if they don't convince John Tavares to stay right where he is. The rumor mill is buzzing with questions about Tavares' plans and right now it appears he's listening to the Islanders offers but there's a lingering feeling that at any moment, he may make himself available to the highest bidder in free agency. And, he stands to get filthy rich if he does so.
He's a dynamic center and there is no shortage of people who would love to sign him if he became available. This is a player who has four 30-goal seasons and three 80-plus point seasons already on his resume. The Islanders can't allow him to leave and to avoid the potential disaster the organization went out and hired Lou Lamoriello. He sat down with Tavares already and the word is, Tavares is pleased. If the club continues to make steps that impress Tavares and show that they are doing what they can to win, he might be convinced to stick around. The Islanders are not a bad team with some very high-end players that could turn into real stars. That said, Tavares is the most important piece of their puzzle and without him, they need to change direction in a hurry.
12 New York Rangers: Ilya Kovalchuk (Sign)
The New York Rangers are rebuilding... sort of. They offloaded a number of big-ticket players at the NHL Trade Deadline in 2017-18 and they wrote a letter to their fans asking them to understand their desire to get younger and faster. But, they intend to keep veteran goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and are rumoured to be looking to sign players like Ilya Kovalchuk out of the KHL. It certainly sends mixed signals to bring in a guy like Kovalchuk but the Rangers have never been a team known to take the long route to anything. They overspend almost every year on someone and to imagine that they would rebuild and not be competitive for three or four years is unrealistic. At worst, they want to add strong pieces that can help the kids and make the playoffs. Kovalchuk may be able to do that.
He was once a great scorer in the NHL and while he's likely slowed he could still offer some scoring punch to the Rangers lineup. He wants to come back to the NHL and speculation is he has a short list of teams with the Rangers one of the teams on it. If they can get him at a good deal, it makes for a logical partnership.
11 Ottawa Senators: Marian Gaborik (Buyout)
Previously a scoring juggernaut with the Minnesota Wild and New York Rangers, Marian Gaborik's production has declined rapidly over the past few seasons and he's been moved or talked about being moved so often these days, there may be a large contingent of fans who don't even know he's currently playing with the Ottawa Senators. He's making $4.875 million per season for three more years and the Sens need to rid themselves of that contract. The only viable way to do so is to buy it out.
The notion that any team will want to trade for a player who is making almost $5 million but scoring around 20 points is insane.
Ottawa needs to bite the bullet and take the hit for the next six seasons. If they do, he'll likely head to play international hockey vs staying in the NHL but a team might give him a shot at a much lower price point. The buyout numbers do sting so if the Seantors can find another options they should take it but that's going to be tough to manage. Gaborik's just isn't the player he used to be and the rest of the NHL knows it. Ottawa has a few contracts they look they're stuck with. Bobby Ryan was a candidate here too.
10 Philadelphia Flyers: Jori Lehtera (Buyout)
The Philadelphia Flyers should buyout the contract of Jori Lehtera, but they probably won't. He's not nearly the player he was when he was centering superstar Vladimir Tarasenko in St. Louis but the Flyers are paying $4.7 million next season and his buyout would be a pretty easy fix. His first year in Philadelphia produced just eight points in 62 games as a mostly fourth-liner so if ever there was a candidate... When the Blues moved him to Philly, they were willing to part with two first-round picks just to get him off the books. The Flyers are realizing that might not have been enough value because Lehtera's game has regressed that badly. Buying him out would save the club $3.3 million next season and only ding the salary cap $1.36 million over the next two seasons. That's minor considering other buyouts the Flyers have left on their books in the past.
That said, GM Ron Hextall doesn't agree and said, “There’s a lot of reasons you don’t just buy a guy out because he makes a little bit more than that type of role should make. Jori was a good role player for us. He’s a terrific human being. He works hard. He’s really good with our young kids. There’s a lot more to it than just saying, ‘OK, Jori Lehtera was playing center and playing 8-10 minutes.’”
9 Pittsburgh Penguins: Phil Kessel (Trade)
Why is it, no matter how productive Phil Kessel is on offense, there's always a buzz around the league that his team is looking to trade him? Is he that big of cancer inside the dressing room? It seems the real stories show that he's not nearly as bad nor as lazy as the naysayers make him out to be, but once again, his name has popped up in trade rumours for the Pittsburgh Penguins this offseason.
This season, Kessel did give the Penguins reason for concern. He wasn't healthy and was given the option to decide how he could best help the team in the playoffs. Kessel could either sit it out if things were bad or play if he thought he could help. He played and he was terrible 5-on-5. He did have 9 points in 12 games but his play actually hurt the team more than it helped. So, is that enough to trade him? When you consider how tight against the cap the Penguins are and how much of a return they could get from an organization that would love to add 90 points and over 30 goals to their lineup, it makes sense that maybe the Penguins are seeing what's out there.
8 San Jose Sharks: Paul Martin (Buyout)
Paul Martin made almost $5 million last season and he played 14 games for the San Jose Sharks. Some of that was due to injury but much of that was the fact he just wasn't useful and spend some time with the San Jose Barracuda (the Sharks minor-league team). If the Sharks can find a taker, they'll move him. Only, they probably won't. At 37 years old, a buyout is the best option for the club and with only one year left on his deal, it makes sense financially. The Sharks are going to be making some changes and just signed Evander Kane to a huge deal. They need the cap space so removing Martin's contract off the books and taking a $2 million hit instead of a $4.85 million one is the logical move.
Martin's agent said of his situation, "It’s kind of a tough one for him because he knows he can play and he wants to play with the Sharks. Right now, there isn’t a spot for him. That’s his first choice but obviously, the goal is to play somewhere and help a team win in the NHL. Now we’re going down that path and trying to find a team. Paul wants to play and he’d love to win. Kind of walking down that pathway now to see where he could be a fit."
7 St. Louis Blues: Jordan Staal (Trade)
The St. Louis Blues are looking to make some changes and could use some help in a few areas. So, to pick Jordan Staal from the Carolina Hurricanes is merely us selecting an option that might make some sense. The Hurricanes are rumoured to be open for business this summer and the Blues could use some help at center where their top option right now is Brayden Schenn. Schenn has turned into quite the player for the Blues and if Staal was your No. 2 behind him, that's not a bad one-two punch. But, the risk here is that Staal is making $6 million per season over the next five years and has a no-move clause that could stop this trade before the two sides really get to talking about a deal.
If it can be worked out, Staal is a consistent 40-50 point player and stays relatively healthy.
It can't hurt the Blues to call and ask and if Carolina is actively looking to make deals, the Blues could move a player like Patrik Berglund in the deal. One longer-term contract for another longer-term contract while adjusting the cap a little is not that strange a deal in today's NHL.
6 Tampa Bay Lightning: Ryan Callahan (Buyout)
Steve Yzerman's number-one priority is trying to get rid of Ryan Callahan‘s $5.8 million contract. Callahan is signed through the next two seasons and making good money for relatively low production. Considering the talent Yzerman is going to have to find ways to pay players like Nikita Kucherov and almost his entire defensive core in the next two year, Callahan's deal becomes an albatross. The nearly $6 million he's got tied up causes major problems for the Lightning if they don't get it sorted. That said, moving Callahan's contract won't be easy to do. There are few teams in the NHL that would want it. So, perhaps a buyout is the best plan.
It's not ideal to buyout a player that has more than a year left, so maybe Tampa waits until next summer to make this move but if they do it now, they'll save $3.3 million over the each of the next two seasons and move his $5.8 million cap hit in the next two years to a $2.6 and $1.56 over the next four seasons which makes a lot of sense financially. He's an assistant captain with the team so these decisions are not always easy. Financially, this one's not too hard.
5 Toronto Maple Leafs: William Nylander (Sign)
William Nylander, the 22-year-old star in the making is an investment worth making for the Toronto Maple Leafs and new GM Kyle Dubas will make it a priority over the summer to get the right deal done. Nylander scored 20 goals and 61 points for the Leafs last year and that was right on par with his 2016-17 campaign. He's proving that he's one of the core pieces of the franchise and a seven-year, $42-$48 million deal isn't out of the question.
He'restrictedcted free agent so the Leafs have some control here and could go with a bridge deal but he's likely someone the team will want to keep for the long-haul and the two sides just need to find a number that works. The challenge will be not going too high and giving the team enough wiggle room to fit Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner into the long-term plan as well. William was interviewed in a Swedish newspaper before the start of this past season and was asked about his future with the Leafs. His answer was that he wanted to spend his career here and become an icon like Mats Sundin. That's good news for the Leafs but it doesn't mean he'll take a bath on his deal.
4 Vancouver Canucks: Jake Virtanen (Sign)
Jake Virtanen hasn't been anything special for the Vancouver Canucks - at least not yet. The sixth-overall 2014 draft selection of the Canucks, this right-winger hasn't given the team more than 20 points in a season. So, why would we suggest signing him? Potential. He's got a lot of it. Virtanen is poised to have a breakout 2018-19 season and realize his true potential. If he can figure out how to use his strengths on the ice and if the Canucks can take advantage of the fact that, to date, he's not been their best player, they could get him re-signed on a deal that he'll outplay. That's always a great thing for an organization, especially when the NHL is full of contracts players aren't living up to.
All this said, Virtanen is going to need to take the next step. He's got to use his speed and find a way to add 50% more offense than he's offering the team right now. If he can do that and continue to improve, he'll be worth it. If he can't, he'll likely be seen as a draft bust. He fits the core of the Canucks' team which is young, fast and growing. It's not time to give up on this kid just yet.
3 Vegas Golden Knights: William Karlsson (Sign)
Amazingly, William Karlsson was left unprotected by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft and the Vegas Golden Knights scooped him up. His selection was a no-brainer and might go down as one of the best Expansion Draft selections in history. He's paid off handsomely in a variety of ways, most of which being his contributions to the team's offense on this miraculous playoff run the Golden Knights are currently on.
Karlsson is a proven goal scorer with elite offensive talent even though he is still relatively young (only 25 years old). He scored 43 goals and 78 points for Vegas and unless this past season is an amazing fluke or gigantic proportions, the Golden Knights have a superstar on their hands. The team has been working to sign their future stars and of any player critical to their future, Karlsson might be the guy to break the bank for. Karlsson is a crucial long-term solution for Vegas’ offensive attack. Could we be talking about a player who goes from $830K per season to $8 million? It's entirely possible and it wouldn't shock people, especially if he continues to score like he's scoring and the Golden Knights win the Stanley Cup.
2 Washington Capitals: John Carlson (Sign)
John Carlson is going to be an interesting player to watch this summer. The Capitals are going to the Stanley Cup Final and he's been a big part of that success. He's a 28-year-old right-shot d-man (coveted in today's NHL) and he is having a mega-season for the Caps with 68 points in the regular season and 16 points in 19 games during the playoffs. There's no chance Washington doesn't do everything they possibly can to hang onto him.
This could mean an eight-year deal in the neighborhood of $9 million per season.
They'll be tons of active suitors for the unrestricted free agent and if the Caps want to keep him, they'll have to back up the Brinks truck. He's worth it and the team doesn't have a lot of other options on defense after the last few seasons saw them lose other big names in free agency. There might be some truth to the rumours that Mike Green might be welcome fit back in Washington but that's not going to replace what Carlson offers. Green would be a nice addition to Carlson. He's their best defenseman by a mile. They can't afford to lose him. They likely won't, even if he gets to July 1 and wants to test the market.
1 Winnipeg Jets: Jacob Trouba (Sign)
Jacob Trouba and the Winnipeg Jets haven't exactly had the smoothest of relationships. There were contract disputes which ultimately got squashed with a two-year extension and his contract is coming up again. A 24-year-old restricted free agent, Trouba is a strong blueliner for the Jets and it would be wise if they could keep him happy and in the fold without much of a soap opera. He's missed some time in each of the previous two seasons but he's still a strong asset and right-shot defenseman who if the team can't find an agreement that works will have other franchises interested in a trade. He's strong on the power play and penalty kill, is a two-way threat and was on pace for a career-high in points last season.
A deal worth $6 million per year over the course of five or six seasons should not be out of the question if we're trying to predict what his next contract might look like. It's a deal that should pay off but at the same time, is not a given and if he can't stay healthy or doesn't continue to progress, could be a deal the Jets regret. Right now, arrows are pointing in the right direction, so expect this one to get done.