Seven NHL teams that need to make an offseason splash and moves they could consider

Where were all the big trades on Day 1 of the NHL Draft? There wasn’t a single move on Friday involving roster players. It was a letdown after some of the exciting activity that the last two weeks teased.

Despite a quiet day, some clubs have already been actively checking off important offseason needs. Many others are on the clock to make major moves and reshape their roster. Let’s dive deeper into some of the teams that still need to make a notable move or two on the trade market or July 1 free agency. It’s impossible to cover every team in this piece, so don’t take it personally if your favorite one was left out. To avoid redundant analysis, I’m also going to leave out teams that I already touched on in my biggest offseason questions article (Toronto, Utah, Ottawa, Carolina, Nashville, Buffalo).

After extending Dakota Joshua, Teddy Blueger and Tyler Myers, the Canucks still have $15.5 million in cap space left with only four skaters and a backup goalie left to sign.

Patrik Allvin announced that the club won’t be re-signing Nikita Zadorov. Zadorov was a beast for the club in the playoffs and wanted to return, but the prospect of paying a No. 4/5 defenseman a $5 million or higher cap hit on a long-term deal looked like risky business.

Jake Guentzel would be a dream acquisition if he hits the market. If they strike out there, the Canucks can realistically afford both a top-six forward and a top-four defender. By my math, they’d have a combined $10.5-12 million to splurge on those two pieces specifically. Chris Tanev is high on Vancouver’s free agency wish list. Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli reported that John Marino is being shopped and that the Canucks are one of the teams interested.

Marino would be a fascinating bet. The 27-year-old right-shot puck-moving defender has three years left at a $4.4 million cap hit. Marino is coming off a down year where he struggled defensively, but at his peak, he can be a play-driving No. 3 defenseman. Canucks president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford has been a huge fan of the player in the past — one of his last moves as Penguins GM was signing Marino to a six-year extension. That move spoke volumes because he still had a full year left on his contract and had only played 56 career NHL games at the time of the extension.

It’s conceivable that the Canucks look at Marino’s success in 2022-23 alongside Ryan Graves — a 6-foot-5 stay-at-home left-handed partner — and believe they can replicate that by slotting him on a pair with Carson Soucy. Vancouver may feel it can put Marino in a better position to succeed in terms of defensive environment, system, coaching and partner than what Marino had last year as he adjusted to young, inexperienced partners like Kevin Bahl and Luke Hughes.

In any case, the Canucks need to prioritize a top-six winger for Elias Pettersson and a middle-of-the-lineup defender. And because of the Ilya Mikheyev salary-cap dumping trade, they’ve got the financial wiggle room to invest in both of those areas.

Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is juggling several key, delicate situations at once. He’s performed well in tricky situations where his back is against the wall (e.g.: the PL Dubois saga last offseason) and will need to excel under pressure again.

Top prospect Rutger McGroarty, who reportedly doesn’t see a future with the Jets, hasn’t been dealt yet. Nikolaj Ehlers’ future is still up in the air. The dynamic 28-year-old winger was chronically underused by Rick Bowness and is one year away from hitting free agency.

Locking Dylan DeMelo up for four years was smart business, but they need a second pair left-handed defender to replace Brenden Dillon’s role at the bare minimum, and ideally, another top-four right-handed blueliner, so Neal Pionk can play further down the lineup. The Jets could also use help at second-line center to replace Sean Monahan.

That’s a long wish list for a club that may only be left with approximately $4-5 million in cap space to play with after they re-sign Cole Perfetti and Logan Stanley as RFAs. Winnipeg should explore every opportunity to offload the final year of Nate Schmidt’s $5.95 million cap hit. A trade would be preferable, but if that isn’t possible then a buyout to carve out $3.2 million of extra flexibility seems like a no-brainer.

The Rangers are a dark horse team to keep an eye on. They entered the summer in a salary cap squeeze, but appear intent on finagling their way out and landing an impact player. San Jose did them a huge favor by taking Barclay Goodrow’s $3.64 million cap hit for the next three years for free on waivers. That’s a decent start, but there’s more work to be done.

Currently, the Rangers have just under $13 million to play with. They only have four defenders signed, with Ryan Lindgren and Braden Schneider sticking out as crucial RFAs. Lindgren presents an interesting dilemma: He’s a heart-and-soul player and has had some solid years caddying Adam Fox but his body is already showing signs of breaking down at 26. Can New York re-sign him at a team-friendly number and shorter term? If the only way to keep Lindgren is a long-term deal, they run the risk of his contract aging poorly like Dan Girardi back in the day.

In any case, once the blue line is filled out, they’ll likely only have the cap space to target a mid-range forward. But this is where the Rangers could get creative by either shopping Kaapo Kakko ($2.4 million) or looking to move Jacob Trouba. Trouba’s no-movement clause transitions to a 15-team no-trade list on July 1 and New York has already reportedly asked for it.

The Rangers’ top priority should be adding a top-six right winger. It’d take something drastic like a Trouba trade to afford taking a run at Guentzel. However, they don’t need to move their captain to push for less expensive UFA targets like Jonathan Marchessault, Tyler Toffoli, Patrick Kane and Vladimir Tarasenko among others.

Ron Francis can’t afford for the Kraken to take another step back next season. (Alika Jenner / Getty Images)

Ron Francis is entering his fourth season as Seattle’s GM and pulled out the coaching change card with his hiring of Dan Bylsma. He can’t afford a second consecutive year where the Kraken miss the postseason by a sizable margin after the promising 2022 first-round playoff victory, right?

Once you plug in Evolving-Hockey’s RFA projections, Francis is left with around $10.66 million this summer to get the Kraken back on track. Seattle’s top priority should be adding scoring pop because not only did the club rank 28th in goals scored per game in 2023-24, but the blue line is essentially already set for next season.

The straightforward option would be to dip into the UFA market and land a couple of mid-range scorers — players in the Jake DeBrusk/Anthony Duclair/Chandler Stephenson/Viktor Arvidsson type of tier. That can improve the offense, but the biggest problem I see with the Kraken is that they don’t have any game-breaking star power (Jared McCann was their leading scorer with 62 points). The Kraken already have enough decent middle-six forwards, I’d argue they’d be better off trying to take a more ambitious swing on the trade market for a forward with star potential.

Seattle should kick tires on names like Trevor Zegras, Martin Necas and Ehlers. Yes, it’d cost significant assets, but especially in the case of Zegras or Necas, it’d be worth it because of how young they are, their upside and how they could grow with Seattle’s core for years to come.

Francis will surely make some type of forward upgrade — let’s see if he goes down the traditional UFA path or takes a more creative, high-upside swing on the trade market.

Steve Yzerman’s stunning trade to give up a second-round pick to offload Jake Walman’s contract ($3.4 million AAV for two seasons) must be a sign that he has something major up his sleeve. There aren’t many other reasonable justifications for being that desperate to clear cap space.

After the Walman trade, we estimated that the Red Wings could have just over $13 million to play with after you plug in Evolving-Hockey’s RFA estimates for Moritz Seider, Lucas Raymond and Joe Veleno. They’ll need to add a few depth pieces to the lineup (most likely through calling up young players internally), but after that, they’ll still have the room to chase a couple of impact players.

Adding top-six help should be high on Yzerman’s wish list. Re-signing Patrick Kane or taking a run at Steven Stamkos given Yzerman’s ties are a couple of possibilities that immediately come to mind. On the back end, it’d be ideal to land a shutdown top-four righty. An upgrade in goal would provide a substantial boost too. Detroit may need to carve out even more room — perhaps through a Justin Holl buyout, as one example — to effectively address all three of those needs.

After trading Jacob Markstrom and Andrew Mangiapane, the Flames boast a whopping $29 million of cap space. Calgary already has 18 NHL players under contract for next season and doesn’t have any pending free agents that will require a huge contract. Add those two factors up and they arguably have the second-most cap flexibility of any NHL team this offseason besides Utah.

I’m not expecting the Flames to necessarily make any headline-worthy moves with this money. When you look at how aggressively the Flames have been selling talent over the last six months, the eye is definitely on the future more than it is next season. But Calgary will surely do something with its cap space. And that something they do will likely reveal a lot about GM Craig Conroy’s exact vision/blueprint.

So far, Conroy hasn’t put a definitive “rebuild” label on what the Flames are doing. But if they use some of this cap space to take on inefficient short-term contracts for sweeteners that will signal a more traditional rebuild. An example of a move like this would be to charge Winnipeg a future asset or two in exchange for absorbing the final year of Schmidt’s $5.95 million contract. On the other hand, if the Flames target mid-range, impact veterans in free agency with their cap space it’ll signal that they’re clearly not tanking and that remaining competitive short-term is a priority.

I’m very intrigued to see what the Flames do with all their cap room not because I think their moves are going to be huge and splashy per se, but because it’ll send a strong signal about the franchise’s priorities in this next phase of team building.

Leon Draisaitl and Evan Bouchard will only cost a combined $12.4 million for next season. After that, both players will be in line for massive raises; Draisaitl as a UFA and Bouchard as an arbitration-eligible RFA. Having two star players on steal contracts for 2024-25 ramps up the pressure for the Oilers to win this offseason.

The first order of business will be clearing cap room because Edmonton only has around $9 million in cap space with eight skaters left to sign. Trading Jack Campbell’s contract ($5 million AAV for three more seasons) will be very expensive, meaning they may have to resort to a buyout. On the back end, Darnell Nurse’s $9.25 million AAV contract is a problem but he owns a full no-movement clause meaning he’s untradeable barring a miracle. Instead, Cody Ceci, who has one year left at $3.25 million, seems like a logical piece to trade since they need another top-four right-handed defender. Buying out Campbell and trading Ceci would free up an additional $7.15 million this summer.

Depending on the price point, the Oilers should look to bring back all three of Adam Henrique, Connor Brown and Mattias Janmark. The trio of pending UFAs was a formidable third line during the Stanley Cup Final. After that, assuming Philip Broberg and Dylan Holloway sign cheap bridge deals and that the rest of the depth forward and defender roles can be filled cheaply, the Oilers will have room to spend on one impact forward or defenseman.

On the back end, Sean Walker or Alexandre Carrier could be promising fits. Carrier was trusted to log some of the toughest matchups on the Predators’ blue line this season and won those minutes in terms of shot, scoring chance and five-on-five goal differential. He’s mobile and can break the puck out well, but provides most of his value defensively, including tons of penalty-killing experience, despite being a bit undersized at 5-foot-11 (he plays bigger than his size). He wouldn’t break the bank as a signing either.

There’s a ton for the Oilers to do this summer as they juggle a major cap crunch, look to land an impact player, conduct a GM search and try to extend Draisaitl and Bouchard.

(Photos of Chris Drury and Steve Yzerman: Steven Ryan / Getty Images and AP Photo / Carlos Osorio)

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top