The NHL playoffs are officially over and teams are now completely focused on next season. The Atlantic Division remains as competitive as ever near the top and roster moves are bound to get interesting with the cap remaining flat at $81.5M.
Today’s analysis features the Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Part one of this article featured the Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, and the Florida Panthers. If you missed it, you can check it out here.
Note – All salary cap data is based on information found at www.capfriendly.com.
Current Cap Hit – $71,297,976
Current Cap Space – $10,202,024
The Canadiens have a pretty good-looking situation up front going into next season. They have 10 forwards locked up to the tune of $28,721,666 (11 if you include Ryan Poehling).
This equates to roughly 40% of their total cap hit. Their only real challenge will be locking up RFA Max Domi. After posting career highs in goals (28), assists (44), and points (72) during last season’s debut in the blue-blanc-et-rouge, the 25-year-old cooled off this year.
It’s hard to say what kind of contract he’ll end up getting, but 17 goals and 44 points over 71 games (this season’s totals) is certainly nothing to sneeze at. The AAV could end up being higher if the deal turns out to be a longer-term contract.
Hudon is eligible for arbitration but doesn’t have much of a case for anything aside from a reasonably-priced bridge deal. Weise is unlikely to return, although he may if he’s willing to take the league minimum.
Otherwise, the Habs will likely go big game hunting when free agency begins. It’s no secret that their forward corps lacks a true game-breaking star, and high-profile names including Taylor Hall, Mike Hoffman, and Evgenii Dadanov come to mind.
A move like that would certainly wipe out any remaining cap space, but the Canadiens had a solid showing in the playoffs this year. Seeing as the rest of their roster is essentially signed, it’s a risk GM Marc Bergevin should be willing to make. Especially if he wants to keep his job.
Montreal has six defensemen locked up heading into next season (seven if you include Alexander Romanov) with a combined cap hit of $27,726,310.
Some of the salaries of these rearguards seem a bit off, with the most concerning contract belonging to Karl Alzner. The 32-year-old has two years remaining on his deal, with a $4.625M AAV and a modified no-trade clause.
To make things worse, he’s only played nine NHL games over the past two seasons and hasn’t fared too much better with the Laval Rocket (AHL). The aging vet certainly seems like a prime buyout candidate, although doing so would still result in a $3.958M dead cap hit next season. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out.
The goaltending situation has essentially been the same since 2008 – start Carey Price and hope the backup doesn’t play too much.
This year is a bit different, as Montreal traded for Jake Allen just over a month ago. He is signed for just one more season at a cap hit of $4.35M and will likely see at least 20 starts next year (given his cost).
Allen also provides injury insurance as the crease is typically a disastrous carousel when Price is on the IR. Price still has a lot left in the tank, evidenced by his dominant numbers in this year’s playoffs (1.78 GAA, .936 SV% through 10 games).
With that being said, the 33-year-old has seen his regular season play drop from elite to above-average in recent years, although some of the blame can be placed on the team in front of him.
The bottom line is that he’s making $10.5M AAV for the next six seasons, and the Canadiens simply can’t thrive if he’s anything but elite.
— Jake Allen (@34jallen) September 2, 2020
Current Cap Hit – $38,237,500
Current Cap Space – $43,262,500
The Senators have a lot of work to do this offseason. They have an absurd amount of cap space to toy with and a lot of RFAs to lock up.
The only stipulation to note is the Dion Phaneuf and Bobby Ryan buyout cap hits (a combined $4.937M), and the fact that Marian Gaborik is owed $4.875M for one more season (although it won’t count once he’s placed on the LTIR).
The only returning, full-time roster players are Colin White, Artem Anisimov, and Brady Tkachuk. Things seem a bit more under control if you’re willing to presume that one or all of Drake Batherson, Logan Brown, and/or Alex Formenton will make the roster for good.
Notable RFAs include Anthony Duclair, Chris Tierney, Connor Brown, Rudolfs Balcers, and Nick Paul. Duclair, Tierney, and Brown are all NHL-quality players who are eligible for arbitration. The three of them racked up around 40 points each and are of a similar age (24-25); therefore, they will all likely sign tickets in the $2.5-3.5M AAV range.
Balcers and Paul have the potential to be solid middle-six forwards (at best), although neither will break the bank at this point in their careers.
Like Montreal, Ottawa could seriously pursue some big-ticket free agents. Their biggest obstacle will be convincing talented players that they’re somewhat close to contending.
The backend is a bit clearer. 23-year-old super-stud Thomas Chabot will be their undisputed number-one defenseman as his 7-year, $56M contract comes into effect.
In terms of graduates, Sens management is really hoping that one or both of Erik Brannstrom and/or Max Lajoie is ready to step into the lineup, but both are also quite young and will not be rushed if they need more time to develop.
Given the cap space Ottawa has, they could easily sign Alex Pietrangelo. Although very unlikely, I’m sure Senators fans have salivated at the thought of a Chabot-Pietrangelo top pairing.
Last week marked the end of a goaltending era in Ottawa. GM Pierre Dorion announced that 39-year-old UFA Craig Anderson will not be returning next season, meaning that the 2020-21 Sens will have a new starting goaltender for the first time since acquiring Anderson ahead of the 2011-12 season.
Their main internal replacement option is Anders Nilsson, who’s signed for one more year at $2.6M. The 30-year-old vet got into 20 games with the Sens last year and was, at best, OK. He posted a 3.18 GAA and a .908 SV%, which is probably the reason he’s been a fringe backup for his entire career.
Marcus Hogberg is also signed for another year at $700K but posted extremely similar numbers to Nilsson last year. Hogberg (25) is five years younger than Nilsson (30) but neither should be the de facto starter, or a starter at all for that matter.
Ottawa will more than likely pursue a bonafide starter via trade or free agency. Jacob Markstrom and Matt Murray come to mind. Even Henrik Lundqvist could be a stop-gap option following his buyout if he’s interested.
Most saves in a playoff shutout since 1955-56:
Dominik Hasek (70 in game 6 of 1994 CQF)
Patrick Roy (63 in Game 4 of 1996 SCF)
Craig Anderson (51 in Game 3 of 2010 CQF)
Ed Belfour (48 in Game 5 of 2000 SCF)
Thatcher Demko (48 in Game 6 of 2020 R2)#NHLStats #StanleyCup pic.twitter.com/VCNgT768la
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) September 4, 2020
Tampa Bay Lightning
Current Cap Hit – $76,166,666
Current Cap Space – $5,333,334
The Lightning are already tight against the cap and may have some tough decisions to make. On the other hand, most of their core is locked up for at least the next two years and they are fresh off a Stanley Cup win.
They already have 10 NHL forwards signed for next season and their window to compete is still very much open.
The only UFA from the forward group is Patrick Maroon. It will kind of hurt if he goes, but they will likely have to move on from him to make sure they have room to sign their RFAs.
Notable RFAs include Anthony Cirelli, Mitchell Stephens, and Carter Verhaeghe. Mathieu Joseph and Alexander Volkov also need new deals, but neither has arbitration rights and they will likely sign qualifying offers so that’s hardly a concern.
Cirelli has quickly become a vital part of this forwards corps and will certainly be expecting to get paid. Exactly how GM Julien BriseBois intends to do so remains to be seen. Trading one of their expendable forwards like a Tyler Johnson or an Alex Killorn could do the trick.
Verhaeghe is the only player of the three who is eligible for arbitration, but this season was his rookie year and 13 points in 52 games doesn’t exactly scream ‘significant raise’.
In terms of internal replacements, perhaps one or both of Taylor Raddysh and/or Alex Barre-Boulet will crack the roster. Boris Katchouk is also interesting but likely farther away from making the big club.
This season, Shattenkirk showed that he still has a lot left to give and had impressive numbers – including 13 points in 25 playoff games. At 31 years of age, he’ll likely be looking for a mid-range deal in the ballpark of $3.5-4.5M.
That may be a bit of an overpayment at this point of his career, but top-four right-handed defenseman can command a certain price in today’s market and this will likely be his last chance to cash in by signing a somewhat lucrative deal.
If he doesn’t manage to do so, he can at least continue to live lavishly as the New York Rangers still owe him around $8.9M. He’ll receive $6.03M of that sum next year alone.
Both Bogosian and Schenn have seen better days, but there will absolutely still be suitors. Remember, they’re also right-handed defenseman.
Up-and-coming prospect Cal Foote has a chance to crack the roster next season following two solid years with the Syracuse Crunch (AHL), but he’s still just 21 years old and could very well need more time to grow and refine his game.
The Lightning are unlikely to pursue UFA defensemen because, well, they can’t.
Andrei Vasilevskiy has been a very-good-to-elite goaltender since entering the league back in 2014-15 and is unquestionably their starter of the present and the future.
He’s slated to make $9.5M per season until 2026-27 and is as solid as they come. Not to mention he already has a Stanley Cup under his belt at just 26 years old.
Curtis McElhinney is signed for one more season at $1.3M and should, once again, be an adequate backup. There really isn’t much to discuss when it comes to the goaltending situation of the defending champions.
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) September 29, 2020
Toronto Maple Leafs
Current Cap Hit – $76,093,533
Current Cap Space – $5,406,467
After failing to win a playoff series for the fourth time in four years, GM Kyle Dubas will be busy trying to add whatever he believes the Leafs are missing.
His biggest challenge will be figuring out how to enact positive change whilst right up against the cap limit. Trading Kasperi Kapanen was a good start and Toronto does have $5.4M to toy with, so things may not be as bleak as they seem.
The 25-year-old Russian was on his way to having a fantastic rookie year before sustaining a nasty wrist laceration in December – an injury that sidelined him for the remainder of the regular season.
His 23 points in 39 games certainly didn’t go unnoticed, and he’ll likely be brought back on a 1-2 year bridge deal with an AAV between $1.5-$2.25M. He performed very well playing on a line with John Tavares and William Nylander.
Gauthier’s days as a Leaf may be over. He’s a solid fourth-line forward, but that isn’t necessarily hard to find. Rodrigues would be a tad too expensive to qualify and will likely walk, although he would also be a fine bottom-six player on the off-chance he circles back and returns for cheap.
Bracco’s story is a tad depressing. He looked to be a steal after putting up 79 points in 75 games with the Toronto Marlies (AHL) as a 22-year-old last season.
This year, he still managed to rack up 34 points in 44 games, but injury problems and other off-ice distractions have certainly hampered his play, and he may benefit from a fresh start elsewhere.
The only UFA to note is Kyle Clifford, who has essentially been told that he won’t be back and will therefore be moving on.
The Leafs’ defense corps is a hot subject that seems to be the talk of the league every season. Toronto actually did a pretty good job of remaining competitive despite losing their anchors, Morgan Rielly and Jake Muzzin, for significant periods of time this year. Even Travis Dermott missed a few games.
The fact of the matter is, they need to add a top-four defenseman. Ideally, this would be a defenseman who can solidify the top pairing alongside Rielly.
Rielly, Muzzin, and Holl are the only mainstays who are signed for next season. Many also consider 20-year-old Rasmus Sandin to now be a permanent part of the puzzle, but a full-time roster spot is still not firmly guaranteed.
Management would love to see Liljegren finally take that next step, but he may still need more time and may possibly be infringing on bust territory as well.
Dermott is the only backend RFA in the organization. He will probably get a contract similar to Mikheyev, perhaps even a bit lower-end in terms of AAV.
He’s been solid in sheltered minutes but has struggled to look like a firm fit within the top-four when given the opportunity.
Rumors have the Leafs pursuing every defenseman alive, with the hottest buzz, of course, centering around Pietrangelo. Dubas has also been doing his rounds hoping to strike up a deal.
In short – Dubas has to do something.
Frederik Andersen has had an interesting career with the Leafs. He has been their starting goaltender for the last four seasons, performing very well in both the regular season and the playoffs.
The main concern is his penchant for letting in soft goals at key moments. Many argue that the true problem is how prone the Leafs are to defensive breakdowns, but there has been more than one game-seven goal that has had fans saying “Wow, he really should have had that one.”
With just one year remaining on his contract, Freddy has been the subject of many trade rumors. The Leafs are likely open to the idea, but they really aren’t actively shopping him either and they’ll only part ways in a scenario that makes undeniable sense.
Jack Campbell should remain a steady backup and is signed to a very reasonable contract over the next two seasons ($1.65M AAV).
An area of concern is definitely the lack of up-and-coming goalie prospects. Ian Scott is just a year removed from being the CHL Goaltender of the Year, but he missed all of last season due to injury.
Joseph Woll had a stellar career at Boston College but really struggled in his first season with the Marlies. Both have NHL ceilings, but are still raw and a few years away from potentially making an impact.
Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen has become the fastest European goaltender to 200 wins and the 4th fastest in NHL history.
Ken Dryden – 309 games
Brayden Holtby – 319
Jacques Plante – 340
Frederik Andersen – 344
Chris Osgood – 344 pic.twitter.com/M4mIJHh5Dn
— Complete Hockey News (@CompleteHkyNews) December 15, 2019
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