As usual, the opening days of the NHL’s unrestricted free agency period saw a number of signings, but as the depth in the free agent pool shrinks, along with available cap space for several teams, the possibility of off-season trade activity grows.
One of the busiest teams since July 1 has been the Philadelphia Flyers, who surprised the hockey world by signing Jaromir Jagr to a one-year, $3.3-million deal, added center Maxime Talbot, lost right winger Ville Leino via free agency to the Buffalo Sabres and dealt right winger Kris Versteeg to Florida.
With roughly $3.3 million in available cap space, 21 players under contract, and needing to re-sign right winger Wayne Simmonds, the Flyers probably aren’t done making moves.
Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported earlier in the weekend the Flyers would like to add another winger and had held talks with former Flyer Simon Gagne prior to his signing with the L.A. Kings.
Philadelphia can free up $1.167 million prior to the start of next season by placing right winger Ian Laperriere on long-term injury reserve, but they might have to consider moving another player to re-sign Simmonds and add another winger.
CAPITALS WORKING AROUND SALARY CAP
Another team that was busy in recent days are the Washington Capitals.
Having dealt goalie Semyon Varlamov to Colorado and replaced him with Tomas Vokoun for a bargain basement (one year, $1.5 million) contract, added Joel Ward (four years, $12 million), Roman Hamrlik (two years, $7 million) and Jeff Halpern (one year, $825,000), plus re-signed center Brooks Laich (six years, $27 million), the Capitals find themselves with a little more than $544,000 of available cap space for next season.
As the Washington Post observed, that won’t leave enough to re-sign restricted free agents Karl Alzner and Troy Brouwer, making the likelihood of a salary-shedding trade a strong possibility.
They’re certainly not about to deal away Alzner or Brouwer. Perhaps they could get some cap relief if oft-injured blueliner Tom Poti ($2.875 million per season) retires, or is either placed on LTIR or demoted.
Following the Capitals elimination from the second round of the 2011 playoffs, there was speculation management would trade away either left winger Alexander Semin (one year, $6.7 million) or defenseman Mike Green (one year, $5.25 million).
Expect their names to pop up again in the rumor mill once the dust has settled from the opening days of the free agent frenzy.
BLACKHAWKS HAVING TROUBLE SIGNING RFAS?
Since last summer, the Chicago Blackhawks have been forced to make salary-dumping moves to become cap compliant and could be facing that possibility this off-season with their restricted free agents.
Tim Sassone of the Chicago Daily Herald reported rumors out of Montreal that had the Canadiens and Blackhawks talking trade, leading to speculation Chicago GM Stan Bowman was having difficulty getting RFAs Chris Campoli, Michael Frolik and Viktor Stalberg under contract.
The Hawks currently have around $7 million in available cap space, which will make it tough to retain all three and still leave sufficient cap space for other additions as the season progresses, especially since there’s no “bonus cushion” for next season, the last under the current CBA.
Bowman had expressed confidence last month of getting those three re-signed, but the situation may have changed since July 1.
SABRES IN A WHOLE NEW SALARY CAP WORLD
Having gone on the biggest UFA spending frenzy in team history, the Buffalo Sabres now find themselves in rarefied air, bumping against the salary cap ceiling.
With nearly $63 million invested in 19 players, the Sabres now have a little more than $1.3 million in available cap space, meaning they’ll have to ditch a salary or two if they hope to re-sign backup goalie Jhonas Enroth and blueliners Andrej Sekera, Mike Weber and Marc-Andre Gragnani.
Mike Harrington of The Buffalo News suggested burying the contracts of right winger Ales Kotalik ($3 million) and defenseman Shoane Morrisonn ($2.075 million) in the minors, but also suggested the possibility of trying to trade forwards Brad Boyes ($4 million) or Jochen Hecht ($3.525 million).
It remains to be seen if new owner Terry Pegula minds sending expensive players to the minors, though it would probably be better than moving Boyes and/or Hecht, who both have one season remaining on their current contracts and are capable of being solid contributors.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey News.