The Montreal Canadiens recently signed defenseman Jeff Petry to a monster contract that will pay the blueliner $5.5 million per season and will need to get creative to boost their offense next season. Meanwhile, the Edmonton Oilers are considering trading their second first-round pick and there are several offer sheet candidates heading to restricted free agency.
The Montreal Canadiens’ recent re-signing of defenseman Jeff Petry to a six-year, $33-million contract takes a significant bite out of their remaining cap space. With over $64 million invested in their 2015-16 cap payroll, the Habs could have less than $7 million available should the cap reach $71 million as projected.
Notable free agents include RFAs Alex Galchenyuk and Nathan Beaulieu, while trade-deadline pickup Torrey Mitchell is an unrestricted free agent while Brian Flynn is restricted. Galchenyuk and Beaulieu are coming off entry-level contracts and lack arbitration rights, so they’ll likely receive affordable short-term bridge deals. Mitchell and Flynn are inexpensive checkers who shouldn’t be difficult to retain.
Assuming GM Marc Bergevin can squeeze those four within his narrow cap space, he won’t have enough remaining to bolster his anemic offense. He could swing a trade to address that need.
RDS.ca’s Francois Gagnon suggests several clubs could have interest in defenseman Alexei Emelin ($4.1-million cap hit). This isn’t the first time he’s been mentioned as a trade candidate, as his name surfaced in the rumor mill leading up to the trade deadline.
Gagnon also lists center Tomas Plekanec ($5-million), blueliner Tom Gilbert ($2.8-million) and rugged forward Brandon Prust as possible trade candidates. Plekanec, 32, is a year away from UFA status but Gagnon wonders if the Habs can really do without him.
Another name worth considering is center Lars Eller ($3.5-million), who frequently bounced around the lineup over the past couple of seasons. Though the 26-year-old Eller lacks Plekanec’s two-way reliability, his youth could be a selling point in the trade market.
OFFER SHEETS COMING THIS SUMMER?
The growing possibility of a marginal increase in the 2015-16 salary cap will make it difficult for cap-strapped clubs to re-sign key restricted free agents. The Boston Bruins (Dougie Hamilton), Chicago Blackhawks (Brandon Saad), New York Rangers (Derek Stepan), Los Angeles Kings (Tyler Toffoli) and Montreal Canadiens (Alex Galchenyuk) could face shedding some salary to re-sign those players and create cap room for other roster moves.
Should contract negotiations drag on this summer, those players could receive offer sheets from rival clubs. Under the salary-cap system, offer sheets are a rarely-used tactic to sign away good young restricted free agents from teams pressed for cap space. Since the implementation of the salary cap a decade ago, there’s only been one instance where a team successfully signed away a player via offer sheet. That occurred in 2007, when the Edmonton Oilers signed winger Dustin Penner away from the Anaheim Ducks.
The latest attempt came in February 2013, when the Colorado Avalanche matched a two-year, $10-million offer for center Ryan O’Reilly from the Calgary Flames. However, the current sluggishness of the salary cap and a weak market for unrestricted free agents could prompt a general manager to try again.
During a recent interview with TSN 1040 radio, NHL insider Bob McKenzie suggested this year could be a good time to “throw an offer sheet out there and try and cripple someone.” In other words, a team will face the difficult choice of allowing a player to be signed away by a rival club, or matching the offer and creating more of a salary-cap headache for themselves.
McKenzie cautions, however, that such a move can also come back to haunt the team making the offer if they should eventually find themselves in dire cap straits. Still, there’s a remote chance a team with plenty of cap space desperate to jump-start a rebuilding process could make the gamble.
OILERS CONSIDERING TRADING FIRST-ROUND PICK
Teams lacking a first-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft should get in touch with the Edmonton Oilers, as GM Peter Chiarelli could be willing to deal. The Oilers have two picks in each of the first, second and third rounds this year. In a recent appearance on 630 CHED, Chiarelli said he’s willing to consider moving some of them for young, “game-ready” players.
Chiarelli won’t be parting with the first overall, which is expected to acquire Erie Otters sensation Connor McDavid. Asked specifically about the number 16, 33 and 57 picks, he acknowledged they could be available for the right return that helps the Oilers now.
Other clubs with extra picks in the first round this year (Toronto, Buffalo, Winnipeg, Philadelphia and Arizona) could also dangle the lowest of their selections as trade bait. However, the Oilers second pick (which originally belonged to the Pittsburgh Penguins) sits highest in the order and that could attract considerably more attention.
Chiarelli could have several suitors for that 16th overall pick. The Penguins, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues, Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning all lack first-round selections this year.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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