The respective trade statuses of Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal and Buffalo Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers remain hot topics in the NHL rumor mill. In today's salary cap era, it's unusual to see two such notable players mentioned this early in the season as possible trade candidates.
On Wednesday, TSN analyst Bob McKenzie appeared on NBC to report on the Toronto Maple Leafs' off-season interest in Staal, as well as the Detroit Red Wings apparent pursuit of Myers. His colleague Darren Dreger turned up the same night on NHL Network and commented on the Staal rumors, noting there's a lot of “ifs” to this situation, the most notable being if Staal could agree to waive his no-trade clause.
The respective salaries of Staal and Myers, however, remain the biggest impediment of moving either player at this point in the season. Staal is signed through 2015-16 at an annual cap hit of $8.25 million, though in real salary he's earning $9.25 million this season and $9.5 million in '15-'16. Myers is earning a more affordable $5.5-million annually through 2018-19, though his actual salary steadily declines over that period, bottoming out at $3 million in the final season.
Though Myers declining salary might seem attractive, it must be remembered his cap hit remains $5.5 million annually. Even if a team is saving money in terms of real dollars, his cap hit still take up a significant chunk of cap payroll.
Asking price is another issue. While Leafs management is reportedly willing to pay a steep price for Staal, it could cost them Nazem Kadri, Jake Gardiner and a first-round pick. Hurricanes GM Ron Francis would be a fool not to seek that type of return for his best player. If the Leafs are willing to pay, why not pursue the best possible return?
As for Myers, McKenzie claims the Red Wings rejected the Sabres request for top prospect Anthony Mantha or promising sniper Gustav Nyquist. Still, if the Wings truly want the 6-foot-8, 227-pound defenseman, they must be prepared to pay or look elsewhere for a good young blueliner with a right-handed shot.
Making the cap dollars fit is another problem. The Leafs might be keen for Staal, but they're currently sitting with a little over $911,000 in cap space. They must shed at lead $8.5 million to comfortably squeeze the 29-year-old center under their payroll. The cap hits of Kadri and Gardiner combined is $6.95 million, meaning the Leafs need to shed nearly another $2 million. And no, the Hurricanes won't take David Clarkson's horrible contract as part of the return.
The Red Wings, meanwhile, carry over $2.6 million in cap space , requiring shedding nearly $3.5 million to take on Myers' contract. They're reportedly willing to move blueliner Jakub Kindl, but the Sabres probably won't take him as part of the return unless the Wings add one of their top prospects. They're probably unwilling to take on an expensive veteran like Stephen Weiss ($4.9 million annually) or Johan Franzen ($3.95 million).
While the Hurricanes and Sabres appear long shots to qualify for the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs, they're also in no rush to move either player. They'll certainly entertain offers, though at this point they're probably not getting very many, what with 25 NHL teams possessing $8.5 million or less in cap space, 18 of which have $3.8 million or less.
Both clubs could remain patient and wait until the March trade deadline or the offseason to consider such significant moves. There will be more teams willing to make deals at the trade deadline, and more with cap space and a willingness to spend in the off-season.