Race to the salary floor: Four teams still have cash to spend to compete

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While we’ve been busy taking a look at the cap room a handful of teams will have next year and the lack of cap room others have, there’s still a few more teams that have a lot of money left to spend so that they too can compete this year. Four teams are still under the NHL salary floor of $48.3 million and with most, if not all, of the prime free agent targets signed these teams could be facing a bit of a bind.

Who are those four? CapGeek.com has us covered in knowing who they are and how much they’ve got left to spend. We’ll take a look at each team’s scenario and just what they’ve got left to do to cover the rest of their payroll bill to play next season.

New York Islanders

The Isles have over $9 million left to spend to get to the salary floor. CapGeek lists the Islanders as having just over $39 million committed to next season’s payroll and for a team that’s got most of their roster set for next season, that’s a bit of an issue. To help chip away at that daunting amount, the Islanders have four restricted free agents left to sign. Josh Bailey and Blake Comeau will get a decent pay day once they’re signed to new deals but Micheal Haley won’t get paid much at all and likely ends up in the AHL. Jesse Joensuu has already departed to play in Sweden.

Making things more fun for the Islanders is the talk of bringing back former captain and major buyout victim Alexei Yashin. Yashin is reportedly being offered a deal around $2 million but the stunning part about that is he’s already being paid $2.2 million by the Islanders for the next four years thanks to being bought out back in 2007. Whoops.

If Yashin is signed by the Islanders again, he’ll be double dipping on the team and still unlikely to help them reach the salary floor. That is unless they offered him a contract similar to the one that got the Isles in so much trouble the last time around. Of course, if things play out like that they’ll have to completely rebuild the Nassau Coliseum really fast after hordes of angry Isles fans burn it to the ground.

If the Isles can acquire a defenseman worth a couple million in a deal and get Bailey and Comeau re-signed to improved deals and bring in Yashin, they’ll get closer to the $48.3 million they need to reach the floor. Finding another team to deal with for a defenseman might be tricky and the isles seem unlikely as an option to bring back newly unrestricted free agent Chris Campoli.  It’s never a dull moment on the Island.

source: APNashville Predators

Nashville’s situation can get figured out really fast and really easily. The Predators payroll is sitting at $41.2 million, just over $7 million from the salary floor and they’ve got one really big restricted free agent left to get signed in captain Shea Weber. Weber is one of the top defensemen in the NHL and more than worthy of a big raise and a long term deal with the Preds.

Weber should get a contract somewhere in the range of $6 million-$7 million per year against the cap and with that coupled up with potentially Ryan Ellis making the Predators roster and bringing his entry level deal worth over $1.4 million against the cap the Predators are shaping up just fine to be in compliance with the floor.

The key is getting Weber’s deal done and while the Preds are a frugal team that doesn’t break the bank for anyone, doing so for Weber makes a lot of sense. He’s their best player, the team captain, and he loves playing in Nashville. While the Preds may have headaches next season dealing with Ryan Suter and Pekka Rinne, it’s not as if they’re pushed up against the cap. Time to “get ‘er done” in Nashville.

source: Getty ImagesColorado Avalanche

The Avalanche aren’t too far off from getting things done. Colorado’s payroll is at $45.4 million putting them about $2.8 million off from reaching the salary floor. The Avalanche have just one restricted free agent left to get signed in defenseman Kyle Cumiskey. Cumiskey’s potential deal likely won’t pay him enough to get the Avs to the floor but there’s another guy waiting in the wings that could solve all of Colorado’s problems.

2011 first round pick Gabriel Landeskog is a distinct possibility to make the team in his first year out of junior hockey and should he do that, his first-year entry-level contract will come with a cap hit of over $3 million as the second overall pick in the draft. The trick there is that Colorado still has to sign him to it and then he’ll have to make the team out of training camp. If he does that, the Avs salary floor worries are all taken care of and the addition of Cumiskey’s deal will push them over the floor limit.

source: Getty Images

Phoenix Coyotes

Phoenix doesn’t have much to do to get over the salary floor. With a payroll currently at $47.8 million, the Coyotes only have just over $430,000 left to spend to break the barrier. With restricted free agents Kyle Turris and Mikkel Boedker left to get signed, it’s mathematical that the Coyotes will get over the salary floor. Even if somehow both Turris and Boedker signed contracts worth the league minimum they’d go flying past the salary floor and into compliance.

As it is, the Coyotes will be looking to Turris to have the breakout season they’ve been waiting on since drafting him third overall in 2007. Turris has had his ups and downs in Dave Tippett’s system in Phoenix and being rushed to the NHL under Wayne Gretzky’s watch in 2007-2008 did him no favors. Boedker similarly could use a breakout year as well and he too has struggled under Tippett’s watch. They’ll get paid, but they may not be long for the desert if things don’t pick up.

Oilers cap situation is scary, and not just because of Draisaitl, McDavid

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The Edmonton Oilers pulled the trigger – and likely made teams with big RFA headaches like the Boston Bruins grimace – in signing Leon Draisaitl to a massive eight-year, $68 million contract on Wednesday.

You have to do a little stretching to call it a good deal, although credit Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshysnki with some reasonably stated optimism.

Either way, the per-year cap bill for Connor McDavid and Draisaitl is $21 million once McDavid’s extension kicks in starting in 2018-19; that’s the same combined cost that Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane receive … and those two got those paydays after they won three Stanley Cups for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Now, if the Oilers struggle in the near future, plenty of people will heap blame on McDavid and/or Draisaitl. Really, though, the true scapegoats should be a management team with more strikeouts than homers.

(As usual, Cap Friendly was a key resource in studying Edmonton’s salary structure.)

Bloated supporting cast

There are some frightening contracts on the books in Edmonton, especially if a few situations work out unfavorably.

At 29, there’s severe risk of regression with Milan Lucic, even if he enjoys a more stable second season with Edmonton. He carries a $6M cap hit through 2022-23, so he’ll be on the books for all but two years of Draisaitl’s new deal.

Kris Russell costs $4.167M during a four-year stretch, and even now, he has plenty of critics. Those complaints may only get louder if, at 30, he also starts to slip from his already debatable spot.

Andrej Sekera‘s been a useful blueliner, yet there’s some concern that time won’t treat him kindly. He’s dealing with injuries heading into 2017-18, and at 31, there’s always the risk that his best days are behind him. Not great for a guy carrying a $5.5M cap hit through 2020-21.

One can’t help but wonder if Ryan Nugent-Hopkins might be an odd man out once the shackles of the salary cap really tighten. Just consider how much Edmonton is spending on a limited number of players, and you wonder if the 24-year-old will be deemed too pricey at his $6M clip.

Yeah, not ideal.

It’s not all bad

Now, let’s be fair.

RNH could easily grow into being well worth that $6M. Draisaitl may also justify his hefty price tag. McDavid honestly cut the Oilers a relative deal by taking $12.5M instead of the maximum.

The Oilers also have two quality, 24-year-old defensemen locked up to team-friendly deals: Oscar Klefbom ($4.167M through 2022-23) and Adam Larsson ($4.167M through 2020-21). They need every bargain they can get, and those two figure to fit the bill.

Crucial future negotiations

GM Peter Chiarelli’s had a questionable history of getting good deals. He’ll need to get together soon, or the Oilers will really struggle to surround their core with helpful support.

Cam Talbot is a brilliant bargain at the strangely familiar cap hit of $4.167M, but that value only lasts through 2018-19. After that, he’s eligible to become a UFA, and could be massively expensive if he produces two more strong seasons.

The bright side is that the Oilers aren’t locked into an expensive goalie, so they can look for deals. That isn’t as sunny a situation if you don’t trust management to have much success in the bargain bin.

Talbot isn’t the only upcoming expiring contract. The Oilers have serious questions to answer with Darnell Nurse and Ryan Strome. Also, will they need to let Lucic-like winger Patrick Maroon go? Even with mild relief in Mark Fayne‘s money coming off the books, the Oilers might regret this buffet when the bills start piling up next summer.

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Look, the truth is that management is likely to be propped up by the top-end in Edmonton, particularly in the case of McDavid’s otherworldly skills. As much as that Draisaitl deal looks like an overpay – possibly a massive one – there’s a chance that he lives up to that $8.5M, too.

It’s not just about those stars, though.

The Pittsburgh Penguins gained new life by complimenting Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin with the likes of Phil Kessel. The Blackhawks have struggled once they couldn’t afford as much help for Kane and Toews.

You have to mix your premium items with bargains, and one wonders if the Oilers will be able to spot sufficient value beyond the no-brainer top guys. Their recent history in that area certainly leaves a lot to be desired.

Cullen signs with Wild, opting against retirement (and Penguins)

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Matt Cullen is going home, but that doesn’t mean that he’s retiring from hockey.

Instead, the Minnesota native decided to sign a one-year, $1 million deal with the Minnesota Wild. It’s unclear why, precisely, Cullen didn’t ink a deal to try to “threepeat” with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Wild note that his deal also includes $700K in potential performance bonuses.

This will be the 40-year-old’s second run with the Wild. His first run came from 2010-11 through 2012-13, where he appeared in 193 regular-season games and five postseason contests for Minnesota.

Cullen managed back-to-back 30+ point seasons with the Penguins while providing useful all-around play as a veteran center. If he can maintain a reasonably high level of play, this gives the Wild quite the solid group down the middle, even with Martin Hanzal gone.

Oilers ink Draisaitl to monster eight-year, $68 million deal

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The Edmonton Oilers have locked up their cornerstone players for the foreseeable future.

They didn’t come cheap.

Just weeks after signing Connor McDavid to a eight-year, $100 million deal, the Oilers signed fellow forward Leon Draisaitl to an eight-year, $68 million deal. The contract carries a $8.5M average annual cap hit and, combined with McDavid’s $12.5M, will now cost the Oilers $21M annually through 2025.

McDavid certainly warranted his payday. The same can be said of Draisaitl.

The 21-year-old just wrapped his three-year, entry-level deal, and couldn’t have done so in finer fashion. Draisaitl enjoyed a terrific season, platooning between the second-line center position and the wing alongside McDavid, and finished with 29 goals and 77 points.

Then, the playoffs happened.

Draisaitl had a terrific postseason, racking up six goals and 16 points in 13 games. At the time of elimination he was sitting second among all scorers — trailing only Evgeni Malkin — and was downright brilliant in Edmonton’s seven-game loss to Anaheim, finishing with 13 points.

More to follow…

 

Report: Vegas among teams in on Pens draftee Byron

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Will Butcher isn’t the only college free agent garnering interest in free agency.

University of Maine senior Blaine Byron, Pittsburgh’s sixth-round pick in ’13, has passed on signing with the club and can now ink with a team of his choosing. Per The Hockey News, the four “lead suitors” for Byron are Vegas, New Jersey, Ottawa and Buffalo.

Byron, 22, is coming off a great year. He racked up 18 goals and 41 points in 36 games, finishing tied for 18th in the country in scoring. It’s unclear where he would’ve fit in the Pittsburgh organization, though, and one has to think the signing of Northeastern’s Zach Aston-Reese might’ve played a factor in his departure.

In a recent Tribune-Review piece, Byron did make a list of the club’s top-20 prospects, coming in at No. 17.

Yesterday, Butcher — the reigning Hobey Baker winner — announced that he wouldn’t sign with Colorado, the team that drafted him four years ago. Instead, Butcher will parlay a successful senior campaign at Denver University into interest on the open market.