Jake Guentzel

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Predators are one Johansen deal away from a salary cap work of art

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If you need to kill some time, play this game: which Nashville Predators contract is the biggest steal?

If Viktor Arvidsson is as much of a difference-maker as his limited NHL reps indicate, his $4.25 million cap hit over seven years is certainly in the running. Still, there are plenty of choices.

  • The defense alone is bargain-filled, making P.K. Subban‘s $9 million cap hit easy to stomach.

Ryan Ellis‘ $2.5 million cap hit doesn’t run out until after 2018-19. Mattias Ekholm‘s less of a “well-kept secret” following Nashville’s run to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, yet his $3.75M steal runs through 2021-22. Roman Josi can be a bit polarizing but at $4M for three more seasons, it’s not controversial to say that he’s probably at least worth the money.

  • The offensive bargains begin with the top line.

Arvidsson has the makings of a legit first-line winger, and that deal is highly likely to be regrettable … for his agent and accountant.

Filip Forsberg‘s $6M isn’t as audacious as some of those defensive steals, but it’s still pretty nice. That total also makes it easier for the Predators to try to control costs for their one remaining big consideration: Ryan Johansen, who still needs a deal as an RFA.

  • Calle Jarnkrok is a pretty nifty get at $2M per season, especially if he grows with a contract that runs through 2021-22.
  • Scott Hartnell took quite the homecoming discount at $1M for 2017-18.
  • As you go deeper, the Predators enjoy some nice deals on players who are under ELC’s or second contracts: Kevin Fiala ($863K), Frederick Gaudreau ($667K), Pontus Aberg ($650K) and Colton Sissons ($625K) could all be helpful contributors at low costs.

This tweet really sells the point, in case this post hasn’t: GM David Poile hasn’t been slowing down much since being named GM of the Year. And he might just be the best executive in the NHL right now.

  • It’s all pretty immaculate; even if you’re not a fan of Pekka Rinne, his $7 million cap hit expires in two seasons. By then, the Predators could very well transition to Juuse Saros, possibly echoing the Penguins with Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray along the way.

Overall, it’s an enviable situation, as Nashville’s clean cap ranks with Pittsburgh and few others as the best-looking in the NHL. That’s especially true when you consider the fact that the Lightning are allocating $8.8 million to the shaky duo of former Rangers in Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi.

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Still, the Predators aren’t done for the summer, as Johansen stands as a tricky situation. They don’t have the helpful deadline of arbitration looming, so the two sides are just going to have to figure something out … eventually.

Even so, Cap Friendly pegs them at $13.43 million in cap space, so they have room to work with their first-line center.

While teams like the Penguins and Blackhawks stocked up on high draft picks, the Predators’ greatest moves have largely come through shrewd drafting, savvy trades, and forward-thinking contract extensions. One can debate which setup is the best, but Poile’s work places Nashville in the upper crust, and their built to stay there for years to come.

Related: Matt Murray, Jake Guentzel could help Penguins compete for years.

Predators sign surprise Stanley Cup Final scorer Frederick Gaudreau

You won’t find many players who’ve scored multiple goals in a Stanley Cup Final who are far from guaranteed to make their team in the next season. Then again, you won’t see many players enjoy the kind of run Frederick Gaudreau did in 2016-17.

The Nashville Predators rewarded him with a three-year contract that sports an interesting structure: the first two seasons are two-way, then the third and final one goes one-way.

2017-18: $650K in NHL, 70K in AHL
2018-19: $650K in NHL, 70K in AHL
2019-20: $700K

After grabbing an assist in nine regular-season games, the 24-year-old returned to the Predators during the Western Conference Final. He then scored three goals in his first four games of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, briefly engaging in a remarkable rookie duel with Jake Guentzel.

Gaudreau also enjoyed a nice run in the AHL’s playoffs, so this was quite the spring for the undrafted forward.

More on Gaudreau’s remarkable run here and here.

As impressive – and nifty – as he looked, the Predators are taking a sober approach here. Rather than overreacting to a hot streak, they’ll likely ask Gaudreau to prove that this wasn’t all a fluke.

In supporting McDavid, Oilers face bigger cap tests than Pens, Blackhawks

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The Edmonton Oilers officially confirmed Connor McDavid‘s contract as the richest in NHL history: eight years at a tidy $100 million.

Remarkably, that $12.5 million cap hit is actually a big break for the Oilers, as McDavid could’ve justifiably demanded more. Either way, what’s next?

GM Peter Chiarelli gave the “no-comment” treatment when asked about Leon Draisaitl, instead praising McDavid for “caring about his teammates.”

Chiarelli’s seen the Blackhawks and Penguins struggle with salary-cap challenges, and the scary thing is that the Oilers must climb a bigger mountain.

Oilers lack some advantages Penguins, Blackhawks enjoyed

As tough as things have been for Chicago and Pittsburgh, Edmonton lacks some of those franchise’s significant edges.

For one thing, signing Sidney Crosby to a 12-year deal with an $8.7 million cap hit wouldn’t be possible today. Edmonton could only sign McDavid for a maximum of eight years, limiting the Oilers’ ability to parallel deals for the likes of Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

It’s worth noting that the Blackhawks haven’t won a Stanley Cup since Jonathan Toews‘ and Patrick Kane‘s matching $10.5 million cap hits kicked in, deals that were more costly with the max-year loophole closed.

Yet, even in Chicago’s case, they managed to get a huge-term bargain under its belt during the old CBA. Duncan Keith brings Norris-level defense for a dirt-cheap cap hit of about $5.54 million through 2022-23.

Edmonton must find other opportunities to save money.

Bargains are crucial, and they’re where Chiarelli must “earn his money”

However you slice it, teams must bargain-hunt, and they often need to be creative to make things work.

The Penguins spent assets to land Phil Kessel, and they convinced the Maple Leafs to retain a crucial chunk of his cap hit. They’ve managed to integrate younger players like Jake Guentzel, Conor Sheary, Bryan Rust, and especially Matt Murray into a mix of established stars. Of course, they’ve also enjoyed some luck along the way, most notably in convincing Marc-Andre Fleury to go to Vegas.

In many ways, Chicago set a template for the Penguins in discovering the likes of Artemi Panarin while also finding success with the likes of Ryan Hartman. Both Stan Bowman and Jim Rutherford have been willing to take chances on players and part ways with guys who weren’t deemed essential.

Such a thought explains why Kris Russell and Milan Lucic stand as polarizing signings; if those two struggle, that’s $10M poorly spent.

Not all bad

Look, Chiarelli faces some difficult challenges, yet he also has some things working in his favor.

Most obviously, this is a largely young core, with players who can improve. It’s reasonable to believe that McDavid and Draisaitl could make other, cheaper wingers better when Edmonton’s budget gets especially tight.

Cam Talbot‘s also been a revelation, and while his $4.2M cap hit expires after two more seasons, it’s a nice bargain to have.

There are also some decent deals on defense.

Andrej Sekera, Oscar Klefbom, and Adam Larsson combine for an affordable, solid trio. Klefbom and Larsson are also in their prime years, likely to deliver value for Edmonton going forward.

Once you shake off concerns about Lucic and Russell, the slate is actually fairly clean for Edmonton. That’s especially true if they make another tough call and move Ryan Nugent-Hopkins if his $6M is too much to stomach.

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The Oilers aren’t in an impossible situation, just a very challenging one. With McDavid as a sure thing alongside other nice pieces, it comes down to Chiarelli providing the supporting cast needed to collect some Stanley Cups.

Signing McDavid was the easy part.

Report: Randy Sexton to become Sabres’ assistant GM

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New general manager Jason Botterill continued his restructuring of the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday by hiring one of his former co-workers from Pittsburgh.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports that Penguins director of amateur scouting Randy Sexton will be joining the Sabres to serve as their assistant general manager and also the general manager for their AHL team, the Rochester Americans.

Sexton has seemingly been at top of Botterill’s list since he left the Penguins front office to run the Sabres back in May.

Sexton had been a key member of the Penguins’ scouting staff since 2010. During his time in the front office the team drafted several key players to their past two Stanley Cup winning teams, including Matt Murray, Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust, Olli Maatta and Scott Wilson.

Following a disappointing 2016-17 season that saw the team take a step backwards in its rebuild, the entire Sabres organization has been overhauled with a new general manager (Botterill), assistant general manager (Sexton), head coach (Phil Housley) and a new coach coming to the AHL team.

What if Fleury is traded before the expansion draft?

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It’s possible that Marc-Andre Fleury getting picked in the expansion draft is already a done deal between GMs Jim Rutherford and George McPhee.

If that’s the case, what’s written below is moot. Fleury will be off to Vegas. From the Penguins’ perspective, that’ll be the end of it.

But let’s say Fleury is traded elsewhere. Because according to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, that scenario remains an option, and a team like the Calgary Flames could be a good fit.

So if Fleury is traded before the expansion draft, what would the Penguins do about protecting their roster from the Golden Knights?

Let’s run it down…

Up front, Pittsburgh is obviously going to protect Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessel.

A fourth forward, Bryan Rust, also seems likely to be protected.

(Conor Sheary and Jake Guentzel are exempt, so those two don’t need protection. Nick Bonino, Chris Kunitz, and Matt Cullen are pending UFAs that could re-sign, or not, after the expansion draft.)

As for the defensemen, three seem like sure bets: Kris Letang, Brian Dumoulin, and Justin Schultz.

It’s at this point that the Pens need to make the big decision. Do they protect seven forwards and three defensemen? Or, do they protect eight skaters, regardless of position?

If it’s the first option, they could also protect Patric Hornqvist, Carl Hagelin, and one other forward (maybe Oskar Sundqvist, or perhaps they could add one via trade). However, if they chose this route, then they’d have to expose a defenseman like Olli Maatta.

If it’s the second option, they’d be able to protect Maatta, but they’d have to expose Hagelin, Hornqvist and Sundqvist.

Your answer will probably depend on how you value Maatta. The 22-year-old certainly has his share of critics. He’s had trouble staying healthy. He’s not the quickest skater out there.

That being said, the Penguins just won the Stanley Cup with Maatta playing over 20 minutes per game, and he’s locked in for five more years at a cap hit just north of $4 million. In addition, Trevor Daley and Ron Hainsey are pending UFAS who aren’t getting any younger, and there aren’t many promising young d-men in the system.

Anyway, we’ll find out soon how it all shakes out. The Penguins have their parade tomorrow. The protected lists are expected to be released Sunday.