Ryan Callahan

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Best NHL trade targets with Duchene off the market

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Fans of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Columbus Blue Jackets, Carolina Hurricanes, and other teams must feel a little left out after this weekend.

While those GMs either were afraid to pay the sticker price or weren’t in the conversation, the bottom line is that the Ottawa Senators got Matt Duchene, the Nashville Predators added Kyle Turris, and the Colorado Avalanche’s future looks brighter.

[Breaking down blockbuster Matt Duchene, Kyle Turris trade]

So, what’s next for teams hoping to add that missing piece?

As Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen told Aaron Portzline of The Athletic (sub required), “some stuff will always come up.”

With that in mind, let’s consider some of the best trade targets post-Duchene. For the sake of brevity, we’ll stick to forwards; maybe there will be a time to discuss the Keith Yandles of the world some other day. The likelihood of possible moves varies, and will likely change dramatically as the season goes along.

(Note: As usual, Cap Friendly was a glorious resource for this.)

Mandatory, especially unrealistic mentions

John Tavares: Even if they’re more worried about letting him go than they’re letting on, it’s very difficult to picture New York Islanders GM Garth Snow actually trading the face of the franchise and a guy who is, during the bleakest moments, the only bright side to look on.

Still, I’d have to turn in my blogger’s badge if I didn’t at least mention Tavares, because a team would offer up its vital organs if JT actually did go on the market.

The Sedin twins are unlikely as well, though in wildly different ways. Throw Joe Thornton here, too.

A bucket of Golden Knights

Even if the Vegas Golden Knights remain competitive heading into the trade deadline, GM George McPhee could be forgiven if he jumps on a good offer. It’s possible they can have their cake and eat it too, really.

  • James Neal: You can go in circles talking about the negatives (he’s 30, can sometimes go invisible for a while, takes bad frustration penalties), but getting a big, prime-ish-age sniper could be huge for a contending team. If Vegas decides he’s not a part of the future, why not sell high?
  • David Perron: A lot like Neal – they even both had stints with the Penguins – except a lower ceiling, one year younger, and a smaller cap hit. His slick mitts give him the potential to be a gamebreaker if a team doesn’t ask for too much.
  • Jonathan Marchessault: The 26-year-old carries just a $750K cap hit, and he’s at a fascinating fork in the road for his career. Vegas might want to keep him, but what kind of raise is coming? And what if a contender tight against the cap presents a war chest of assets for him, considering that cheap 2017-18 mark?

Lightning round

Alex Galchenyuk: Free Alex.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: Could the latest $6M Oilers forward be gone?

Jesse Puljujärvi: Would Peter Chiarelli and the Oilers really cut ties with another high draft pick?

Patrick Maroon, Ryan Strome: Two guys on expiring contracts. Bargain-hunting GMs might as well keep Chia on their speed dial, right?

Phil Kessel: Ugh, it’s irksome to mention, but it feels required. There’s at least some merit to the murmurs.

Rick Nash: See more on how Nash could fit into a mini-Rangers rebuild here. Nash is tantalizing, but the Rangers would need to find a way to make things work for a trade partner considering his Nash-sized cap hit.

Evander Kane: Has his issues, but he’s a power forward in his prime, and the 26-year-old seems like he’s playing at a high level. Manageable cap hit at $5.25M, especially since the trade deadline tends to make guys like him easier to get under the ceiling.

Gabriel Landeskog: Tough to imagine the Avalanche making such bold moves in succession, but then again, why not at least gauge the market? With four years remaining at about $5.57M per, it would require a major undertaking. What if Sakic offered to take, say, Ryan Callahan‘s problem deal on for Landeskog in exchange for a boatload of assets? Just saying.

[Sakic’s patience pays off in Duchene trade]

Gustav Nyquist, various Red Wings: Gotta pull off the rebuild Band-Aid sometime, right? Maybe?

Tyler Bozak, James van Riemsdyk: Two affordable Maple Leafs forwards who are likely to get lost in the shuffle when Auston Matthews & Co. burn through their rookie deals. JVR is a chronically underrated winger.

Patric Hornqvist: The scorer of the 2017 Stanley Cup-clinching goal is an old 30 considering all of his battles in front of the net. Maybe he’d go the other way if the Penguins wanted to make a move or a series of moves?

Tomas Plekanec, Thomas Vanek, etc.: There are a handful of aging, reasonably useful forwards on expiring deals. Imagine them all listed here; check Cap Friendly for even more options.

***

That’s quite the list, and some of those players are even worth trading for. Maybe Blue Jackets and Hurricanes fans can daydream about better days, too?

Feel free to add any names you believe are missing in the comments, emails, or via Twitter. You can even embrace the freedom to be more out-there than the idea of trading Tavares. Have fun.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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.

***

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.

Yzerman kept the gang together; Now Lightning must deliver

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Over and over again, it seemed like there would be a salary-cap challenge that would derail the Tampa Bay Lightning. Each time, GM Steve Yzerman seemed to pull a rabbit out of his hat.

Splendid summer of 2016

Instead of heading to, say, Toronto, Steven Stamkos signed with the Lightning. Not long after, Victor Hedman stayed around for about a half million less than Stamkos.

Nikita Kucherov seemed like he’d present a hurdle the Lightning couldn’t clear during that same, complicated summer of 2016. Instead, Yzerman pulled wizardry in signing him for a little less than $4.8 million. Not bad for a forward who only added volume to the murmurs that he might actually be the best Lightning forward on that roster.

Keeping the gang together

After a brutal season, one wondered if the Lightning would finally feel the same sting as other salary-cap-challenged-contenders (or hopeful contenders).

Now, sure, management might not have parted ways with Ben Bishop if there was no cap ceiling. And while Jonathan Drouin never felt like a part of the core, money likely inspired his trade as much as anything else.

MORE: Drouin traded to Montreal for package including Mikhail Sergachev

Still … it’s resounding how often Yzerman’s come out on top in these discussions. This summer’s been another example of that, as he managed to sign Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat to similar, possibly team-friendly deals. Many teams would envy “The Triplets” of Johnson, Palat, and Kucherov coming in at less than $15M combined.

After years of looking at the Lightning’s place in the standings with one eye and their looming cap worries with the other, now everything’s just about locked up.

So, the question is – especially after last season’s nightmare – can this hyped group regain its place among the contenders? Can they back up that promise by actually winning a Stanley Cup?

Pivotal players

Palat seems to be a pretty steady guy, one who might have a “high floor but low ceiling.”

There are more interesting fork-in-the-road moments for the Lightning, instead.

1. What to expect from Stamkos?

Injuries keep wrecking Stamkos’ seasons, almost to an absurd degree. He was limited to 17 games in 2016-17 and 37 in 2013-14.

Stamkos gets lost in the shuffle of elite discussions in large part because of injuries. At first, $8.5 million seemed like a steal for the Lightning, and he’s still slated for great things at 27. Still, the situation is cloudier than it was when he signed that mega-deal.

2. Is Andrei Vasilevskiy the real deal?

The Lightning went with the younger – and cheaper – goalie in essentially choosing Vasilevskiy over Ben Bishop. His contract mimics Matt Murray‘s in price, and if he’s legitimately a difference maker, could be a similar steal. Even so, Vasilevskiy matches this Lightning team in actually needing to deliver on such promise.

3. How good is Tyler Johnson, really?

Take a look at Tyler Johnson’s past four seasons:

2013-14 – 24 goals, 50 points
2014-15 – 29 goals, 72 points
2015-16 – 14 goals, 38 points
2016-17 – 19 goals, 45 points

Now, Johnson has also shown promise in the postseason including in 2015-16. So there are multiple flashes of a true “game-breaker” type, which could be especially noteworthy with the loss of Drouin.

Johnson stands as a mystery, especially if you’re the type who attributes much of Johnson’s and Palat’s best moments to being on a line with Kucherov.

***

Overall, the Lightning are in a great spot, and Yzerman’s hard work explains why. Maybe we can quibble with Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi signings, and some might argue that the wrong calls were made with Ben Bishop and/or Jonathan Drouin.

Still, with heaps of tough contract challenges in front of him, Stevie Y mostly hit homers rather than striking out.

At least, he did so on paper. The Lightning need to make it happen on the ice, or his brilliance will mainly seem theoretical.

Yzerman ‘hopeful’ to have deal with Palat before arbitration

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Steve Yzerman had a huge job this summer trying to deal with three major restricted free agents — Tyler Johnson, Jonathan Drouin and Ondrej Palat.

So far, he has already settled two of the situations by trading Drouin to Montreal for a top defense prospect, then on Monday signing Johnson to a seven-year, $35 million contract extension.

That just leaves Palat, who is scheduled for an arbitration hearing on July 25.

Yzerman said on Monday, via Roger Mooney of the Tampa Bay Times, that he is “hopeful” they can reach an agreement before it reaches that point. In most cases, it does, because neither the team nor the player want to go through the unpleasantness of an arbitration hearing where every flaw and criticism is magnified in an effort to get the best possible deal for the team.

Given how similar their careers have been to this point, and the fact they are coming off of nearly identical seasons offensively and are the same age, Palat should probably be looking for a contract similar to the one Johnson just received. Their careers to this point have basically mirrored one another.

Virtually identical, as were their 2016-17 seasons when Palat averaged 0.69 points per game and Johnson averaged 0.68.

Assuming Palat’s new deal is similar to Johnson’s the Lightning should be in pretty good shape under the salary cap as they still have a little more than $9 million in salary cap space remaining with 20 players under contract for this season. While they have some more restricted free agents to deal with next season, they will not have to worry about another major contract for a core player until after the 2018-19 season when Nikita Kucherov will again be eligible for restricted free agency. The fact they are still in that sort of shape under the cap even though they have more than $12 million going to Ryan Callahan, Alex Killorn and Dan Girardi speaks to the types of value they are getting with some of their core players.

Girardi admits shock of Rangers buyout ‘hit me pretty hard’

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Being bought out by a team is, depending upon how you look at it, the most insulting thing that can happen to a player. With the wrong outlook, someone might linger on: “My former team is paying me not to play for them.”

If you want to cut deeper, consider how much it might hurt for a player to get bought out after at least a decade of service.

That’s the situation Dan Girardi confronted when his lengthy stay with the New York Rangers ended in a buyout, though he’s right in realizing that the move is as much a commentary on his contract as it is is based on his on-ice play.

Still, even if he’s being pretty mature about it, he admitted to the Sporting News’ Jim Cerny that he didn’t see it coming.

“I gotta say I was surprised,” Girardi said. “Obviously, it’s a [salary] cap era and my contract did not help, but at the end of the day, after a decent year and good playoffs and the (end-of-season) meetings, I just started working out, preparing for next season. When I first heard the news it was disappointing and it hit me pretty hard, but that’s part of the game these days.”

Again, Girardi claimed that he holds no “hard feelings” toward the Rangers, even as teammates such as Henrik Lundqvist struggle with the move.

MORE: Lundqvist admits the loss of Girardi hurts more than a typical move

At least Girardi lands on his feet with the Tampa Bay Lightning, who handed him a generous two-year, $6 million contract and who employ fellow former Rangers stalwart Ryan Callahan.

Girardi will also receive $1,111,111 from the Rangers for the next six years, a strange reminder of how his time ended with the team.

As much as Girardi says the right things about the Rangers, you can bet that he looks forward to playing them in 2017-18. The Lightning first host the Rangers on Nov. 2 and then March 8, while his homecoming to Madison Square Garden isn’t slated until March 30.

It could be an emotional time, especially if the two teams are in the thick of playoff races.