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PHT Power Rankings: Best trades of the summer

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It is the summer and with no games being played at the moment it is awfully difficult to rank the NHL’s 31 teams on a weekly basis. So the PHT Power Rankings will spend the next month taking a look back at some of the best (and worst) developments in the NHL, both past and present. Best trades. Worst trades. Best all-time teams. Any other random things we feel like ranking. This week we look step into the present and look at the best trades that have been made (so far) this summer.

The two big trades we all expected to happen at this point this summer were Erik Karlsson and Max Pacioretty. To this point neither one has happened and it seems increasingly likely neither one will happen before the start of the season. Even though we are still waiting on the two blockbuster trades, there were still some big names changing teams this summer, some of which will make a huge impact for their new teams.

Today we take a look at the 10 trades from this summer (so far) that might help their new teams the most.

1. Carolina gets Dougie Hamilton. Of all the players to get traded this offseason (so far) none of them have the potential to make a greater impact than Hamilton. He may not be Erik Karlsson, but he is still an outstanding player.

At age 25 he is in the middle of what should be his peak years in the NHL, he is already a legitimate top-pairing defenseman, and he is still signed for another three seasons at what is probably a steal of a salary cap hit ($5.75 million per season). He is coming off of a 2017-18 season in Calgary where he led all defenseman in goals with 17 and was one of the best possession players in the league, finishing with a 57 percent shot attempt share. Given the makeup of the Hurricanes roster it was a little surprising to see them add to the defense (probably already their strength) but when you have an opportunity to add impact talent you can’t really pass that up. Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin are good players, but neither one is likely to ever make the impact that Hamilton does and will continue to make. With Carolina still holding on to Justin Faulk its defense has the potential to be outstanding over the next few years with him, Hamilton, Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Haydn Fleury, and free agent addition Calvin de Haan.

An underrated part of this deal for Carolina: It also got Micheal Ferland and prospect Adam Fox as part of the package. Ferland was just as productive as Lindholm this past season and for a cheaper price. He will be in line for a new contract after this season, but it’s a strong trade all around for Carolina.

[Related: Hurricanes acquire Hamilton from Flames]

2. St. Louis gets Ryan O'ReillyThis trade raised some eyebrows simply due to the number of assets the Blues gave up, shipping Tage Thompson, Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka, and a couple of draft picks to the Sabres. It was definitely a lot to give up for one player. But what if that one player offers more value than the sum of the parts you gave up? Thompson is an intriguing young player, and the draft picks are a couple of lottery tickets that may or may not amount to anything. Beyond that, Sobotka and Berglund probably had contracts the Blues were looking to jettison. There is a lot of value in a 60-point center that plays the defensive game O’Reilly plays without taking penalties.

3. Buffalo gets Jeff Skinner. After years of rumors and speculation the Carolina Hurricanes finally went through with the Jeff Skinner trade and the return was … underwhelming. Skinner’s no-trade clause and ability to choose where he went no doubt handcuffed the Hurricanes in this situation, but in terms of talent-for-talent it is not a great exchange for them.

Cliff Pu is an intriguing prospect and they added three future draft picks to their cupboard (giving them 18 over the next two years). Still, this is a big win for Buffalo, even if Skinner doesn’t re-sign before being eligible for unrestricted free agency after this season. He is one of the better goal-scorers in the league, and while there always seems to be some kind of concern about his health (he has had some concussion issues in the past) he has only missed 19 games over the past five seasons (and only eight over the past four). During that same stretch he is 16th in the league in goals scored, giving Buffalo some much-needed goal-scoring punch on the wing.

Even if the Sabres end up being lousy again and they can’t get Skinner to re-sign they can easily flip him at the deadline and get back some of the draft pick capital they gave up in the original trade.

4. Colorado gets Philipp Grubauer. Having Grubauer this high on the list is all about potential, because if he ends up being the player he showed that he can be in his limited time with the Washington Capitals he could be a massive addition both in the short-and long-term.

Goalies can be difficult to project, especially when they have such a limited NHL track record, but among goalies that have appeared in at least 50 games over the past three seasons only two (Antti Raanta at .926 and John Gibson at .924) have a higher save percentage than .923 mark Grubauer produced.

He has, at the very least, earned the opportunity to be a full-time starter to see what he can do and it was never going to happen in Washington with Braden Holtby already in place. The Avalanche only had to give up a second-round and take on the final year of Brooks Orpik‘s contract (which they promptly bought out) to get him. Combined with Grubauer’s new contract and the buyout hit from Orpik’s deal that’s a $14 million investment over the next three years and a second-round pick. If Grubauer becomes the player the Avalanche think he can, be that is a tremendous trade.

5. Arizona gets Alex GalchenyukGalchenyuk gets a chance for a fresh start on a new team that might actually trust him a little bit more and give him an opportunity to excel at center. Along with Derek Stepan and (maybe, hopefully) Dylan Strome, the Coyotes will have a pretty intriguing look down the middle that should give them a chance to compete.

To land Galchenyuk they had to give up Max Domi, whose 18 goals over the past two seasons were less than Galchenyuk scored just this past season.

Given his previous production, skill level, and his underlying numbers from a year ago there is very good reason to believe Galchenyuk can once again be a 30-goal scorer in the NHL, perhaps even as soon as this season. He is only a few months older than Domi and their cap hits are similar. Put it all together and this has the potential to be a strong one-for-one trade for the Coyotes.

[Related: Six teams that improved the most this summer]

6. Florida gets Mike HoffmanHoffman is a producitve player and still signed for two more years at a fair price. He is a steady 20-goal, 55-to 60-point player and under normal circumstances would either still be in Ottawa or have been traded for a significantly better return. These were not normal circumstances as the Senators have devolved into the most dysfunctional organization in the league, with Hoffman and his fiancee being at the center of some of it. As a result, he ended up getting traded twice this offseason harassment allegations against his fiancee.  Senators general manager Pierre Dorion addressed the trade and said their locker room was “broken.” It was clearly a bad situation beyond repair.

7. Buffalo gets Conor Sheary. Buffalo ended up getting Sheary and defenseman Matt Hunwick in what was strictly a salary dump trade for the Pittsburgh Penguins. All it cost Buffalo was a conditional fourth-round pick in 2019 and some future salary commitments to Sheary and Hunwick. Sheary is the intriguing one here because even after three years in the NHL we are still not really sure what he is. A lot of his success in Pittsburgh was almost certainly the result of playing alongside Sidney Crosby, and when he is not putting the puck in the net there is not much else that he does to provide value. You can live with a player like that if they score 30 or 40 goals. Sheary is not that type of player, though. Still, given the cost Buffalo had to give up (very little) and the fact it had the salary cap space to take on the two contracts it is an okay gamble for a team that needs an influx of talented players.

8. Ottawa gets Mikkel Boedker. This was the main part of Ottawa’s return for Hoffman when it dealt him to the San Jose Sharks. Along with Boedker, the Senators also picked up a prospect and a sixth-round draft pick. Given the off-ice situation it’s not a surprise that the Senators did not get full value for Hoffman in return, but it looks even worse when the Sharks were able to turn around and deal Hoffman later that same day to the Florida Panthers — a team in Ottawa’s division — for what was probably better return than the Senators received.

9. New York Islanders get Matt Martin. Martin was a popular player in his first stop with the Islanders as a part of their physical fourth line, but his return in a trade from the Toronto Maple Leafs does not make much sense. Just another fourth-liner with a multi-year contract being added to a team that already has a lot of fourth-liners on multi-year contracts. The optics of it are especially bad when it came just days after the Maple Leafs signed John Tavares away from the Islanders in free agency and the trade simply helping the Maple Leafs create some additional salary cap space.

10. Chicago dumps Marian Hossa‘s contract. Honestly I’m not really sure who the real winner here is but it was a pretty big trade just for the salary cap ramifications and the names involved.

Arizona was once again the dumping ground for a contract another NHL team didn’t want, this time taking on the remainder of Marian Hossa’s deal. Arizona picked up Vinnie Hinostroza to add some depth to its forward group, while Chicago ended up getting back Marcus Kruger and no longer has to worry about Hossa’s $5.25 million salary cap hit over the next three seasons. I still wonder if maybe Arizona could have done better in this deal in exchange for taking on Hossa’s contract (it is not like Chicago had many other options or teams that would be willing or able to take on that deal) but the Hinostroza for Kruger swap is probably a plus for them.

More PHT Power Rankings: The NHL’s worst alternate jerseys

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Flames still face cap challenges after Lucic – Neal trade

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The Calgary Flames faced a cap crunch with James Neal on the books, and they still face potential issues with Milan Lucic being traded in at $500K cheaper.

[More on the contract situations here, and Lucic vs. Neal on ice in this post.]

That’s a lot of money under most circumstances, but $500K goes fast in the modern NHL. In fact, $500K wouldn’t cover the minimum salary of a single player. Every dollar could end up counting for the Flames, so it’s nothing to sneeze at, but things could be tight nonetheless. It may even force someone other than Neal out of the fold.

While the Flames currently boast an estimated $9.973 million in cap space, according to Cap Friendly, that money will dry up quickly. They still need to hammer out deals for RFAs Matthew Tkachuk, David Rittich, Sam Bennett, and Andrew Mangiapane.

Really, would it shock you if Tkachuk and Rittich came in at $10M combined? Such costs are real considerations for the Flames, assuming they can’t convince Tkachuk to take a Kevin Labanc-ian discount.

In Ryan Pike’s breakdown of the cap situation for Flames Nation, he found that Calgary may still have trouble fitting everyone under the cap by his estimations, even if the Flames bought out overpriced defenseman Michael Stone. Buying out Stone seems like a good starting point as we consider some of the calls Treliving might need to make before the Flames’ roster is solidified.

Buying out Stone in August: Stone, 29, has one year left on a deal that carries a $3.5M cap hit and matching salary. If the Flames bought him out, they’d save $2.33M in 2019-20, as Stone’s buyout would register a cap hit of about $1.167M in 2019-20 and 2020-21.

As frustrating as it would be for the Flames to combine dead money in a Stone buyout with Troy Brouwer‘s buyout (remaining $1.5M for the next three seasons), it might just be necessary. Really, it might be the easiest decision of all.

Granted, maybe someone like the Senators would take on Stone’s contract if the Flames bribed them with picks and/or prospects, much like the Hurricanes did in taking Patrick Marleau off of the Maple Leafs’ hands?

Either way, there’s a chance Stone won’t be making $3.5M with the Flames next season.

Trade Sam Bennett’s rights? With things getting really snug, and the forward unlikely to justify being the fourth pick of the 2014 NHL Draft, maybe the Flames would be better off moving on by sending Bennett/his RFA rights to another team and filling that roster spot with a cheaper option?

If a team coughed up a decent pick and/or prospect for Bennett, assuming he needs a change of scenery, it could be a win for everyone. The Flames might not be comfortable about that yet with Bennett being 23, but it should at least be discussed.

Trade an expiring contract player? T.J. Brodie ($4.65M), Michael Frolik ($4.3M), and Travis Hamonic ($3.857M) all seem to be signed at reasonable prices, if not mild bargains. All three are only covered through 2019-20, however, making it reasonable to picture them as parts of various trade scenarios. In fact, TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports that the Flames were working on a potential deal involving Brodie and then-Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri, and Kadri admitted on “31 Thoughts” that he didn’t waive his clause to allow Calgary to trade for him.

***

Over the years, including this summer with LaBanc and Timo Meier signing sweet deals for the Sharks, sometimes RFAs take care off cap concerns for their teams. There are scenarios where such constraints actually help the given team land some discounts; it sure felt that way when the Bruins got a deal with Torey Krug back in 2016.

As of this writing, it seems like the Flames might face a tight squeeze in fitting under the cap.

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.

How Flames, Oilers might handle Lucic, Neal after big trade

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In the additional breakdown of the Milan LucicJames Neal trade, you might conclude that it’s basically a one-for-one deal, conditional draft pick aside. You can get an idea of how the two players are in remarkably similar places in their careers by reading the original breakdown.

Even their contracts look virtually the same … at least at first.

The players are close enough that it’s far from a guarantee that the Oilers will need to hand that third-rounder to their rivals in Calgary.

It’s only once you start digging deeper that you realize that, beyond James Neal being closer to his best days than Lucic, his contract is also a lot easier to deal with, for the most part. Once you start considering those factors, you might once again be surprised that the Oilers convinced the Flames to accept Lucic’s contract.

This was a case of two teams trading problems, and while both players have a decent chance to rebound to at least some extent, the true winner of this trade might be the team that can continue to clean up their messes.

To sort through the especially messy Lucic contract, you have to pull back your sleeves and get in the weeds. So, fair warning: this might make your brain melt a bit, but if you’re interested in what might happen next, these factors are important.

No movement, indeed

Lucic’s contract is an albatross deal for reasons that extend beyond Lucic not being worth $6M (and still not worth $5.25M) per year.

For one thing, while Lucic waived his no-movement clause to make this trade happen, it sounds like Lucic will retain his NMC … for some reason.

Frankly, if this is a matter of the Flames simply being nice, then they may rue such kindness in the future.

Most directly, if Lucic’s NMC is restored, then he might kabosh a trade down the line. Beyond that, there’s a scenario where the Flames might have to protect Lucic in an expansion draft, rather than someone more valuable. It’s possible that Lucic will return the Flames’ gesture by waiving his NMC in that situation (kind of like Marc-Andre Fleury doing the Penguins a solid in the Vegas expansion draft), yet the threat of complications can make you queasy.

Even if it works out, it all seems pretty messy to me. The other potential escape routes are messy for Calgary, too.

Easier to sell the deal than to buy it out

It’s been mentioned that the bonus-heavy structure of Lucic’s contract makes his deal almost “buyout proof.”

That’s pretty much true, as buying out Lucic would bring out marginal savings for the Flames, even if you move the buyout to a later year than the most immediate chance after next season.

Realistically, the most reasonable way Calgary might wiggle out of some of the tougher years of Lucic’s contract would be to find a team like the Senators: a franchise in place where they value contracts that don’t cost as much as their cap hits indicate. For example: the Flames could pay Lucic’s $3M bonus before 2020-21, then trade him to Ottawa, who would be credited with his $5.25M cap hit, even though they’d only be on the hook for the remaining $1M in base salary. That scenario would be even more appealing to a cost-conscious team in the last year of Lucic’s contract, so check Cap Friendly if you’re curious about other possibilities.

Unfortunately for Calgary, even if they found a buyer, they’d seemingly need to get Lucic to play ball. The veteran winger might not be so thrilled to go to a rebuilding team.

Ultimately, the Flames are taking a significant gamble that this Lucic situation will work out better than sticking with Neal. If not, people will point to Treliving taking on Lucic much like, well, Peter Chiarelli also gambling on the big winger.

*gulp*

Neal’s cleaner situation

Puck Pedia notes some potential twists and turns, but overall, the Oilers didn’t just get a player in closer proximity to his best times of production; Neal’s contract is, mostly, a lot easier to deal with. Even if it’s bad, too.

As you can see from Cap Friendly’s buyout calculator, a cap-strapped Oilers team could benefit from a buyout, including one as early as 2020:

Saving close to $4M for three seasons, even if it means tacking on almost $2M for the following two seasons, could easily make a lot of sense for the Oilers, if they determine that a Neal buyout is the right move.

In general, they have more control of the situation, as Neal’s contract lacks a no-movement or no-trade clause. That’s kind of tragic in a way, as Neal’s already bounced around the league like a pinball, but it’s nonetheless the case.

Granted, the one area where Lucic might be a more plausible trade clip is because there’s not really any smoke and mirrors with Neal’s contract. While Lucic’s bonus-soaked contract makes him difficult to buyout, his falling salary vs. cap hit appeals to certain rebuild scenarios. Neal, meanwhile, simply costs $5.75M each season.

Still, that lack of a no-movement clause reduces Edmonton’s odds of worst-case scenarios. For instance: the Oilers wouldn’t need to protect Neal in an expansion draft, which could open up moments of tragic comedy where Neal finds himself with a new team and an expansion franchise again.

Overall, a buyout seems most feasible, although there’s the outside chance that Neal rebounds to become a deadly sniper again alongside Connor McDavid and/or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

***

Every trade carries the tagline of “to be continued,” but this swap seems especially friendly to that caveat. Is the plan for the Flames, Oilers, or both of these teams to ultimately get rid of Neal and/or Lucic all along? If so, at what cost?

Maybe the play of Neal and Lucic will decide the “winner” of this trade, but most likely, it comes down to which team does the best job cleaning up the messes they’ve made.

Check out the original post for more on this trade, including a look at where Neal and Lucic are in their careers.

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.

Trade: Flames get Lucic; Oilers receive Neal

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Call it a “change of scenery,” or probably most directly, trading problems. Either way, Alberta rivals the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers made a truly resounding trade on Friday, with the main takeaway being that Milan Lucic goes to the Flames, while James Neal is bound for Edmonton.

Yeah, wow.

Multiple reporters indicate that it’s close to one-for-one, although there are a few minor tweaks to consider.

The Calgary Herald’s Kristen Anderson reports that the Oilers are retaining 12.5 percent of Milan Lucic’s salary, which translates to $750K, while Edmonton is also sending Calgary a conditional third-round pick in 2020. It’s not clear yet what those conditions are.

If Anderson and others are correct, that means the trade boils down to:

Flames receive: Lucic, 31, minus $750K per year. That puts Lucic at $5.25M, with his contract running through 2022-23. Calgary also receives Edmonton’s 2020 third-round pick, if conditions are met.

Oilers receive: Neal, 31, who has a $5.75M cap hit that runs through 2022-23.

As you can see, the two players remain very similar in both cap hit, term, and even age. The Flames save $500K in cap space, while the Oilers add $500K, as Puck Pedia confirms.

Of course, when you’re talking about contracts teams largely want to get away from, it’s often about more than just cap hits. There are some significant ins and outs to that side of the discussion, including Lucic’s deal being essentially “buyout proof.” Neal, meanwhile, would be easier for the Oilers to buy out, if they decide to do that after an audition with the team.

On Saturday, PHT will try to wade through the variety of paths the two teams could take, whether it means sticking with Lucic and Neal respectively, or going for a buyout or trade. For now, let’s consider where they are in their careers.

Lucic’s tough times

After a productive first season in Edmonton where Lucic scored 23 goals and 50 points in 2016-17, Lucic plummeted down the depth chart and in production. This past season was rock bottom, as Lucic scored just six goals and 20 points in 79 games.

The bet on Lucic, some might say in part leading to the dreadful Taylor Hall trade, stands as one of the landmark gaffes of Peter Chiarelli’s Era of Error in Edmonton. It was clear that both the player and team needed to part ways, so now there’s at least peace in that regard.

A bumpy path for Neal, and brutal times in Calgary

Whether you like Neal – a player who absolutely goes over the line at times, when he loses his cool – or not, it’s tough not to feel for him after the last several years.

He was traded from the Stars to the Penguins in 2011, scapegoated a bit out of Pittsburgh on his way to Nashville in 2014, then scooped up by Vegas in the 2017 expansion draft, only to sign with the Flames (possibly in a relatively lukewarm free agent market) last summer. Now this trade sends Neal to Edmonton, making this the 31-year-old’s sixth NHL team, and his fourth in his past four seasons. Players as productive as Neal – aside from last season’s meltdown – rarely become journeymen like this.

Honestly, should we just get his nameplate ready for the Seattle [Unfortunately Not Supersonics] right now?

Despite that upheaval, Neal had been a guy who could score goals nonetheless. He peaked with 40 during his best days with Malkin in Pittsburgh (an 81-point output in 2011-12), but he sniped in multiple climates, generating 20+ goals in 10 consecutive seasons.

And then this Calgary season happened.

Neal never clicked with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, as Elias Lindholm instead took that plum gig. Neal slipped lower and lower in the lineup, sometimes becoming a healthy scratch, and ended 2018-19 with Lucic-like numbers (though in fewer games), as Neal managed only seven goals and 19 points. He was also an all-around disaster, as you can see from RAPM charts via Evolving Hockey that argue that, in some ways, Lucic was actually better last season, as Lucic at least wasn’t as much of a defensive disaster as Neal. Faint praise, but still:

Better times ahead, maybe?

Again, it’s easy to forget that both wingers are 31.

That’s not a great age to be when your contract looks inflated, but there’s also a chance that maybe both could turn things around, at least to some degree. With Neal closer to more productive seasons than Lucic, he’d seem to be a more likely candidate, especially if his rifle of a shot pairs nicely with Connor McDavid‘s all-world playmaking.

But both players have a shot at positive regression. Neal’s five percent shooting percentage from 2018-19 marked the only time in his career that he’s been below 10.4 percent, while Lucic shot at 6.8 in 2017-18 and 8.1 in 2018-19, compared to his career average of 13.5 percent.

Modest rebounds wouldn’t guarantee that either Neal or Lucic sticks around in their new climates. Improvements might just make each forward easier to trade, and more palatable to keep around while looking for trades. There’s simply a lot of room for “to be continued” elements to this move, from buyouts to trades and more.

***

As discussed above, there could still be twists and turns in these sagas, and some of those possibilities will be examined on Saturday. Yet, at this moment in time, this seems like the rare trade win for the Oilers. Maybe this is the start of a positive pattern now that Ken Holland is GM?

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.

Trouba gets seven-year, $56 million deal from Rangers

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The New York Rangers have locked up Jacob Trouba with a seven-year, $56 million contract.

Trouba saw his restricted free agent rights acquired by the Rangers last month from the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for defenseman Neal Pionk and 2019 first-round pick (Ville Heinola). General manager Jeff Gorton added up front by bringing Artemi Panarin to Broadway on July 1, so you knew that they were going to eventually come to an agreement to keep the 25-year-old defenseman in the fold following the June trade as they bulk up for a run in 2019-20.

“They’re building a winner tends to be the vibe I’ve gotten,” said Trouba following the trade to New York. “They treat the players first class. It’s very first-class organization. I mean, it’s New York so you’ve got a big stage and they expect a lot out of their team. We want to ultimately get to the Stanley Cup.”

 

Earlier this month Trouba had elected salary arbitration and had a July 25 date scheduled. But that was merely a formality to allow extra time for both sides to hammer out a deal.

According to PuckPedia, $22 million will be paid to Trouba over the next three seasons via signing bonuses and he has a no-move clause from 2020-21 to 2023-24 and a limited no-trade clause in the final two years of the deal.

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

The ninth overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, Trouba has spent the last six seasons with the Jets, playing 408 games and recording 42 goals and 179 points. In 2018-19 he set a career high with 50 points, making him the ninth defenseman 25 or younger to hit that mark in the past three seasons.

Gorton still has work to do this summer in deciding whether to re-sign RFAs Pavel Buchnevich (July 29 arbitration hearing), Brendan Lemieux and Tony DeAngelo, while working around the salary cap, which after this signing puts them over the ceiling. This could end up leading to a trade of Chris Kreider, who’s entering the final year of this deal carrying a $4.625 million cap hit but owed $4 million in salary for the coming season. They also have a 48-hour buyout window later this summer as well even if they settle with Buchnevich before his hearing.

MORE: Jets were never going to get enough for Trouba

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.