DeAngelo, Neal, Parise among potential NHL buyouts

NHL Buyouts

The NHL’s offseason buyout window is open (and runs through July 27) and this offseason certainly brings the possibility of a number of teams to take advantage of that window.

Not only is the NHL salary cap remaining flat at $81.5 million, no doubt creating headaches for a lot of teams that spend to the cap, but there is also the upcoming Seattle expansion draft. Teams will be looking to protect as many key players as possible, and utilizing a buyout on a player with a no-trade or no-move clause could help clean up team protection lists.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few candidates to be bought out over the next few weeks.

Salary cap and buyout information via CapFriendly.

Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild

Salary cap outlook of buyout

2021-22: $2.3 million salary cap hit ($5.166 million savings)
2022-23: $6.371 million salary cap hit ($1.166 million savings)
2023-24: $7.371 million salary cap hit ($166,667 savings)
2024-25: $7.371 million salary cap hit ($166,667 savings)
2025-26: $833,333 salary cap hit
2026-27: $833,333 salary cap hit
2027-28: $833,333 salary cap hit
2028-29: $833,333 salary cap hit

This is a tricky one because while the Wild would get $5 million in salary cap savings this upcoming season, they would get absolutely hammered the three years after that when the cap hit would be $6 million, $7 million, and $7 million respectively. That is the type of salary cap hit you commit to an All-Star and the Wild would have it be going to a player no longer on the roster.

Not ideal.

But the alternative is not really ideal, either. Because if the Wild keep Parise they are still paying more than $7 million to a player over the next four years that is on the downswing of his career and found himself as a healthy scratch this year and in the playoffs.

The Wild could try a salary retention trade, but that would still require them to take on dead salary cap space and also run the risk of being hit with a cap recapture penalty in the future should Parise retire before his contract ends.

It might be worth it in the short-term to buy him out, get the $5 million in salary cap savings for this upcoming season, clear a protection spot in the expansion draft, and have some extra money to re-sign Kirill Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala.

James Neal, Edmonton Oilers

Salary cap outlook of buyout

2021-22: $1.916 million salary cap hit ($3.833 million savings)
2022-23: $1.916 million salary cap hit ($3.833 million savings)
2023-24: $1.916 million salary cap hit
2024-25: $1.916 million salary cap hit

The Calgary Flames signed Neal to his current five-year, $28 million contract prior to the 2018-19 season and it has simply not worked out.

The Flames traded him after one brutal year, and now the Oilers look to be on the verge of moving on after two years.

Since signing the contract he has 31 goals in 147 games, with the bulk of those goals (11 of them) coming in one 15-game stretch to open the 2019-20 season.

Buying out his deal would save the Oilers $4 million in cap space in each of the next two seasons, and they will need it to build the depth around Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. They will take a $2 million salary cap hit in the two years following that, but the short-term savings are worth it.

Tony DeAngelo, New York Rangers

Salary cap outlook of buyout

2021-22: $383,334 salary cap hit ($4.416 million savings)
2022-23: $883,334 salary cap hit

The only surprise here might be the fact that the Rangers did not buy him out as soon as the buyout window opened, because it seems to be inevitable.

The Rangers pretty much barred DeAngelo from being around the NHL team following a series of incidents from his reaction to a healthy scratch, to a fight with teammate Alexander Georgiev. His social media presence also became a pretty significant distraction.

There does not seem to be any trade interest so a buyout seems to be the only path.

DeAngelo has been an extremely productive player at a premium position at every level he has played at throughout his career, and has already had three different teams move on from him before his 26th birthday. That should be a significant red flag for any team interested in signing him if (when?) he gets bought out.

The Rangers would save more than $4 million in salary cap space this season.

Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks

Salary cap outlook of buyout

2021-22: $1.916 million salary cap hit ($3.833 million savings)
2022-23: $2.416 million salary cap hit ($3.333 million savings)
2023-24: $2.916 million salary cap hit ($2.833 million savings)
2024-25: $1.667 million salary cap hit
2025-26: $1.667 million salary cap hit
2026-27: $1.667 million salary cap hit

Jones has been one of the league’s least productive goalies for three years now and the Sharks clearly need to address the position in a meaningful way.

His contract (still years three remaining at a salary cap hit of $5.75 million with a no-trade clause no-movement clause) makes him extremely difficult to trade, while a buyout would save the Sharks a couple of million (between two and three million) under the cap over the next three years.

It is the easiest and most sensible move.

Loui Eriksson, Vancouver Canucks

Salary cap outlook of buyout

2021-22: $4 million salary cap hit ($2 million savings)
2022-23: $1 million salary cap hit

This contract just never worked out as expected from the very beginning.

The Canucks gave Eriksson a six-year, $36 million contract and never received more than 11 goals or 29 points in a single season.

He has just one year remaining on the deal, and a buyout would spread the salary cap hit out over the next two seasons.

They would get $2 million in salary cap savings this season and take on $1 million in empty space for the 2022-23 season. Given how tight the Canucks salary cap situation is, as well as the fact they have to re-sign both Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes (two of their best and most important players) this offseason as restricted free agents every bit of added salary cap space will be important.

Ben Bishop, Dallas Stars

Salary cap outlook of buyout

2021-22: $3.249 million salary cap hit ($1.667 million savings)
2022-23: $3.249 million salary cap hit ($1.667 million savings)
2023-24: $833,333 salary cap hit
2024-25: $833,333 salary cap hit

Bishop is still capable of playing at an extremely high level when he is healthy, but did not play at all during the 2020-21 season. The Stars still have Anton Khudobin under contract as a veteran goalie and Jake Oettinger showed a lot of promise as a rookie.

That could make Bishop expendable.

Buying him out would save the Stars $1.6 million against the salary cap in each of the next seasons, before having less than $850,000 in empty space the two years after.


Ducks hire former Leafs, Islanders assistant Greg Cronin as head coach

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Anaheim Ducks have hired veteran NHL assistant and AHL head coach Greg Cronin to be their new head coach.

Ducks general manager Pat Verbeek announced the decision to hire the 60-year-old Cronin, who will be a first-time NHL head coach.

Cronin has 12 years of experience as an NHL assistant with the Toronto Maple Leafs and in two stints with the New York Islanders. The Massachusetts native has been the head coach of the AHL’s Colorado Eagles since 2018, and he spent six years as a collegiate head coach at Northeastern.

Verbeek called Cronin “the ideal fit” to take over a young, rebuilding team.

“I felt we needed a teacher of the finer points of the game, and someone who has worked extensively over time with talented young players, helping them develop into successful NHL players,” Verbeek said. “Greg has done all that and more.”

Cronin replaces Dallas Eakins, whose contract wasn’t renewed in April after the Ducks finished their fourth consecutive losing season of his tenure. Anaheim finished in last place in the overall NHL standings at 23-47-12.

The Ducks never finished higher than sixth in the Pacific Division during Eakins’ four years in charge. They’ve missed the playoffs in a franchise-record five straight seasons, and Anaheim was the NHL’s worst defensive team of the 21st century by several measures during the just-completed season.

Cronin takes over a struggling team that is still loaded with young talent, including the No. 2 overall pick in the upcoming draft and a wealth of farm prospects seemingly ready to break into the NHL. Anaheim has a solid long-term base with playmaking center Trevor Zegras, two-time All-Star Troy Terry and promising forward Mason McTavish.

Cronin has never led an NHL bench, but he interviewed for the Boston Bruins’ vacancy a year ago.

He becomes only the Ducks’ fourth permanent head coach since Henry and Susan Samueli bought the franchise from Disney in 2005, joining Randy Carlyle, Bruce Boudreau and Eakins.

Canadiens sign Cole Caufield to 8-year, $62.8 million extension

David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports

MONTREAL — The Montreal Canadiens signed Cole Caufield to an eight-year, $62.8 million contract extension.

The deal, which will pay the 22-year-old winger an average annual salary of $7.85 million, runs through the 2030-31 season.

Caufield scored 26 goals and added 10 assists in 46 games in 2022-23 before he underwent season-ending surgery on his right shoulder in February.

Despite missing nearly half the season, Caufield led the Canadiens in goals for the second consecutive season, tied with Nick Suzuki.

Montreal selected Caufield in the first round (15th overall) of the 2019 draft.

Since making his NHL debut in 2020-21, the forward has 84 points (53 goals, 31 assists) in 123 NHL games.

Vegas Golden Knights come back to beat Florida Panthers in Game 1 of Stanley Cup Final

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

LAS VEGAS – Back in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in five years and trailing the Florida Panthers less than 10 minutes into Game 1, the Vegas Golden Knights sent a very clear message.

“We were ready,” Jonathan Marchessault said.

Ready and dominant. Vegas rallied from an early deficit, got the go-ahead goal from Zach Whitecloud with just over 13 minutes left and arguably the best save of the playoffs from Adin Hill and beat Florida 5-2 Saturday night to take the lead in the best-of-seven series.

“We kept out composure, and it was good,” said Marchessault, one of six original Knights players left from the start of the franchise in 2017 who scored the tying goal in the first period. “We just wanted to play the right way and be disciplined, and tonight we were able to be the better team.”

Whitecloud put Vegas ahead, a crucial penalty kill followed and captain Mark Stone scored an insurance goal that was reviewed for a high stick and confirmed. Reilly Smith sealed it with an empty-netter to make the score look more lopsided than the game.

The combination of that offense and Hill’s 33 saves put Vegas up after a feisty opener between Sun Belt teams who wasted little time getting acquainted with big hits during play and plenty of post-whistle pushing and shoving.

“It’s exactly what we expected,” said Vegas defenseman Shea Theodore, who scored his first goal of the playoffs and ended a 27-game drought dating to March 7. “That’s how they wanted to play. We were just trying not to play into it.”

That stuff is just beginning. Game 2 is Monday in Las Vegas.

Before the Panthers even get a chance to respond, they ratcheted up the physical play late after falling behind by two. A handful of penalties resulting from a fracas with 4:24 remaining left the Florida bench well short.

The outcome was determined long before that.

After falling behind on a short-handed goal by Eric Staal that sucked the life out of the crowd of 18,432, the Golden Knights rallied for their ninth comeback win this playoffs. Marchessault – known since arriving in Las Vegas for scoring big goals – answered before the end of the first period.

Early in the second, Hill made a desperation stick save to rob Nick Cousins of what would have been a sure goal. The save was reminiscent of the one Washington’s Braden Holtby made against Vegas – in the same crease – five years ago.

“That’s an unreal save – it’s a game-changer,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “You need those saves at key moments.”

Giving up a tying goal to Anthony Duclair with 10.2 seconds left in the second did not slow the Golden Knights’ momentum much. Whitecloud’s goal, with two-time Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky screened and unable to see, fired up fans once again.

Bobrovsky, in the final for the first time, downplayed any reason for concern after stopping 29 of 34 shots and losing for just the second time in 12 games this postseason.

“I played a good game,” Bobrovsky said. “I played a solid game. They created some good chances other than goals. They had lots of good scoring chances, and that was fun.”

Part of the fun came when play was stopped.

Less than 10 minutes in, Hill was none too happy about Nick Cousins crashing into his crease and gave the agitating Panthers winger a jab that incited a handful of scrums. During the second period, Matthew Tkachuk let Vegas’ Nic Hague know he wasn’t thrilled about a hit in the corner on Cousins and a collision with Brandon Montour after the whistle.

“If guys are going to come in my crease and try to push me around, I’m going to stand my own ground,” Hill said. “I’m not going to do anything too crazy or get too wild, but, yeah, I’ve got to stand up for myself.”

Florida coach Paul Maurice, back in the final for the first time since 2001, displayed a similarly calm demeanor as he did all the way back in the first round, when his team fell behind 1-0 then 3-1 to NHL-best Boston before winning in seven.

“It’s going to be tight,” Maurice said. “Everybody breathe.”

The Golden Knights are in the final for the second time in six years of existence, five years after making it in their inaugural season. Vegas won the opener in 2018 and lost the series to Washington in five games.

The Panthers are back playing for the Cup for the first time since 1996. Florida got swept by Colorado in that final 27 years ago, 18 months before Tkachuk, the team’s leading scorer this playoffs, was born.

It’s the 66th different matchup of teams in the Cup final in NHL history and the 46th since the expansion era began in 1967-68. This is the first time since Washington-Vegas and just the third time since the turn of the century in which the final features two teams who have never won the league’s championship.

Penguins name former Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas as director of hockey operations

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PITTSBURGH (AP) Kyle Dubas wanted to take a breath and take a break after being fired as the general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Then the Pittsburgh Penguins called.

The break ended shortly thereafter.

Dubas joined the Penguins as the team’s president of hockey operations, less than two weeks after a somewhat ugly exit from Toronto following a second-round playoff loss to Florida.

The 37-year-old Dubas goes from one type of hockey crucible to another. In Toronto, he was tasked with helping the Maple Leafs emerge from two decades of postseason futility. In Pittsburgh, his mission will be to prop open the Stanley Cup window for Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang a little longer.

All three are 35 or older and haven’t won a playoff series since 2018. Yet Dubas believes strongly the issue isn’t the age of the franchise’s core but deficiencies elsewhere on the roster. Dubas replaces Brian Burke, who was fired along with general manager Ron Hextall in April after the Penguins failed to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2006.

“I heard a lot of people that were highly skeptical of the team’s ability to contend here and the way I view it, if the people want to bet against (Crosby, Letang and Malkin) they can go ahead and do so,” Dubas said. “But I’m going to bet on them and go with them here. I think it is a group that’s capable of contending to win a championship.”

Crosby and Malkin were excellent for much of last season and Letang showed remarkable resiliency while dealing with multiple setbacks, including a stroke and the death of his father. Yet save for a 14-2-2 stretch in November and December, the Penguins struggled to find consistency and ultimately stumbled down the stretch to snap the longest active playoff streak in major North American Sports.

While the Penguins do have $20 million in cap space and the 14th overall pick in this month’s NHL draft, significant changes or upgrades could be difficult in the short term.

Dubas inherits a team that was the oldest in the NHL last season and is littered with question marks, particularly in goal and the forward group outside of Crosby, Malkin and Jake Guentzel.

Two-time All-Star goaltender Tristan Jarry will become a free agent this summer and was beset by injuries over the second half of the season. Forward Jason Zucker, who served as the emotional sparkplug for long stretches, is also scheduled to hit the open market and may have priced himself out of town.

Pittsburgh also has several aging players with full or partial no-movement clauses, including 38-year-old forward Jeff Carter, 30-year-old Bryan Rust and 35-year-old defenseman Jeff Petry.

“I think that those are obviously very real situations, everyone knows that they exist,” Dubas said. “To me the effect on it … is what we can add in terms of depth pieces? What we can add in terms of younger players? That’ll be the real key.”

Dubas does plan to hire a general manager to fill the vacancy created when Hextall was let go after a short but largely unfruitful tenure. Dubas will serve as the GM on an interim basis until early July.

Dubas comes to Pittsburgh after nine seasons with the Maple Leafs, including the last five as general manager. Toronto won a postseason series for the first time since 2004 this spring before falling to the Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference semifinals in five games.

Shortly after the Maple Leafs’ playoff exit, Dubas said that he wasn’t sure if he wanted to remain in Toronto. His contract was set to expire on June 30, but team president Kyle Shanahan opted to pre-emptively fire Dubas instead. Toronto hired former Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving as Dubas’ replacement.

Dubas helped build the Maple Leafs into a regular-season power during his tenure. Toronto set single-season records for wins and points, and went 221-109-42 in his tenure. Dubas also didn’t shy away from big moves – he fired Stanley Cup-winning coach Mike Babcock in November 2019 and replaced him with Sheldon Keefe – but struggled to find the right mix in the playoffs until this spring.

In the end, advancing beyond the first round for the first time since 2004 wasn’t enough for Dubas to remain in Toronto.

He joked he was maybe a little “too honest” during his season-ending press conference with the Maple Leafs when he expressed reservations about returning. Shanahan’s abrupt decision to move on came as a bit of a surprise, and Dubas planned to take some time to hit the reset button before looking for another job.

Yet the Penguins – who’d already been given clearance by the Maple Leafs to interview Dubas – provided a compelling reason to speed up the timetable. Dubas’ due diligence included speaking to Crosby and longtime coach Mike Sullivan to take the pulse of a leadership group that remains firmly in place.

Dubas called them “some of the best competitors” in hockey. Competitors that have – for one reason or another – been unable to recapture the magic of their runs to back-to-back Cups in 2016 and 2017.

Time is running out for Crosby to put his name on the Cup for a fourth time in a career that will almost certainly end in the Hall of Fame. Dubas knows he’ll be judged in part on whether he can make that happen. After taking more than six weeks of searching before landing on Dubas, Fenway Sports Group Chairman Tom Werner believes Dubas is up to the challenge.

“Our philosophy is giving Kyle and his associates the best possible resources to win,” Werner said. “Kyle’s been very articulate today about his path to success … we’re very confident that Kyle will execute the plan he’s articulated to us.”