Are the NHL Trade and Free Agency markets constipated? When will they free up? What teams will be able to afford the remaining key free agents and which ones are looking and will continue to look for steals?
All that and the latest NHL Trade and free agent rumors in Off The Record on Boston Hockey Now and National Hockey Now:
Kings Could Unclog The NHL Trade And Free Agent Market
Through the draft and by accumulating picks via trades while unloading cap space, the Detroit Red Wings, New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators, and the Los Angeles Kings are in the best shape cap space-wise in the NHL.
Red Wings General Manager Steve Yzerman, Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald and former Devils GM Ray Shero, Senators GM Pierre Dorion and LA Kings GM Rob Blake are all in different periods of the rebuild process and establishing an identity they think can push them to the next level. Now with more cap space than any of the 27 other NHL teams, each GM may be able to accelerate their rebuild and maybe even push for a playoff spot if they can steal a Mike Hoffman or Anthony Duclair off the market while the current Stanley Cup playoff contenders sit hamstrung by the flattened $81.5 million salary cap that may not rise anytime soon.
As a longtime amateur scout for and now Director of Amateur Scouting for the Kings Mark Yannetti explained, since the salary cap came in with the 2005-06 season, teams that have been able to establish their identity from within and build an identified blend of skill and grit have succeeded the most.
“Look once you got into the salary cap era, this philosophy of building that identity and building from within has been essential to success and I don’t see that ever-changing,” Yannetti told National Hockey Now recently. “Homegrown talent will allow you the flexibility that other teams don’t have. It’s simple if you draft a seventh round player and put him on your fourth line, make him F-10 or F-12, whatever, where he’s a full-time NHL player, over the course of a ten-year career, he might save you $15 million.
You want to go out and grab those players over that course of time then it’s going to cost you a whole lot more than the NHL minimum for three years and then a slight bump with no arbitration rights and then by the time he’s 27, now you’re nine years, eight years into his career and like I said, you’ve saved on average $10-15 million.”
As Yannetti continued to explain, the money saved on homegrown assets continues to grow if you play your cards right and stumble upon some good fortune like drafting the best center in what many considered the deepest NHL Entry Draft since the arguably the best draft ever in 2003.
“Of course luck is involved and we were blessed to take Quinton Byfield with the second overall pick,” Yannetti acknowledged. “We believe he immediately takes us to the next step and as we filter in more of our homegrown talent we’re closer to our goal of contending again. But back to what I was saying of building that cap space, now that money is just from a seventh round pick or fourth line player. So then what if you grow a D-2 or an F-4, every one of those players you grow is even more savings.
Now if you grow a Drew Doughty or you have to go out and sign a player like that in free agency for $7-8 million, well for Drew, who was at $3.25 million for three years, you just saved $15 million for three years. Now you gotta got him up or you gotta bump him before arb, but he doesn’t have arb rights, now he’s at $4-6 million, and you’re saving another $4-6 million for another four to five years.
So now you’re in your Stanley Cup window, which is usually about four to five years,” Yannetti said. “Here you are and those two homegrown players have you in the $25-$30 million saved range. Of course, that’s a best-case scenario and there’s plenty of luck and good fortune involved but if you save that kind of money, then now when you want it and need it most, you can now bring in that big free agent or trade acquisition.”
By no means does Yannetti think the Kings are about to return to the Glory Days of 2012-14, but with the high-end picks, who fit their identity, that they’ve been drafting and $13.6 million in cap space, they’re getting closer. Given the financial direction of the league thanks to the pandemic, they may even be able to dive into the NHL trade and free agent market now.
NHL Trade Market Could Free Up ‘Constipated’ Free Agent Market
Our National Hockey Now panel took some guesses on where the likes of Hoffman, Duclair, Travis Hamonic, Sami Vatanen, Andreas Athanasiou, and Zdeno Chara wind up signing. What about some of the rumored names on the trade rumor circuit that could in effect help those players find a new home?
There’s been plenty of chatter around Florida Panthers restricted free agent MacKenzie Weegar and we can confirm the Boston Bruins, Winnipeg Jets, Ottawa Senators, and New Jersey Devils are interested. However, it may take a bigger name to be moved to really jolt both the NHL Trade and Free Agent Markets.
Based on the trade rumor vibe for the last week or so, one name to keep an eye on is St. Louis Blues RFA defenseman Vince Dunn. The Blues are exploring every possible avenue to keep the 23-year-old, six-foot, 203-pound, left-shot rearguard that they drafted in the second round (56th overall) in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft but he may end up being a cap casualty. If that happens, the Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, Florida Panthers, Senators, and Red Wings could be the beneficiaries.
Coyotes Need To Cut Ties With Miller
After a summer of standing behind Black Lives Matter and promising to do more to promote and achieve racial equality, it turns out the NHL and specifically the Arizona Coyotes took a giant step back at the NHL Draft earlier this month. Fully aware that Mitchell Miller had been charged with bullying and using racial slurs against a disabled African American classmate, the Coyotes still used their first pick at the 2020 NHL Entry Draft to select Miller, a 5-foot-11, 194-pound defenseman from Sylvania, Ohio and a University of North Dakota commit, in the fourth round.
The Arizona Republic first reported on the story Monday and the team and player subsequently released statements basically saying that they are committed to atoning for Miller physically and emotionally abusing his classmate Isaiah Meyer-Crothers and constantly using the N-word and other racial slurs against him. What’s so ironic and hypocritical about this story is that the Coyotes ignored Miller’s past transgressions only two months after they hired and made Alex Meruelo the first Latino President and CEO in the NHL and promised to promote diversity.
Meruelo promised to help and work with Miller to become ‘a leader in confronting bullying and racism’. Miller released an apology to the Coyotes and the NHL but according to Meyer-Crothers, he is yet to receive an apology. The fact that hasn’t been done three years after Miller appeared in court is disgusting and should’ve been enough for the Coyotes to do what 30 other NHL teams did and pass on him. That being said, they can still do the right thing and cut ties with a young man that clearly isn’t sincere and has not learned his lesson.