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Tuesday’s Daily Cup of Joe is part 2 of a 3-part series which will fill up most of the first week of August. Yesterday part 1 detailed other teams’ situations that could make players available. Part 2 today names some specific players and deals that might make sense. Part 3 will discuss why the probability is high that none of these deals will actually happen.
As noted briefly and to be covered in more detail in part 3, I do not see Ron Francis bidding aggressively to do a deal at this point. My best guess is that he is content to enter the season pretty much with the roster he has possibly with a few player try outs and maybe a depth addition before training camp. But Francis has shown a knack for opportunistically finding good deals with teams that need to make a move.
Considering possible upgrades in net
In re-signing Cam Ward even before other deals went down and either staying out of or at least not winning bidding wars for Frederik Andersen or Brian Elliott, I think Francis implicitly stated that he was willing to return to the ice in 2016-17 with the 2015-16 tandem of Lack and Ward.
But might he be willing to upgrade if the price is right? Ben Bishop in Tampa Bay and Marc-Andre Fleury in Pittsburgh could potentially be lost for nothing next summer – Bishop to free agency and Fleury potentially to the expansion draft. But with young netminders and teams clearly aiming to win a Stanley Cup, it is possible that both teams hold the veterans at least part way into the 2016-17 season to make sure everything is on track with the young replacements. It is even possible that both teams keep their veteran netminders as insurance even into the playoffs. A Stanley Cup win would make missing out on a draft pick or 2 very easy to swallow.
But realizing that there just are not many, if any, teams shopping for expensive goalies, and also staring at each other’s situation, just maybe one of Yzerman or Rutherford blinks and gets what he can for a goalie seemingly destined to leave soon anyway.
Bishop is a tricky situation on 3 fronts. First, if Yzerman wants a Frederik Andersen-like ransom (a first and a second round pick), best guess is that Francis quickly says no thank you and moves on. In addition to that, a deal would need to see Francis negotiate an extension with Bishop who is earning $5.9 million in 2016-17. The first question is whether Francis could get even get budget approval for the addition (nothing has been said of a firm budget ceiling for Francis, but I believe there is one). Then there is the matter of term. Ideal for the Hurricanes would be to have a goalie signed for 2-3 years (as Ward and Lack are now) which at least leaves an opening if Nedeljkovic develops on schedule and is ready to become a starter in 2-3 years.
Deal I would do/obstacles: I only think this deal makes sense if Francis can pay as little as possible on 3 fronts and then chuck some cost savings into the deal. For me, it would take Yzerman settling for a single second round pick, Bishop accepting a 3-year deal for $5.5 million per year and Tampa also taking Eddie Lack and possibly Jay McClement back in the trade. In other words, there are a ton of obstacles and really long odds. Interesting to note is that this situation could change significantly by December if Vasilevskiy settles in and rolls as a starter through the first half of the season and no other teams show an interest in Bishop.
In terms of financials, I actually think Fleury could be an easier deal to get done. The challenge here is that Pens GM Jim Rutherford might prefer not to deal Fleury to a Metropolitan Division opponent. But with limited demand for expensive goalies, who knows. Fleury is a bit older at 31 years old and maybe a little less exciting than Bishop which could be perfect. He is signed for 3 more years at $5.75 million which lines up well with a potential Nedeljkovic timeline.
Deal I would do/obstacles: This one fits into the “I’ll help, but I’m not paying anything” category like the Versteeg deal last summer. At a basic level, I would trade Lack straight up for Fleury and offer only modest futures in addition (i.e. a mid-round pick). If Rutherford wants to unload the contract and save cap $ while getting a serviceable backup at half the cost in return, that is great. If he thinks Fleury garners a sizable return, then no thanks. The obstacles are how highly/stubbornly Rutherford values Fleury given the situation and how averse he is to trading him in division.
At the end of the day, I think if Francis wanted to do differently in net for the 2016-17 season, he would have been much slower re-signing Cam Ward (who was re-signed before Elliott or Andersen were moved) and would have chased Andersen. Odds are that the Canes at least start the 2016-17 season with Ward and Lack.
Eyeing a playmaking top line center
From the very beginning of the summer, I pegged the Canes 2 biggest needs as an upgrade in net (see above) and a playmaking center around which a scoring line to complement Jordan Staal’s line could be built. Francis did add Teuvo Teravainen who is a promising but mostly unproven center and Lee Stempniak who put up 50+ points at right wing last season to go with rookie wild card Sebastian Aho. But there is still room for a proven offensive catalyst. Important to note is that neither of the players that I am proposing are older players to fill a gap for a short period of time. Both are young (23 and 25 years old) and both are under contract for at least 3 more seasons. As such, I view them as fitting within the plan of building a sustainable winner with young players.
Nugent-Hopkins is 23 years old, a proven NHL scorer and signed for 5 more years at a not cheap but somewhat reasonable $6 million per season. If acquired, he is a big commitment expected to anchor the scoring-leaning line opposite Jordan Staal’s line for years to come. Nugent-Hopkins has been on my radar and writing list since the beginning of the summer, so I will skip repeating it here.
Duchene’s situation is a bit different. Duchene is 25 years old and is only signed for 3 more seasons (still decent). His scoring totals are not significantly greater than Nugent-Hopkins, but I think his ceiling is a bit higher and my hunch is still that it costs even more to get him. He is skilled and speedy top line center who would fit Bill Peters system that emphasizes pace incredibly well.
Deal I would do/obstacles: IF either player is available, the desired target is a top 4 defenseman in the category of Tyson Barrie (to Edmonton for Nugent-Hopkins), Kevin Shattenkirk or Cam Fowler (or 1 of Anaheim’s other proven young defensemen). The Canes cannot play in this bidding war, but if that fails and 1 of the 2 crazy GMs goes EBay “to the best offer” then I would still put forward an offer of Brett Pesce + a draft pick no higher than a second-rounder plus another lesser prospect or pick. That is a big price, but first line scoring/playmaking centers are hard to find. For such a deal to happen, I think 1 of the 2 GMs would need to have a fit of craziness. But it is not at all out out of the question that either GM is capable of just the craziness required. The real kicker would be if Colorado traded Barrie to Edmonton for Nugent-Hopkins plus, then looked to move Duchene but did not get interest from Anaheim. Could the Canes then steal Duchene in a Nashville-Johansen type move? One can hope.
The other way to help Tampa Bay
As much as I like Ben Bishop as a goalie, I actually do not like the combination of costs that it would likely take to get and keep him. If Yzerman wants to play hardball and get anything close to fair value for Bishop, I am on record as being more than willing to walk away. But one way or another Yzerman needs to cut some salary possibly for 2016-17 and certainly for 2017-18.
Aside from getting a small ransom for Bishop, the other deals that Yzerman would love to do involve unloading expensive contracts for underperforming veterans. He bit the bullet and bought out Matthew Carle to clear some cap space. The other 2 players in the cross hairs are Valtteri Filppula and Ryan Callahan. I would not touch Callahan and the $5.8 million that he is due for 4 more years. I would also not take Valtteri Filppula and the $5 million that he is owed for 2 more years even if he was free. He would not be worth anything close to that as a free agent.
But let’s take another spin on the “NHL salary cap world ride” that produced both the ‘Kris Versteeg and Joakim Nordstrom for pretty nothing to make the cap’ trade and also the ‘if you take Bickell’s contract, you get Teravainen for very little’ trade.
This might sound crazy, but Bryan Bickell for Valtteri Filppula straight up could actually make sense for both teams. Tampa Bay gets a $1 million salary cap savings for 2016-17 which might be just enough to get Kucherov and Namestnikov signed and still squeeze under the cap. They also now have a bad contract that ends at the end of the 2016-17 season. When their cap troubles become even bigger next summer, they are not staring at the last year of Filppula’s $5 million salary. He seems almost certain to be bought out next summer out of necessity if no other option emerges. On a team that is incredibly deep at forward, Bickell just becomes a fourth-liner not significantly different from where Filppula had fallen to. The Hurricanes get the better player in the deal, a chance to significantly upgrade their fourth line and a player who could slot higher with a rebound. Even in a down year, Filppula scored 31 points last year. For 2016-17, I think the Hurricanes win the deal significantly with the better player at only $500,000 more real salary. Filppula would also be 1 of the 2 70-game forwards that the Canes would expose to the expansion draft next summer. The cost for the Hurricanes 2016-17 win is that when Bickell becomes a free agent this summer, the Canes are still locked in to another expensive $5 million cost for 2016-17 for Filppula. Really interesting from a Hurricanes standpoint would be if the Canes could also include Jay McClement in the deal which is who Filppula would replace. Whether McClement goes or not, I think the Canes have a significantly better fourth line something like Di Giuseppe/Filppula/Stalberg with McClement either gone or an extra.
Deal I would do/obstacles: I am really close to liking this deal if it includes McClement, but I barely pass simply because of the financial cost for 2017-18. $5 million next summer has the potential to buy much much more than Valtteri Filppula, and based on what we have seen so far this summer, I think Francis leans toward preserving flexibility for 2017-18 and beyond over taking some risks to improve 2016-17’s chances. So despite the fact that I think this is an interesting 1 to bandy around in August, I would not do it.
I get where the Bruins need help on the blue line at any level. Either Brett Pesce or Ryan Murphy could be a decent fit though Boston seems more likely to chase a top 4 like Fowler or Shattenkirk. An article earlier this summer had the Canes trading a package for 30-year old David Krejci and his big $7M+ contract for 5 more years. That seems to go against everything that Francis has done thus far in terms of getting younger and avoiding risky contracts.
Deal I would do/obstacles: I just do not see what the deal is here. Krejci is not exciting for me. If he was available for his current contract as a free agent this summer (so no trade cost) at 30 years old and 5 years at $7.3 million, I would pass. Krejci is a good player, but that contract is fraught with risk because of age and recent injury issues. I am not sure which, if any, young forwards the Bruins might part with, but I guess that would be the avenue worth exploring.
Is it wrong that I have yet to give up on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins? Compliment me on my tenacity or unpolitely tell me to give it up already in the comments. 🙂