With the uncertainty right now in terms of financials and even format (which will also impact financials) for the 2020-21 NHL season, the off-season is likely to be more drawn out than a typical summer event that sees a flurry of trade activity around the draft, a flurry of free agent signings about a week later and then not nearly as much activity after that.
But regardless of pace, I would expect things to kick off to some degree next week with the 2020 NHL Draft even though it will lack the usual easy mingling that comes with an in-person draft.
Leading up to that, today’s Daily Cup of Joe follows articles from all angles on possible additions with a shorter list of targets.
I am on record as saying that the Hurricanes would be fine bringing back Petr Mrazek and James Reimer. I also am not a big fan of a long-term maximum salary deal for a goalie over 30 years old. Further, per my article yesterday, I do not see the goalie position as one where sizable gains are really available.
So standing pat is definitely an option. But all that said, I am intrigued by the possibility of adding a goalie with potential upside if the cost is modest and the commitment is short-term, and here is why… In recent history, the Hurricanes have a good track record for goalies coming off of ‘meh’ or worse seasons and playing well with the Hurricanes. Mrazek was a reclamation project when he arrived. Reimer was coming off a down season. And maybe to a lesser degree, McElhinney also took on a bigger role and was successful with the Hurricanes. Is the real story here that the Hurricanes defense is favorable for goaltenders such that there is a boost to be had for netminders coming from weaker defensive teams? That theme features heavily in the couple goalies I would consider.
His trend seems to be down statistically, and at his age bounces are less likely. But he has been playing in front of a young Rangers team and ‘meh’ defense for the past few years. With a fresh start to reenergize him, maybe a bee in his bonnet from being let go and realization that his chances of hoisting the Cup are quickly coming an end, could he have one more burst left? I would not go all-in on Lundqvist as #1, but in a time when teams generally need two goalies anyway, could he be a more than adequate backup, not cost too much more than that and have significant ‘last burst’/better defense upside?
Lundqvist is a free agent after being bought out, so he costs nothing in trade assets and after a long contract and buyout figures to be available for a modest price on a one-year deal to explore life after Madison Square Garden.
The theme is exactly the same here. As good as the Maple Leafs top players are at generating offense, the group is lacking on the blue line and also with a young group of forwards whose strength is scoring goalies not playing strong two-way hockey. I think there is a reasonable possibility that Andersen is more the victim than anything else and with the potential for a sizable improvement playing behind a better blue line and minus the pressure of Toronto.
Andersen has only the 2020-21 season remaining on his contract. No way would I go trying to win a bidding war for Andersen via trade, but if Leafs’ General Manager decides to move on and just needs to unload Andersen to clear the slot and salary, I would consider Andersen for a modest price.
If the Vegas Golden Knights decide to re-sign a younger Robin Lehner long-term and in the process part ways with Marc-Andre Fleury, I would at least chat with the scouts to see what they think of him. He is only one season removed from being absolutely outstanding after the Penguins moved on from him. Fleury is only a couple years removed from consecutive seasons with range of the Vezina Trophy. Coming from a good Vegas team, he does not have the upside from a significantly upgraded blue line, but is it possible that the same pride the propelled him after being sort of discarded by the Penguins good for one last run?
Fleury’s financial situation is a bit more complicated. Because of his contract, his trade cost should be negligible if the Golden Knights do go with Lehner, but Fleury has two years remaining on his contract at $7 million salary cap hit per year. That could fairly easily be workable for 2020-21 but could be problematic for 2021-22 when Andrei Svechnikov’s next contract kicks in and puts the Hurricanes up against the salary cap.
I really think he is the guy if he could be pried loose. Nikolajk Ehlers is only 24 years old but has already established himself as a consistent NHL goal scorer with four seasons over 20 goals and at least a 25-goal pace (adjusted for games played) in each of those seasons. He has finishing ability and a decent bag of offensive tricks, but also speed that fits well with how Brind’Amour wants to play.
Very, very significantly in a salary cap NHL where a player’s value is a function not just of production but also cost, Ehlers is signed for five more years at a very reasonable $6 million per year. That adds a scoring wing and importantly does so in a way that does not create cap problems. The big challenge here would be getting a deal done. Unfortunately, I think the ask is probably Brett Pesce which is not grossly unfair but also is not a deal I would do.
Sort of in the same vein but more shorter term is Kyle Palmieri. He is a veteran wing who is also proven as a scorer. His point total are down on a Devils team that has not been great recently, but he has continued to score more than 20 goals per season. If paired with Aho/Teravainen or possibly opposite Svechnikov on a second scoring line, what is within range for Palmieri?
Palmieri is a veteran signed for only one more year on a Devils team that figures to be rebuilding/retooling a bit. I would not sell the farm for player likely to leave after one season, but I am on record as considering the Cup window open for the Canes such that I would consider short-term additions if the cost is reasonable.
A quick list of players that I am not interested in includes…
Patrik Laine…He fits as a scoring wing, but my issue with him is the financials. If he plays with Aho/Teravainen, clicks and posts 35 goals next season, but continues to be a bit of a one-dimensional scorer and then becomes a restricted free agent with arbitration rights, I think he could then become a problem. Might an arbitrator award $10 million to a player who is maybe too one-dimensional? Could that mean bye-bye Dougie Hamilton as the Canes are then forced to pay Svecnikov a similar amount (assuming he has a strong 2020-21 campaign).
Darcy Kuemper…He along with Anton Khudobin are this off-season’s flavor of the month for backups ready to be starters. I wrote awhile back about what I think is underestimated double risk trying to transition to a new team and system at the same time as taking on the pressure of being a #1 goalie. No doubt there are other factors, but this is exactly how Scott Darling arrived in North Carolina as a seemingly can’t miss backup ready to be a starter. I think Kuemper could work, but I do not like the potential risks especially if he is acquired and signed long-term before proving that he can navigate the transitions.
Braden Holtby…Unless the market forces him to consider a short-term deal, I would have no interest in winning a bidding way to sign Holtby for maximum term and salary. This is more commentary on the risk of long-term, pricey deals for goalies over 30 years old than it is specific commentary on Holtby.
Intent is to follow up with another article or two that considers additional players leading up to the 2020 NHL Draft and then free agent opening.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Which of my targets do you like/not like?
2) Do you disagree with any of the players that I marked as ‘no’?
3) Feel free also to continue bandying around other players around in our usual coffee shop discussions.