Trade speculation is one of those things that many sports fans mock. Namely because a lot of the speculation is just wishful thinking. Because it is often done by the fans of a team looking to get The Player(s) They Want and believing they can do so by moving The Player(s) They Don’t Want easily. They tend to be outlandish, one-sided, and obviously unlikely to happen. So why does it happen? Namely because this kind of wishful thinking is fun. It forces a use of one’s imagination while taking at least some consideration of the teams’ situations for a potential deal. It also fills the time, of which there is plenty of. So let’s do something different and engage in some wishful thinking about the New Jersey Devils. Let’s speculate some further trades the Devils could make with teams with salary cap issues.
Why teams with salary cap issues? Because those are the teams that really need to do something. For now, everyone is compliant. However, in a little over a month, everyone has to be under the salary cap ceiling. The teams with issues have to make some tough decisions in the next few weeks. The Devils can benefit from this situation. In fact, Ray Shero has already done so earlier this Summer with the trade for Marcus Johansson. Shero helped Washington get some space while improving his own roster right away. Even after that deal, the Devils have the second most cap space in the NHL right now with about $56.2 million per CapFriendly. Damon Severson remains as the only pending signing and whatever his next deal will be will still leave the Devils with a lot of cap space and plenty of roster space. New Jersey will be in a position to help themselves by helping other teams get under the cap.
Gerard touched on who some of those teams are on Thursday. Per CapFriendly, there are four teams over the salary cap right now: Detroit (over by $3.946 million), Toronto ($3.929 million), Dallas ($196k over), and Chicago ($34k over). Let’s look at each one and speculate:
Detroit Red Wings
Their CapFriendly Situation as of 8/12: They are $3,946,212 over the salary cap for a projected cap hit of $78,946,212. They have 47 players signed. Johan Franzen and his $3,954,545 cap hit can be placed on long-term injured reserve, which can get the Red Wings just within compliance. However, they have two players left to sign: NHL forward Andreas Athanasiou and minor league defenseman Robbie Russo. They would likely put the Red Wings back over unless players are waived or dealt. I’m not sure how much Athanasiou could command; what that number is will likely drive what Holland needs to do.
Ansar Khan at MLive reported last week that general manager Ken Holland will have to make a trade or place someone on waivers if all other players are healthy to start next season. Khan’s article notes that the team is interested in unrestricted free agent defenseman Will Butcher. Signing him will only exacerbate the issue.
Making the situation more complex for Detroit are the sheer number of no trade clauses on their roster. Five defensemen have some sort of clause: Mike Green, Niklas Kronwall, Danny DeKeyser, Jonathan Ericsson, and Trevor Daley. At forward, Frans Nielsen has a no-movement clause while Gustav Nyquist, Justin Abdelkader, and Darren Helm have no trade clauses. Clauses can be waived and maybe one of these players would do so given that Detroit is no longer the playoff-lock squad they’ve been for over two decades. Still, it makes it more of a challenge for Holland make a move - and for the Devils to get that defenseman they really could use.
Potential Targets: The non-NTC defensemen are not much to write home about and Xavier Ouellet was just re-signed by Detroit back in July. They also would not give Detroit a lot of cap-space if moved. As much as I think pending UFA-defenseman Mike Green will not stay in Detroit (NTC notwithstanding); I would rather the Devils take a closer look at him when he becomes a free agent in July. Making a move to get him now, while would give the Red Wings more than enough space, does not make a lot of sense for New Jersey. Jonathan Ericsson could be somebody Detroit wants to move, but the Devils need another mid-30s defenseman who lacks speed like one needs a hole in their head.
The play here may be for a forward. Riley Sheahan had an awful puck-luck season, but moving his roughly $2 million plus sticking Franzen on LTIR might be enough relief for Detroit. While Sheahan is a pending UFA like Green, I doubt he will command a lot of attention like Green would on the open market. Plus, he can fill in a spot up front if one of the young prospective forwards shows in camp that they’re not ready for prime time yet. If it does not work out, then he can go and not much is lost since, again, there’s a young prospective forward likely to take whatever spot he would fill. I would like the Devils to stay away from bigger deals like Darren Helm (if he waives his NTC) or Justin Abdelkader (if he waives his NTC). Nyquist is a pipe dream unless Holland really, really, really wants to blow up his roster for 2017-18; even then, he won’t come cheaply.
After typing this all out, I’ve come to the conclusion: there are not a whole lot of desirable players on Detroit that Holland can easily move and that the Devils would want. In fact, their situation is an excellent example of why a bad team should not spend to the cap.
The Speculated Trade I Just Made Up: Well, it’s not pretty but I’d suggest something along the lines of a third rounder in 2019 for Sheahan. Detroit really cannot afford players to come back in a deal unless a player with a significant cap hit is being moved. While the Devils do not have any extra draft picks in the next three years - they used two from 2018 to get Johansson - the hope is that the Devils will be a better team by the time the 2019 draft happens. It will not be that high of a pick and given the sheer number of prospects in the system, they can afford to move a mid-round pick or two. A third rounder may be worth the cost of doing business. When the calendar reads July 1, 2018, then we can cross our fingers (or not) for Green.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Their CapFriendly Situation as of 8/12: They are $3,929,167 over the salary cap for a projected cap hit of $78,929,167. They have two players will likely go on long-term injured reserve: Nathan Horton and Joffrey Lupul. They have cap hits of $5.3 and $5.25 million, respectively. Only one of them needs to go on LTIR for the Leafs to become compliant. So they really aren’t a good target, as Gerard mentioned.
They do have a sort of a roster issue. They have 49 contracts on the books with Connor Brown yet to be signed. The maximum is 50. Timothy Liljegren’s contract will slide provided he does not play more than nine NHL games this season. Should Toronto want to sign any other players, then they may need to make a move. For now, don’t worry about Lou Lamoriello’s cap.
Potential Targets: Whoever goes on waivers. CapFriendly currently lists sixteen forwards and seven defensemen for the Leafs. Only Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and Mitch Marner are exempt from waivers. Just to make up a 23-man roster, some players will have to be exposed to the waiver wire. They may not necessarily be players the Devils should want or need. But they should pay attention.
So there really isn’t a trade to speculate. Let’s move onto Dallas.
Their CapFriendly Situation as of 8/12: They are $196,355 over the salary cap for a projected cap hit of $75,196,355. They do not have any players lined up to go on LTIR. They do have 24 players listed on their roster for Dallas. One player being sent down would make them cap compliant. That player would be at risk of waivers; none of those 24 players are exempt from waivers.
The challenge will really come during the season. Should the Stars want to give games to say, say, Julius Honka, Miro Heiskanen, Gavin Bayreuther, or someone else, then they’ll have to be a little creative in making space. If someone picks up a minor injury, then that someone may need to go on IR - and be out for a little longer than necessary - just to have the room to call someone up. It is a tricky situation and the Stars would be wise to have a little more space than just a couple of hundred thousand dollars. The Devils can help.
Potential Targets: In addition to paying attention to that waiver wire, the Dallas blueline certainly has plenty of bodies. The only players with modified no-trade clauses are Marc Methot and Dan Hamhuis. Hamhuis, while 34, is on an expiring contract and his departure would give the Stars more than enough cap space to allow call ups throughout the season. While the Stars will not get a lot of relief from moving their many sub-$1 million defenders, the Devils could pick up a depth guy like Patrick Nemeth, Stephen Johns, or Greg Pateryn. As much I would be intrigued by Esa Lindell or even talked into Jamie Oleksiak, they both signed new deals with Dallas in the past couple months. I doubt they will be as available. It’s also a question of whether the Devils need to add Dallas defenders fighting for the #5 through #7 spots on their team to a Devils blueline that has plenty of people fighting for a similar spot. But if you want young-ish defenders, the Stars have the quantity.
Up front, the Stars signed Alexander Radulov, Radek Faska, and a number of depth players like Brett Ritchie and Tyler Pitlick. I wonder if this means that Antoine Roussel is available? If you’re a fan of players bringing “beef” to the rink, then Roussel seems like such a player. If you’re a fan of possession, Roussel definitely brought it as per Natural Stat Trick. Like with Sheahan, Roussel is on an expiring contract so the risk is that he could be gone on July 1. At the same time, I don’t think he’ll be so highly coveted or costly to keep around. By making a move for Roussel, the Devils would strengthen their depth at forward and not necessarily have to use a younger player. Dallas would get more than enough cap space for call ups plus give some room on the roster for their many forwards.
The Speculated Trade I Just Made Up: I could repeat myself and just say, a 2019 third rounder for Roussel. I think the Devils should consider throwing in or moving one of their Binghamton bound forwards too. Dallas’ farm team, the Texas Stars, did not have a good 2016-17 campaign and if their better prospects could be shuttling back and forth to the NHL team, then they could use some help. Not that the Devils need to make room on their roster, they could send over minor leaguers that really do not have a future in New Jersey. Think of players like Blake Pietila or Blake Coleman. It would sweeten a deal without the Devils needing to give up a NHL player that Dallas does not have the space for on their cap or their roster. Again, this moves an expiring deal for Dallas and creates a little more room at forward while the Devils get a player for this season who could help. If he can be retained and he does help, then great. If not, again, there will be a prospective forward who will be (hopefully) more ready in the following season.
Their CapFriendly Situation as of 8/12: It seems like Chicago is right up against the cap seemingly every year. Even after some big moves that sent Artemi Panarin and Niklas Hjarmalsson away (in separate deals), they are $34,975 over the salary cap for a projected cap hit of $75,034,975. They do not have any players lined up to go on LTIR. They do have 22 players listed on their roster with five defensemen and three goalies.
However, they’ll be more than fine. Back in June, Marian Hossa revealed that he has a skin condition and will not play in 2017-18. Chicago will be able to put that $5.275 million cap hit (for the next four seasons!) on LTIR and will therefore have the room to call up whoever they’d like. With 45 contracts on the books, they can sign some players too. They can even trade Hossa’s contract to be a dead cap hit if they must move something.
If the Devils are where they were about three seasons ago, I’d suggest the Devils should eat that contract. Given that they are hopefully on their way up, I do not think they should take on a dead cap hit for four seasons. So there really isn’t a potential target - Chicago needs to figure out who’s in on their blueline anyway - and there really isn’t a need for them given Hossa’s situation. Chicago can kick the can down the road again.
Two of the four teams over the cap can become compliant easily and the other two teams do not really have defensemen available that the Devils should really desire. There could be players to be had and I think if the Devils at least inquire with Detroit or Dallas, then something could happen. I think the Devils could improve themselves for the short term At the same time, if Shero is planning on making a deal for a defender, then it is not likely going to be through this manner. Unless he really wants the depth defenders of Detroit or Dallas.
OK, this fun exercise of speculation was not so fun. But do not let me derail your fun. Speculate in the comments! What sort of deals do you think the Devils should make? Who do you think would make a good trade partner for the Devils? Who specifically should the Devils aim for? Please leave your speculations and such in the comments. Thank you for reading.