Now that we’ve ever so slowly reached mid-August, most of the heavy lifting has been done by Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon and his seven counterparts in the Atlantic Division.
Let’s take a look at what offseason work hasn’t gotten checked off yet on each of the eight teams to-do-lists.
Getting restricted free agent forward Denis Malgin to put pen to paper is the last thing Tallon has left to do. It seems pretty obvious that Malgin isn’t going to sign his qualifying offer and wants more money, but he has little leverage here, so expect the two sides to come to terms before training camp. Perhaps, the Panthers are contemplating one more move and are waiting to see how many dollars they’d have left to allocate to Malgin.
The Cats usually bring at least one player to camp on a PTO. I’d expect them to do the same this season as the club could potentially use another experienced forward or two in the bottom-six, to push the kids during camp at the very least. The Panthers are still young in spots 6-8 on the defensive depth chart as well, but they have numbers and potential there, so I don’t expect to see any try-out type d-men brought in,.
Current Projected Cap Space: $2,405,456
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
After taking care of the local team, I was going to go in alphabetical order the rest of the way, but the Maple Leafs have the most glaring, and newsworthy, piece of work left to take care off, so let’s go there next.
GM Kyle Dubas needs to wedge a new contract with 94-point scorer Mitch Marner under the salary cap. While it doesn’t look like it on the surface, the money (a complicated witches brew of cap space and LTIR relief) is indeed there to give Marner an eight-figure deal, however, it doesn’t seem the two sides are close to getting it done anytime soon. Marner’s new pact is likely to be the domino that will release the log jam of other unsigned RFAs around the league once it falls. It’s an important contract for the player and bigger picture, to the NHLPA. The potential for a holdout similar to what the Buds went through last year with William Nylander is medium to high.
In hindsight it might of been better if Dubas had signed Marner to a new deal before taking care of Auston Matthews, as he probably wants to avoid paying the former more than the latter, even though a strong case can be made for doing so.
Other than that, the Maple Leafs are set for 2019-20. Kudos to Dubas for getting useful young forwards Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson signed to team-friendly deals earlier in the summer. If he ever needs more space going forward those players (and their contracts) are highly-tradeable.
Current Projected Cap Space: $0
Don Sweeney has gotten things squared away as far as his forward group goes, but he has two key defensemen left that need new contracts and not a ton of cap space to work with.
21-year-old Charlie McAvoy, who has done nothing but look like a star since he entered the league out of Boston University, has already finished his entry-level contract, thanks to his appearance in the 2017 playoffs burning off the first year, and will be looking for long-term, big money deal.
Brandon Carlo appeared in 230 out of a possible 246 games while playing through his ELC and has become a staple on Boston’s backend. He too will be looking for a new contract that reflects his ability and importance to the Bruins.
It will be interesting to see how Sweeney divvies up his remaining cap space between the two young blueliners.
Current Projected Cap Space: $7,294,167
General manger Jason Botteril has everyone signed, but the Sabres, who didn’t make the playoffs last season or the seven prior for that matter, are currently over the cap, but that’s based on the 24-man roster that’s currently shown on CapFriendly.
Botteril has to send someone down to the AHL, make a trade or use LTIR (or a combination of these things) to get his team compliant before the start of the season. There is plenty of time left for that to happen and rumors abound that defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen ($5.4 million AAV) badly wants out of Buffalo.
Current Projected Cap Space: $0
DETROIT RED WINGS
New general manager and former Red Wings superstar Steve Yzerman didn’t make any major waves in his first summer guiding the team. This year will be one of assessment of where the Original Six organization is actually at after consecutive playoff misses.
Stevie Y has a much-more complicated offseason awaiting him in 2020 when he will have seven RFAs, including young forwards Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou and Tyler Betuzzi, and three UFAs to make decisions on.
Yzerman has everyone signed with some cap space left over to play with if he so desires.
Current Projected Cap Space: $4,270,457
While it ultimately failed, I have to give a thumbs up to Marc Bergevin for at least having the stones to sign Carolina Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho to an offer sheet. The only one (so far) in an offseason where more should have happened.
Bergevin looks to be done for the offseason and the Canadiens will ice much of the same roster they did last season, when they fell short of the postseason by a single point. Montreal joined the 2014–15 Boston Bruins and 2017–18 Florida Panthers as the only 96-point teams in NHL history to miss the playoffs.
The Habs GM brought in Keith Kinkaid to replace former short-time Panther Antti Niemi as the backup to goaltender Carey Price. A move he hopes will result in a bit more rest for Price during the regular season.
Montreal has leftover cap space and looks to be good shape in that department going forward. Bergevin, who seemed to be on the verge of getting fired not too long ago, has really turned things around in Montreal.
Current Projected Cap Space: $4,044,524
All that’s left for Pierre Dorion to do is sign 22-year-old forward Colin White to a new contract. White is coming off a 41-point season and is a player who should figure prominently in Ottawa’s future.
In Thomas Chabot, the Senators have a defenseman in the final season of his ELC with superstar potential. Dorion should make signing him to a long-term extension a major priority this season. No need to let that linger as Chabot is one of, if not the centerpiece of Ottawa’s rebuild.
Next offseason will be a huge one for Dorion as the Senators will have five picks in the first two rounds of the draft, gobs of cap space, and a bunch of contracts (six RFAs and four UFAs including aging starting goalie Crag Anderson) coming to an end. Hopefully, Ottawa will get back to paying players to actually play for them and stop taking on other teams troublesome contracts.
Current Projected Cap Space: $15,640,001
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
Our neighbor on the Gulf Coast still has one major piece to sign this offseason and that’s forward Brayden Point. The 23-year-old exploded for 92 points in the final year of his ELC and is looking to cash in.
GM Julien BriseBois is likely waiting for the Maple Leafs to set the marketplace when they finally comes to terms with Marner.
The Lightning, who are one contract away from the league-limit of 50, built up an impressive glut of goaltending depth this summer by acquiring veterans Curtis McElhinney and Mike Condon. It appears that McElhinney will supplant Louis Domingue as Andrei Vasilevskiy’s backup, making the 27-year-old Domingue or Condon expendable.
Tampa Bay completely dominated the league during the regular season, but after getting swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the playoffs, the big question to me is whether BriseBois has done his team a favor or disservice by keeping things much the same.
Current Projected Cap Space: $9,376,669