The countdown to the NHL‘s March 3 trade deadline is on.
With front offices gathering intel and conducting pro scouting meetings to map out their plan of attack, teams generally fall into one of three categories: Buyers, Sellers or On The Fence. Today, with some help from our friends at Puck Pedia, we’ll examine where The Buyers stand from a salary cap, asset and needs standpoint.
Toronto Maple Leafs
2023 Draft Picks: 1st, 3rd (own/conditional: Arizona can claim Leafs 2023 third round pick or 2025 second-round pick), 3rd (OTT), 5th, 6th
Pending UFAs: Nine (Alex Kerfoot, Pierre Engvall, David Kampf, Michael Bunting, Wayne Simmonds, Zach Aston-Reese, Justin Holl, Jamie Benn, Carl Dahlström)
Pending RFAs: Five (Pontus Holmberg, Joey Anderson, Conor Timmins, Ilya Samsonov, Victor Mete)
CJ’s take: Adding another forward capable of playing in the top half of the roster would be ideal, but it’s going to come down to acquisition cost. Don’t expect GM Kyle Dubas to surrender a first-round pick for one of the big-name rentals available on the market. If the Leafs can find a good fit with term remaining, that pick will be in play. Toronto has used third-party brokers to reduce the cap hit of incoming players in the past and may need to deploy that strategy again.
PuckPedia’s Cap Take: With Nick Robertson, Jake Muzzin, Mete, and Dahlstrom on LTIR, Toronto has $1.2 million of cap space available in LTIR with a full 23 active players on the roster. This increases to $2.7 million if they drop to 21 players on the roster, and assuming Muzzin does not return this season.
2023 Draft Picks: 1st (own), 1st (DAL), 2nd, 3rd (COL), 6th (own), 6th (WPG), 7th
Pending UFAs: Three (Jaroslav Halák, Ben Harpur, Samuel Blais)
Pending RFAs: Six (Filip Chytil, Alexis Lafreniere, Vitaly Kravstov)
CJ’s take: A rare contender that owns two 2023 first-round draft picks, the Rangers have been linked to some of the bigger-name forwards available. It’s certainly in the front office’s DNA. GM Chris Drury was extremely active at last year’s deadline and saw his team reach the Eastern Conference Final. Adding a top-six winger would make a lot of sense and Patrick Kane could be a particularly nice fit on Broadway if he elects to waive a no-movement clause for a trade out of Chicago.
PuckPedia’s Cap Take: Trading Ryan Reaves early in the season helped open space for the Rangers, who have $1.2 million in projected space with a full 23-player active roster. As a non-LTIR team, that can fit $2.8 million in annual cap hit now or $5.3 million if they wait until the deadline and avoid a rash of injuries. They can also boost that space by going with a leaner roster and accruing space. They may wish to leave some cap space buffer room for potential earned performance bonuses so they can avoid a carry-over cap hit for next year.
2023 Draft Picks: 1st (own), 2nd (own), 3rd (PHI/conditional: Hurricanes will receive the lowest of PHI/FLA/NYR 3rd round pick in 2023 draft), 4th (own), 5th (own), 5th (VAN), 6th (own), 6th (CHI), 7th (own)
Pending UFAs: 10 (Jordan Staal, Jesper Fast, Paul Stastny, Derek Stepan, Calvin de Haan, Frederik Andersen, Antti Raanta, Max Pacioretty, Jake Gardiner, Ondrej Kaše)
Pending RFAs: One (Dylan Coghlan)
CJ’s take: Just because the Hurricanes are flush with cap space doesn’t mean they’re in a mad rush to use it. This is a front office that has traditionally avoided chasing rentals, too. However, GM Don Waddell is expected to pursue another scorer after losing Max Pacioretty for the season. Timo Meier was ranked No. 2 on the Trade Deadline Big Board and could be a good fit in Carolina, especially if he was willing to negotiate a contract extension as part of the trade. Look for the Hurricanes to add some defensive depth as well.
PuckPedia’s Cap Take: With just Gardiner and Kase on LTIR, Carolina has $3.1 million of cap space available in LTIR. However, if they add Pacioretty’s $7 million back to LTIR, they would have $10 million of cap space to work with. The crafty Canes might use the extra space to pick up some assets for being a third-party cap hit broker.
2023 Draft Picks: 1st (own), 3rd (own), 4th (own), 5th (own), 6th (own), 7th (own), 7th (LAK)
Pending UFAs: Eight (David Pastrnak, Nick Foligno, Craig Smith, Patrice Bergeron, Tomáš Nosek, David Krejíi, Connor Clifton, Chris Wagner)
Pending RFAs: Five (Trent Frederic, Marc McLaughlin, Joona Koppanen, Jeremy Swayman, Matt Filipe)
CJ’s take: GM Don Sweeney is going to have to get awfully creative to bolster this juggernaut. Assuming continued good health, it’s hard to imagine him finding the necessary cap room to make a big deadline splash the way he did in recent years with the acquisitions of Taylor Hall and Hampus Lindholm. But with so much riding on this season, the Bruins can’t be ruled out of anything. And even if they only end up adding a depth piece or two, they’ve still got the makings of a potential champion.
PuckPedia’s Cap Take: With Louie DeBrusk ($4 million) on LTIR, Boston has $2.4 million of cap space with a full 23 active roster players. However, to activate him, they would need to drop to 21 players and down to almost zero cap space. That means that unless they move out players buried in the minors like Mike Reilly and Wagner, they’re a pure dollar-in-dollar-out team.
Tampa Bay Lightning
2023 Draft Picks: 3rd (own), 4th (own), 5th (own), 6th (own), 7th (own), 7th (ANA)
Pending UFAs: Six (Alex Killorn, Vladislav Namestnikov, Pierre-Édouard Bellemare, Corey Perry, Ian Cole, Brian Elliott)
Pending RFAs: Three (Ross Colton, Callan Foote, Rudolfs Balcers)
CJ’s take: The Lightning has reached three straight Stanley Cup Finals with the help of bold deadline moves. However, GM Julien BriseBois is running low on draft capital as a result. He doesn’t own a first-round selection in either 2023 or 2024. Still, you can expect the Lightning to be shopping for upgrades at forward and on the blue line. Remember that they acquired Nick Paul from Ottawa last year for Mathieu Joseph and a fourth-round pick — that’s the sort of low-cost trade they’ll be combing the market for again.
PuckPedia’s Cap Take: Tampa is right at the limit with $720,000 of cap space in LTIR and 22 active players on the roster with Brent Seabrook and Balcers on LTIR. Philippe Myers is counting for $1.425 million while buried in the minors, so moving him could free up space. Otherwise, they could get to $1.5 million in space if they go with 21 active roster players
2023 Draft Picks: 1st (own), 2nd (own), 3rd (own), 5th (own), 6th (own), 7th (own)
Pending UFAs: Six (Derek Ryan, Mattias Janmark, Devin Shore, Oscar Klefbom, Mike Smith, Ryan Murray)
Pending RFAs: Four (Jesse Puljujarvi, Ryan McLeod, Klim Kostin, Evan Bouchard)
CJ’s take: When you have a team built around Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in their primes, you’re always in buy mode. The main item on the Oilers shopping list at this deadline is a left-shot defenceman. In order to free up some cap space, look for GM Ken Holland to potentially find a new home for struggling forward Puljujarvi. He is currently ranked at No. 14 on the Trade Deadline Big Board.
PuckPedia’s Cap Take: Edmonton has just $318,000 cap space in LTIR now with 23 active roster players, and that includes Kailer Yamamoto ($3.1 million) and Murray ($750,000) on LTIR. Barring a trade, activating Yamamoto is going to require dropping down to 21 players and waiving/demoting a player with a cap hit of $1.125 million or more. And that would leave them without any space. That means any trade will need to be at a minimum 100% cap neutral.
2023 Draft Picks: 1st (own), 3rd (own), 5th (own), 5th (NYR), 7th (own)
Pending UFAs: Four (Karson Kuhlman, Saku Mäenalanen, Sam Gagner, David Rittich)
Pending RFAs: Six (Pierre-Luc Dubois, Morgan Barron, Axel Jonsson-Fjalby, Kevin Stenlund, Dylan Samberg, Logan Stanley)
CJ’s take: The Jets are one of the top bounceback stories in the NHL this season. They’re thriving under a new coaching staff despite being tested with some significant injuries. A big area of improvement has been found with Winnipeg’s defensive play in front of Connor Hellebuyck and it wouldn’t be surprising to see GM Kevin Cheveldayoff pursue a little more depth for his blue-line. He’s got the cap space needed to take a big swing, but this roster may only need to be tinkered with at the margins.
PuckPedia’s Cap Take: Winnipeg is one of the buyers with the most cap space with $2.1 million projected cap space and a full 23 players on the active roster. This can fit $4.8 million in annual cap hit now or $9.1 million if they wait until the trade deadline
2023 Draft Picks: 2nd (own), 4th (own), 5th (own), 6th (own), 7th (own)
Pending UFAs: Four (Luke Glendening, Joel Kiviranta, Joel Hanley, Anton Khudobin)
Pending RFAs: Two (Denis Gurianov, Ty Dellandrea)
CJ’s take: Yet another team with ambition that will be in the market for a forward. The Stars are getting all kinds of offence out of Jason Robertson this season, but could use a little more balance further down the lineup. Even though their cap picture will make things tricky for GM Jim Nill, his motivation should be high in a Central Division that looks wide open at the moment.
PuckPedia’s Cap Take: Dallas is a potential buyer that is low on cap space but not in LTIR, so there is a real benefit in them going with a lean roster and accruing extra space to the deadline. With $630,000 projected cap space and 21 active players on the roster, they can fit $1.5 million of additional annual cap hit this week, but that increases to $2.8 million by deadline day. To possibly create more space, Khudobin is counting $2.21 million against the cap while buried in the minors, and by deadline day will have $851,000 of real cash remaining on his deal through the end of the year.
Vegas Golden Knights
2023 Draft Picks: 1st (own), 3rd (own), 3rd (BUF), 5th (own), 6th (own), 7th (own)
Pending UFAs: Three (Phil Kessel, Adin Hill, Laurent Brossoit)
Pending RFAs: Three (Nolan Patrick, Brett Howden, Pavel Dorofeyev)
CJ’s take: How GM Kelly McCrimmon navigates this deadline window will hinge heavily on Mark Stone’s status. The captain is listed as week-to-week with an upper-body injury, which raises alarm bells because Stone missed a little more than half of last season with back issues. There’s no indication yet that this will be a long-term absence, but if it becomes one then Vegas could be big deadline players with a whack of cap space. Expect them to add a forward. They may also contemplate an upgrade in goal.
PuckPedia’s Cap Take: As usual, Vegas’ cap situation is completely in flux based on injuries and potential return dates. They’re sitting with $1.4 million in cap space after removing Howden from LTIR, but that includes Patrick and Whitecloud on LTIR. Their recovery timelines, and Stone’s injury situation, gives Vegas a huge range of potential cap space scenarios at the deadline. Moving Brossoit, who is buried in the minors, would free up $1.2 million in space.
2023 Draft Picks: 1st (own), 2nd (own), 4th (own), 5th (own), 6th (own), 7th (own)
Pending UFAs: Three (Ryan Reaves, Frédérik Gaudreau, Matt Dumba)
Pending RFAs: Five (Sam Steel, Brandon Duhaime, Mason Shaw, Calen Addison, Filip Gustavsson)
CJ’s take: The Wild are in the thick of a playoff race despite being a bottom-half team in goals for, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them make a move to strengthen their forward ranks. GM Bill Guerin will also consider moving out defenceman Dumba if someone is willing to send another defenceman back his way. Since Minnesota has to be extremely mindful of their cap position in the coming years because of the Zach Parise/Ryan Suter buyouts, they’re likely to be fishing in the rental market at this deadline.
PuckPedia’s Cap Take: Despite their long-term cap challenges, Minnesota has a significant amount of space for this season. With $3.8 million in projected cap space, they can fit $8.6 million in annual cap hit today or a whopping $17 million if they wait until the trade deadline. With this much space, they are in prime position to also pick up assets for acting as a third-party cap space broker on players in their final contract year.
2023 Draft Picks: 1st (own), 5th (own), 6th (own), 7th (own)
Pending UFAs: Seven (J.T. Compher, Evan Rodrigues, Andrew Cogliano, Darren Helm, Anton Blidh, Erik Johnson, Andreas Englund)
Pending RFAs: Three (Denis Malgin, Bowen Byram, Alex Newhook)
CJ’s take: It’s starting to get late early for the defending Stanley Cup champions. They’ve been absolutely gutted by injuries this season and are no sure bet to return to the playoffs. Simply getting healthy would help, but GM Chris MacFarland has a role to play, too. The current version of the Avs isn’t as deep up front as last year’s team and finding another centre should be high on his wish list. A big deadline acquisition could be the shot in the arm this team needs.
PuckPedia’s Cap Take: Colorado looks flush with cap space, showing $5.6 million of space in LTIR. However, Landeskog ($7 million) returning would mean reducing the roster and being almost capped out. With three players on IR, getting healthy would allow them to demote some players and gain some space.
Los Angeles Kings
2023 Draft Picks: 1st (own), 2nd (own), 3rd (own), 3rd (PIT), 4th (own), 5th (own), 6th (own)
Pending UFAs: Four (Brendan Lemieux, Alex Edler, Jonathan Quick, Phoenix Copley)
Pending RFAs: Eight (Rasmus Kupari, Gabriel Vilardi, Sanuel Fagemo, Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Michael Anderson, Tobias Björnfot, Jacob Ingham, Austin Wagner)
CJ’s take: It’s been a strange season in Los Angeles, where the Kings have somehow stayed on the happy side of the playoff cut-off line despite owning a negative goal differential. They’re carrying one of the worst team save percentages in the entire league and need to at least look for an upgrade in goal. The Kings also have a glut of right-shot defencemen and GM Rob Blake is believed to be in the market for another lefty to stabilize that group. Everyone from Jakob Chychrun to Joel Edmundson has been mentioned as a possibility.
PuckPedia’s Cap Take: LA is currently a non-LTIR team that is almost completely out of space, with just $63,000 in projected cap space. They can fit $150,000 in annual cap hit now or $277,000 at the deadline. However, with Tevor Moore, Carl Grundstrom, and Arthur Kaliyev on IR, a return to health and demoting some players could clear some space. Alternatively, if any of those players are out long-term, they’re set up to switch back to an LTIR team.
2023 Draft Picks: 1st (own), 2nd (own), 3rd (NJ), 5th (own), 6th (own), 7th (own), 7th (FLA), 7th (TOR)
Pending UFAs: Six (Jason Zucker, Theodor Blueger, Danton Heinen, Brian Dumoulin, Tristan Jarry, Josh Archibald)
Pending RFAs: Four (Jonathan Gruden, Ryan Poehling, Drew O’Connor, Ty Smith)
CJ’s take: GM Ron Hextall needs to pull a rabbit out of the hat. The Penguins are officially buyers because they’re running short on runway with franchise legends Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang. However, they’re also in salary cap jail and short on desirable assets that could be flipped to create more flexibility. Adding another defenceman might help them extend the NHL’s longest active playoff streak, but it remains to be seen if they’ll be able to make the numbers add up.
PuckPedia’s Cap Take: After activating Letang, Pittsburgh has just $70,000 of cap space with a full 23 active players roster with Jan Rutta ($2.75 million) and Archibald ($900,000) on LTIR. Kasperi Kapanen ($3.2 million) could add some space but that won’t help make an acquisition if he’s set to return this year. Smith is taking up $1.26 million in cap space as Pittsburgh did not have sufficient bonus space in LTIR for his performance bonuses, so demoting and replacing him could add a little room. Pittsburgh likely needs to move at least equal money out to make any acquisitions.
2023 Draft Picks: 1st (own), 2nd (own), 4th (own), 5th (own), 7th (own)
Pending UFAs: 13 (Lars Eller, Garnet Hathaway, Conor Sheary, Marcus Johansson, Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Sonny Milano, Dmitry Orlov, Nick Jensen, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Erik Gustafsson, Matt Irwin, Connor Brown, Carl Hagelin)
Pending RFAs: Four (Dylan Strome, Alexander Alexeyev, Martin Fehéváry, Kody Clark)
CJ’s take: There are some similarities here with Pittsburgh, their forever rivals and one of the team’s they’re battling for playoff positioning. GM Brian MacLellan simply doesn’t have much room to manoeuvre. Adding another defenceman would be nice, especially given John Carlson’s long-term injury, but it’s likely going to require a money-in, money-out move.
PuckPedia’s Cap Take: Washington has $4.2 million of cap space including John Carlson ($8 million), Hagelin ($2.75 million), and Brown ($3.6 million) on LTIR. If Carlson is going to return during the regular season, they’ll either need to send several players down and go with a lean roster, or move out some money to activate him.
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