WHICH TEAM WILL HAVE THE TOUGHEST TIME STAYING UNDER THE CAP NEXT SEASON?
TYLER YAREMCHUK: The Winnipeg Jets. Even if the cap goes up to $83 million, they’ll have just over $26 million to sign Patrick Laine, Kyle Connor, and Jacob Trouba. That will all cost them at least $24 million combined, and that’s being generous. From there, they’ll still need two defensemen, four forwards, and a backup goalie. Now, I understand that they have some up and coming players on ELC’s that can slide in, and they could look at moving someone like Mathieu Perrault, but things are going to be tight in the ‘Peg. Nik Ehlers might be a cap casualty.
IAN SHEPPARD: See question 1. The talk for the last year has been about how the Leafs will maintain their young players with expiring ELC’s especially with the signing of John Tavares. With Matthews now being locked up at $11.6 AAV, it’s just one more domino in the cap issue.
Trying to shoehorn Marner’s potential deal into this group is going to be the tight rope that GM Kyle Dubas needs to tread. The right smart moves will keep the Leafs a Cup contender for at least five years. The wrong one could shrink that window.
WYATT ZIEGER: Tampa’s going to have a hell of a time this summer getting Brayden Point on a team friendly deal this offseason. Point could very well command 10 million plus if he scores over 100 points this season, which he’s on pace for.
Tampa will shed over 11 million in cap space from Stralman, Coburn, and Girardi if that happens though they will only have five roster defensemen. There is also the pay raises for both Kucherov and Gourde that totals nearly 9 million almost cancelling out the money coming off the books. If I’m an NHL GM this summer, I’m throwing the ever sacred offer sheet his way.
WILL MATTHEWS, NYLANDER, & MARNER ALL BE LEAFS NEXT SEASON?
TYLER YAREMCHUK: I think they will be. The Leafs don’t have a “Marner, Matthews, Nylander’ problem; they have a Zaitsev & Marleau problem. If they package Kasperi Kapanen with Zaitsev, they could likely get a pick in return and shed $4.5 million in cap space. If they move out Connor Brown as well, then they’ll have an extra $6.5 million to fill out their roster. They can keep all their big guns if Kyle Dubas plays his cards right, and I think he will.
IAN SHEPPARD: No. I honestly don’t think so. They could end up moving Jake Muzzin, Patrick Marleau, Kasperi Kapanen or Nikita Zaitsev but the way Marner is playing right now I could see someone making a legit offer sheet for him.
For me either Marner leaves via the offer sheet or they end up trading Nylander to ensure they keep Marner. Keeping Muzzin or Marleau and maybe Kapanen keeps the depth of the team. Their window of winning it all can stretch over the next five years if they keep a deep core. I believe ripping the band-aid off with Marner or moving Nylander will help that.
WYATT ZIEGER: I think two of the three will return. Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner are both key components on the team, and I believe Nylander’s contract holdout has put a sour taste in some fans mouths still. The Leafs are going to eventually need to shed salary and are still a top 4 D away from cup contention, and trading Nylander would accelerate the process.
That deal most likely won’t come down at the trade deadline but could be a draft table move; we’ll wait and see.
WHICH TEAMS 2ND HALF RESURGENCE HAS SURPRISED YOU THE MOST?
TYLER YAREMCHUK: I understand that the Flyers are seven points out of the playoffs, but their rise from laughing stock to a team that could work their way into playoff contention has been fun to watch. Carter Hart adds another fantastic layer to this. They have a solid team on paper; if they keep this winning streak going, they could make things real interesting out east.
IAN SHEPPARD: The Blues. At the start of the season, I answered one of these questions with St. Louis as my surprise slumping team to start the year. The talk was about them selling off pieces after coach Mike Yeo was fired. Vladimir Tarasenko and Colton Parayko were expected to be dealt at the deadline.
But since then the team has turned it around winning 9 of 14 games in 2019 and now find themselves one point out of a playoff spot behind the Canucks. These sellers may find themselves as buyers in a few weeks.
WYATT ZIEGER: (Said as Mugato) The Philadelphia Flyers, they’re so hot right now.
Philadelphia is 8-1-1 in their last ten and have shot out of the basement, but more work is still needed as they’re still 8 points out of a playoff spot. Props to Carter Hart who has been rock solid with a 2.48GAA and .925SV% and captain Claude Giroux, coming off a 100 point season, who has 58 points in 54 games so far.
The Flyers still have a lot of work to do to make the playoffs, but with teams like Buffalo and Columbus on a slide if they stay hot, they still have a chance.