Generally speaking, the Pacific Division is now very limited in terms of cap space. The Los Angeles Kings are really the only team with any significant buying power having $13.5 million of available cap space. The next highest team, the Calgary Flames, have just north of $3 million in room. In fact, three Pacific teams (Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes and Vegas Golden Knights) have zero space heading into a flat cap season.
Readers can decide which Pacific teams will be better, or not, next season:
The Anaheim Ducks are one of the aforementioned NHL teams without cap space. The Ducks had some cushion before they signed 2020 Stanley Cup winner, defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (age 31, 3 years – $3.9M AAV). The Ducks will also need to choose a back-up goaltender amongst the four signed, non-roster players from last season. The easiest choice might be 26-year-old Alex Stolarz.
Shattenkirk will help, but other than that, the Ducks are close to the same team they were last season finishing 27th overall in league standings.
The second team with no cap room is the Arizona Coyotes. As such, the Yotes have only made minor deals thus far. So far, they’ve tackled several small deals the longest of which are two-year contracts for three forwards including Tyler Pitlick ($1.75M), Johan Larsson ($1.4M) along with Christian Fischer ($1M). Will the Coyotes put another outbound deal together in order to free up some cap room? The team has been exploring return options for captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson, but that deal has since been ruled out.
Regardless of further short-term activity, newly appointed GM Bill Armstrong has some work ahead.
The Calgary Flames have made some significant signings so far, and still have slightly over $3 million in cap flexibility to make additional moves. Two of the significant Flames signings have come from division rival Vancouver. Flames GM, Brad Treliving made a strong enough pitch to convince goaltender Jacob Markstrom to sign a six-year, $36M ($6M AAV) ticket. Shortly after inking Markstrom, the Flames agreed to terms with former Canuck defenseman Chris Tanev (4 years – $4.5M AAV). Interesting divisional action!
The last significant signing the Flames made was a two-year contract for gritty forward Andrew Mangiapane at $2.425M AAV. Calgary has one RFA to decide upon in defenseman Oliver Kylington, but they have solidified several key positions and still have room to make decisions as they feel necessary.
The Edmonton Oilers have been fairly active, but perhaps the biggest signing was the deal they made with former 4th overall selection Jesse Puljujärvi (two years – $1.175M AAV). It is refreshing to see the Oiler regime make amends and retain the future services of a young player with great potential.
After losing out on the Jacob Markstrom sweepstakes, the Oilers resigned goaltender Mike Smith on a one-year, $1.5 million plus bonuses deal. Edmonton also went to the market for two key UFA’s – right-handed center Kyle Turris (2 years – $1.65M AAV) and defenseman Tyson Barrie (1 year – $3.75M). Both should help bolster an already impressive Oiler offence. Barrie is particularly important considering the Oilers will likely lose Oscar Klefbom to surgery (pending an 20/21 NHL start date). One big loss, but several solid additions for a 19/20 playoff team.
On Wednesday, Edmonton also signed defenseman Kris Russell to a one-year extension for the purposes of having a d-man available in expansion draft. It basically puts to end any talk that Russell might be traded.
Los Angeles Kings
After another disappointing season, the Kings are in re-fuel mode. Despite having north of $13.5 million in cap room, the Kings have been quiet so far. LA did sign two RFA forwards from last seasons roster earlier in September: Austin Wagner (3 years – $1.13M AAV) and Sean Walker (4 years – $2.65M AAV). Other than that – nada.
How will the Kings spend the available cap room to try and improve upon the last two seasons?
San Jose Sharks
Back in comes Patrick Marleau and out goes Joe Thornton. Odd if you ask me. Nevertheless, the Sharks have been busy making smaller deals including the one-year/$700k deal for Mr. Marleau. The biggest deal the Sharks have made is a four-year ticket for Kevin Labanc at $4.725M AAV. San Jose also solidified a somewhat shaky goaltending situation by acquiring Devan Dubnyk from the Minnesota Wild.
With around $2.3 million left of cap room – will the Sharks make any additional adjustments?
The Vancouver Canucks switched out starting goaltenders by signing 2018 Stanley Cup champion goaltender Braden Holtby (two years – $4.3M AAV). The Holtby signing coincided with Jacob Markstrom’s decision to sign with the Calgary Flames. With these types of decisions, I can not help wonder if the Canucks felt Markstrom was asking too much/long or whether the Canucks think young goaltender Thatcher Demko will soon be ready and the better long-term option?
Outside of the crease, the Canucks have signed four other depth forwards including Adam Gaudette (one year – $950k), Tyler Motte (two years – $1.225M AAV), Zack MacEwen (two years – $825k AAV), and Jayce Hawryluk (one year – $800k). Vancouver was able to benefit from the Alex Pietrangelo deal to Vegas (see below) by trading for defenseman Nate Schmidt.
The Canucks now have slightly over $1 million in cap room and one more RFA to address in former 1st round selection, Jake Virtanen. After the above forward signings, the Canucks seem to have more than enough forward depth – where does that leave Virtanen?
Vegas Golden Knights
As an armchair GM I am not a fan of long-term contracts but understand the necessity. Especially when a highly-coveted free agent becomes available. Well, the Vegas Golden Knights took a big swing and landed the top free agent available this offseason in 30-year-old defender Alex Pietrangelo (seven years – $8.8M AAV).
Prior to bolstering their blue line with Pietrangelo, Vegas also came to terms with goaltender Robin Lehner (5 years – $5M AAV) – as expected. The caveat to the deal is that Lehner will require off-season surgery, so the current plan is to also keep franchise favorite Marc-Andre Fleury. That small detail meant Vegas needed to clean out some cash to make way for Pietrangelo’s new contract which is likely why the Jets reacquired forward Paul Stastny from the Knights.
With $12M in the crease next season, plus Pietrangelo along with several other smaller deals the Knights are now out of available spending room.
Stay tuned for more Free Agency and offseason activity!
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