After exploring the RFA market it is time to look at what teams have the wherewithal to create a ripple this offseason. In my most recent article (see bottom of page), I outlined three teams that are facing some challenging RFA decisions – Tampa Bay Lightning (Anthony Cirelli, Mikhail Sergachev, Eric Cernak), New York Islanders (Matthew Barzal, Ryan Pulock), Dallas Stars (Roope Hintz now, Miro Heiskanen next season). Of course, those three teams are not the only clubs with ‘vulnerable’ RFA situations.
The Edmonton Oilers need to re-sign Ethan Bear, but currently only have around $750k in cap space. Similarly, the St. Louis Blues need to find a way to re-sign RFA defenseman Vince Dunn – without any available cap space. The Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets both have some cap flex, but still need to re-sign RFA’s Anthony Mantha and Pierre-Luc Dubois respectively. Same goes with Ryan Strome in New York with the Rangers. And the list goes on.
A lot of potentially interesting scenarios could still play out. However, signing an RFA can be complicated. Not only does a team need the available cap space, but they also need the right draft picks to provide an offer sheet (the amount and specific round of picks is determined on an upwards sliding salary scale).
So what teams are in the best position to dole out the cash and have the picks to impact the RFA market? Unsurprisingly, the three teams in the best position to provide an offer sheet were all non-playoff teams last season – the New Jersey Devils, Detroit Red Wings, and Los Angeles Kings.
New Jersey Devils
The Devils are in the best shape financially, league wide, with over $17M of available cap room. The team has all their 2021 picks intact and have an additional selection in the 2nd round. In terms of assets needed, the Devils are in a position where they could provide an offer sheet to a high caliber RFA. In short, the organization is in a position of strength as has been well documented and interested readers can read more here.
Detroit Red Wings
While New Jersey is in a good spot, the Detroit Red Wings might be in the strongest position to provide an offer sheet for a top RFA. The team has $15M in remaining cap room available. As noted, the Wings need to address former 1st round pick and RFA Anthony Mantha, but even if Yzerman decides to re-sign the hulking young center, they would still have enough cap room to make a significant offer sheet to a quality RFA.
Most importantly, the Wings ‘cupboards’ are well stocked with 2021 draft selections. Detroit has a pick in each round, but have a total of three picks in the 2nd round and two selections in the 3rd. Will the Wings make the first move on the RFA front?
Los Angeles Kings
In terms of free agency, the LA Kings have been relatively quiet this offseason. Earlier in September the Kings locked up two notable forwards that were about to become RFA’s in Sean Walker and Austin Wagner. The Kings also acquired two-time Stanley Cup winner Olli Määttä from the Blackhawks in what was basically a salary dump for Chicago. Otherwise the Kings have made only minor transactions this Fall.
The Kings inactivity has left them with roughly $13.5M in cap space. They too are well stocked in terms of 2021 draft selections. Despite missing a 7th round selection, the Kings have at least one pick in each of the top 6 rounds. Additionally, the Kings also have two draft picks in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th rounds in 2021. Could the Kings GM Rob Blake be lurking in the weeds with a specific RFA target in mind?
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