With only two weeks left the to close of the NHL Trade Deadline on February 24, we’re going to take two looks at every major storyline working its way around the league — one today and one a week from today.
This is the time of year where there is a lot to process all at once so in an effort to wrap all the major happenings into a tiny little bow, we’ll provide a summary of the biggest and juiciest stories worth watching.
The Patrick Kane Salary Cap Loophole
Recently, TSN’s Frank Seravalli reported a possible salary-cap “loophole” Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas might use if he’s made aware that defenseman Morgan Rielly isn’t able to return during the regular season. Previously tagged the “Patrick Kane loophole” because the Blackawks did this once before, essentially, it will give Dubas up to $9 million in spendable dollars before Feb 24.
The rule states that there is no salary cap for teams during the playoffs. So, if Dubas adds salary to the team while Morgan Rielly, Cody Ceci and Ilya Mikheyev are on LTI, he doesn’t have to worry about what he spends as long as those players don’t return before the regular season ends. In the playoffs, all three could return and the Maple Leafs can continue to ice all of the players, including those he acquires over the next two weeks.
There is speculation Toronto isn’t the only team looking into this as St. Louis might be in a similar situation with Vladimir Tarasenko. The storyline to watch here is reports on the status of the injured players over the next two weeks.
Who Are the NHL Sellers? When Will the Market Flood?
With two weeks to go, there are surprisingly only a handful of sellers at this stage of the season. Among them, the New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators, Detroit Red Wings, San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, and Anaheim Ducks.
Other teams are close and might be sellers by this time next week but there are a ton of NHL franchises still in the race. Which teams will be trying to sell before the market floods? We should hear lots coming out of these teams over the next four or five days.
Imagine you’re the Detroit Red Wings or the San Jose Sharks and you’re trying to move a couple of pieces, some that might not normally have a ton of value due to age or salary commitments. You can get better value now because as many as 20 teams are trying to scratch and claw their way in but in a few days, as many as eight other teams could make players available. The value on what you’ve been offering goes down tremendously thanks to supply and demand.
Does that mean teams keep waiting? Or, will some NHL clubs get trigger happy and grab what they can now and while teams lower the ask a touch on their rentals before the market floods?
Kreider, Pageau, Kovalchuk… Will They Sign?
There are a few teams that may move pieces but only if they don’t sign new deals with their respective clubs. This storyline should start to sort itself out over the next couple of days.
Chris Kreider is still wanted in New York and the Rangers are currently talking with him about an extension. If one isn’t worked out, he’ll likely move.
Ilya Kovalchuk isn’t willing to talk about a future in Montreal. As a veteran, he has to know he’s as likely to be moved as the team is interested in keeping him. What will he decide?
Jean-Gabriel Pageau hasn’t even started talking to the Ottawa Senators about an extension. Does that mean he’s certainly going to be moved? If so, what are teams offering?
A Lack of Options
One theme that is starting to stand out is a lack of options at certain positions. The center position isn’t ripe with available players at this year’s deadline which means a team is bound to overpay for someone like Pageau. So too, defensemen are available but there aren’t a ton of good rentals out there for the taking.
At some point, there will be more teams still trying to get in than there will be teams who have players to offer that fill needs. Then what? It might become a situation about who acts first.
A team like Calgary could be quick to make a move because they have cap space, whereas a team like the Edmonton Oilers are tight up against it. How does that affect a very close Pacific Division? These two teams aren’t the only ones who would have to make these types of decisions based on their NHL standings and that could create early action on the trade market.
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