The New York Islanders need to find ways to clear up some cap space. Trading away a big contract to a team that has space is one option. Here are teams with a lot of space in 2020-21.
At this point, we all know the precarious position the New York Islanders are in with their cap. To sign Mathew Barzal, Ryan Pulock, and Devon Toews to extensions and stay under a flat salary cap ceiling, the Isles will need to clear out some room.
If compliance buyouts aren’t going to be a factor, the best option for the Islanders is going to be trading away one of their bigger contracts. Guys like Johnny Boychuk or Nick Leddy.
But the Islanders aren’t the only teams in a tough position with the salary cap. At the moment, only 12 teams have more than $2 million or more in cap space. Finding a team that’s willing to take on a big contract is going to be difficult.
With that being said, here are four teams that are scheduled to sit below the cap floor in 2020-21 who could use big contracts to float above the floor.
For this, I’m keeping the 2020-21 cap flat at $81.5 million. The cap floor also stays the same for 2020-21 at $60.2 million.
Ottawa Senators | $18.295 million below cap floor
RFAs: 11 (Anthony Duclair)
The Ottawa Senators are going to have a ton of cap space going into the 2020-21 season. With $39.404 million in cap space, they’re scheduled to sit almost $20 million below the cap floor.
They have 22 pending free agents, both RFAs and UFAs. And as you’d expect with a team at the bottom of the standings, the Senators aren’t loaded with talented players poised for big paydays.
Anthony Duclair, with 23 goals and 40 points is perhaps the only RFA that could see a significant increase from his $1.65 million deal. Maybe Connor Brown gets an OK raise as well. But outside of those two, it’s going to be hard for the Senators to hit the floor.
Detroit Red Wings | $13.94 million below cap floor
RFAs: 12 (Anthony Mantha)
What I just said about the Ottawa Senators can also be applied to the Detroit Red Wings. With 22 pending free agents, they are scheduled to have $35.240 million in cap space to start the 2020-21 season.
Anthony Mantha with his 16 goals and 38 points in 43 games is going to get paid more than his $3.3 cap hit. But that’s not going to account for what’s missing in order for Detroit to hit the cap floor. Add Tyler Bertuzzi to that list of RFAs getting paid in 2020-21, and it’s still not making up the $13 million below the cap floor Detroit is looking at.
The Red Wings UFA pool doesn’t have a player that can eat up a large portion of the cap either. Three of those ten UFAs, Jonathan Ericsson, Trevor Daley, and Jimmy Howard are all 36 years old, even if they re-sign it’s not likely going to be at an increased cap hit.
Buffalo Sabres | $13.183 million below cap floor
RFAs: 15 (Sam Reinhart)
Buffalo is different than the first two teams. While the Sabres are projected to have $34.483 million in cap space, they have a few key players still to pay.
Sam Reinhart’s two-year bridge deal is over. The pending RFA scored 115 points in 151 games over his two-year bridge deal, he’s certainly going to get a nice payday. Victor Olofsson is at the end of his ELC and could get a smaller bridge deal, but that could still be in the $3+ million range.
Add another six RFAs on the main roster, making up that $13.183 million gap to the cap floor might not be too difficult to do for Buffalo.
But they could probably use someone like Nick Leddy or Johnny Boychuk to solid their back end. And they’ll have the space to do so.
New Jersey Devils | $4.945 million below cap floor
RFAs: 9 (MacKenzie Blackwood)
MacKenzie Blackwood is now in sole possession of the crease in New Jersey. In 2019-20 he averaged a 2.77GAA and 0.915SV% in 47 games on a bad Devils team. That’s impressive. He’s going to get paid this offseason. It may be a bridge deal, but it’s still going to be in the millions.
Jesper Bratt doesn’t have eye-popping numbers but he’s still young and might be able to become a 20 goal scorer in the NHL. He was on pace for 19.5 before the season was suspended. He too is going to get a few million from the Devils
Just like the Sabres, I don’t see the Devils having a difficult time filling that $4.945 million gap to sit above the cap floor. But they’ll likely have plenty of room to take a cap heavy deal.