Navigating the Salary Cap is probably one of the more important tasks for any general manager to have. Teams that can avert total cap chaos by walking the tightrope of inking players to deals that match their value (or compensate for future value without breaking the bank) remain successful. Those that don’t see struggles and front office changes.
PHR will look at every NHL team and give a thorough look at their cap situation heading into the 2017-18 season. This will focus more on those players who are integral parts of the roster versus those who may find themselves shuttling between the AHL and NHL. All cap figures are courtesy of CapFriendly.
Current Cap Hit: $69,375,832 (under the $75MM Upper Limit)
While the brand-new franchise is focused on building up a powerhouse team over the next five years, which means draft picks and more draft picks, which will create a revolving door at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, there should be at least one constant who is already locked in for the future in Theodore. The just-turned 22-year-old is considered to be a long-term piece and despite the team’s overwhelming defensive logjam, the hope is Theodore is on the team’s opening day roster. Theodore shined last year during Anaheim’s playoff run when he along with several other defenseman had to step in for injured players and fared well. Theodore, a offensive defenseman, was a first-round pick of the Ducks in 2013 and despite having just nine points in 39 regular season games last year, he put up eight goals in 14 playoff games.
Tuch, a talented forward acquired near the expansion draft in a side deal with the Minnesota Wild, has a chance to immediately make the team out of training camp. The 21-year-old wing was a first-round pick in 2014 and scored 18 goals for the AHL’s Iowa Wild last year.
One Year Remaining, Non-Entry-Level
F James Neal ($5MM, UFA)
F Mikhail Grabovski ($5MM, UFA)
D Jason Garrison ($4.6MM, UFA)
F David Perron ($3.75MM, UFA)
D Luca Sbisa ($3.6MM, UFA)
D Clayton Stoner ($3.25MM, UFA)
D Brayden McNabb ($1.7MM, UFA)
D Jonathon Merrill ($1.14MM, RFA)
F William Karlsson ($1MM, RFA)
D Colin Miller ($1MM, RFA)
D Deryk Engelland ($1MM, UFA)
G Calvin Pickard ($1MM, RFA)
F Jon Marchessault ($750K, UFA)
F Teemu Pulkkinen ($700K, RFA)
The Golden Knights will be looking to move as many of their players at the trade deadline as they can. Neal should be their biggest trade bait as many teams wouldn’t mind adding a goal-scorer right in time for the playoffs. The 30-year-old wing is coming off a 23-goal season in Nashville and has scored 165 goals in the last six seasons combined. The team hopes that playing on a top line should keep his scoring numbers up high so that his price increases at the perfect time, but a recent report that a wrist injury suffered during the playoffs last year is still affecting Neal and he will miss two to four weeks is concerning. The team also has high hopes it can move Perron. After putting up a career-high 28 goals in 2013-14, he has struggled with injuries but rebounded last year with an 18 goal season. If he can stay healthy and produce similar numbers, he might be worth a mid to late pick.
One key decision the team will have to make is what to do with Marchessault, who is coming off a 30-goal season a year ago in Florida. At $750K, he is a bargain for the next year, but if he can duplicate his numbers from last year, he would be in line for a big payday. Complicating the situation is that Vegas head coach Gerard Gallant is a big fan of the 26-year-old and was the head coach in Florida wlast year when Marchessault started his breakout season.
The team also has a number of restricted free agents who they will likely hold onto. While Pickard’s name is rarely mentioned in Vegas as he is the current backup, don’t be surprised if Pickard is penciled in as the goaltender of the future. The 25-year-old struggled with Colorado last year (although he did have one of the worst teams around him), but was a promising prospect before that. Miller is another who should be retained. The 24-year-old was a promising defender in Boston who was just beginning to get full-time work. He got into 61 games last year and showed quite a bit of promise. Karlsson should get a bottom line spot in the lineup. The 24-year-old is coming off a 25-point season and the team hopes he takes his game up a notch.
While Grabovski likely won’t see the ice ever in Las Vegas (freeing the team of his $5MM cap hit), Garrison is a defender who may prove to have some value if he can produce on one of the team’s top defensive lines. The 32-year-old struggled at times in Tampa Bay and his offensive numbers have declined in the past couple of years. McNabb is considered to be an excellent defender and should provide solid defense for Vegas. He missed a lot of time due to a broken collarbone injury he suffered last October, forcing the 26-year-old in and out of the lineup all season and he eventually lost his starting job at the end of the year, but should get regular minutes with the Golden Knights. Sbisa is another player who should get playing time in hopes the team can move him later this year. The 27-year-old blueliner was a solid defenseman, but few teams were interested in his $3.6MM pricetag.
Two Years Remaining
G Marc-Andre Fleury ($5.75MM, UFA)
F Vadim Shipachyov ($4.5MM, UFA)
D Nate Schmidt ($2.23MM, UFA)
F Oscar Lindberg ($1.7MM, UFA)
F Pierre-Edouard Bellemare ($1.45MM, UFA)
D Griffin Reinhart ($800K, RFA)
D Brad Hunt ($650K, UFA)
We’ll see where Fleury’s game is in two years, but the 32-year-old goaltender actually struggled last year with the Penguins. He finished the season with a 3.02 GAA in 38 games and had a .909 save percentage, well under his usual numbers. The question is, can he improve on that much when he doesn’t have Pittsburgh’s solid defense behind him and is, in fact, behind an expansion defensive line? Obviously, he made a name for himself in the playoffs when he had to sub in for an injured Matt Murray and thrived for a round until Murray returned. Pickard might be ready to supplant Fleury in two years if he hadn’t already done it.
Shipachyov is a different story. The 30-year-old KHL forward has been a big-time goal scorer for many year and now brings his talent to Las Vegas. However, he only inked a two-year deal and no one is quite sure how his game will translate to the NHL. They likely will avoid trading him in the first year of the deal, but don’t be surprised if he gets moved before his contract expires.
Schmidt is finally going to get a chance to prove he’s a top four defenseman. On a crowded defensive line, Schmidt was still a very good player, but he must prove himself now that he will be among the better defenders on the team. Lindberg is another young player who will be given a better opportunity to thrive. The 25-year-old center who was selected from the New York Rangers has tallied 21 goals in two season combined and the hope is he breaks out with the Golden Knights.
Three Years Remaining
The one thing is the team has few long-term deals and Clarkson’s deal shouldn’t count against the cap as the 33-year-old veteran missed all of last season and played in just 23 games in the 2015-16 season. He has been plagued by lower back issues for the last few years. The Golden Knights took the contract of Clarkson off the Columbus Blue Jackets’ hands for a first-round pick in 2017 and a second round pick in 2019.
Eakin, on the other hand, is a gamble made by general manager George McPhee. Originally drafted by McPhee in Washington back in 2009, Eakin has had an up and down career, including three seasons where he scored 16 or more goals, but the 26-year-old center really struggled in Dallas last season with just three goals in 60 games. McPhee likely thinks he can revive his career. Haula came from Minnesota in the expansion draft, but the 26-year old center has consistently improved in the four years he’s been in the league, finishing with 15 goal and 11 assist season. The team signed Haula to a three-year deal during their free agency window before the expansion draft. By taking Haula and avoiding Minnesota’s glut of defensemen, they also acquired Tuch as part of the overall deal.
Four Or More Years Remaining
F Reilly Smith ($5MM through 2021-22)
Only one deal goes over four years as the team took the challenge of trading for Reilly Smith at the expansion draft for a 2018 fourth-round pick as part of a side deal. Smith is still just 26 and has scored 40 goals over the past two years combined, although he had a down year last year with just 15 goals and 22 assists. The team hopes Gallant, Smith’s former coach, can get him to play at the level when Smith was at his best.
Retained Salary Transactions
Alexei Emelin ($1.1MM for 2017-18)
Still To Sign
The team should thrive in Vegas as the team has made Fleury the face of the franchise and hopes to build the team’s initial success on Fleury, Neal and Shipachyov. The team is committed to build for the future. Their flurry of deals, however, netted them three first-round picks this year and a bunch of others and the hope is that if some players can have big years, the team can unload those for even more picks.