With the NHL salary cap set Saturday at $81.5MM for the 2019-20 season, cap room has become a premium. That became just as apparent Saturday when teams began unloading some of their expensive contracts, including Nashville’s P.K. Subban (to New Jersey), Tampa Bay’s J.T. Miller (to Vancouver) and Toronto’s Patrick Marleau (to Carolina). The latter trade of Marleau to the Hurricanes perhaps was the most interesting as Toronto also had to fork over a 2020 first-round pick as part of the package to unload Marleau’s $6.25MM contract.
That deal may become a precedent for teams hoping to move out a bad contract. In fact, because of that trade, The Athletic’s Fluto Shinzawa (subscription required) suggests that the Boston Bruins will likely have to keep forward David Backes on the roster for at least another year. The Bruins still owe $6MM to the 35-year-old Backes for another two seasons, which isn’t helping the team as they must re-sign a number of key free agents, including restricted free agents Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and Danton Heinen and also wouldn’t mind keeping unrestricted free agents Marcus Johansson and Noel Acciari. Backes has struggled the last couple of seasons, but his numbers really fell off this season as he posted just seven goals and 20 points in 70 games and has fallen into a bottom-six role.
While the team wouldn’t mind unloading that contract, Shinzawa writes that the Marleau deal, which has a similar number to Backes’ contract, except for one more year, would almost guarantee cost the Bruins a first-round pick (and possibly more) to unload, which they are unlikely willing to do.
- The Detroit Free-Press’ Helene St. James reports that the Detroit Red Wings and general manager Steve Yzerman won’t change their offseason plan as they wait for defenseman Niklas Kronwall to make a decision on whether he wants to return for a 16th season. The veteran may not make a decision until late in the offseason. One reason to suggest that the 38-year-old could return is that he is 47 games shy of having played 1,000 games. The long-time Red Wings blueliner still fared well last year, scoring three goals and 27 points in 79 games.
- The Athletic’s John Vogl writes that while the Buffalo Sabres need a second-line center to give Casey Mittelstadt time to adjust to the NHL, general manager Jason Botterill said that it is unlikely that Sam Reinhart will be moving there. Reinhart, originally drafted as a center when he was the second-overall pick in 2014, saw his career take off when the team moved him to the right wing position two seasons ago. Since then, he’s tallied 47 goals in those two years. “Look, it’s always a possibility there,” said Botterill. “You have to be open to it and we’ll see how things go with Ralph (Krueger) with that discussion, but I also think in the last year or so, he’s excelled on the wing and I think he’s in a position where he can drive a line from the wing.”
- The Athletic’s Jonas Siegel reports that Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas said Saturday that there is nothing new on the trade front when it comes to moving defenseman Nikita Zaitsev. The team has made it clear to other teams they aren’t just going to use him as a salary dump. “We’re willing to try to accommodate him and work with him, but we need a similar player back,” Dubas said. “We don’t have the depth on D and we don’t want to rush our prospects.”