This is going to be a big week for the NHL. The 2019 Draft is Friday night, and the whole league will be together, seeking fits to make trades and shape their teams for the upcoming season, as exemplified by this article’s featured image.
Elliotte Friedman came out with a 31 Thoughts over the weekend and is a good look at the temperature around the league as is out there. The whole thing is worth a read, so do so here. We’ll dig in on the Penguins’ related aspects mentioned:
There will be more conversation about the 2019-20 salary cap next week in Las Vegas, where the Board of Governors meet the day before the NHL Awards. After the combine, several teams indicated they thought the cap might be closer to $82M than the previously projected $83M. The players have the option to raise the ceiling up to five per cent, but, with concerns about escrow, lifted it 1.25 per cent for last season, and a similar number is expected this time around.
This is important to know as the Penguins will be flirting with the upper limit again. Potentially losing about a million bucks from the first projection wouldn’t be ideal for Pittsburgh, but we’ll still have to wait and see what the exact final number is. For now, we should probably brace for a bit less space than was expected for a while — just a heads up for all you armchair GMs out there.
Another interesting tidbit involves the U.S. TV deal, which is up in two seasons. The Sports Business Journal reported the possibility of a split deal, with NBC keeping the majority and a new partner (ESPN? FOX?) getting a smaller package. Teams are hopeful about what that could do to the cap, especially with Seattle entering the NHL.
This would be cool. Getting back on ESPN means being relevant in ESPN’s eyes again. Going to FOX for a portion would be fun to see due to watching some new faces talking hockey as well. And, a new TV deal (presumably) means more money and face-time for the league.
There’s a ton of trade talk. Among the most aggressive teams: Buffalo, Calgary, Chicago, Minnesota, Nashville, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Toronto, Vancouver, Vegas, Washington and Winnipeg. Depending on how the draft goes, we could see some frenetic attempts to move up and down.
This is as to be expected, GM Jim Rutherford promised change, and changes will be coming. In fact, hours after this was published, Chicago and Pittsburgh teamed up and announced the Olli Maatta for Dominik Kahun and a pick trade.
There’s also a lot of talk that Vancouver will be seeking to add on defense, especially depending on if negotiations with Alex Edler don’t result in a contract extension. It sounds like they need a defensive-defensemen, let’s tell them Jack Johnson will bounce back in Vancouver like Erik Gudbranson did in Pittsburgh! It couldn’t hurt, right?
The Jets are trying to sort out Jacob Trouba’s future. For one thing, I think they’d like to re-engage with Tyler Myers, but it’s not easy without a clearer picture of their roster/salary structure. He will be 30 in February, and Winnipeg doesn’t like giving more than five years at that age. Pittsburgh is interested in Trouba, but it is hard to see a match. The ask is high. Philadelphia was there, and, I wondered if a Trouba/Shayne Gostisbehere-type deal made any sense. (But that’s just me talking, and the latter is not a righty.)
This could be the segment that launches a thousand rumors and hopes for Trouba, until he’s invariably dealt to a team that won’t be Pittsburgh. The Penguins have interest, which is great, but lots of teenage boys have interest in super models, and that’s not going to work out either.
So we’ll see how it goes, like Friedman says, “hard to see a match” is a kind way to put it. Even stretching for logic, the Jets could start by getting Justin Schultz to at least replace Trouba as a top-four right hand defenseman. Then what? The 21st overall pick? Or... I’m really drawing a blank at anything that’s appealing for Winnipeg — especially when they will be getting tons of offers with more term/talent than one year left of Schultz.
Even then, Schultz has a 10-team no-trade clause, and Winnipeg is one of the most blocked markets among NHL players with limited clauses. And Schultz didn’t exactly have a great career in Western Canada, so he might not want a return to that neck of the woods.
And even if the Penguins got Trouba, they would have to sign him, and seeing above there’s not much cap room to deal with.
It’s a good thing Pittsburgh is touching base with a solid young player, but they don’t have the trade ammunition or cap space to realistically pull it off. But, there will be plenty of fish in the sea to go after. Trouba doesn’t feel like a good fit for Winnipeg.
This week should be fun though, and it will be interesting to see what direction the Penguins can go and what is out there to be added to the mix.