5 Big Market Teams Will Be Aggressive

Reset, retool, rebuild, reload… all terms used by NHL General Managers to qualify the state of the franchise that they manage when their team is going through some fairly major changes with their on-ice product. Each one has a slightly different connotation but in all cases, you’re looking at some sort of revamp, whether it is to trade a few veterans for quality youth, completely gut the team and start over or something in between. All of those options come with some growing pains, some dry bread seasons before, hopefully, return to being a Stanley Cup contender.

This upcoming off-season is not going to be any different from any other one but there are five teams in particular that fans and media members should keep a close eye on. Five teams that can afford to spend to the Salary Cap ceiling and usually do so, but they are nowhere close as they are going through some sort of metamorphose. Those teams promise to be big players, throwing big dollars at the top pending UFAs… or even some RFAs.

5- MONTREAL CANADIENS

Projected Cap Hit$63,380,476
Projected Cap Space$16,119,524

This is the second consecutive year that the Canadiens will be trying to make a splash on July 1st. This past summer, they were planning on offering big dollars to John Tavares until he decided that he wasn’t even going to listen to what they had to say. This summer, the number of quality UFAs is much greater and Marc Bergevin is planning on being heard from by the likes of Artemi Panarin and Matt Duchene, amongst others.

4- NEW YORK RANGERS

Projected Cap Hit$61,963,609
Projected Cap Space$17,536,391

Like that’s any news, right? The New York Rangers are always a force to recon with on the UFA market as more players want to play in New York than anywhere else in the league… or so it seems. This time however, they have the cap space and just like Montreal, the Rangers are ready to throw fist-full of money to some of the key pending UFAs. Don’t count out the possibility of Jeff Gorton signing a quality RFA to an offer sheet either and something tells me that the Toronto Maple Leafs better look over their shoulder for Mitch Marner

3- CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

Projected Cap Hit$59,830,128
Projected Cap Space$19,669,872

It seems like not so long ago, the Blackhawks were strapped against the cap but it doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. Still, their core of players making most of the money is aging and their production, particularly on defense, is starting to diminish. Whether they decide to trade some of them away or not, the Hawks have plenty of cap space to add to an already pretty potent lineup and if I’m Erik Karlsson, Tyler Myers or Jake Gardiner, I’m expecting a phone call from Stan Bowman.

2- VANCOUVER CANUCKS

Projected Cap Hit$51,439,165
Projected Cap Space$28,060,835

The Canucks have been hard to read for a few years now. They’re not going through a complete rebuild, but they’re going younger while adding puzzling veteran elements, sometimes overpaying based on the market. The likes of Loui Eriksson ($6M), Antoine Roussel and Jay Beagle ($3M each) are examples of that but even then, the Canucks have tons of cap space. There seemed to be a disconnect when team owner Francesco Aquilini fired President and long term Canucks Trevor Linden citing a philosophical difference. Linden wanted to continue building through the draft while Aquilini wants to put bums in the seats by being competitive. Expect GM Jim Benning to receive clear orders to get at least one prominent player through free agency this summer.

1- PHILADELPHIA FLYERS

Projected Cap Hit$46,842,499
Projected Cap Space$32,657,501

Last but not least, keep a very close eye on the Flyers. They have shown in the past that they’re not afraid to throw offers to RFAs (Ryan Kesler and Shea Weber are two) and they will be aggressive on the free agents’ market. It’s not the willingness of spending money that’s lacking and team President Paul Holmgren will receive free reign to spend from majority owner Ed Snider who, like Aquilini in Vancouver, can’t stand the long rebuild through the draft, prompting the dismissal of Ron Hextall. Chuck Fletcher is an experienced GM with pocket loads of money and there is no doubt that they will be one of the most aggressive teams on the market this summer.

KEY PENDING UFAs

Here is a list of the pending Unrestricted Free Agents for the summer of 2019. Some will re-sign with their respective teams but the number of quality UFAs is high this year in comparison to the last couple of summers. I have separated them in groups, forwards (by points), defensemen (by ice time) and goaltenders (by wins).

Which ones would you like to see with the Canadiens, or who do you believe would accept to play under the scrutiny of the Montreal market? From looking at these lists, I personally think that there are a few forwards that could help while the elusive Top-4 defenseman might have to be acquired through trade. Go Habs Go!

Data from CapFriendly.com. * Jimmy Howard signed a one-year deal with the Red Wings today

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Price Negotiations Begin or Be-Gone?

PriceContract

Well that didn’t take long. Merely hours after the Montreal Canadiens’ elimination in six games in the hands of the New York Rangers, fans were flooding the airwaves and Twitter looking for scapegoats for their team not moving to the second round. Astonishingly enough, most seemed to underrate the Rangers, a team who finished only one point shy of the Canadiens’ 103 points, while playing in the Metropolitan division, the toughest division in the entire NHL. 

Many jumped on the media bandwagon by blaming media’s favourite culprit, team captain Max Pacioretty, because he went goalless in the six games against New York. What they are refusing to see is that Pacioretty finished the series with 28 shots, tied with NHL lead last night with Brent Burns, who is also without a goal. Fact is that Pacioretty worked hard, had quality scoring chances but was beat by a hot goaltender in Henrik Lundqvist, who was in Vezina shape this entire series.

But Pacioretty wasn’t the only one to have the finger pointed at him, at least not by a group of so-called fans. Carey Price, in spite of a 1.86 goals against average and a saves percentage of .933, became a target for fans desperate to point fingers instead of simply giving credit where credit is due.

It is clear that fans are disappointed that their team isn’t moving on to the next round and that’s understandable. But when you read media personalities like Tony Marinaro (amongst others) pointing the finger in the wrong direction, can we blame the fans? Aren’t those media personalities supposed to know their hockey a bit more than some of the fans? Or is it at all possible that they know that feeding into fans’ desperate beliefs will bring them hits and so-called notoriety? Think about it folks!

Price’s future

Carey Price will be entering the final year of a contract paying him on average $6.5 million and the consensus is that he will be due for a substantial raise, whether it’s in Montreal or elsewhere. Since his last contract was a long term deal, the Canadiens can start negotiating with their star goaltender as early as July 1st for an extension and many seem to believe that they must reach a deal as early as possible.

Personally, I think that while Marc Bergevin will have discussions with Price and his agent, there is no rush on either side to reach an official agreement. On one side, Price has everything to gain by seeing what the market will bear for guys like Ben Bishop this summer and what the Canadiens do to improve the team for the long term. On the other side, Price is under contract and prospect Charlie Lindgren is performing extremely well in the AHL, as well as when he was called upon at the end of this season. They will want to see more of him prior to making a decision on goaltending for years to come.

Charlie Lindgren (Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

One this is almost 100% sure though is the fact that Price will not be traded, as suggested by some fans. Bergevin wants to win and his chances of winning are much better with Price than with anyone else in net. Price won’t be asking for a trade either.

The only way I could see trading Price a slim possibility is if some General Manager comes with a trade offer that Bergevin couldn’t refuse, and we can all agree that this is very unlikely. Let’s say, for the sake of talking, that Garth Snow calls and offers John Tavares and something else for Price? With the likes of Bishop, Ryan Miller, Scott Darling and Mike Condon as pending UFAs, Bergevin might (and I insist on might) consider such a deal.

But if you are a betting person, you should put your money on Carey Price being the starting goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens next season. Go Habs Go!