Barely a week and a half since the Tampa Bay Lightning became Stanley Cup Champions has the NHL moved forward with their Entry Draft and today is the first day of Free Agency. All unrestricted free agents (UFAs) can go sign with their team of choice, and restricted free agents (RFAs) can be given offer sheets.
The maximum length of contracts that can be given to any player, regardless of whether they’re re-signing with their original club, is seven years, with a maximum cap hit of $16.3 million. It’s impossible that a team is going to sign a max contract in terms of cap hit, but we might see some max term contracts as teams scrounge for every dollar against the cap that they can.
A further consideration teams will be having during negotiations is the fact that a lot are cash poor at the moment. They did not get a quarter of their regular season revenue, and no gate revenue from the playoffs. And on the player side, they’re going to be losing 30% of their salaries this season due to escrow that aims to make up for the losses incurred by the lack of league revenue. No one wants to get paid right now, but they also want to get paid. It’s definitely a fine line.
The Tampa Bay Lightning likely won’t be major players this years as they have most of their roster locked up for at least next season, there’s only the two big RFAs — Anthony Cirelli and Mikhail Sergachev — who need to be signed and some complimentary defensemen. The main part of their business is shedding salary — the unkept secret being Tyler Johnson. If the Lightning do nothing more than bring the band back for an encore, it’ll be a great day of business. Taylor Hall wouldn’t be too shabby, either, if JBB wants to pull that off. :)
In actual business, the Lightning signed goaltender Spencer Martin to a one-year extension making league minimum ($700k) with a minors salary of $100k. Martin was well-liked in Syracuse and will be a good part of the tandem the team will be looking to assemble this weekend. One more guy, hopefully with NHL backup experience, should be what they’re looking for.
I wrote about the Syracuse Crunch offseason needs. It’s pretty exclusively goaltending (hello, Spencer!) after the Lightning fill out their roster and sign their RFAs. There is going to be an interesting discussion once we see what AHL contracts are going to look like, especially since AHL revenue was down massively last year and this year isn’t expecting to be much better. [Raw Charge]
We had three trades in the NHL yesterday, all of which were very interesting in their own rights. But first, let’s see what the Columbus Blue Jackets were up to.
Columbus Blue Jackets buyout Alexander Wennberg.
To New Jersey Devils: Ryan Murray
To Columbus Blue Jackets: 2021 fifth round pick
So the Blue Jackets cleared up about $12 million in cap space one day before free agency opened. They gave up a lot of defensive talent and cut ties with an underperforming center all for what? Do they need to shed money? Or are they going after a big fish? Considering the defense they’ve given up to make this money work, I can’t help but wonder if it’s in a bid for Alex Pietrangelo. Or maybe it’s an offer sheet for one of our guys. I have no idea, but it’ll be really interesting to see what happens.
The final trade of the day was an Ottawa Senators special:
To Ottawa Senators: Erik Gudbranson
To Anaheim Ducks: 2021 fifth round pick
Making $4 million against the cap, but only $3 million in salary, the Senators got a big, bad (emphasis on bad) defenseman to bring the team closer to the cap floor without adding as much in salary.
In signings, a few dozen RFAs were re-signed by their teams to minor deals, but one jumped out later in the day. That contract was the seven-year, $5.5 million AAV contract given to Josh Anderson by the Montreal Canadiens. Anderson was traded to Montreal from Columbus on Draft Day for Max Domi, who signed a two-year bridge deal that walks him to free agency. Anderson is tagged as a power forward, but he hasn’t hit 30 goals or 50 points once in his career. He was close in 2018-19 but that’s hardly enough of a track record of success to warrant a contract like that. [Habs Eyes on the Prize]