So you want to fantasy trade for a defenceman, do you? First, you need to know what teams might be motivated to move players or have the cap space to add players. (All data is from Cap Friendly, any mistakes are mine.)
2020-21 Cap Space right now: $2,920,001 on a roster of 18
Space per player to reach 23: $584,000
Players to sign: Ryan Miller if a goalie isn’t ready to be promoted, and some minor-league RFAs
With Erik Gudbranson and Ryan Kesler on IR and included in the cap calculation (but not the 18 on the roster) their situation isn’t really dire. Kesler, who hasn’t played this year, could be moved to LTIR to create space for $6.4 million in additions. If Kesler is healthy, the team might be looking to move out a contract.
2020-21 Cap Space right now: $1,510,000 on a roster of 17
Space per player to reach 23: $251,667
Players to sign: Carl Soderberg, Taylor Hall, Vinnie Hinnostroza, Christian Fischer, Ilya Lyubushkin
Arizona has Marian Hossa’s contract for one more year, giving them $5,275,000 in LTIR pool to help beef up their current roster of nine forwards. They’ll need it. They almost have to dump off one of their overpaid, aging defenders just to function as a team. If the new GM really wants to try to re-sign Taylor Hall, they need to create even more space.
It’s incredible that this team didn’t actually want to fire John Chayka. If you want the last year of Niklas Hjalmarsson at 33 years old for $5,000,000 you can probably get Arizona to deal, but I don’t think you can get them to retain salary. He has a full no-move clause, however.
2020-21 Cap Space right now: $15,541,909 on a roster of 20
Space per player to reach 23: $5,150,636
Players to sign: Joakim Nordstrom, Jake DeBrusk, Torey Krug, Zdeno Chara, Matt Grzelcyk
DeBrusk is going to cost them something, but they have all kinds of room to manoeuvre, and Chara is at the low AAV, low term, team-friendly end of his career.
2020-21 Cap Space right now: $34,483,333 on a roster of 10
Space per player to reach 23: $2,652,564
Players to sign: It’s too many to list, but all of their misguided deadline additions, some low-cost forwards and Sam Reinhart, Brandon Montour and Linus Ullmark,
This team is a wide open vista where the new GM can do almost anything. Rumour has it they might not qualify Montour, because his QO is $3,387,500 and he has arbitration rights. They’ve been trying to trade Rasmus Ristolainen for years, so how their cap space will look closer to training camp is anyone’s guess.
2020-21 Cap Space right now: $16,910,834 on a roster of 13
Space per player to reach 23: $1,691,083
Players to sign: Mark Jankowski, Andrew Mangiapane, Oliver Kylington as RFAs and a long list of UFAs, including Cam Talbot and most of their defence depth — TJ Brodie, Travis Hamonic, Derek Forbort, Erik Gustafsson, Michael Stone
There’s three right-shooting defenders on that list, and every one of them is 30. None of them cost assets, though, so maybe you consider it. The Flames clearly need to find some economy players somewhere. Or trade one of Johnny Gaudreau or Sean Monahan for some defencemen under 30.
2020-21 Cap Space right now: $9,149,334 on a roster of 16
Space per player to reach 23: $1,307,047
Players to sign: They have cheap UFAs and RFAs only outstanding, but they include UFA defenders Joel Edmundson, Sami Vatanen and Trevor van Riemsdyk as well as RFA Haydn Fleury.
Carolina’s actual problem has been that they don’t score quite enough. Teuvo Teravainen is an example of a player that just isn’t quite good enough, and they need one better winger. But they aren’t trading Jacob Slavin or Dougie Hamilton. Brady Skjei? Maybe.
2020-21 Cap Space right now: $7,353,205 on a roster of 19
Space per player to reach 23: $1,838,301
Players to sign: Corey Crawford and some RFAs — Drake Caggiula, Dominik Kubalik, Dylan Strome, Malcolm Subban
Chicago, for all they got to the first round of the playoffs by being matched to the only team in the NHL less defensively competent than they are, is really, really bad. If Brent Seabrook fails his medical (almost certain), they have $6,875,000 in potential LTIR pool to use, so they should be making a lot of moves, but what will the new GM do — try to shore up their big three forwards or admit defeat and rebuild?
2020-21 Cap Space right now: $22,364,405 on a roster of 14
Space per player to reach 23: $2,484,934
Players to sign: Many middling to low-end RFAs and UFAs, but Gabriel Landeskog and Cale Makar need deals in the next offseason.
Colorado already made their defender trade, and it sure worked out for them.
Columbus Blue Jackets
2020-21 Cap Space right now: $5,202,500 on a roster of 23
Space per player to reach 23: $0
Players to sign: Pierre-Luc Dubois and a host of low-end RFAs that includes Vladislav Gavrikov and Gabriel Carlsson on defence.
They need to fit Dubois in, and he is making a strong case for a big contract in the playoffs. Will they trade David Savard to make room? He’s UFA after next season, but they really want to dump the Alex Wennberg deal.
Kekalainen admitted that Brandon Dubinsky’s wrist injury is a situation where he “most likely can’t play anymore.” #CBJ— Mark Scheig (@markscheig) August 21, 2020
This gives them the potential of almost $6 million in LTIR pool, so they are now very nicely situated to add forward talent to the team.
2020-21 Cap Space right now: $18,539,168 on a roster of 16
Space per player to reach 23: $2,648,453
Players to sign: A few mid-ranked UFAs and RFAs like Mattias Janmark and Radek Faksa, but their defence is largely set.
Dallas is going to have an issue next offseason, when Miro Heiskanen is due to sign his first real contract. Right now they have no pressing need to make a trade, but they might want to make changes because they struggle to succeed.
Detroit Red Wings
2020-21 Cap Space right now: $36,910,834 on a roster of 10
Space per player to reach 23: $2,839,295
Players to sign: Anthony Mantha seems like the only player they wouldn’t miss if he just moved to Sweden.
The Red Wings would happily trade you any number of players you don’t want, and won’t trade the very short list of players you would want. Will they saddle themselves with contract dumps, though?
2020-21 Cap Space right now: $10,148,835 on a roster of 17
Space per player to reach 23: $1,691,543
Players to sign: Andreas Athanasiou, who is rumoured to be going unqualified and Ethan Bear and Matthew Benning on defence.
Adam Larsson is a pending UFA after next season, so the question for the Oilers is do they think they should keep him and ride out his contract or trade him. The team needs to improve all over, but who knows what Ken Holland thinks will do that.
2020-21 Cap Space right now: $20,961,706 on a roster of 13
Space per player to reach 23: $2,096,171
Players to sign: Mike Hoffman, Evgeni Dadanov, Erik Haula and a lot of RFA forwards. Mark Pysyk (now usually a forward for them) and some unremarkable RFA defenders.
This team is in a cap mess, and the new GM (once they hire one) will have to decide on a path through to the future, but their only good defenceman is Aaron Ekblad, and he’s paid Nylander money.
Los Angeles Kings
2020-21 Cap Space right now: $20,737,273 on a roster of 16
Space per player to reach 23: $2,962,468
Players to sign: Trevor Lewis is the highest profile, but Sean Walker an RFA coming off his ELC at 25 is the most interesting.
The Kings have pretty good flexibility to do what they want, but they already traded their higher end defenders for picks and prospects. Sean Walker is a guy they should just keep, but he’s an interesting right-shooting defender to consider as depth.
2020-21 Cap Space right now: $16,200,578 on a roster of 17
Space per player to reach 23: $2,700,096
Players to sign: Mikko Koivu, Alex Galchenyuk, Jordan Greenway and Luke Kunin
The Wild need to decide if they’re letting UFAs walk, selling off and rebuilding, or if they think they just need to retool. They have some good defenders, but they’re either too old, too expensive, or totally unlikely to ever be traded. Jonas Brodin is due a new contract next offseason, however.
2020-21 Cap Space right now: $18,357,858 on a roster of 16
Space per player to reach 23: $2,622,551
Players to sign: Max Domi and Victor Mete
The Canadiens have room for their two big contracts, but then it gets a little tight to fill out the rest of the roster, and they have to realize they need scoring to be successful. It seems like they might want to trade Jeff Petry before his deal expires next offseason, but what they should do is pay someone to take Karl Alzner.
2020-21 Cap Space right now: $9,267,190 on a roster of 17
Space per player to reach 23: $1,544,532
Players to sign: Mikael Granlund and some other aging UFAs they might just let walk.
Nashville looks like a team happy with their top three defenders, and in the market for cheap depth defence and forwards who score. But what are they selling?
New Jersey Devils
2020-21 Cap Space right now: $25,320,001 on a roster of 14
Space per player to reach 23: $2,813,333
Players to sign: Jesper Bratt might be their most meaningful deal to make.
The Devils are bad, have a lot of picks, and want to keep their rebuild going. They are more likely to trade older players for picks and prospects than make a swap of younger players. But is Damon Severson at 26 part of their future? Are they more likely to retain and trade P.K. Subban if they can?
New York Islanders
2020-21 Cap Space right now: $8,119,167 on a roster of 21
Space per player to reach 23: $4,059,584
Players to sign: Mat Barzal, Matt Martin and some lower level RFAs like Devon Toews and Ryan Pulock.
This is a cap crunch unless Barzal really takes a discount. It seems like they need to deal out a defender, but will they want to move the sort other teams want to acquire?
New York Rangers
2020-21 Cap Space right now: $13,466,867 on a roster of 16
Space per player to reach 23: $1,923,838
Players to sign: Ryan Strome (still an RFA by some alchemy), Jesper Fast, Anthony Deangelo and Alexandar Georgiev.
Getting Strome on a decent deal will mean cheaping out in other places, but they’ve got Lafreniere, and everything else is just noise. Their only desirable defender is Adam Fox and they aren’t trading him.
2020-21 Cap Space right now: $39,595,833 on a roster of 9
Space per player to reach 23: $2,828,274
Players to sign: Most of a roster including Connor Brown, Anthony Duclair and a starting goalie, not likely to be UFA Craig Anderson.
With their string of LTIR dead money deals down to just Marian Gaborik at under five million, and with more cap space than salary committed, the Sens are set up to use their big draft picks, and be the team everyone calls when they want to dump off a deal. But the cash better be lower than the AAV, this is still Melnyk’s team.
2020-21 Cap Space right now: $8,976,310 on a roster of 14
Space per player to reach 23: $997,368
Players to sign: Dun, dun, dun: Nolan Patrick, who has been injured all year, as well as Oskar Lindblom and some lower-ranked players.
This is a conundrum all around. What can Patrick do with no history of playing this year as he comes of his ELC? What should the Flyers do? They have a lot of expensive forwards and might need to sacrifice someone to put a team together.
2020-21 Cap Space right now: $13,224,825 on a roster of 15
Space per player to reach 23: $1,653,103
Players to sign: Matt Murray, Tristan Jarry, and a host of peripheral RFAs with arbitration rights.
They have a desperately weak defence, and should be the Leafs competition for forwards or the RFA rights to forwards for defender trades. They aren’t trading John Marino, but I wish they were.
They need a decision on Murray, and a way to re-sign their goalies, and that might mean a trade to remove salary.
San Jose Sharks
2020-21 Cap Space right now: $14,881,667 on a roster of 13
Space per player to reach 23: $1,488,167
Players to sign: Melker Karlsson, Joe Thornton, some good RFAs and some weak ones.
The cap hit includes injured Erik Karlsson, so the roster is not quite as empty as it seem, but they aren’t just in a cap crunch, they’re loaded down with massive contracts and are really bad. They can either blow it up, or add nothing but cheap depth.
St. Louis Blues
2020-21 Cap Space right now: $2,047,501 on a roster of 21
Space per player to reach 23: $1,023,751
Players to sign: Alex Pietrangelo, and some others that don’t matter.
The Blues have one decision: Clear some space and sign Pietrangelo or enter the next phase of the team without him. It seems like they made that choice when they extended Justin Faulk.
Tampa Bay Lightning
2020-21 Cap Space right now: $5,333,334 on a roster of 15
Space per player to reach 23: $666,667
Players to sign: Mikhail Sergachev and a host of low-end UFAs and RFAs
Now that’s a cap crunch! The Lightning have to move out a player or players to cut salary to sign Sergachev and fill out the roster. They have some expensive middle-six players, and they likely have Ottawa’s phone number. Or will they call Detroit?
2020-21 Cap Space right now: $17,075,128 on a roster of 16
Space per player to reach 23: $2,439,304
Players to sign: Tyler Toffoli, Chris Tanev and a lot of RFAs. Oh, and their starter Jacob Markstrom.
This is a pretty tough fix that Vancouver is in, but only because Elias Petterson and Quinn Hughes need contracts next offseason. They have to start deciding now who is part of the future.
Vegas Golden Knights
2020-21 Cap Space right now: $6,375,000 on a roster of 17
Space per player to reach 23: $1,062,500
Players to sign: Some low-end UFAs and RFAs and Robin Lehner.
If the Golden Knights want to run a tandem, they can just barely do it if Lehner takes a reasonable deal and they cut the roster size down. Their roster is very similar to Tampa’s in that it’s balanced with few bad deals, but an expensive middle-class of players. They could likely cut one and carry on.
2020-21 Cap Space right now: $10,394,872 on a roster of 16
Space per player to reach 23: $1,484,982
Players to sign: Ilya Kovalchuk, Radko Gudas, and some low-level players. Oh, and Braden Holtby.
I think I found the most capped-out team. That is, if they want to re-sign Holtby. If they want to pin their future hopes on Ilya Samsonov, they can just let all the UFAs go and move out one of their middle-six forwards to make space to fill up the roster. All of their choices are really predicated on what Alex Ovechkin plans to do next offseason.
2020-21 Cap Space right now: $15,577,145 on a roster of 13
Space per player to reach 23: $1,577,145
Players to sign: Cody Eakin, Jack Roslovic, Dmitry Kulikov, and a very long list of low-ranked RFAs and UFAs.
This team needs to sort out their defence because it’s hideous. They might also be competing with the Leafs to trade forwards for defenders.
Aside from Detroit and Ottawa, no one is rolling in cap space this season. It’s going to be tough to dump off salary, and we should expect to see buyouts, expensive and overpaid RFAs go unqualified and become UFAs, and a really tight UFA market.
The Leafs have competition in the quest to sign or trade for defenders, and need to have scouted better than anyone else to find the undervalued gem.