Free Agency seems to have frozen solid either in indecision or cap hit hell. There are good players left to sign and there’s a lot of teams left with both moves they should make and moves they must make. Let’s take a trip though CapFriendly and see who is who.
Carolina Hurricanes: The Canes have Martin Necas to sign, and $4 million in space. But they have space like the Leafs have space — it’s an illusion, and they need to add a couple more players, maybe just from their own minor league.
Colorado Avalanche: The Avs could be set the way they are. Or they could be waiting until the player days with the cup are over in order to trade someone to re-sign Nazem Kadri. Whichever, they are not as good as they were, and their goalie risk is higher, but they’re still a top team.
Tampa Bay Lightning: The Bolts are all ready to bore their way through another stupid regular season (why do we have those?) and test themselves again in the playoffs. They’re ready as-is.
Toronto Maple Leafs: The Leafs have to trade someone at a stupid time in the summer to make a trade. They also have to sort out Rasmus Sandin’s future on the team. Watch for Friday when Qualifying Offers expire, if Sandin isn’t signed by then, this might drag on all summer.
Trying to be good - Not everyone will be, but some here will vault into contention
Boston Bruins: Comfortable with space and only the newly acquired Pavel Zacha to sign, the Bruins are rumoured to be re-signing Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci as well.
Calgary Flames: With Johnny Gaudreau making the cruelest cut of all and departing late to Columbus, the Flames have a lot of space and two very important RFAs to sign in Andrew Mangiapane and Matthew Tkachuk who will cost a lot. If they just both took their QOs, it would be $11.45 million, leaving the team with $7 million in space to add some forwards as they are a bit shorthanded there. Bad timing all around for the Flames.
Dallas Stars: Eleven million has to pay for Jason Robertson and Jake Oettinger. These negotiations might not be over quick, and neither player has arbitration rights. Otherwise, Dallas has made its moves barring a return of John Klingberg.
Edmonton Oilers: The Oilers are a mess with no space and a short roster. This is a buy now and fix it later method of offseason, and they do have to fix it. Or do they? If Oscar Klefbom and Mike Smith are LTIR, then there’s enough space to eke out a proper-sized roster and maybe keep Jesse Puljujärvi and Kailer Yamamoto. On the other hand, this is a good time to trade away an extra defender, and the Oilers might have soured on Tyson Barrie, as everyone does eventually.
Florida Panthers: The Panthers are over the cap with 23 men, and no one left to sign. They can’t really make a compliant roster by just cutting two players either, so someone is leaving, it seems. Maybe that oft-rumoured trade of MacKenzie Weegar?
Los Angeles Kings: The Kings have some third tier RFAs to sign, and a roster to rejig, but they look largely done for the offseason and set with their roster.
Minnesota Wild: The Wild have no one at all to sign at any level, a short roster and $4 million or so to play with. They should sign a forward capable of scoring goals. Watch, though, as they get Zach Aston-Reese.
Nashville Predators: With Filip Forsberg re-signed to term, you would expect the Preds to be going for it. Their roster looks set, they have some great players, significant cap space, and you’d expect going for it would involve signing or trading for a goal-scorer. Not so far.
New Jersey Devils: The Devils have a raft of RFAs to re-sign, and some important ones that elected arbitration. How much that eats into their $13 million in space with only 18 players is anyone’s guess, but they can just roll with who they have once they make all those deals.
New York Rangers: The Rangers have only Kaapo Kakko to re-sign and just over $4 million to do that and find another defender or three.
Pittsburgh Penguins: The Penguins have a full roster, and a scrap of cap space likely too small to fit Kasperi Kapanen, who elected arbitration. I will be unsurprised if they trade him before the hearing. We said that trade wouldn’t likely make them very happy, and alas it did not. Which is not to say Kapanen isn’t good for who he is, it just helps if you know what that is.
St. Louis Blues: Neatly tied up in a bow and ready to roll is the Blues right now. They have everyone signed, a complete roster, space to flip out one depth guy for another and that’s it, when is preseason?
Vegas Golden Knights: I am shocked to see Vegas over the cap and way, way undermanned. They have some not all that crucial RFAs to re-sign, but they also need to add a couple forwards and a second goalie, oh and a defender to their active roster. They bought Shea Weber’s contract, so that’s $7.8 million in LTIR which will disappear entirely. Who knows what they’ll do, but they always do it.
Washington Capitals: Washington has a conundrum — as far as we know. Will Nick Bäckström play at all or no? If no, they have lots of LTIR to fit their roster. If yes, they will have an issue to fix at that point.
What are you even doing?
New York Islanders: Are they stealthily signing Kadri, or just standing still? With their space and three RFAs to re-sign, they’d have to move someone out to move someone in, and my guess is they are standing still. None of their RFAs were dumb enough to elect arbitration — Lou would trade them if they did. This might just be their team come October.
Ottawa Senators: The very busy Senators are still in flux. they have several RFAs to re-sign, none of them hugely expensive, and a shortage of forwards to play with their two new acquisitions. They have the cap space to add players, but will they? How deep is the new open wallet?
Philadelphia Flyers: I don’t think the Flyers know what they’re doing. I don’t mean they’re incompetent (although...), I mean they don’t really have a coherent plan. They look to be done, barring a couple of RFAs to re-sign, and they are totally capped out unless someone is on LTIR. If that someone is Ryan Ellis, that might be why they seem confused. They are too good to tank, unless the goalie does it on his own, and not good enough to make the playoffs in the cutthroat east.
San Jose Sharks: The Sharks are in managerial flux, and it shows on the roster. They have seven RFAs who could be on the NHL roster to re-sign and $6 million in space. They are overburdened with some depth they can cut, and then what are they? Tanking? Good enough to make the playoffs in easyland? Flyers West?
Vancouver Canucks: If we assume Micheal Ferland is on LTIR (poor guy) then the Canucks can just barely run a 21-man roster. Is it competitive? We will know in time, but I don’t see why they should trade J.T. Miller now.
Not bad enough for Bedard, but not good either
Columbus Blue Jackets: If the Blue Jackets want to run at the playoffs this season, and they’ve made a good start, they need to re-sign Laine, and they don’t have the space. They do have an excess of NHL-experienced forwards, so they might be subtracting players, not adding. They’ve left it a tad late.
Detroit Red Wings: The Red Wings have lots of space, no one really important left to sign, and the opportunity to utilize space now or later.
Seattle Kraken: The Kraken could be ready as-is, with a couple of RFA forwards to re-sign, or they have room to add at either forward or defence if a deal comes along. I don’t see them selling. They need goal-scoring, though.
Winnipeg Jets: The Jets have Pierre-Luc Dubois who wants a trade and yet did not elect arbitration. They have a lot of cap space, haven’t added anyone significant because they want Connor Hellebuyck to really understand futility and get in the same headspace as John Gibson. They need some forwards, and the end of July is a really weird time to shop for them. I can only conclude their management thinks they’re good.
Anaheim Ducks: Below the floor and understaffed, adding enough players to make up a real roster will solve the first problem, but they don’t have any high-value RFAs left to sign to do it in-house. Playing some prospects out of the AHL isn’t going to do it, so expect them to sell some cap space to someone, likely whoever is signing Nazem Kadri.
Arizona Coyotes: Below the floor with a full 23-man roster, the amount they need to make up will easily be covered by whatever they end up paying Lawson Crouse. They also can sell some cap space.
Buffalo Sabres: They have a full team at all positions, signed, sealed and just over the cap floor. They almost certainly will sell cap space at the deadline or before, but this now looks like a clean and neat professionally run team that is tanking like whoa.
Chicago Blackhawks: The polar opposite of the New Sabres™, Chicago seems to be your neighbour who can’t be bothered to sell their old furniture and just dumps it at the side of the road. They need about five defencemen even after they re-sign Caleb Jones, and unless they are playing AHLers, they will run out of cap space quickly. They will be terrible, messy, and the teardown has been about as inept as it comes.
Montréal Canadiens: Our friends the Habs are not playing their hot new prospects this season because they’d like another, thank you very much. They have space, they have a giant question mark in goal — but honestly, they don’t want to win, so they’re good.