Free agency begins tomorrow July 1st, and with the slightly lower than anticipated cap ceiling that was announced by the NHL, there are some teams that currently find themselves close to or over the limit. The expected cap ceiling for this coming season was $71 million, however it was announced on Friday that the league has settled in at $69 million. This is a little more than $5 million above last years number of $64.3 million. The salary cap floor came in at $51 million for the upcoming season. Both numbers give the Florida Panthers room to spend, and it is anticipated that general manager Dale Tallon will be extremely busy.
The Panthers currently sit at slightly over $40 million going into Tuesday’s frenzy (according to Cap Geek), and while the Panthers have money to burn on free agents, the lower cap number also opens up some trade possibilities. Tallon has already said that he would like to acquire at least 2 defencemen, as well as 2 forwards to fill some much needed holes. Looking to acquire much needed scoring, and some veteran leadership on the blueline to mix in with the promising youth of the club is how the Panthers are approaching this off season.
Teams that are in trouble with regards to the cap ceiling include the Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins. These teams are either over the cap currently, or will need to shed some salary in order to sign players for the up coming season, thus opening up a multitude of trade opportunities league wide. The Penguins for example have nine players to sign, and only 13 million of cap space. Not a good deal of wiggle room leading one to believe that something’s going to happen.
In Toronto there is talk that ex Blackhawk Dave Bolland will hit the market, and Bolland and Tallon are acquaintances from Chicago, however, Bolland is a center, and the Panthers for once seem to be deep at that position. Yet Bolland if healthy could provide some much needed grit at the right price (keyword: at the right price)
Besides teams making a pitch for such sought after free agents as Tomas Vanek, Mike Cammelleri, Matt Moulson, Radim Vrbata, Matt Niskanen, and Anton Stralman, trade possibilities add another element to clubs wanting to improve as well as having the ability to spend to do so. The Panthers are certainly one of those teams since they sit near the bottom of the league in payroll. Last summer when new ownership was sorting out it’s details, Dale Tallon basically had his hands tied, and wasn’t able to make any major acquisitions via trade or free agency. Things are slated to be different this time, and Dale likely will have his cell phone fully charged.
Let’s be clear. We are not about rumors. We never were, and we never will be. However the wish list, or target list of players that the Panthers can now afford to go after has grown since teams will need to adjust their rosters. In Chicago, players such as Patrick Sharp and Johnny Oduya have been talked about as potential candidates to be moved. Sharp’s agent said however that Sharp isn’t going anywhere, but sometimes that’s the kiss of death. Oduya on the other hand could be had at the right price. Chicago would also like to unload Kris Versteeg, but likely won’t find a partner, unless they can hide him in a traded players suitcase.
The Bruins are likely to lose Jarome Iginla to free agency, and could be looking at trading Johnny Boychuck and or Chris Kelly, both of whom make $3 million or more per season. In Philadelphia Vincent Lecavalier is apparently on the block with 4 years remaining on a $4.5 million dollar deal. He’s also due a $2 million dollar bonus on July 1st. There was some discussion on Twitter last night about Vinny, but there’s nothing official on any of it. Also, it was learned on Sunday that Buffalo’s Christian Erhoff was bought out, making the 31 year old puck moving defenceman one of the top blue liners available.
Jason Spezza has put the Ottawa Senators and GM Bryan Murray in a bind with his trade request. Problem is, Spezza has a no move clause, which he exercised over the weekend as Murray had a deal in place to send him packing to Nashville. Other players being shopped could include defencemen Michael Del Zotto in Nashville, and Josh Gorges from the Montreal Canadiens.
While the Panthers are dealing from a point of strength in that money is available, the downside is they’ll likely have to overpay for free agents in order to attract them to South Florida. Yet the promise of improving youth, could be swaying the minds now of both players and their agents.
As for trading, Dale knows how to wheel and deal. When he acquired Patrick Sharp for the Blackhawks from the Philadelphia Flyers, no one knew anything about him. Look at Sharp now as he’s averaged almost 25 goals per season over 9 years. Dale acquired Sharp for Matt Ellison (who?) and a 3rd round pick. Does he make a play one more time for hockey’s most handsome winger?
Erhoff and Niskanen or Josh Gorges on defence, with Moulson and a big name acquired in a trade, and who knows…..the weather won’t be the only thing that’s bright about South Florida.
This summer is a fantastic opportunity to make a splash, and begin the process of turning this franchise around. Get some rest Dale. We expect you to be very busy.
Thanks for reading and we welcome your thoughts in the comments section below!
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