The NHL offseason has officially begun following the conclusion of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final, and there are several reasons why this will be a busy summer for teams.
With the salary cap going down about $6 million for the 2013-14 season because of the new collective bargaining agreement, a number of teams will make or ponder certain moves, such as buyouts and trades, to fit under the cap ceiling. According to Capgeek, there are currently 10 teams with a cap payroll of $57 million or higher.
As players get bought out, the class of unrestricted free agents will get stronger, which will make the summer a little more exciting because the current crop of UFAs is pretty weak compared to last year.
Let's take a look at a definitive guide to the 2013 NHL offseason with everything you need to know.
Note: All salary and contract information via Capgeek.
Here's a list of the important dates to remember for the offseason:
- June 26: Compliance buyout period begins June 26 and ends July 4 at 5:00 p.m. ET
- June 30: 2013 NHL draft in Newark (NJ). All seven rounds in one day.
- July 5: Free agency begins and teams are allowed to officially sign players, extend offer sheets.
Here's my list of the top 10 prospects in the 2013 NHL draft:
|8||Rasmus Ristolainen||Finland||TPS Turku||D|
|9||Darnell Nurse||OHL||Sault Ste. Marie||D|
Nathan MacKinnon and Seth Jones are both franchise players who project to be superstars for a long time. It would be quite surprising if these top prospects are not the first two selections in this year's draft.
MacKinnon is a gifted offensive player who can score goals, rack up a ton of assists and excel on faceoffs. He has the potential to be a No. 1 center soon after making his NHL debut.
Jones is an impressive offensive defenseman with tremendous size and strength. He's a fantastic skater, excels on special teams and has steadily improved defensively.
Here are the biggest sleepers in the 2013 NHL draft class:
- Max Domi: The son of former Toronto Maple Leafs forward Tie Domi plays a power forward style of hockey with impressive offensive skill and physical play. He's responsible defensively and displays great versatility with his ability to be effective as a winger and a center.
- Kerby Rychel: The Windsor Spitfires forward tallied 87 points in 2012-13. He also has NHL size and strength with impressive defensive skills that make him a solid two-way player. Expect Rychel to be selected in the top 20 of the first round because of his potential and the fact that he won't need too much more time to develop before making his NHL debut.
- Justin Bailey: The Kitchener Rangers forward will not be NHL-ready for a few years, but his offensive talent (goal scoring, vision, high hockey IQ) and potential make using a first-round pick to draft him a risk worth taking. He scored 17 goals with 19 assists in 57 games this year, which was his rookie campaign in the OHL.
- Nicolas Petan: The Portland Winterhawks center finished first among all WHL players with 74 assists and 120 points in just 68 games this season. His playmaking skills are exceptional, and he also projects to be a reliable goal scorer at the NHL level. At only 5'9" he's a bit undersized, but Petan's high compete level and strong hockey IQ helps him overcome his lack of size.
When the new CBA was written, it included something called compliance buyouts, which are essentially "get out of jail free cards" for NHL general managers. Every team has two compliance buyouts, which can be used this offseason or during next year's offseason.
On Wednesday, TSN's Bob McKenzie tweeted a list of teams who may not use a buyout this summer:
Following teams, IMO, not likely to buy out: ANA, BOS, BUF, CGY, CAR, COL, CBJ, DAL, FLA, LA, MIN, NJ, NSH, OTT, PHX, SJ, STL, WSH, WPG.
These buyouts allow teams to release a player and get rid of his salary-cap hit. However, that player is still paid a certain amount of money over a period of "X" number of years.
To find out how much and for how long a team would have to pay a player if he's bought out, check out Capgeek's buyout calculator.
Teams will buy out players for a few reasons, here are some notable ones:
- The player's performance does not make his salary-cap hit worth having on the payroll
- The player has many years left on his contract and won't be worth his cap hit toward the end of the deal (Tampa Bay's Vincent Lecavalier is one example).
- Teams may need to buy out one or two players to get under the cap ceiling of $64.3 million for 2013-14.
It should also be noted that teams are not allowed to sign players they buy out for at least one year. This prevents clubs from buying out a player and bringing him back on a smaller deal shortly after.
Players who are injured cannot be bought out, which is why the Montreal Canadiens bought out veteran center Scott Gomez before the 2013 season because they wanted to make sure he didn't get hurt on the ice and prevent the team from parting ways with him.
Here's a list of notable players who could be bought out this summer:
|Player||Team||Term Left on Contract||Cap Hit||Notes|
|Ilya Bryzgalov||PHI||Seven years||$5.66 million||The Flyers goalie has been a huge disappointment and the team will buy him out.|
|Keith Ballard||VAN||Two years||$4.20 million||Ballard has failed to be a top-four defenseman and has 16 points in 148 games with Canucks.|
|Vincent Lecavalier||TBL||Seven years||$7.72 million||Lecavalier is no longer an elite player, has battled injuries recently and has a huge contract.|
|Rick DiPietro||NYI||Eight years||$4.50 million||DiPietro signed a 15-year deal in 2006 and has played in only 50 games since the start of the 2008-09 season.|
|Mike Komisarek||TOR||One year||$4.50 million||Komisarek has a huge cap hit and was a healthy scratch on many occasions in 2013.|
|Tomas Kaberle||MTL||One year||$4.25 million||Kaberle's production does not match his contract. He's not worth anything close to $4.25 million.|
|Danny Briere||PHI||Two years||$6.5 million||Briere is no longer worth $6.25 million based on production and durability concerns. The Flyers will buy him out.|
|Ville Leino||BUF||Four years||$4.5 million||Leino played in only eight games in 2013 and has just 31 points in two years (79 games) with Buffalo.|
|Brad Richards||NYR||Seven years||$6.67 million||Durability concerns and not being able to perform like a top-six center makes Richards a buyout candidate. He was scratched in two playoff games in Round 2.|
Toronto Maple Leafs
With $19,608,333 of cap space, which doesn't include extra money that could be gained from buyouts, the Leafs should be expected to spend big this offseason.
There aren't any elite UFAs for general manager Dave Nonis to pursue, but it wouldn't be surprising if he made a play for Nathan Horton or David Clarkson because his team needs a power forward with goal scoring ability and toughness.
Toronto could also use its cap space to acquire a high-priced player via trade. Although, Nonis does need sufficient cap space to re-sign Jonathan Bernier, Tyler Bozak and Nazem Kadri, all of whom are important players and restricted free agents this summer.
The Ottawa Senators have a whopping $22,074,167 of cap space and 22 players already under contract for next season.
After losing veteran defenseman Sergei Gonchar, one area of the team that needs to be upgraded is the blue line. The team's defense was average at best during the second round of the playoffs when the Pittsburgh Penguins scored a total of 22 goals in only five games. A shut-down blueliner such as Rob Scuderi would be a perfect addition for Ottawa.
If the Senators want to make a deep playoff run next season, they will need to add a top-six forward and a top-four defenseman to their roster.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets have $15,216,191 in cap space with Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky as the only notable free agent for the team to re-sign.
The team's ownership has shown a willingness to spend big in free agency and acquire large contracts in the past (James Wisniewski and Jeff Carter are two examples), and with respected front office executive John Davidson leading Hockey Operations, it wouldn't be surprising if Columbus makes a few aggressive moves this summer to improve the team for a playoff run in 2013-14.
Here's a list of the three best unrestricted free agents at every position in the 2013 class:
|Postion||Player||2013 Team||2013 Cap Hit|
|LW||Valtteri Filppula||DET||$3 million|
|C||Mike Ribeiro||WSH||$5 million|
|C||Stephen Weiss||FLA||$3.1 million|
|C||Tyler Bozak||TOR||$1.5 million|
|RW||Nathan Horton||BOS||$4 million|
|RW||David Clarkson||NJD||$2.66 million|
|RW||Jarome Iginla||PIT||$7 million|
|D||Rob Scuderi||LAK||$3.4 million|
|D||Jordan Leopold||STL||$3 million|
|D||Andrew Ference||BOS||$2.25 million|
|G||Ray Emery||CHI||$1.15 million|
|G||Mike Smith||PHX||$2 million|
|G||Tim Thomas||NYI||$5 million|
Restricted free agents are players with expiring contracts but are not eligible for unrestricted free agency because they are not 27 years old or have seven seasons of NHL experience.
Prying RFAs from other teams is done using an offer sheet. If an offer sheet is signed, the RFAs current team can match it and keep the player using the salary and term agreed to in the offer sheet, or it can decline to match and the RFA then joins his new club.
If a restricted free agent is successfully signed by a new team, his old club receives draft-pick compensation based on the salary in the deal.
For example, when the Philadelphia Flyers signed Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber to a 14-year, $110 million offer sheet last summer, they would have been forced to send Nashville four first-round picks as compensation if the Predators declined to match the offer sheet.
The offer sheet route is an expensive way of signing players because not only is the salary in these contracts often times more than what the RFA is worth, the draft picks that must be surrendered also increase the risk involved with the deal.
Under the last CBA (2005-06 through 2011-12), there were only seven players signed to an offer sheet. Here's a list of the top three restricted free agents at each position in the 2013 class:
2013 Team ||
2013 Cap Hit
|LW||Carl Hagelin ||
RW ||Chris Stewart||
STL ||$3 million
RW ||Blake Wheeler||
WPG ||$2.55 million|
RW ||Peter Mueller ||FLA ||$1.75 million
|C ||Sam Gagner||
EDM ||$3.2 million|
|C ||Derek Stepan ||
|C ||Nazem Kadri||TOR||$1.72 million|
NYR ||$1.3 million|
|D||Alex Pietrangelo||STL||$3.16 million|
|D||Kevin Shattenkirk ||
STL ||$1.3 million|
BOS ||$3.5 million|
CBJ ||$1.75 million|
|G ||Jonathan Bernier||TOR ||$1.25 million|
Morgan Rielly, Defenseman, Toronto Maple Leafs
Rielly was drafted fifth overall last year after playing in just 18 games because of a serious knee injury. He proved that his durability is not a concern this season by tallying 54 points (12 goals, 42 assists) in 60 games for the WHL's Moose Jaw Warriors.
The 19-year-old defenseman is a slick passer with his impressive playmaking skills, good vision and puck-moving ability. He's also a smooth skater and able to quarterback a power play.
Expect Rielly to compete for a spot on the Leafs blue line when training camps open after the summer.
Ryan Strome, Center, New York Islanders
Strome was the fifth overall pick in the 2011 NHL draft and has spent four seasons in the OHL for the Niagara IceDogs.
Last season, the 19-year-old center tallied 94 points (34 goals and 60 assists) in 53 games for the IceDogs and also added seven points (two goals, five assists) in 10 games for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL.
Strome has proven that he's ready for a third line center role on the Islanders next season because of his phenomenal goal scoring ability and playmaking skills. He makes his teammates better and will bring even more speed and skill to an Islanders offense that ranked seventh in goals scored in 2013. He is the most NHL-ready prospect in the world.
Griffin Reinhart, Defenseman, New York Islanders
Reinhart is the stay-at-home defenseman with top-pairing ability that the Islanders have lacked for years.
He positions himself well, uses his stick to break up passes, wins puck battles with his strength and is willing to block shots. At 6'4" and 204 pounds, Reinhart also has the size needed to compete against top lines at the NHL level.
From an offensive standpoint, Reinhart isn't going to provide a ton of scoring from the blue line, but he will make an impact with his powerful point shot and high hockey IQ. He tallied 29 points (eight goals, 21 assists) in 59 games for the WHL's Edmonton Oil Kings this year.
After three full seasons in the WHL, Reinhart is ready to compete for a permanent spot on New York's blue line next season.
Bovada has already released its odds for the 2014 Stanley Cup, and despite winning their second championship in four years this week, the Chicago Blackhawks are not the early favorites to win next year's Cup.
Here are Bovada's top five favorites for 2013-14:
- Pittsburgh Penguins, 13-2
- Chicago Blackhawks, 15-2
- Boston Bruins, 10-1
- St. Louis Blues, 12-1
- Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks, 14-1
The Penguins will be a contender for the Cup next season because they have two of the best players in the world (Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin) and quality depth at nearly every position, but their goaltending and lack of a real shut-down defenseman are two major concerns.
In addition to those weaknesses, there will likely be some impactful changes made to last year's team, which could include players who won't return because of the salary cap going down. Notable free agents include forwards Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow and Pascal Dupuis. Pittsburgh will be among the top contenders in 2013-14, but there is no way they should be the favorites over the Blackhawks.
Chicago will likely return most of the same team that just won the Cup, and young players such as Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw, Nick Leddy and Conn Smythe Trophy winner Patrick Kane are only going to get better.
The Blackhawks have more depth and talent on the blue line than any other team in the Western Conference and a top-tier goaltender in Corey Crawford, who silenced a lot of his critics with a fantastic playoff run. As a team with very few weaknesses that's loaded with impressive depth and elite talent, Chicago is the favorite to win the Cup again and repeat as champions.
In addition to the Penguins and Blackhawks, the Bruins should also be one of the top three contenders for the 2014 Stanley Cup. Like the Blackhawks, the Bruins will also bring back most of this year's roster while also giving a more expanded role to talented young defensemen such as Torey Krug, Matt Bartkowski and Dougie Hamilton.
Boston has a top-three goalie in Tuukka Rask, great forward depth, an excellent shut-down pairing with Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg and a top head coach in Claude Julien. At the moment, the Bruins are the favorites to win the Eastern Conference.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. He was also a credentialed writer at the 2013 Stanley Cup Final in Boston.