An active NHL offseason could lie ahead, with several teams facing tough salary-cap situations because of the financial constraints brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
It creates an environment where teams that possess space under the cap heading into the 2020-21 season could benefit from adding a marquee player at a reduced trade cost. The situation may also force front offices to get creative in order to maximize the value of their assets, as we'll explore below.
Let's check out some of the latest rumors from around the league and analyze what the buzz could mean for the players and teams involved ahead of what should be a busy couple of months in the NHL.
Winnipeg Jets 'Serious' About Patrik Laine Trade
The initial speculation about Patrik Laine's future with the Winnipeg Jets was met with skepticism. After all, it's not often a player who ranks tied for seventh in the NHL with 138 goals over the past four seasons becomes available for trade, especially when that sniper is just 22.
It sounds like there's some legitimate uncertainty about the Finnish winger's status, though. TSN's Darren Dreger reported the Jets are "serious" about the Laine trade talks with an eye on adding a No. 2 center and a top-four defenseman to increase their depth.
The 2017 All-Star is coming off another strong season with 63 points (28 goals and 35 assists) across 68 games. He managed to nearly average a point per game despite his power-play contributions (16 points) dropping to a three-year low, showcasing an improvement in his five-on-five scoring.
Yes, he's a suspect defender, which is why his expected-goal percentage at even strength over the past three years is a lackluster 44.3 percent, per Natural Stat Trick. Those numbers are always going to skew a little against elite shooters since it's based on league averages, but the defensive concerns are real.
That said, players with his type of game-changing offensive ability are few and far between. Teams should be lining up for a chance to add him to their top six, particularly if they can pair him with a strong two-way center who can make up for some his struggles in his own end of the rink.
Alex Pietrangelo Sign-and-Trade Possibilities
Here's the example of a team getting creative to make the best of a tough situation. Alex Pietrangelo will soon complete a seven-year, $45.5 million contract with the St. Louis Blues, and it would be tough for the organization to re-sign him with just $5.9 million in projected cap space, per Spotrac.
Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic reported one potential solution is a sign-and-trade deal, similar to what's done more frequently in the NBA. The 30-year-old defenseman would get an extra season on his contract, making it an eight-year deal, and the Blues wouldn't lose him for nothing on the open market.
The extra year on the deal, which would be for his age-38 season, would also likely help the acquiring team lessen the annual cap hit on the contract. The Calgary Flames and Florida Panthers are among the clubs with some level of interest in the creative trade, per LeBrun.
Pietrangelo was once again among the league's best offensive defensemen during the 2019-20 campaign. He tied for second among blueliners in goals (16) and finished sixth at the position in points (52). It marked the fourth time in his career he topped the 50-point mark.
That type of scoring from the point would be a welcome sight for the Flames, who didn't have a defenseman score more than five goals this past season. Calgary and Florida figure to face ample competition regardless of whether a deal happens via trade or free agency, though.
Brandon Montour on the Move Again?
The Buffalo Sabres acquired Brandon Montour from the Anaheim Ducks in February 2019 in exchange for fellow defenseman Brendan Guhle and a first-round draft pick. After less than two years with the organization, he could find himself traded again before the 2020-21 season kicks off.
John Vogl of The Athletic reported Montour, a restricted free agent this offseason, has been "featured in trade talks" by the Sabres as they attempt to reshape their roster after nine straight playoff-less years.
Buffalo has a logjam of right-shot defensemen, led by Rasmus Ristolainen, Colin Miller and Henri Jokiharju. Ristolainen's name has popped up frequently in trade rumors over the past few years, but his $5.4 million cap hit would be difficult to move in the current environment.
Trading Montour off a disappointing 18-point campaign isn't likely to yield a return anywhere near what the Sabres paid to get him. That said, the team's depth at the position, combined with his RFA status, makes it the most likely move.