Despite the promise of next season’s NHL salary cap spike, insiders tell OTR the NHL trade market continues to be hamstrung by the current $83.5 cap. Based on recent NHL trade chatter amongst NHL executives and pro scouts, the feeling is desire will outpace ability until American Thanksgiving, if not into the New Year.
“There’s so many teams that can’t even ice a full roster right now,” an NHL executive source pointed out to to Off The Record recently. “Obviously, we don’t usually see much activity until American Thanksgiving, but I wonder if it goes even deeper. Teams are just so hamstrung. There could be minor moves to just stay under that cap, but nothing significant. Maybe a few teams can make a trade of substance right now.”
Note: Tuesday, the Vancouver Canucks traded defenseman Jack Rathbone and forward Karel Plasek to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for scrappy defenseman Mark Friedman and minor league forward Ty Glover.
Those are likely the depth, if not draft picks and prospects trades, we’ll see for at least the next month, but here are three teams that could make more noticeable moves by American Thanksgiving (Nov. 23), if not a bit later.
1. Montreal Canadiens
The primary research and conversations on the Montreal Canadiens for this part of the column were made before the Canadiens announced that center Kirby Dach would be gone for the season with a torn ACL and MCL this past Saturday. His likely season-ending injury shouldn’t have any bearing on what OTR was told about the Canadiens, though. This may even increase the odds that the Habs do make a trade because with the LTIR space they can gain from Dach, they can accommodate a bigger cap hit.
The Canadiens turned some heads when they submitted their roster on Oct. 9, and it had three goalies in Jake Allen, Samuel Montembeault, and Cayden Primeau on it. Obviously, Canadiens executive vice president of hockey operations Jeff Gorton and general manager Kent Hughes had a feeling Primeau would be picked up on waivers and didn’t want to lose him for nothing. That being said, they apparently wouldn’t be opposed to trading him.
Off the record:
“There’s a market for Primeau, I can tell you that,” an NHL team hockey operations source told OTR recently. “He’s still got promise, and they could get a solid pick or prospect for him, I think. I know the Habs are listening on him, and honestly, I get the feel from his camp that maybe it’s time for a fresh start.”
Through some phone calls and texts around the league, it appears that the San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, and Philadelphia Flyers have expressed more than a passing interest in Primeau.
Keep in mind that thanks to long-term injured reserve, the Montreal Canadiens, according to our friends at PuckPedia, have approximately $10.8 million in cap space, but their projected cap space is -$4 million.
2. Chicago Blackhawks
As of late Tuesday, the Chicago Blackhawks had $11.4 in salary cap space, and word on the street was that general manager Kyle Davidson was ‘definitely’ open for business. While the arrival of 2023 top overall NHL Draft pick Connor Bedard has created quite a buzz, and the Blackhawks are 2-2-0 heading into the final game of a five-game season-opening road trip that ends in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday, the Blackhawks are still in sell and stock mode.
Off the record:
“I keep hearing [Tyler] Johnson, [Nikita] Zaitsev, and [Jarred] Tinordi out there,” an NHL pro scout told OTR recently.
All three players are set to become unrestricted free agents next July 1.
Could any of those players help the New Jersey Devils?
3. Winnipeg Jets
First off, there were plenty of NHL executives and pro scouts absolutely stunned that the Winnipeg Jets signed center Mark Scheifele and goalie Connor Hellebucyk to identical $59.5 million contract extensions last week.
“What the (bleep) are they thinking,” one NHL executive said of the two contracts that will each carry a $8.5 million cap hit.
“They’re both 30 and going to be anchors soon.”
Off the record:
With that in mind, the Jets are apparently trying to unload some players on the NHL trade market to free up space down the road.
“I keep hearing Mason Appleton (due $2.1 million in 2024-25) and Nate Schmidt (due $5.9 million in 2024-25),” the same executive source said.