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The guide to laundering money in the NHL

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Photo credit:Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
9 months ago
When you look at projected cap space around the NHL there are 17 teams with $1M or less to work with at the moment. Through LTIR, that number shrinks to six teams, and unfortunately for Leafs fans, Toronto is one of those six teams.
Now, this isn’t exactly “cap hell” because GMs have proven time and time again that while they aren’t particularly creative with how they spend their money during free agency, they can be quite creative with finding ways of making trades happen at the deadline. That’s why I’ve put together a handy cheat sheet for everyone. It shows which teams have the ability to retain salary, which is a key quality to look for in a potential seller. It looks at who has the cap space, another thing that can be an important asset, either in attempting to trade salary dumps or hoping the team has the room to retain, and finally who has the ability to take on contracts. The fact that the Flyers are beyond the 50 limit is a uniquely Philadelphia trait. Most of this information is already readily available on PuckPedia, but sometimes it’s nice to look at it all together, and sorted by which teams are destined for the draft lottery.
The first thing that stands out to me is how perfect the Kraken is as a potential trade partner for a team looking to unload salary. The Kraken should be very active as they have six roster players that have expiring UFA contracts, and another six that have arbitration eligible restricted free agency in their future. They will need to sell, but they will also need players back to fill out their roster. They can absolutely retain, and there’s no shortage of cap space.
The Coyotes are just sitting with one space left for retained salary, and that seems destined for Phil Kessel’s contract. They might not be able to retain, but with few roster players under contract for next season and not exactly being the most desirable team to play for, they might need to build out their 2022-23 roster through trade deadline salary dumps.
The Red Wings will certainly be interesting as they’ve got a lot of money to work with, and Yzerman has proven himself to have an ‘outside the box’ approach compared to most NHL GMs. The Red Wings could be an interesting partner, but Yzerman tends to get his price and does his homework.
From a Leafs perspective, it’s probably worth noting that Kyle Dubas’ favourite trade partner is well situated to make something work. The Columbus Blue Jackets are well situated to take on some salary, retain salary, and eat a contract or two.
Having already highlighted the Kraken and Coyotes, it’s also worth noting that the Devils are on this list, and of the teams that have quality defensemen with term that are likely to be available, they also appear to be capable of retaining salary and eating contracts.
It’s also important to note when looking at these teams that could potentially be retaining salary, that salary retention isn’t something that can be part of the LTIR cushion. That makes retention not an impossibility, but an additional challenge for the Canadiens, Canucks, Jets, and Blackhawks.
The takeaway remains the same. There’s no shortage of teams to stash bad contracts or retain salaries. There won’t be any shortage of transactions to make larger deals possible, and the good news is this should take some of the cost off the price of clearing cap space.
Salary data from PuckPedia
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