Did The Tampa Bay Lightning trade for Marian Gaborik and St. Louis Blues signing Mike Hoffman to a Professional Tryout circumvent the salary cap?
No, but plenty around the NHL, including some NHL General Managers were crying foul on Blues GM Doug Armstrong and Lightning GM Julien BriseBois Monday.
How many NHL rosters will look the same by the time the puck is dropped in 2021? Will the NHL Trade market really heat up? Will there be more PTO’s? Where will prospects play after the WJC?
For more insight on that and your usual dose of inside knowledge collected from NHL insiders, here’s the latest ‘Off The Record’:
1. Hoffman Has a Handshake Deal for Less than Expected
Last week in the OTR, we reported some notable names that could sign Professional Tryout contracts. On Sunday, the biggest surprise came when the St. Louis Blues signed the biggest name left on the unrestricted free agent market to a PTO.
LW Mike Hoffman will be in the St. Louis Blues camp, and multiple sources tell us there is a handshake agreement in place, but for well less money than you may expect.
Also last week, we projected the St. Louis Blues to be active. Our projection was in large part based on the constant chatter linking Hoffman to St. Louis. GM Doug Armstrong badly wants to win his second Stanley Cup in three seasons. Multiple NHL sources confirmed to Hockey Now that Armstrong will sign Mike Hoffman once the season arrives and the Vladimir Tarasenko LTIR cap relief kicks in.
Off the record: “They have a tentative deal in place,” one of the NHL sources said of Mike Hoffman and the Blues to OTR on Monday.
The other source who connected Hoffman to St. Louis last week told us to expect the deal to be for one year, with a “$4.2 or $4.3 million cap hit.”
2. Should NHL Look Into Blues, Senators, and Lighting?
There’s been plenty of accusations over the past week that the Tampa Bay Lightning are circumventing the NHL salary cap to get under by the time their season starts on Jan. 13. We’ll get to that next.
By placing Nikita Kucherov on LTIR, and now trading for more LTIR cap relief, then hitting the NHL trade shop to acquire Marian Gaborik and Anders Nilsson from the Ottawa Senators, Lightning General Manager Julien Brisebois got his team under the flattened $81.5 salary cap. He was also able to sign restricted free agents Mikhail Sergachev, Anthony Cirelli, Erik Cernak, Jan Rutta, and Mathieu Joseph.
Off The Record: According to two NHL agents Monday, some NHL General Managers are crying foul and claiming that trading for LTIR cap space should be considered circumventing the cap. Some NHL GM’s are also saying the same about the Blues, as mentioned above, having a wink-wink with Mike Hoffman and placing him on a PTO until they can gain the cap relief from Alex Steen retiring and Vladimir Tarasenko going on LTIR.
Loopholes, but legal.
The same was said when the Toronto Maple Leafs and GM Kyle Dubas loaded up on dead money because Toronto can financially afford to pay retiring players, whereas some teams cannot.
Some on the players’ side cried foul when the Arizona Coyotes acquired Chris Pronger (2015) and Pavel Datsyuk (2016) to reach the cap floor.
Both strategies may be against the spirit of the rules, but until the NHL steps in, it’s within the letter of the law. Neither Armstrong nor Brisebois violated the rules.
3. Kings Not Following Senators Into NHL Trade Market
Since the 2021 NHL Entry Ottawa in October, the Ottawa Senators have made it clear to the NHL draft that they were serious about being competitive. They held onto the third and fifth overall picks at the draft, including German star Tim Stutzle. They traded for goalie Matt Murray and signed some solid free agents such as Evgeni Dadonov. Owner Eugene Melnyk recently said he sees his team competing for a playoff spot.
Whether that’s an overstatement or not is yet to be seen. One thing is for sure, Ottawa will be hard this season.
Are the Los Angeles Kings at that point as well? The Senators are looked at as having the deepest prospect pool in the NHL and the most NHL ready prospects. Many NHL insiders view the LA organization as being right behind Ottawa. Are they ready to start wheeling and dealing on the NHL trade market and bringing on some bigger name veterans?
Off the record: “The Kings aren’t there yet,” an NHL assistant-GM told OTR Monday. “They’re stacked and they’re on their way, but the feeling around the league is they’re not about to turn into the Senators and start trading for better veteran players and signing guys. They’re being patient, and they’re right where they figured they’d be this season. They will arrive again soon.”
4. Leagues and prospects in TROUBLE
With so many junior leagues, the ECHL and the AHL on pause or not even begun yet due to COVID, the World Juniors has become easily the best opportunity for amateur scouts to do their work for the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. Prospects’ value will rise and fall at never before seen rates. By mid-January, players’ stocks will rise or fall more than than they really should.
Leagues such as the QMJHL won’t fire up until late January and will have a short season if they’re even able to play at all. Quebec and the greater Montreal metro have been slammed with COVID cases. CurrentProvincial rules prohibit gatherings with more than eight people.
For example, Pittsburgh spread their prospects around Europe. Some played in Slovakia, Czech Republic, and even one in Norway.
Then factor in the finances without fans in the stands. These teams in juniors towns are under siege on multiple fronts, which means the prospects and draft-eligible players could be without hockey for most of this season.
Some NHL agents fear the worst for their clients’ mental development and the toll it could take on their confidence in being a pro.
Off the Record: “These leagues need to figure out an alternative plan fast because things don’t look good,” one agent told Hockey Now. “I’m hearing more and more that too many teams can’t afford to play.”