The two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning were already expected to be major players on the NHL trade market as they try to become cap compliant again, but could they still acquire a high-end player?
The Montreal Canadiens aren’t the Tampa Bay Lightning, and that’s why the Shea Weber news is not a sign that they’re about to pull a 2021 Lightning coup with the NHL salary cap.
The NHL trade market is expected to ‘explode’ in 3-2-1…
Here’s the latest in ‘Off The Record’:
1. Could Lightning Actually Trade For Jones?
Per our friends at PuckPedia, the Tampa Bay Lightning are still $3.5 million under the flattened $81.5 million salary cap. As the offseason kicks off in earnest this weekend with the submission of teams’ protected lists for the NHL Expansion Draft next Wednesday, the Lightning are expected to pull off a series of moves to become cap compliant. There’s no way the back-to-back champs could be sellers and buyers on the NHL trade market, right?
Or, could they actually be players in the Seth Jones sweepstakes?
Off the record:
“I know it sounds crazy, but given Julien’s (BriseBois) track record, I’m not surprised by anything when it comes to the Lightning. He’s a cap genius,” an NHL executive source told OTR recently. “Look at it this way, he’s losing a player in the expansion draft. Is that Tyler Johnson ($5 million), maybe (Alex) Killorn, too.
Or trade them. Let (David) Savard walk. He’s got some NHL-ready prospects coming and can always fill some holes with cheap signings if need be. The next offseason is the tougher one for him, (with Brayden) Point and (Ondrej) Palat to sign. If you’re just bringing Jones in for a season and it gives you a chance at a three-peat, I say at least explore it, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he does.”
As we noted two weeks ago, the Colorado Avalanche are in a similar position in terms of going for it and willing to absorb Jones’ $5.4 million cap hit and according to numerous sources, remain frontrunners for Jones.
2. Habs Aren’t Circumventing Cap
TVA Insider Renaud Lavoie broke some shocking news Wednesday night. He reported that the Montreal Canadiens would not protect captain and veteran defenseman Shea Weber in the NHL Expansion Draft next Wednesday.
I’m hearing the @CanadiensMTL won't protect Shea Weber for the expansion draft. Following the latest medical evaluations, he could miss all of next season. If not more.
— Renaud Lavoie (@renlavoietva) July 14, 2021
Obviously Shea Weber won’t miss time only because of his thumb injury. He has some issues with a foot, ankle and a knee. So that’s why he won’t be protected for the expansion draft and you have to expect he’ll be out for a long period. @CanadiensMTL
— Renaud Lavoie (@renlavoietva) July 15, 2021
Our Canadiens team source also confirmed the report early Thursday morning, and there is a strong fear that the soon-to-be 36-year-old’s career could be over. Weber has five years remaining on the 14-year, $110 million offer sheet he signed with the Philadelphia Flyers that was matched by the Nashville Predators just over nine years ago.
PuckPedia did a great job explaining the recapture penalties the Predators and Canadiens would face if Weber does retire.
If Shea Weber were to retire (instead of going on LTIR) this summer with 5 years left on his deal, the recapture penalties would be:#Preds – $4.9M/year for 5 years#GoHabsGo – $543K/year for 5 yearshttps://t.co/BPJuXT6Do2
— PuckPedia (@PuckPedia) July 15, 2021
The hot take since Lavoie broke this news has been the Canadiens are trying to circumvent the salary cap in the same way the team that just disposed of them in five games in the Stanley Cup Final did this past season.
Off the record:
“Anyone saying the Habs are pulling a Lightning cap job here needs to take a look at the Habs roster and clearly didn’t watch the Stanley Cup Final,” an NHL executive said to OTR late Wednesday night. “Did they see how the major difference in that series was the depth in skill the Lightning have, and the Habs don’t? This is ludicrous to even suggest Bergy is trying to do what Julien did. Not that what Julien did was illegal but trust me, the Habs can’t survive a whole 82-game season without Weber unless they have some deal for Seth Jones lined up that we don’t know about. They just don’t have the depth–the Lightning did, and people need to start focusing on how amazing it was that they finished where they did without [Steven] Stamkos and [Nikita] Kucherov.”
3. NHL Trade Market About To ‘Explode.’
In last week’s ‘Off The Record,’ we told you that many NHL insiders felt that while there was plenty of NHL trade chatter, the expectation was that things wouldn’t heat up until this Saturday when NHL teams must submit their protected list for the upcoming NHL Expansion Draft. There has been a feeling this week that things could kick off any moment, but one thing is certain, this may be the busiest NHL trade market we’ve seen in a while.
Off the record:
“Things are about to explode,” an NHL GM told OTR earlier this week. “I really think we are going to see more trades than we have in the past. Lots of teams need to dump salary, and there are teams like the Kings, Senators, Red Wings, and Devils waiting to absorb cap hits for players that normally wouldn’t be on the trade market. Even a regular contender like the Boston Bruins has a ton of cap space. This is going to get crazy real fast.”