- The Las Vegas Golden Knights:
This one is pretty obvious, so lets just go ahead and get it out of the way. Whenever a new team comes in to any league via expansion, fans are excited to see what happens. Whether it is what the new team does, or what the already established teams do as a reaction. First off, which is also the most obvious, is the Expansion Draft. All thirty NHL teams will lose something this summer to the Vegas Golden Knights. Every team is given a choice between two packages of player protection. Option one allows a team to block 7 Forwards, 3 Defenseman, and 1 Goaltender; or Option two which allows a team the block any 8 skaters and 1 goaltender. Vegas is also allowed to negotiate with any pending UFA from any team, and if a deal is agreed upon that will count as the player taken from that team.
Another reason to be excited is the new arrival of KHL star Vadim Shpachyov, who just posted 76 points in 50 games with SKA St. Petersburg. Now that being said, there is a lot of concern with how his play will adapt in the NHL. However, there is another KHL star who played with Shipachyov who is also making an attempt at playing in the NHL next season. Iyla Kovalchuk would give Vegas a big name player to market behind, and they have the money to throw at Kovalchuk if they wish to do so. All of that, along with teams scrambling to move players in order to get something as opposed to nothing (Ben Bishop for a 4th), will make for an exciting summer thanks to Vegas.
2. The Carolina Hurricanes
As of right now the Carolina Hurricanes have around $27.3 Million dollars in cap space and with no major free agents this year. With this The Hurricanes are primed to make a huge splash in a free agency pool that will feature major players like Kevin Shattenkirk and TJ Oshie. Along with 6 picks in the first 3 rounds, including 3 second round picks, The Hurricanes have plenty of options for bringing in new players that can make an impact, whether it is via trading draft pics for established players, using those draft picks to draft young prospects, or throwing money at the hottest free agents available. We know Carolina is not afraid to trade for other players if they feel that value is right. Also, expect the team to name their first Captain since Eric Staal left the team
3. The Detroit Red Wings
Empires rise and empires fall, and, unfortunately for the members of the Red Wings organization, the 25 year dominance of the franchise has come to an end and they will look to rebuild as quickly as they can. Luckily, the Red Wings have four 3rd round picks in this year’s draft, and have successively sent the contract of Pavel Datsyuk to the Arizona Coyotes. Sadly, this cost them a 1st round pick, but in the long run it was worth it. Pavel Datsyuk had a $7.5 million dollar cap hit that would’ve caused the Red Wings to part ways with valued players that will be important in pulling this team out of rebuilding in the coming years. However, with only $5.9 million dollars in cap space , the Red Wings are going to have to do the majority of their moves in the draft, due to the majority of their cap space being eaten by resigning forwards Tomas Tatar, Andreas Athanasiou, and defenseman Xavier Ouellet.
Don’t be surprised if the Red wings try to move a player like Frans Nielson, who carries a 5 mill a year cap hit, and, at age 33, I doubt that he, or any of there other older players who have no trade clauses, will object to being traded to a contender.
4 The Arizona Coyotes
There is still hockey in Arizona? and it is interesting people?? Well interesting hockey is what happens when you hire the youngest GM in NHL history, at age 27, especially when he turns out pretty smart. John Chayka has stepped in, in a major way, and made waves. For instance, the hockey world was stunned when he acquired a first round pick by agreeing to take on the contract of Pavel Datysuk, and then with that pick, Chayka snatched Jakob Chychrun out from the Predators who were thought to be very interested in acquiring him. Adding Jakob Chychrun to a group of defensemen that featured Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Anthony Deangelo, and Alex Goligoski is scary enough for me sleep with the light on. Also this year, similar to the Hurricanes, The Coyotes have $25+ million dollars in cap space, and would not be a bad place for players looking to join a team that is looking at a good run to the playoffs, maybe even a Stanley Cup Final appearance, and as long as they don’t meet the kings in the WCF (too soon?). Also, they are looking to trade the rights of Anthony Duclair. Having said this, it will be interesting to see if Chayka is able to work some more magic and get decent value for the RFA coming off a underwhelming year.
5. The Chicago Blackhawks
With an insane amount of money (-$3.6 Million) to spend on players in Free Agency and Resigning, expect whatever comes out of Chicago to be a work of art. After two first round exits, Chicago’s General Manager Stan Bowman has told us that changes are in fact coming. The reason that major changes would have to be a work of magic is because only two of the eleven players making over $2 Million dollars a year have modified no trade clauses and no movement clauses. Those two players being Richard Panik and Artemi Panarin. Both are players that you would expect to not be traded, given that you would think Chicago knows how to win games, which is not done by trading arguably the two brightest parts of Chicago’s season this year. But that being said… Chicago has put themselves into a bad situations because smart GM’s (John Chayka, Lou Lamoriello, David Poile), with lots of cap space and trade assets, take advantage of teams with GM’s who apparently don’t think that far into the future.