This summer, Blues general manager Doug Armstrong finds himself in an unenviable position compared to his peers in the NHL.
To make significant changes to the St. Louis roster, Armstrong must perform an operation to purge the organization of hefty contracts – and the rest of the league knows this. Cap space is at a premium in the NHL, with the salary cap expected to only increase $1 million this off-season, and the Blues’ contracts at the back have become cumbersome in the flat cap environment.
Torey Krug and Justin Faulk are scheduled for four more seasons for $6.5 million. Nick Leddy signs for three more seasons for $4 million. Colton Parayko has seven more years for $6.5 million. Marco Scandella enters the final season of his deal for $3.275 million.
Up front, Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas will begin their eight-year renewal next year worth $8.125 million annually. Brayden Schenn is in five more years for $6.5 million. In addition, goaltender Jordan Binnington has four seasons left for $6 million.
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It’s a tricky conundrum for Armstrong to try to escape.
But it’s not impossible. Other teams have broken away from laborious contracts in recent years to reset their rosters. Often it is painful. Sometimes it works. Let’s take a look at what some organizations have done.
Panthers under Bill Zito
When Bill Zito arrived as general manager of the Panthers after eliminating Florida from the 2020 bubble, he inherited a roster enthralled by long-term deals. Now? The Panthers won the Presidents’ Trophy last year and have won playoff series in consecutive seasons for the first time in history.
Zito, in a nutshell, pulled just about every lever a GM could use to get out of contracts.
One of his first moves was a bad contract trade with Pittsburgh. Florida wanted to get rid of defenseman Mike Matheson (six years left at $4.875 million) and took on the reduced burden of Patric Hornqvist’s contract (three years left at $5.3 million) to do so. With that, Zito lost one of the longest commitments on the roster.
Twice during the shortened 2021 season, the Panthers waived veteran players with big cap hits. First, it was Brett Connolly, who had two seasons left for $3.5 million. Then it was Anton Stralman, who had a year and change for $5.5 million. Both were given waivers and assigned to the taxi team, and later the two players were traded in salary dumps.
Florida added one of its top prospects (Henrik Borgstrom) to send Connolly to Chicago, and it sent a second round to trade Stralman to Arizona.
After the 2021 season, the Panthers bit the bullet and bought out the remaining two years of Keith Yandle’s contract, which was capped at $6.35 million. To create immediate cap space, Florida sacrificed future cap space.
Now the Panthers weren’t able to get off Sergei Bobrovsky’s $10 million cap hit (he has a full no-move clause), but he’s been able to provide moments of value, especially in his’ postseason’ as the Panthers defeated the league. best brownies.
Zito’s trade for Matthew Tkachuk deservedly garnered the highest praise, as Tkachuk has emerged as a potential Hart Trophy finalist, but Florida managed to navigate their purge due to low-risk betting on cheap players. They took swing after swing on undervalued assets, hitting enough to get past the loss of prospects, draft picks and cap space from the trades and buyouts.
Three defenders on their current roster were claimed by the Panthers. They picked Sam Bennett and Brandon Montour in exchange. Anthony Duclair and Carter Verhaeghe were signed cheaply on the open market. Even failed experiments with Nikita Gusev and Olli Juolevi represented attempts to acquire cheap, talented labor.
Late in the season, the Blues tried to find assets with cheap acquisition costs. They claimed Kasperi Kapanen on waivers and traded next to nothing to acquire Jakub Vrana for half price. Sammy Blais quickly went from trading throw to cheap depth player.
If St. Louis goes down the Florida route, sacrificing picks, prospects, and cap space to get rid of contracts, they’ll need cheap labor to fit in where rookies with entry-level contracts would normally fit.
Predators under David Poile
Perhaps no general manager was more adept at dumping contracts than the recently retired David Poile in Nashville. Poile was aggressive about getting out of outdated deals and managed to turn most of his trades into trades that collected assets for the Predators.
Of course, timing had a lot to do with yields.
He traded Shea Weber (10 more years for $7.857 million) for PK Subban after Weber spent eight years in the top 10 Norris Trophy voting. Subban (three more years for $9 million) was gone after a prolific three-season run in Nashville. Viktor Arvidsson (three more years for $4.25 million) took a second and third round from Los Angeles.
Even getting rid of Ryan Ellis (six years to go at $6.25 million) resulted in the Predators acquiring Cody Glass.
Other recent trades, including those on the March trade deadline? Mikael Granlund (two years left for $5 million) to Pittsburgh. Mattias Ekholm (three plus left for $6.25 million) to Edmonton. Nino Niederreiter (one plus for $4 million) to Winnipeg. Nick Bonino (one year for $4.1 million) to Minnesota. Even Austin Watson (three years for $1.5 million) to Ottawa.
In addition, the Predators purchased the remaining four years of Kyle Turris’ contract, which was worth $6 million annually.
Now, the results haven’t been there for Nashville in recent seasons since a run to the Cup Final in 2017, a Presidents’ Trophy in 2018 and a division title in 2019. But they’ve cleared room to re-sign Roman Josi, Filip Forsberg and Juuse Saros.
Now it’s up to Barry Trotz after Poile emptied the decks in March.
Lightning every summer
It seems like every year during their current period of struggle, the Lightning have had to make tough decisions to try and keep their core together. As Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov and Andrei Vasilevskiy became more expensive, the Lightning had to cut elsewhere.
This is a different situation than the Blues, as many of the players Tampa Bay lost were positive assets they lost in free agency. In recent years, the Lightning dropped Ondrej Palat, Blake Coleman, Barclay Goodrow, Kevin Shattenkirk and Carter Verhaeghe. They lost to Yanni Gourde in the expansion draft. Many of the sacrifices Tampa Bay has made have been voluntary.
But they also had to pick a second round to send Tyler Johnson to Chicago and trade Ryan McDonagh to Nashville for a minimal return.
A very, very different situation than Armstrong is in St. Louis, but still an example of cap clearing.
• Toronto has taken small steps by adding draft picks to Patrick Marleau and Petr Mrazek just to take them off the roster. For example, Calgary traded a first round last season to lose Sean Monahan.
In today’s “Ten Hochman” video at 10 a.m., from the Siteman Cancer Center Studios, Ben Hochman honors the legacy of late Cardinals broadcaster Mike Shannon, who passed away at age 83. Happy Birthday to David Backes too! And as always, Hochman picks a random St. Louis Cards card from the hat. “Ten Hochman” is brought to you by Window Nation, a St. Louis replacement window company!
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