There is great anticipation for the upcoming NHL season. Many teams have big aspirations. But the hockey team that will play in Las Vegas next year cannot wait for this season to end. Same holds true for their fans. No question the story of next off-season will belong to the Las Vegas franchise. To that end, Las Vegas is ready to pounce in NHL free agency.
Vegas is Very Attractive
First off saying Las Vegas will have salary cap flexibility is a huge understatement. Even after the selections of the expansion draft this coming June, the new team in the desert will have a lot of cap space. Owner Bill Foley is already on record saying Las Vegas will spend up to the cap ceiling. Las Vegas will be in a position to be a very aggressive bidder. If General Manager George McPhee wants someone badly odds are Las Vegas will be the highest bidder.
Per the NHLPA agreement, a team in free agency can offer an unrestricted free agent up to a seven-year contract. That player’s existing team can offer such player an eight-year contract.
However, Las Vegas has two distinct advantages. In addition to the cap space, Las Vegas will possess, the state of Nevada does not have any state income tax. This means more net dollars to players who wind up playing for the new team in Las Vegas.
As of today, there are two big scoring wingers that are going to hit the unrestricted free agent market, come July 1st. T.J. Oshie of the Washington Capitals and Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins will be ready for a full court free agency press.
Oshie is 29 and is coming off a 26 goal scoring season. The Capitals have many young core players to lock up in the near future including Evgeny Kuznetsov.
Marchand is 28 and is coming off a 37 goal scoring campaign. Boston wants to sign the Halifax native to an extension but will they be all in?
Las Vegas will most certainly want at least one proven goal scorer on the roster, come opening night 2017. Is it possible Las Vegas goes after both Oshie and Marchand if they available on July 1st?
By all counts, it appeared Ben Bishop would be traded this summer. The Tampa Bay Lightning are in a massive cap crunch and with younger Andrei Vasilevskiy ready to become a #1 goalie in the NHL, a trade seemed imminent.
As training camps drawn near, Big Ben is still in Tampa. The talk now is there is a real possibility GM Steve Yzerman might keep Bishop for the coming season and let him walk at the end of the year.
If that happens, it will be very tempting for McPhee to begin his franchise with one of the league’s top goaltenders in the game.
Hoping for the Beard
The player that all hockey fans in Las Vegas are hoping becomes a UFA on July 1st is Brent Burns. Burns brings a lot to the table including offense (27 goals & 75 points), experience, size and swagger. Burns would instantly become the face of the Las Vegas franchise.
It’s shocking that the San Jose Sharks have not locked up Burns to an extension yet. If Sharks GM Doug Wilson lets Burns hit the open market, then Las Vegas will push all of their chips to the middle of the table.
Pending UFA’s and their agents will be playing the Las Vegas card in contract talks between now and July 1st.