It’s just over a month until training camp, but the NHL rumours are still coming. Teams are trying to make the numbers work and get their players under the $81.5 million salary cap. There are a number of restricted free agents still available. Clubs are debating whether to hand out bridge deals or to ink long-term contracts. Today’s rumours are about the Tampa Bay Lightning, Winnipeg Jets, Buffalo Sabres and Columbus Blue Jackets.
All NHL rumours are taken from the original source and are subject to change.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Rumour: Dan Rosen said in NHL.com mailbag that the Tampa Bay Lightning and Brayden Point may agree to a bridge deal of three to five years with a lower term. Point and the club will re-visit things down the road when there may be more money towards the cap.
The bridge deal could come in the $8 million or more range and get him to when there’s a new collective bargaining agreement.
Some thoughts and insight in the weekly mailbag on the Wild’s GM search, Brayden Point’s next contract, the Devils goaltending, coaches under pressure and Chris Kreider: https://t.co/PJDywQBSIP
— Dan Rosen (@drosennhl) August 7, 2019
Analysis: Point would be betting on himself to have some big seasons. However, it could pay off at the end as he’ll have another prime earning window. The Calgary native could be in line for a contract of $11-12 million if he puts up some big numbers.
Tampa Bay has a little over $9.3 million in cap space and has 49 contracts on the books. The Lightning will likely have to shed a contract or two and that will free up more space. However, Point remains the main priority for general manager Julien BriseBois.
Rumour: Mike McIntyre of the Winnipeg Free Press weighed in on the slow-moving contract talks between the Jets and forwards Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor. He equates it to a game of chicken between the two sides.
McIntyre brings up Josh Morrisey’s holdout and how he signed quickly after missing the start of training camp and some cheques.
Analysis: Everything seems to be hinging on what Mitch Marner and the Toronto Maple Leafs and what Point do. RFA deals have been slow-moving, but things will pick up once one of those two sign their deals.
Winnipeg has $17.5 million in cap space but needs to fill out the 23-man roster. General manager Kevin Cheveldayoff could fill those holes with low-cost options or may have to make a trade. Forwards Nikolaj Ehlers ($6 million annually) and Mathieu Perreault ($4.125 million) have been tossed around as options, but Cheveldayoff probably doesn’t want to trade them.
Once again, contract talks will likely pick up once training camp rolls around in early September.
Rumour: Lance Lysowski of the Buffalo News states that Sabres general manager Jason Botterill has options in becoming cap compliant. The Sabres are $1.1 million over the cap, but Botterill can place someone like Zach Bogosian, Matt Hunwick or Lawrence Pilut on long-term injured reserve.
He can also ship a player via a one-way contract to the AHL Rochester Americans to save some money. All teams need to be under the $81.5 million cap by the start of the season.
Analysis: Botterill may make a trade as well, but he wants to improve his roster instead of cutting costs. He could also use a buyout in this second window, but he’s not gone this route in either window.
The Sabres will have a bunch of contracts come off the books at the end of the season and could be a player in 2020 free agency.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Rumour: Aaron Portzline of The Athletic (subscription required) said the Columbus Blue Jackets are also at a standstill when it comes to RFA defenceman Zach Werenski. A three to five-year bridge deal has also been discussed much like with Point.
The Athletic: ‘Waiting game’ | Zach Werenski is the last of the Blue Jackets without a contract, part of a large group of high-end RFAs waiting on a deal. So far, the talks have been amicable
— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) August 8, 2019
The Blue Jackets have a lot of work to do to rebuild their team. Werenski is a very important piece of the defence. Columbus has space and will likely get a deal done soon to make him one of the higher-paid players on the team.
COLUMBUS, OH – FEBRUARY 18: Brayden Point #21 of the Tampa Bay Lightning controls the puck during the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on February 18, 2019 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)