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Immodest Proposals: Taking On Cap Dumps In The Offseason

With GM Jim Benning continually reiterating his intentions to stand relatively pat at the 2019 Trade Deadline, it’s become a near certainty that the Vancouver Canucks will enter the 2019/20 season with a serious abundance of cap space.

Chances are good that a decent portion of this space will be occupied by new deals for Brock Boeser, Alex Edler, and Ben Hutton—among others—but even then the Canucks should have enough room left over to take on a bad contract from a cap-strapped team—provided, of course, that said team is willing to fairly compensate the Canucks in return.

The Concept

The notion of trading for “cap dumps” is not a new one, and doesn’t require much explanation. A competitive team with cap issues will seek to trade one of their bad contracts to a less-competitive squad with more flexibility—and they’ll offer up some draft picks and/or prospects to sweeten the deal.

There are plenty of cap-strapped teams in the NHL right now, and the Canucks are one of those teams that can afford to take on a dump or two—for the time being, that is. Elias Pettersson’s entry-level contract runs out at the end of the 2020/21 season and he’ll be looking for a substantial raise at that time, so Vancouver should avoid acquiring any bad contracts that extend beyond that year.

Ideally, any player acquired will either fit somewhere within the Canucks’ lineup or have the kind of injury history that suggests they’ll spend much of their time on the IR. The Canucks can fit just about anyone into their cap at the moment, but they should still avoid players with extraordinarily exorbitant salaries—like Corey Perry and his $8.625 million cap hit, for example.

The assets that the Canucks should expect in return will vary greatly based on the onerousness of the contract being acquired—as such, we’ve left that component a little more open-ended than usual. Therefore, the trade concept on the table today is:

Vancouver Trades A 2021 7th Round Pick For A Cap Dump (That Expires In Or Before 2021) And A Combination Of Picks And/Or Prospects

 

The Rationale 

With the 2019 NHL Entry Draft being hosted by Vancouver, both the organization and its fanbase have expressed a desire to acquire more picks. At the same time, the rebuild is chugging merrily along and partially-developed prospects are always a welcome addition. Taking on cap dumps is really the only way to acquire picks and prospects without giving up anything of value.

Barring multiple major UFA signings, the Canucks are also likely to have ample cap space until the conclusion of the 2020/21 season, when Elias Pettersson needs a new deal. According to CapFriendly, the Canucks are projecting to have just under $30 million of space as of this offseason—and it’s hard to imagine that new contracts for Brock Boeser, Alex Edler, Ben Hutton, Nikolay Goldobin, Josh Leivo, and Thatcher Demko will take up any more than two-thirds of that at the absolute most. That still leaves the team with around $10 million to play with.

For the record, such a trade would likely occur in the offseason—but before the draft—although there is always the possibility of a deadline deal.

The Proposals 

In terms of target teams, we’re looking for those that are both contending—or hoping to contend in the near future—and under some form of salary cap strain. However, we’ll also consider those teams that might just want to save a bit of money.

 

To Vancouver:

Ryan Callahan

Boris Katchouk or Gabriel Fortier

2019 3rd Round Pick

To Tampa Bay:

2021 7th Round Pick 

  Position Games Goals Assists Points
2018/19 RW 43 6 9 15

 

  2018/19 2019/20 2020/21
Cap Hit $5.8 million $5.8 million UFA

Tampa Bay is firmly within their window of contention, and Callahan’s contract is the only real obstacle to them bringing back an even stronger team next year. They’ll be willing to pay up in order to move him this offseason, and they fortunately have a cupboard full of prospects to offer. The Canucks don’t really need Callahan, but if they move on from bottom-six veterans like Markus Granlund and Brandon Sutter he’d be of some use. He does have a modified no-trade clause as of this current season.

 

To Vancouver:

Patrick Marleau

2019 2nd Round Pick

Jeremy Bracco

To Toronto:

2021 7th Round Pick 

  Position Games Goals Assists Points
2018/19 LW/C 58 13 15 28

 

  2018/19 2019/20 2020/21
Cap Hit $6.25 million $6.25 million UFA

Unlike most of the other players on this list, Marleau is still a highly effective forward. That being said, the Maple Leafs are in one of the worst cap situations in the league—and that’s only going to get worse when they re-sign Mitch Marner. Marleau does have a full no-movement clause, so he will only leave Toronto if he chooses to—but if he’s willing to help out the Leafs by moving on, the Canucks could certainly use his services.

 

To Vancouver:

David Backes

2019 1st Round Pick

To Boston:

2021 7th Round Pick

  Position Games Goals Assists Points
2018/19 C/RW 47 5 8 13

 

  2018/19 2019/20 2020/21
Cap Hit $6 million $6 million $6 million

Backes is  not a very popular player in Vancouver, nor is he the kind of player he used to be. With the Bruins’ core aging, they’ll be desperate to make a few more runs at the Cup—and thus, they might be willing to pay handsomely to ditch Backes’ contract. The Canucks could hold their collective noses and take him on if the reward is high enough—and if a bottom-six veteran or two are moved. He does have a modified no-trade clause after this season.

 

To Vancouver:

Michael Frolik

2019 3rd Round Pick

To Calgary:

2021 7th Round Pick 

  Position Games Goals Assists Points
2018/19 LW/RW 41 12 7 19

 

  2018/19 2019/20 2020/21
Cap Hit $4.3 million $4.3 million UFA

Frolik is still a fine hockey player, but he’s starting to age and has had difficulty finding a permanent spot in the Calgary lineup this season. With the onerous contract of James Neal already on the books, the Flames will look to dump Frolik this offseason—though they won’t be willing to offer up all that much along with him. He could be of some use to the Canucks, though he does have a modified no-trade clause. 

 

To Vancouver:

Brandon Dubinsky

2019 1st Round Pick

To Columbus:

2021 7th Round Pick 

  Position Games Goals Assists Points
2018/19 C/LW 37 5 6 11

 

  2018/19 2019/20 2020/21
Cap Hit $5.85 million $5.85 million $5.85 million

Take everything that was said for Backes and apply it to Dubinsky. Backes may be a little bit better than Dubinsky, but Dubinsky is a little bit cheaper and less hated in Vancouver—so the reward for taking him on should be roughly equal. With a modified no-trade clause that kicked in this season, Dubinsky would have to agree to go to Vancouver, which does seem a bit unlikely.

 

To Vancouver:

Vladimir Sobotka

2019 3rd Round Pick

2019 6th Round Pick 

To Buffalo:

2021 7th Round Pick 

  Position Games Goals Assists Points
2018/19 LW 55 3 7 10

 

  2018/19 2019/20 2020/21
Cap Hit $3.5 million $3.5 million UFA

Sobotka returned from exile in the KHL with a lot of promise, but he’s failed to revive his NHL career. He was a cap dump when Buffalo acquired him, and he remains a cap dump—only now, it’s the newly-contending Sabres that are looking to get rid of him. Sobotka wouldn’t play much of a role in Vancouver, but he’s also not all that expensive and could probably be buried in the minors if it came down to it—and if the reward for acquiring him was sufficient.

 

To Vancouver:

Andrej Sekera

2019 2nd Round Pick

Tyler Benson

To Edmonton:

2021 7th Round Pick 

  Position Games Goals Assists Points
2018/19 LD 0 0 0 0

 

  2018/19 2019/20 2020/21
Cap Hit $5.5 million $5.5 million $5.5 million

With Quinn Hughes and Olli Juolevi soon to arrive on the left side, the Canucks have absolutely no use for Sekera in the lineup. Fortunately, his injury history means that he’s nearly guaranteed to spend the last three years of his contract largely on the injured reserve. The Oilers desperately need to get rid of him—as soon as the upcoming trade deadline, if possible—and they should be willing to pony up in order to do so. Former Vancouver Giant Tyler Benson might make it worth the Canucks’ while.

 

To Vancouver:

Dmitry Kulikov

2019 2nd Round Pick

2019 6th Round Pick 

To Winnipeg:

2021 7th Round Pick 

  Position Games Goals Assists Points
2018/19 LD 34 0 4 4

 

  2018/19 2019/20 2020/21
Cap Hit $4.33 million $4.33 million UFA

The Jets are enjoying their time as contenders, but they’re about to encounter a dire cap crunch. Kulikov is their biggest waste of space, but his contract isn’t so awful that it couldn’t be moved with relative ease. For a price, the Canucks could take him on as a seventh defenseman next season instead of Derrick Pouliot. He might even represent an upgrade.

 

To Vancouver:

Brandon Manning

2019 2nd Round Pick 

To Edmonton:

2021 7th Round Pick 

  Position Games Goals Assists Points
2018/19 LD 29 2 2 4

 

  2018/19 2019/20 2020/21
Cap Hit $2.25 million $2.25 million UFA

The Oilers are going to spend a lot of time and resources cleaning up Peter Chiarelli’s mess. That probably starts with his worst acquisition in Manning. While the Canucks don’t really need any more left-handed defenders, Manning is a BC boy and could make for a solid seventh defender next season—or, alternatively, buried in the minors. However, Vancouver should make Edmonton pay an exorbitant price before they help out their divisional rival.

 

To Vancouver:

Ryan Spooner

2019 2nd Round Pick

To Edmonton:

2021 7th Round Pick

  Position Games Goals Assists Points
2018/19 C/LW 41 3 2 5

 

  2018/19 2019/20 2020/21
Cap Hit $4 million $4 million UFA

Take everything said for Manning and apply it here—minus the British Columbian stuff and the defenseman stuff. Spooner probably wouldn’t have much of a role in Vancouver, so he’d have to be buried in Utica—but another 2nd round pick in 2019 would probably make it worthwhile to pay his salary for a season.

Obviously, this entry was written before the Canucks acquired Spooner, but we’ve left it in for posterity’s sake. We’ll avoid calling ourselves prescient on this one as the team did not end up earning any extra picks for taking him on–although, in dumping Sam Gagner, the Canucks actually saved $50,000, making this a cap dump in the other direction.

  • Puck Viking

    I have been hoping for years that we would make moves like this while we still can.

    The only problem is that Canucks management cant see the forest through the trees. These guys have not made one forward thinking move since they got here. All of these players are not great but can play in the NHL instead we are signing players with similar talent to UFA contracts and get nothing for them. Instead of Schaller, Gagner and MDZ we should have been looking to add one or two players on bad short term contracts.

    Another one you forgot was Kris Russell. 4 million with 2 more seasons after this one. He could be used in Biegas role. Edmonton needs to clear cap space badly, so why not try and take advantage of the situation…

    • KGR

      Not a big proponent of taking on bad contracts. An extra draft pick is nice. The contract and player is often not. One thing overlooked is the player (unless he is on LTIR) will still need a spot to play, even if it is in Utica. That is one less spot for developing younger players. It is already a problem and will continue to be so as the Canucks get more up and comers from the draft. We can simply keep our bad contracts and call them “rentals”. Enjoy the Day Mr. Viking

      • The idea is that these trades don’t take away a spot from a young player, but take away a spot from a veteran who can be traded for additional picks or prospects – Callahan replaces Sutter, for example, or Sekera replaces Gudbranson.

      • canuckfan

        We do not need to give any of the agents for Canucks players to use as examples of a players worth. I would just stay away from taking on bad contracts we already have one that most regret having.

    • I think at $4 million Kris Russell is still a valuable NHLer and not a cap dump. Edmonton has a bunch of guys they should be moving instead of him, including Sekera, Manning, and Gagner (and of course Lucic if that’s at all possible).

    • DJ_44

      The propensity of teams to part with 1st, 2nd,3rd, or even 4th round pick for pure cap dumps is incredibly overrated. Mason was really the only player I can think of. All others are included as extras in larger hockey trades.

  • Defenceman Factory

    This is an interesting series and I like the idea of acquiring picks in exchange for taking back a bad contract. The Benson deal might be okay but bringing back under sized, middling wingers from Tampa or Toronto doesn’t seem worth the trouble.

  • Jim "Dumpster Fire" Benning

    There’s nothing wrong with your strategic proposals, I actually enjoyed reading them. I just find it prudent to point out that nothing accomplished by Benning in the previous 4.5 yrs points to a willingness to take on bad contracts. In fact, all signs for that entire period of time point to small, obvious moves, often made out of desperation.

    Proactive/Outside-the-box thinking is most certainly NOT this GM’s strong suit. But one can hope I suppose.

  • Kneedroptalbot

    Here is a better proposal, to Vancouver: Alex Petrovic (instead of Manning) for a 2019 2nd RD pick, for Vans 7th round pick. EDM needs to clear cap space.

  • Kanuckhotep

    I would keep cap costs down as much as possible and with, maybe, the exception of Frolik a definite NO to the rest of these guys. By keeping cap costs down as low as possible this anticipates the availability of a really good impact player you didn’t expect would be available and such players usually have pricey contracts, worth it if they’re really good. Still don’t want to give away picks and prospects for older players who’d not figure in the Canucks long range plans.

  • Killer Marmot

    The Canucks are going to be moving from a low-salary team to moderate or even high-salary team in the next few years as the likes of Boeser, Pettersson, and possibly Hughes negotiate the biggest contracts the Canucks have ever signed, and a multitude of young players like Stecher, Leivo, Markstrom, Hutton, Demko, Virtanen, Gaudette, Motte, and perhaps a few prospects who perform well, get in line for substantial raises.

    Plus the Luongo iceberg could strike the Good Ship Canucks in the ’21-22 season, although I expect Benning to work feverishly to find ways around that catastrophe.

    In short, the cap space situation might not be as favourable as Roget assumes. Management had better do their math.

  • Ronning4ever

    Great series! Really love what you’ve been doing on the site! Small quibble:

    “they only really added an additional $1 million in salary, so it’s hard to call the deal a true cap dump.”

    The NYR retained about a million in salary so the Nux actually save $50K on the cap. Not a cap dump, but it ended up being a lateral move…though the team gets a bit younger, a bit cheaper and if Spooner can regain his 0.5 P/PG status from previous seasons, it could end up being a marginal win.

  • Nuck16

    I think our window for this may have closed. It comes down to roster spots and ensuring we have enough space for guys that deserve to be on the big club next year such as Hughes, Gaudette, Zack, and Olli…so it may need to be done in conjunction with the trading of veteran(s) such as Sutter, Eriksson, Tanev…

  • It’s fun to think about these sort of things, but there are two issues with these suggestions. First and foremost, Benning is *never* going to do a move like this. He’s too old-school and lacks the creativity and foresight. If he didn’t make a move like this two or three years ago, he’s certainly not going to do it now when he thinks the Canucks rebuild is almost over.

    And your return on most of these trades is way too high. Callahan and Marleau are still solid players, if overpaid – Tampa and Toronto aren’t going to give up a 2nd or 3rd round pick *and* a solid prospect just to get out from under these contracts. One or the other.

    Still worth it for Vancouver, though, if it allows them to move another player for value – for example, I think Callahan is an upgrade at 3C from Sutter, even if he is overpaid, so acquire Callahan for a pick or prospect, then move Sutter for a pick or prospect, and you’d be laughing, if you had the creativity and foresight to make a move like this, which Benning does not.

    • Yeah, I found it quite tough to set the price on these as it depends so much on the target team’s cap situation. I agree that they’re set too high. That being said, anything is possible when a team–like perhaps Edmonton–becomes desperate.

      I’m also a big fan of the Callahan in, Sutter out move you suggested.

      I disagree with the Benning bashing, of course. But then I’ve always been a believer.

      • He’s had five years at the helm at this point and he has done *nothing* like this. Why would you think he would do something like this when there’s nothing like this in his track record?

      • There are things that Benning is good at and things that he is not good at. Creative trades and asset/cap management are simply not his strengths and that’s blindingly clear at this point.

          • Jim "Dumpster Fire" Benning

            Good luck waiting for the day that Benning changes his managing style to one of being “‘proactive” and generally staying ahead of the curve. There’s as good a chance that the Canucks win the cup this season.

        • Defenceman Factory

          If we start next season without having seen any of these types of moves I’ll agree with you. It seemed Linden put a big emphasis on the Sedins. This is the first year that influence isn’t there.

          I don’t believe Benning is a great tactician but he should get the full year alone at the helm to judge. Unfortunately the Canucks’ injury situation could again hamper potential deals this deadline.

          The Canucks are about 3 players away from being a sure fire playoff team and a few more upgrades from being a real contender. It is going to take some finessed transactions to finish this rebuild and get long term contracts in place for the stars. If he can’t pull off one or two slick trades by the start of next season it’s time to move on from him. When/if that happens ownership better have Brackett locked up tight.

          • TheRealPB

            The biggest challenge remains on the defense. We can usually plow through injuries to the forwards, but every time Tanev and Edler get hurt (which is a significant chunk of each year), we eventually collapse. Stetcher and Hutton have held up their end of things and even Biega can help. But you have to have at least three competent vets and Gudbranson as has been extensively discussed here is anything but and is sucking up a roster spot as well as too much of the cap hit.

            If there is a salary dump for us to absorb it should be an adequate defenseman. Most of the people on this list are forwards. To that end I’d try and take a Mike Green, Matt Niskanen, Jack Johnson, even Dion Phaneuf, if the sweetener was a 2nd or 3rd rounder our way and try and convince someone (anyone) to take Gudbranson. There are enough like JB who believe he is good despite all the evidence to the contrary that we could gain a 2nd. Additional forwards will just stunt our progress.

          • Defenceman Factory

            I agree with pretty much all you said. We don’t need more mediocre wingers and taking on a bad contract you can afford in exchange for picks can be useful. I agree getting some depth on D is probably a better idea.

            Actually putting the Dcorp together to move the Canucks into contention is going to take at least one shrewd trade to acquire a young, top notch RHD and that’s assuming Woo turns out. This draft has no sure bets at RD. None of the top rated have any size and all are several years away (I saw Lassie Thompson play a couple times this weekend and like his game). The Canucks can’t just wait and hope to draft and develop while their young stars get expensive. UFA options for Dmen are cost prohibitive and tend to have too much term.

            Taking back a bad contract can be one part of a deal for a young Dman but to get a good young player usually requires sending back a lot more/better picks than a 7th rounder. Trading out vets for the picks to use as currency to get a deal makes sense to me.

            Regardless of how, Benning needs to get a trade done for a young RHD and he shouldn’t be giving up many of the Canucks existing picks do get it done.

  • TheRealPB

    Very interesting suggestions. But what you’re suggesting in terms of ‘weaponizing cap space’ involves actual players, ones who most likely would NOT be buried in the minors and you’d have to convince the Aquilinis to pay the real dollars for these players. This is different from the creative use of cap space by Arizona (Chris Pronger for Sam Gagner and a 4th), Leafs (Clarkson for Horton’s uninsured contract, or buying and burying Greening, Michalek and Cowen’s contracts for a 2nd) or Devils (Marc Savard and a 2nd for a couple of AHLers). Are there any players like that — Savard, Clarkson/Horton or Pronger — whose contracts you could take on but not the bodies? Because the danger is that you bring in these veteran bodies and it delays the development of one of the younger guys. I know others have said you just move out one of our existing veterans but I don’t know that’s realistic. After all, we would have one of the best candidates for such a dump ourselves, in Eriksson (and I’d also suggest Gudbranson).

  • The value of a salary dump seems grossly over-estimated. Looks at Bickell, Chicago gave up Teravainen but got back a 2nd and a 3rd round draft pick. Bolland was similar: packaged with a young prospect (Crouse) but a 2nd and a 3rd went the other way. Datsyuk was a 2nd round pick and moving up a few spots in the 1st round of the 2016 draft. Taking a salary dump will get you a slight discount on an A prospect, you won’t get anything of value for a 7th round pick.

  • Dirty30

    If you could get an Erhoff plus Lukewich offering for next to nothing like Gillis did from SJ, you’d jump on it. Put Gudbranson on waivers and throw a party!

    But how many teams have that kind of depth to be able to lose an Erhoff type player for basically nothing?

    Any current D who can contribute has value to most teams. So there may be more hope to get a pick for Guddy and call it a day.

    Plan to try to move Sutter around the draft or early next season and that frees up some cap but still leaves the Eriksson and Beagle contracts to contend with at some point.

    Despite having cap space, this team really needs bodies that can actually contribute sooner than later — if you can get a Pettersson-level pick for a salary dump you’d take it … but taking a contract that could worsen your cap situation for later picks that might never pan out seems a bit ridiculous.

  • Jabs

    There are some good proposals there, also some not so good…..ultimately I am hesitant to take on any player with a 2-3 year term reaming because of the looming Luongo penalty should he retire.

  • bushdog

    interesting topic. i’m going to say no way. a young player will have a very small chance of making the nhl so the scouting has to be really good. where does he play? player that comes with the dump has to play somewhere. where? takes up a space for 2 or 3 years…who is he holding back? and i’m not certain that it will only be a 1 way dump. ‘we’ll take your 4mil if you take our 2mil’ is possible. hope i didn’t steal your thunder stephan lol. just thinking

  • TD

    Here is my question for all people in favor of these suggestions. Would you do it if it was your money? Would you take on two years at 6 mil per or would you tell Benning no and to put players on entry level type money in the roster and add 10ish million into your bank account? Be honest with the answers. The extra 10 mil seems pretty appealing to me, but I’m not a billionaire.

    • Dirty30

      It’s a very legit question when held up to the reality of this team not having made the playoffs for some time now. FA is certainly an owner who has been willing to spend money, but he’s also in business to make it as well. He’s paying out a lot of money for questionable returns these days and even billionaires don’t always have that much disposable cash sitting in the sock drawer (and I’m well aware FA likely has numerous lines of credit he taps into for expenses while his money is out there making good returns for him).

      If there was a great deal on the table FA would likely jump on it … but “buying” a pick for $10 mil that isn’t the next Petey, Bo or Brock is a huge cost for little return.

    • Defenceman Factory

      I think at the start of the year management puts in conservative estimates for revenue and expenses. This season the revenue projection should have been based on no playoffs and poor performance as that is generally what was expected. I also believe the business simply projects player salaries at the cap. If the result is a loss it is booked early and managed within the much larger corporation. If revenue exceeds targets or expenses come in under projections, bonus. If loss years get to frequent or stated timelines to return to profitability are not met heads role.

      Ownership causes huge problems when they set unrealistic revenue projections and/or start second guessing relatively minor management decisions.

      Player salaries are only one part of the costs required to run a franchise. Although significant they are not the majority of costs.

      A company the size of Aquillini’s has the revenue and diversity to look at each enterprise in a much longer time horizon than current year salaries. Benning and Linden before him will provide regular reports (quarterly) outlining changes from the last quarter, the conditions and rationale leading to those changes and any changes to long term projections expected to result from the changes. Driving up current costs by $10 million has to be coupled with a rationale that shows a return down the road. If the rationale looks sound I expect ownership wouldn’t blink an eye at spending closer to the cap.

      • TD

        So what would the return be for the 10 mil. The best of these offers has late first round pick coming back. I think those have a 20-30% chance of working out. Does that seem like a good return on 10 mil?

  • bushdog

    i can’t see it as worthwhile unless there is at Least a first in return. most 1 & 2 picks are lucky to be on a fourth line. if i’m doing you a huge favor, i want something tangible…like a lineup guy and that first. make it 6 or 8 mil, it ain’t my money lol