5 contracts the Canucks could take on to “buy” draft capital like the Blackhawks just did
Photo credit:© Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
By Noah Strang1 month ago
The Ottawa Senators and Chicago Blackhawks just completed a trade that saw defenceman Nikita Zaitsev head to the Windy City along with a few draft picks in return for future considerations. This was a cap dump for the Senators who now have an extra $4.5 million to play with this season and next.
For the Blackhawks, this was simply the organization buying draft picks. They’re not going to be competing anytime in the next two years — the duration of Zaitsev’s bad contract — and thus feel fine taking on that inefficient contract in exchange for some extra draft capital as compensation.
The Blackhawks got a second-round pick and a fourth-round selection for taking on two more years of Zaitsev at a cap hit of $4.5 million. Those draft picks will be helpful during their rebuild. You only need to look back to 2016 when they picked Alex Debrincat in the second round for an example of the potential value.
The Canucks are another team that has plenty of cap space available as we approach this year’s trade deadline. If they’re being honest with themselves, the Canucks are not going to be competing for the Stanley Cup for at least three seasons, meaning that they’re perfect candidates to take on a contract like this.
As long as they’re willing to sacrifice the cap space and actual dollars, the Canucks could add draft capital, giving them more shots at bolstering their lacking prospect pool. Here are five players around the league that they could target in a deal like this.
Craig Smith, Boston Bruins
The Boston Bruins have had an excellent season thus far and currently sit in first place leaguewide. However, with competitors like the Toronto Maple Leafs adding to their roster, you can be sure that the Bruins don’t want to just sit still at the deadline. The one issue is that they don’t have much cap space to work with.
The Canucks could reach out and offer to take Craig Smith off their hands. The bottom-six winger is costing $3.1 million against the cap and will be an unrestricted free agent this season. Freeing up a few million could give the Bruins the space they need to make their additions.
With the Bruins pushing their chips in to make a run this season, they likely don’t value their draft picks a whole bunch. This could put the Canucks in a great position to get something solid alongside Smith.
Cal Petersen, Los Angeles Kings
Cal Petersen is currently playing in the AHL despite a $5 million AAV contract. While keeping him out of the NHL does have some cap benefits, he’s still costing a lot against the Kings’ cap space at $3.875 million. Los Angeles finds themselves in an interesting position where they’re likely going to make the playoffs and have young assets to burn.
This is why you’re hearing that the Kings are in on big-name trades like Jakob Chychrun. Getting rid of Petersen and his $3.875 million AHL cap hit would help them a lot, although it would need to be a significant package for someone to take that deal on the other side.
The contract has two more years after this one and costs the same against the cap as Thatcher Demko’s when both players are in the NHL. While this would be an expensive addition for the Canucks, the chance to get a great prospect and good draft picks alongside it might be too good to pass up.
Jesse Puljujärvi, Edmonton Oilers
The Edmonton Oilers have two of the best players in the world and yet have not been able to find any playoff success. This season seems to be one where they’re ready to make a push and deal future assets at the deadline for help right now. Puljujärvi, a former top-five draft pick, could be on the move as a result.
Puljujärvi is on a deal that’s costing the Oilers $3 million against the cap and this is the final year of his contract. The situation just hasn’t quite worked out as the Finnish forward has never touched the 40 point mark and has just 13 points through 55 games this season. It’s clear that he needs a fresh start.
The Canucks could be an attractive landing spot for Puljujärvi as they can offer plenty of opportunity. While the Canucks won’t get a high draft pick for taking on the high-pedigree player, they could get a lower-round selection, especially if they added a little something of their own.
Lars Eller, Washington Capitals
The Washington Capitals currently sit outside a playoff spot. However, with Alexander Ovechkin and others still on the team, it’s impossible to ever count them out. If the organization wants to reward Ovechkin’s loyalty and give him another run at the playoffs late in his career, they’re going to need to open some cap space.
Lars Eller is in the final year of a $3.5 million contract. He has just 16 points through 57 games this season and seems to be on the decline. He’d be a great candidate for a move that would help the Capitals free up a few million bucks so that they can be buyers over the next week.
Alexander Kerfoot, Toronto Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs just made a huge splash by acquiring Ryan O’Reilly and it doesn’t feel like they’re done yet. The Leafs could still be active in the trade market as they look to improve their defence and goaltending. Their biggest obstacle is money and that’s why they needed two teams to get involved on the O’Reilly trade.
Dumping Kerfoot would help the Leafs get rid of his $3.5 million cap hit for the rest of this season and reallocate it to a different position group. Kerfoot is also one of the better players on this list as he’s a serviceable bottom-six winger with 26 points through 58 games so far this season.
While the Canucks might not be able to get a high draft pick alongside Kerfoot, they could potentially acquire the BC-born player for cheap and give him an extended tryout with some more playing time. If it doesn’t work out, he’s a free agent this offseason.
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