The NHL's offseason business will begin soon after this year's Stanley Cup champion is crowned next month. Trade activity will renew as all clubs will be allowed to make deals when the Finals end.
Those moves will include cost-cutting trades by teams with limited salary-cap space for next season. With the cap expected to remain at $81.5 million for 2021-22, Cap Friendly shows six clubs with less than $10 million in projected cap space.
Not all of those teams will need to shed salary via trades. They could get some cap relief by losing a player to the Seattle Kraken in July 21's expansion draft. Some could buy out a player's contract. A few, like the Chicago Blackhawks, could get relief if necessary by placing permanently injured players on long-term IR.
Several teams, however, could have little choice but to shed salary with an offseason trade. A franchise sitting over next season's cap, such as the Tampa Bay Lightning, will have to pare down its payroll. Meanwhile, a club like the New York Islanders will need room to re-sign some key players.
Here are five such clubs.
New York Islanders
With a projected $81.48 million invested in 23 players for 2021-22, the New York Islanders are bumping up against the salary cap. However, general manager Lou Lamoriello can get $6 million in relief by placing permanently sidelined defenseman Johnny Boychuk (eye) on long-term IR.
However, the Islanders have three restricted free agents with arbitration rights in winger Anthony Beauvillier, defenseman Adam Pelech and goaltender Ilya Sorokin. The cost of inking them to new contracts should exceed that $6 million of long-term IR relief. Sorokin could ink an affordable short-term deal, but the other two will be more expensive.
Beauvillier, 24, is completing a two-year deal worth an annual cap hit of $2.1 million and could seek to double his money. The 26-year-old Pelech is coming off a four-year contract with an annual average value of $1.6 million, plus he's a year away from unrestricted free-agent eligibility. As one of the Isles' top-pairing defensemen, he could seek over $5 million per season on a long-term extension.
Even by losing a player to the Kraken next month, the Islanders could be faced with shedding a salary via trade. Depending on how much cap room the expansion draft frees up, Lamoriello could try to find a taker for a veteran such as Cal Clutterbuck ($3.5 million), Leo Komarov ($3 million) or Thomas Hickey ($2.5 million).
During his season-ending press conference on June 2, Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Ron Hextall mentioned he'd like to add some size and toughness to his roster this summer. He could trade a player to address that need, depending on who the Penguins lose to the Kraken.
Pittsburgh has $78.3 million invested in 19 players for next season. Re-signing restricted free-agent depth forwards Teddy Blueger and Zach Aston-Reese will chew up a good chunk of that remaining cap space. It will leave little room to address their toughness issue.
Hextall indicated he's comfortable keeping this year's team together. Nevertheless, he'll be on the lookout for the right deal. If the Kraken select a lower-salaried player, he'll have to get creative in the trade market to find that suitable grittiness.
Pittsburgh Hockey Now's Dan Kingerski suggested making a pitch for a significant addition such as Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. Unless the Sabres agree to absorb part of his $5.4 million cap hit, Hextall would have to send another salaried player to the Sabres in that deal or trade one to another club in a separate cost-cutting move.