Since the NHL implemented the salary cap in 2005, off-season trades involving notable players tend to occur between mid-June and early-July. As teams run out of salary cap space, significant trades usually peter out by now.
This summer, however, there's been more business than usual. Since June 14, 23 trades occurred involving at least one NHL roster regular.
The biggest move was during the 2019 NHL Entry Draft when the Nashville Predators shipped defenseman P.K. Subban to the New Jersey Devils . Other significant swaps saw the Winnipeg Jets send blueliner Jacob Trouba to the New York Rangers while the Toronto Maple Leafs dealt center Nazem Kadri in a multi-player deal to the Colorado Avalanche for rearguard Tyson Barrie.
Trade activity has continued throughout July. On July 9, the Buffalo Sabres sent winger Alexander Nylander to the Chicago Blackhawks for defenseman Henri Jokiharju. A week later, the Blackhawks dealt center Artem Anisimov to the Ottawa Senators for center Zack Smith.
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Last Friday saw two noteworthy names on the move. In a rare trade between two longstanding rivals, the Edmonton Oilers shipped left wing Milan Lucic to the Calgary Flames for winger James Neal .
In most cases, these deals were done by one club to free up sufficient salary cap space for other moves, such as signing free agents. A need for sufficient wiggle room under the $81.5 million cap before the season opens in October could result in more players getting traded before training camps begin in September.
The Rangers recent re-signing of Trouba put them above the cap by over $900,000 . With restricted free agents Pavel Buchnevich, Brendan Lemieux and Anthony DeAngelo to re-sign, they must free up extra dollars.
Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post speculates winger Chris Kreider ($4.625 million) or center Vladislav Namestnikov ($4 million) could be shopped. Blueliners Kevin Shattenkirk ($6.65 million) or Brendan Smith ($4.35 million) could be traded or bought out.
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Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford already made two salary-dumping moves this summer, sending Phil Kessel to Arizona for Alex Galchenyuk and blueliner Olli Maatta to Chicago for center Dominik Kahun. With less than $158K in cap room and defenseman Marcus Pettersson to re-sign, he could be shedding salary before training camp.
Rutherford could bury some salary in the minors but that could make it difficult to recall players or make other moves during the season. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Matt Vensel suggested forwards Bryan Rust and Nick Bjugstad and defenseman Jack Johnson as possible trade candidates. The trio carries annual average values between $3.25 million to $4.1 million.
Several clubs could face moving out a salaried player to make room to re-sign a notable restricted free agent.
All eyes are on the Toronto Maple Leafs efforts to re-sign Mitch Marner. With speculation putting the winger's asking price in excess of $10 million annually, Leafs GM Kyle Dubas could end up getting creative to free up sufficient room.
The Leafs presently don't have any cap space available, technically. But with winger Nathan Horton ($5.3 million) and now permanently sidelined winger David Clarkson ($5.25 million cap hit) on long-term injury reserve, the addition of Zach Hyman and Travis Dermott sidelined until December and by putting a few lower-salaried players in the minors, Dubas could have enough room to re-sign Marner.
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The eventual return of Hyman and Dermott, however, could mean trading away another salaried player. That move could involve shipping out a young forward such as the recently re-signed Kasperi Kapanen ($3.2 million) or Andreas Johnsson ($3.4 million).
Dubas has thus far pulled off an impressive juggling act with his cap payroll without weakening his roster. Perhaps he has one more surprising deal up his sleeve.
The Calgary Flames have over $9.9 million in cap room , most of which will be taken up by re-signing power forward Matthew Tkachuk. That won't leave much for utility forward Sam Bennett and goaltender David Rittich. Meanwhile, the Vancouver Canucks have over $5 million remaining but that won't be enough to re-sign RFA winger Brock Boeser.
In Boston, the Bruins have around $8 million left with young blueliners Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo likely to cost a combined $10 million to sign. Unless they can find a taker for fading veteran forward David Backes ($6 million), they could be forced to move a more valuable member of the lineup.