Offseason to be intriguing

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The next few weeks leading up to the Oct. 9 start date for free agency is going to be interesting in many ways.

Sure, there’s the impending free agency of stars Alex Pietrangelo, Taylor Hall and Torey Krug that will garner the headlines between now and the second week of October. It’s also about the teams that have to make decisions on their own guys.

Restricted free agency has the potential to play a role this offseason as well. There are teams that need to lock up their young stars to new deals. In turn, that could allow a team that needs to clear space — like the Vegas Golden Knights, for example, to get involved in such a busy offseason.

This is the beauty and curse with a flat cap for those who follow the NHL closely. Teams who are in need of putting together rosters to contend are in a pickle because of who’s available. Even when teams are allowed to go 10 percent over the cap during the offseason, it’s still going to force teams to find that extra wiggle room to become cap compliant.

I look at the Columbus Blue Jackets as one of those teams. Per CapFriendly, the Jackets are working with $7.025 million in cap space. That money will obviously go to paying young center Pierre-Luc Dubois, who could command as much as $8 million for being one of the best young two-way centers in the game.

Columbus also needs to find a way to pay young defensemen Gabriel Carlsson and Vladislov Gavrikov to rather cheap deals. And the Jackets also have to figure out what to do with RFA forward Josh Anderson; a capable 25-goal scorer who got bit by the injury bug this year.

CBJ may need to make some corresponding trades once their dust has settled, whether it be moving on from a veteran like Riley Nash or a really good player in his prime like Boone Jenner.

Another team to keep an eye on is the New York Islanders. They have to worry about not just Mat Barzal’s restricted free agency, but defenseman Ryan Pulock is also hitting RFA status. The Isles are working at around $8.9 million in space, so they could, in theory, get some things done there.

But it could get dicey for New York. Fortunately, the Islanders too do not have to worry about the goalie situation, replacing Thomas Greiss with Ilya Sorokin. But if they had to, could New York move on from Anders Lee? Maybe Brock Nelson? Cal Clutterbuck and Leo Komarov seem too highly to move without taking something back.

Even the reigning Eastern Conference champion Tampa Bay Lightning could have a say in how all of this operates. Tampa Bay needs to pay two-way star Anthony Cirelli and star young defenseman Mikhail Sergachev while maintaining the core of Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point.

Someone like Blake Coleman, who Tampa gave up a lot for at the deadline, could be a needed trade chip for the Lightning. If they win the Stanley Cup, all moves they make could be moot.

I know we’re all excited about free agency and what that could entail, but the weeks leading up to it are going to provide some fun entertainment. Teams that may have not appeared to be in the running before can all of a sudden lay claim to some of the big names on the market.

It’s a fun time of year, and fortunately there’s an exciting Stanley Cup Final to help get us all there.

Wednesday

Lightning vs. Stars: Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final will likely continue a fun final for everyone involved. Dallas got the shocking result in Game 1, only for its comeback to fall short in Game 2. Meanwhile, the world watches in wait to see if Steven Stamkos will return in this series. Right now, the door is open for Dallas to make a move.

There’s something to be said about the team of destiny; whether or not they can keep up this momentum against a team that’s just better than them. We’ve seen teams ride that momentum at the right time, and the fact the Stars got a split should be encouraging for something. I’ll take Dallas in Game 3, which is a must-win for them considering the back-to-back this weekend will be real. STARS

Last week: 1-0

Season: 41-40

About the Author
Danny Webster

Danny Webster

Danny Webster is an NHL columnist at Gaming Today. He is a graduate of UNLV whose work also appears on NHL.com, Vegas Hockey Now, and SB Nation.

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