The All-Star break is over and the regular season is back underway tonight which means the trade deadline is nearing and more speculation about where July 2019 UFA (unrestricted free agents) will end up either before the trade deadline or in the off-season continues.. As of today we have exactly three weeks until the trade deadline so things will be getting pretty dicey over the next 2-3 weeks. For now these are my top story lines to be aware of heading into a pretty important month for teams.
1. Artemi Panarin or Sergei Bobrovsky? the Blue Jackets are at a very difficult road right now, they have two important UFA’s to tend to right now and both can make or break their future. The Blue Jackets seem more inclined to treat their top forward Panarin to a contract, his agent and the Blue Jackets have met now two times but we have not heard anything yet. Bobrovsky has been on the “hot seat” with the Blue Jackets since his stint a few weeks back when he got pulled and never returned to the bench. The Blue Jackets need to decide what they are going to do. They are a top-three Metropolitan division team, have eyes on the playoffs and if everything goes right they can make a run in the playoffs, but if they do that and hold onto both Panarin and Bob they will let the two walk for essentially nothing. I would see Bobrovsky moved at the trade deadline and Panarin re-sign.
2. Ottawa Senators cap situation: The Senators have a similar situation to the Blue Jackets except they have five important players to re-sign and cannot afford any of them. They have a projected 7.43 million in cap space right now. Matt Duchene, Mark Stone, Ryan Dzingel, Colin White and Cody Ceci are all due for contracts. Mark Stone will probably get around 7.5 million lets say therefore they hit their cap hit. Matt Duchene is going to cost around 8-8.5 million probably for 6-7 years, Colin White will cost 2.5-3 million at 4-5 years, Ryan Dzingel will cost 4-5 million at 4-5 years, Cody Ceci will cost 4-4.5 million at 4-5 years. Therefore with all these players contracts that is 27.5 million in cap space between these guys alone. When we add up that 27.5 million and the rest of their players right it comes to 58.93 million in cap, plus all the players on their entry level deals it is 65.63 million, not to mention in two years Brady Tkachuk and Thomas Chabot are going to be due for a contract. This is a tough situation for the Senators, they have a 72 million cap hit and the cap is raising next year but the only way this does work out is if Duchene and Stone get those projected numbers and White/Dzingel/Ceci take those contracts as well.
3. Rangers on the rebuild still? The Rangers have been in the story line for rebuliding since last season but the newest players on the block for the Rangers are Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Hayes and Adam McQuaid, all these players are UFA’s in July and the way the Rangers are going it seems obvious they are going to want to trade them and build for the future. The Rangers have to worry about Anthony Deangelo and Neal Pionk as their main RFA’s this summer. Therefore if the Rangers are going to trade anyone it is going to be Hayes, Zuccarello for the sole reason of what they can receive in return form a contending playoff team.
4. Who are the top trade targets to keep an eye on right now? Wayne Simmonds, Jason Spezza, Andre Burakovksy, Michael Ferland, Brian Boyle, Derick Brassard. My prediciton for these players are Stars receive Burakovsky he can easily slide in their top-six and help them out. Simmonds continues to get targeted by Winnipeg, Nashville, Dallas, Ferland is a top contender in Pittsburgh.