With the potential for some big names hitting the free agent market this summer, cap space will yet again prove its immense value for teams looking to snag one.
Pierre LeBrun had a Monday afternoon radio hit on Ottawa’s TSN 1200.
At one point during the conversation, LeBrun was asked how the offseason might play out with the more prominent players, since the top echelon of contenders won’t necessarily have the cap space to add them.
“Yeah, it’s a great point,” noted LeBrun. “That’s why, for example, the New York Rangers - while not a contender - are a desirable location. So when you look at a guy like Panarin, I think there’s no question the Rangers are on his list if he decides to leave Columbus. And he may not. He may re-sign with the Blue Jackets. But if he decides to leave, the Rangers would be on his list and the Rangers have a ton of cap room.
“So that’s what you look at. You look at the combination of teams that could win, teams that are in markets where players like to live, and their salary cap situation. So the Rangers knock off two out of those three. So they’re a team to watch, not just for Panarin - I would argue for Erik Karlsson possibly if he doesn’t re-sign in San Jose.
“The Rangers really loom large because they’ve kind of taken a knee here the last year-and-a-half, and have created cap room and haven’t done much. They’ve been un-Rangerslike because they’re rebuilding. But believe me, I think there’s a desire to continue to rebuild and have all of those young players in New York, but at the same time have some of that salary cap muscle too. So they’ll be a team to watch.
“And again, the Karlsson situation itself I’m sure of interest to your listeners, we’ll see whether he ends up staying in San Jose or not. I know that was going to be a conversation at some point here in the New Year, where the Sharks and Karlsson’s people were going to probably re-engage and see where all of that heads.
“Montreal is a team that while you don’t rate them as a top contender, they are having a nice bounceback season, and have a ton of cap room interestingly. It’s kind of one of those stories that’s gone under the radar, but they really do have a lot of cap room and over the last few years have struggled to lure free agents. It’s not been a place that most players have wanted to end up in. But if they do make the playoffs and their bounceback season continues, who knows how players might view the Montreal Canadiens.
“So there’s different things like that to look at. The San Jose Sharks are always a place people want to be. If Karlsson leaves for whatever reason - I’m not saying he will, but if he decides he’s not signing there - then the Sharks now suddenly have a ton of cap room, and they’d be a team that would be dangerous for some of these big guys.
“So we’ll see where it all ends up. One team that still has cap room that I always think of when I think of Mark Stone are the Vegas Golden Knights. Now, I’m certainly hoping Stone stays in Ottawa and that Mark Stone sees enough in the rebuild that he wants to stick around. But if he decides to hit the market, you cannot deny the history that exists between Kelly McCrimmon and Mark Stone, right, from their time in Brandon. And I could guarantee you that if Mark Stone went to market that Kelly McCrimmon would be in George McPhee’s ear saying, ‘Go, go, go.’ He’d be all over Mark Stone.”