The Chicago Blackhawks have salary cap space to give and would likely be more than happy to take on some contracts teams wouldn’t want–especially if it’s including a sweetener in the way of a draft pick or prospect.
Pittsburgh Hockey Now’s Dan Kingerski looked at possible buyout candidates but what if teams opt to hold onto these contracts and work the phones instead?
Here are a couple names that could spark a conversation at the very least between both teams.
Anthony Mantha – Washington Capitals
The trade that Washington made with Detroit never worked out. On paper, the Red Wings have a slight win in that the first round pick they used netted them Sebastian Cossa, who is rounding into form.
But the issues that plagued Mantha in Detroit returned in Washington. The Capitals only owe him one year at $5.7M, but instead of a buyout which would push it another year, they could unload it to the Blackhawks.
Mantha can be frustrating with what appears to be an inability to “snap-to” but he would bring a few 20-goal seasons with him and be reunited with former teammate Andreas Athanasiou, who he was once considered the core with in Detroit. What could Washington send back? How about Connor McMichael, who took a step back this season with the Capitals. Instead of paying full time in Washington, he spent the bulk of the year with Hershey in the AHL. He seemingly found his game there, but could the time be right to swing a deal?
Chicago could take Mantha’s one-year deal, which gives Washington nearly $6M back without a buyout penalty and ask them for McMichael as the sweetener in doing so. It could send a lower round pick back or simply be for future considerations. They could even shoot over one of the third round picks they have, something the Capitals need.
The hard part with this deal is that Washington is trying to keep its window open with Alex Ovechkin still in the fold. At the same time, they have to be mindful that Father Time catches all. McMichael is intriguing enough but the Caps might not be really ready to give him up just yet.
Pros for the deal
- Washington gets cap space which helps with next season as well
- Chicago gets closer to the floor while adding an NHL veteran and a 22-year-old prospect who could take more time to develop and eventually “hit” as expected
Cons for the deal:
- Washington gives up on McMichael too early and he “hits” in Chicago
- The Capitals would want a higher pick (think second-round) for McMichael being involved
Mikael Granlund – Pittsburgh Penguins
Granlund has a $5M AAV over the next two years which clogs up the Penguins plans to keep the contention window open. New general manager Kyle Dubas vowed to build around the core of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin a season removed from missing the playoffs.
Granlund’s dollar amount haven’t matched the production and a buyout puts an extra $1.83M on the cap for another three seasons after the 2023-24 campaign.
For a team trying to maximize its window, shedding the contract rather than buying it out gives them more flexibility. So what could the ease of the contract look like?
The player they could certainly ask about would be defenseman Owen Pickering, but he’s Pittsburgh’s top prospect in what is a thinner prospect pool. It’s likely a hard-no, but it’s worth the ask. Outside of that, netminder Joel Blomqvist could be an interesting one to bring aboard. While the Blackhawks have Drew Commesso in the system, having more rather than less goaltending prospects can be an asset. Blomqvist had a .907 save percentage while playing in Liiga last season.
Dubas will be aggressive in keeping Pittsburgh competitive with a chance to win it all, but he also has to be mindful of what little the Penguins have in the pipeline for the future beyond Crosby and Malkin. Pittsburgh is devoid of a second-round pick and the Blackhawks have four. If Pickering would be in the conversation, could a second-round the other way help?
Pros for the deal:
- Blackhawks get a NHL vet with a prospect
- Pittsburgh gets cap space
Cons for the deal:
- With a thin pool of prospects, giving up the 2022 first-round pick isn’t enticing
- A buy out, though putting it on the books for another two seasons, doesn’t need to yield anything