Let’s take a look at the top five acquisition candidates heading into the off-season.
5. Zack Kassian – Edmonton Oilers
– Contract: 2 years left, $ 3.2 million AAV
– Stat Line 2021-22: 58 GP, 6 goals, 13 assists, 19 points, 11:47 TOI
– Buyout cap hit: $ 666,667 (2022-23), $ 1,8667 million (2023-24), $ 966,667 (2024-25), $ 966,667 (2025-26)
One of the first significant contracts of the Ken Holland era was always doomed to disaster.
Nothing in Kassian’s career leading up to this extension has ever indicated that it was worth such a high price or such a long term. Anything. And almost immediately after putting pen to paper, Kassian’s production fell off a cliff as many thought, with the player racking up eight goals and 24 points in 85 games in the first two years of this deal while watching his average on ice time drops by a full four minutes.
Kassian’s contract was nothing short of a disaster for the Oilers, and with the team facing a crucial offseason filled with key contracts expiring and not enough room to sign them again, losing even a fraction of Kassian’s remaining money could be a good idea.
With two years left on his contract, however, the question is whether it would be more worthwhile to collect Kassian’s sending limit savings at AHL and be done with it instead of earning an extra $ 2.5 million this summer and $ 1.3. million next summer, while chaining a fraction of Kassian’s dead money to the books for another four years.
4. Matt Murray – Ottawa Senators
– Contract: 2 years left, AAV $ 6.25 million
– 2021-22 Stat Line: 20 GP, 5-12-2, 1 SO, 3.05 GAA, .906 SV%
– Capture limit hit: $ 666,667 (2022-23), $ 1,866,667 (2023-24), (2024-25), $ 966,667 ($ 966,667)
The Ottawa Senators are not a money-throwing franchise. So when it comes to an acquisition of this magnitude, eating $ 10 million in dead money is something that could keep the organization from moving forward, even if both Murray and the Senators could likely use a fresh start.
Murray’s 2021-22 was by no means the disaster of his debut campaign in Ottawa the year before. The 28-year-old looked surprisingly decent in the limited playing time he recorded, even putting together a couple of strokes during which he looked like the two-time Stanley Cup champion who convinced the Senators to pay him as one of the top goalkeepers in the league two offseason ago. .
Injuries, however, have always been Murray’s undoing and this season has been no different as the Thunder Bay native appeared in just 20 games and failed to stay on the ice consistently for the second consecutive year.
These health issues will likely be the single most important factor motivating a potential purchase from the Sens point of view. Sure, dead money will hurt, but Murray’s ongoing battles with various ailments still make him unavailable to the team for more than half of the schedule. What would be the difference? If Murray isn’t healing an active injury, a buyout could at least free Pierre Dorion to use some of the $ 6.25 million otherwise owed to Murray on a player or two who will actually fit into the squad on a nightly basis. The price, however, will be an extra limit of $ 2.5 million for two years after the Murray deal expires.
Then again, for a cap floor team like the Senators, that could be something of an advantage.
It’s not Murray’s fault that his body regularly lets him down. Injuries happen. But from a reptilian, resource-centric perspective, using his salary to pay for more resources that will at least play most of the program might be the best bet.
3. Petr Mrazek – Toronto Maple Leafs
– Contract: 2 years remaining, AAV $ 3.8 million
– 2021-22 Stat Line: 20 GP, 12-6-0, 3.34 GAA, .888 Sv%
– Buyout cap hit: $ 1,033 million (2022-23), $ 833.33 (2023-24), $ 1,433 million (2024-25), $ 1,433 (2025-26)
It’s hard to imagine a way Petr Mrazek’s first season in Toronto could have been worse.
The 30-year-old spent his 2021-22 season getting injured or hurt, often putting together a combination of the two that produced disastrous results. In 20 appearances, Mrazek collected a brutal save rate of 0.888 and an even worse percentage of -9.6 goals saved above average – each among the last of any goalkeeper with at least 15 games played across the league.
Worst of all, he didn’t even finish the season healthy, crashing with a severe groin injury on the final stretch, never to return.
With a number of crucial roster decisions to be made this off-season, losing even a fraction of the $ 3.8 million owed to Mrazek in each of the next two years should look pretty tempting for Toronto.
Buying the remainder of the Mrazek deal will certainly help in the short term, giving the notoriously limited Maple Leafs $ 2.667 million more in 2022-23 and $ 2,967 in 2023-24. Beyond that, however, this could be a hard pill to swallow, with $ 1,433 million in Mrazek buyout penalties chained to their limit through 2026. And given that the Maple Leafs just stopped paying Phil Kessel, that Hasn’t played for the team since 2015, $ 1.2 million in salary withheld, it’s questionable how eager Kyle Dubas will be to rack up another dead chunk of cash on his books after just getting out of the last one.
Then again, Mrazek’s future looks unsustainable in Toronto. The organization doesn’t trust him to stay healthy or perform at NHL level, and his cap hit is too big for a team with such tight margins to pay.
If Mrazek is still injured, LTIR could be another way out. But doing so will prevent the Leafs from accumulating hat space during the regular season, which has been a hole they have fallen into over the past few years with risky results.
I don’t envy the person who has to make this decision. But it is still one that needs to be done.
2. Duncan Keith – Edmonton Oilers
– Contract: 1 year left, $ 5.5 million AAV
-Stat Line 2021-22: 64 GP, 1 goal, 20 assists, 21 points, 19:44 TOI
– Capture limit hit: $ 4,538,462 (2022-23), $ 500,000 (2023-24)
Honestly, Keith could retire this off-season, which would save the Oilers the huge headache of buying it.
It is clear that Keith is no longer one of the NHL’s top four defenders. The 38-year-old looked at least a step back in his first season at Edmonton, showing the age and toll his long career has brought him every night. If Keith can’t give you the first four minutes, a team like the Oilers, who are already so close to the cap, can’t pay him the first four sous.
But the savings they would get from buying the veteran, frankly, wouldn’t be worth it. Due to Keith’s age at the time of this hypothetical acquisition, the Oilers would have been hooked for two-thirds of his cap for the 2022-23 season, essentially chaining $ 4,538,462 of dead money to their books to get rid of him. .
At that price, why not just keep it?
While Keith isn’t the asset he once was – far from it, in fact – the Oilers would have at least put a real body into their lineup at an admittedly high price instead of throwing it away for just $ 1 million in capital savings.
It’s a tough situation for Ken Holland to deal with, and it makes his decision not to force the Blackhawks to withhold any salary on Keith when he acquired it look even worse, but at the very least he can still fill a place in training. And if that’s where the bar is, the Oilers can get past it by keeping it around.
1. Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Sharks of San Jose
– Contract: 4 years left, AAV $ 7 million
– Stat Line 2021-22: 75 GP, 3 goals, 11 assists, 14 points, 15:13 TOI
– Buyout cap hit: $ 3.678 million (2022-23), $ 1.437 million (2023-24), $ 4.187 million (2024-25), $ 5.187 million (2025-26), $ 1.687 million (2026-2030)
Arguably the worst contract in the entire league, the Marc-Edouard Vlasic deal is arguably the best takeover candidate heading into the off-season.
And it sure is crap.
Vlasic was once one of the NHL’s top defensive blueliners, giving the Sharks a huge extinguishing presence and an elite penalty killer to anchor their D corps. Then they signed him an eight-year contract extension while Vlasic was on the wrong side of 30, with everyone knowing full well that he wouldn’t play to the end.
So here we are.
Age and injuries have made Vlasic below the replacement level for at least the past two seasons. And at $ 7 million against the cap for the next four years, keeping his deal on the books is simply an unsustainable situation, especially for a team of Sharks with a whole host of other hefty contracts weighing them down. Buying Vlasic will not be painless. His dead money will be tied to the San Jose edge until the end of the decade, with his takeover penalty reaching a whopping $ 5,187 million in 2025.
But getting at least some relief in the near future could be crucial to the shark’s chances of returning to respectability. The roughly $ 4 million in relief they’ll get next season if they pull the trigger will help quite a lot, while also opening up a spot on their blue line to be occupied by a young player with a stake in the team’s future.
It’s a shame it had to end like this for Vlasic. But based on its current state, it’s hard to think of another way out.