Up against the cap and the start of the regular season less than two weeks away, the Canucks are looking to shed salary according to a report by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.
The Canucks have made “four or five players” available says Friedman, leaving us to speculate who they could be.
Jim Benning’s team currently has 26 players signed to NHL contracts, totalling $83.2 million, which is above the $81.5 million salary cap ceiling. Antoine Roussel is expected to spend the first 1-2 months on injured reserve, which will save some money. The Canucks will also save on the cap given they’ll have to demote at least two more players to the Utica Comets to start the season, if everyone else stays healthy.
But sending a player to the minors doesn’t necessarily make his entire cap hit disappear. The maximum NHL teams are allowed to bury in the AHL is $1.075 million, meaning that demoting Loui Eriksson ($6M salary) or Tim Schaller ($1.9M) will offer the same savings to the Canucks’ cap.
While the Canucks, as currently constructed, can make the numbers work to get under the cap – demoting Eriksson, Schaller, and Tyler Motte would do the trick – it doesn’t leave them much breathing room if they want to add to their roster down the road.
If Benning is looking to make a cap-saving deal, it makes the most sense to move a player that makes above $1.075 million – because players that make less than that can have the entirety of their salary buried in the minors. Current Canucks players that make under that threshold include Nikolay Goldobin, Motte, Alex Biega, and Oscar Fantenberg.
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The player Benning would obviously like to move is Eriksson, though he might need to use hypnosis to convince another NHL general manager to take on his salary. Brandon Sutter ($4.375M) and Jay Beagle ($3M) are others, though somebody needs to play centre and kill penalties for this team next season.
Is Jake Virtanen on the trading block? Maybe, but his $1.25 million salary isn’t weighing the team down much. Goldobin ($900,000 salary) could certainly be on the move, but that’s hardly a cap move.
The most logical player to move is Schaller, who is a long shot to make the opening night lineup, but is only one year removed from a 12-goal season with the Boston Bruins. The 28-year-old was a disappointment for the Canucks last year, scoring just three goals and 10 points for the Canucks in 47 games.
If Benning could find a taker for Schaller, that would save the team $825,000 on the cap versus the alternative of sending him to Utica.
The Canucks could offer a draft pick as part of the package to help sweeten the pot, though they shouldn’t be that desperate. At least not yet.