Tim Murray hopes he can continue to make trades like the one that landed Evander Kane. The Sabres’ general manager would have a better chance if the salary cap stopped going up, but it appears that won’t be the case.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters at this week’s general managers meetings that he expects the cap to rise next season. Despite a plunging Canadian dollar and a lack of commitment by the NHL Players’ Association to use its 5 percent escalator clause, the cap could go from $69 million to $71.5 million.
Buffalo’s best shot at prying young veterans from teams in exchange for draft picks is to have a plethora of cap-strapped teams. Even a modest $2 million bump would allow some organizations to avoid purging themselves of players and salaries.
“Worst-case scenario, all the picks we have we use them on players at the draft,” Murray said during an interview with the NHL Network. “But if we could speed up the process a bit and still stay within our blueprint of” acquiring “a 23-, 24-, 25-year-old player, I think that helps us get better quicker.”
The New York Islanders showed how rapidly improvement can come by taking advantage of teams with cap trouble. They acquired defensemen Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy from Boston and Chicago, respectively, for a total of two picks and three prospects. The Isles are on the verge of clinching a playoff spot after finishing last in the Metropolitan Division last season.
While a rising cap decreases the likelihood of similar deals, there could still be a few opportunities.
Philadelphia already has $70.2 million committed to next season, according to Spotrac.com. With Luke Schenn and Jakub Voracek scheduled to be unrestricted free agents following the 2015-16 season and Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier headed toward restricted free agency at the same time, the Flyers could be forced into tough decisions.
Chicago is projected to be at $63.3 million with just 13 players under contract, according to Spotrac, while Tampa Bay (also $63.3 million) needs to re-sign superstar Steven Stamkos.
The Los Angeles Kings ($61 million) face a tough 2016 with Anze Kopitar scheduled to become a UFA and Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli becoming RFAs. A dwindling cap would put them in a bind.
Murray and his fellow GMs will have a better feel for the market once the NHLPA decides if it should use the escalator clause. While it wants more money in the pot for its players, the drawback is an increase in escrow taken from their paychecks. The union is analyzing the matter.
The Sabres have discussed hosting a preseason prospect tournament. While it’s unlikely they’ll have one this fall, they’ve cleared their schedule by dropping out of the tournament in Traverse City, Mich.
Buffalo has traveled to the Detroit Red Wings’ prestigious prospects affair the last three times it was held. Detroit announced Wednesday that Chicago will take the Sabres’ place this fall to join Carolina, Columbus, Dallas, Minnesota, St. Louis and the New York Rangers.
The Sabres want to take advantage of their three-rink complex with HarborCenter up and running.
The green St. Patrick’s Day jerseys the Sabres wore during warm-ups Monday and the breast cancer awareness jerseys worn by former players at the alumni wine festival are up for bid. Both auctions are accessible via Auction.NHL.com.
The green jerseys, which feature a shamrock on the shoulder and gaelic lettering on the back, had a starting bid of $250. The auction runs until 9 p.m. Sunday, with proceeds benefiting the Sabres’ foundation.
The autographed alumni jerseys, which are white with pink numbers and trim, feature players such as Gilbert Perreault, Rene Robert, Danny Gare and Rob Ray. The auction will run until 9 p.m. Wednesday.
After totaling three points during back-to-back games against Washington and Boston, the Sabres took Wednesday off. They will practice Thursday before starting another set of back-to-backs. New Jersey visits Buffalo on Friday, and the Sabres will play Saturday in Nashville.