GARRIOCH: As the NHL draft draws closer, expect the level of trade chatter to increase

With veteran goaltender Craig Anderson on his way out in Ottawa, Don Brennan suggests that the Senators should go after Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray, who is a restricted free agent.  Jeffrey T. Barnes / The Associated Press

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It’s like the NHL calendar has moved from June to September.

With the Stanley Cup final set to get under way as early as Saturday night if the Tampa Bay Lightning can send the New York Islanders packing Thursday night in Game 6 in Edmonton with the winner taking on the Dallas Stars, the level of trade chatter around the NHL has increased over the course of the last week or so.

That’s because with the virtual NHL draft is set for Oct. 6-7 and the salary cap remaining flat at $81.5 million, the NHL’s 31 general managers are trying to put pieces in place for whenever 2020-21 season begins. The threat of the novel coronavirus has left a ton of uncertainly with the landscape of where the league is headed and several teams are looking to cut salary instead of adding to their payroll.

With nine picks in the first three rounds and 13 in total, Ottawa Senators’ general manager Pierre Dorion can expect his phone to ring a lot in the next three weeks. Teams will be looking to move contracts in exchange for picks and the Senators can use some of those assets they’ve got to shore up places that need immediate attention.

As pointed out by a league executive Wednesday, don’t expect anything to happen quickly. Teams usually get things done when there’s deadline attached and that’s why there’s a chance it may take until the actual week of the draft before a lot deals take place. The Minnesota Wild did deal Eric Staal to Buffalo for Marcus Johansson.

The good news after what’s been months of inactivity the talk is heating up again and, at the least, you can expect Dorion and the Senators to be in the middle of those discussions. Qualifying offers are due for restricted free agents on Oct. 7 at 5 p.m. EST and that’s going to play a role.

“(The flat cap) is paralyzing and a propellent at the same time,” said TSN analyst Dave Poulin, a former NHL executive and player, Wednesday from Toronto. “Teams know they have to do stuff. You’re going to see (GM’s) try to slide players through qualifying offer (period) and then come back to offer them something else.

“That’s a critical date because teams are going to be watching those lists. And, the sense I’m getting, is there’s more teams aren’t looking to make change, they have to make change.”

There’s several teams that will be trying to cut payroll. That doesn’t mean the Senators will have to take on bad contracts by any stretch of the imagination, but it does mean maybe they can bolster some areas on their roster.

“I do think, depending on the industry (the owner is in), there are going to be teams that are going to say, ‘We’re not going to go the cap. We’re just simply not.’ We’re going to be a budget team,” Poulin said. “And, who knows what we’re talking about for next season?

“Are we going to see full stands? Are we talking about a Jan. 1 start. We’re not going to have that information when these decisions are being made by teams and that’s the problem. Teams are going to be airing on the conservative side (when it comes to making moves).”

That could make for attractive options for the Senators if they decide to go that route. It’s believed the club is involved in talks for a veteran goaltender, including Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray, and it’s possible one of those selections could be used to help stabilize the net. Columbus and Arizona are also dangling goaltending options on the NHL trade market.

Of course, there’s also going to be possibilities at forward and defence which is why Dorion will be considering all the options that are put in front of him in the coming weeks before the draft. The Senators are going to cash in by getting two high-end prospects with the No. 3 and No. 5 selections, but they may not be ready next season.

“He’s going to be able get players (through trades), he should be able to get them cheap and that doesn’t mean he’ll have to take bad contracts,”  Poulin said. “He can get guys like Chris Tierney. He’s a good 25-year-old pro who can contribute.”

Dorion has his own restricted free agent to deal with and so he has to see where everybody fits.

Down the road, one way or another, RFA’s Anthony Duclair, Connor Brown, Filip Chlapik, Rudolfs Balcers, Nick Paul , Christian Jaros, Joey Daccord and the aforementioned Tierney will all be signed. Some have rights to arbitration but all will be in camp. Decisions have to be made on Andreas Englund and Jayce Hawryluk.,

As we get closer to the draft and the Cup final gets completed, the amount of gossip will increase. A lot has changed in the world, but area that won’t is the time around the draft being used by teams to set the table for next year and you can expect Dorion will have no shortage of options to consider.

FILIP CHLAPIK MAY START OVERSEAS

Centre Filip Chlapik is studying his options.

The 23-year-old centre, a restricted free agent, has held talks with HC Sparta Praha in the Czech league, but he’d have to get a deal in place with the Ottawa Senators before signing overseas.

Chlapik, who suited up for 31 games with Ottawa last season and was a solid in a fourth-line role, would have to sign a deal with Sparta Praha (located in Prague) that contained an out clause when the season gets under way over here. There have been talks between the Senators and Chlapik’s representatives about this possibility but there’s nothing in place,.

bgarrioch@postmedia.com

Twitter: @sungarrioch

 

 

 

 

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