Are There Any More Bjugstad's Out There?
Hello everyone and a happy Monday morning to you all. Apologies for a lack of weekend reading for you but real life decided to intervene... yes it will shock many of you to know that I do in fact have a real life.
Over the weekend, another move was made by Penguins GM Jim Rutherford, moving out forward Nick Bjugstad to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for a conditional 7th round pick next season, based on the amount of games that Bjugstad plays. Bjugstad, who two seasons ago was a near 50 point player, has struggled since due to a series of injuries and surgeries. Currently he is rehabbing a herniated disc which he just most recently had spinal surgery to correct.
This was another cap relief move for Rutherford who has been the most active GM since being eliminated from the playoffs. Pittsburgh is retaining 2.05 million of Bjugstad's cap hit just to be rid of paying that extra salary. The Pens are reportedly one of 17 different teams that are working to an internal cap based on profits lost due to the shortened season.
At 28 years old, Bjugstad, as long as he is able to come back from his injuries, is still a very good player. Around the NHL there are a number of teams that have their own version of Bjugstad; players with one year left on their deal who did not meet expectations or are not worth their current cap hit, for a variety of reasons.
Grab your second coffee of the day and let's look at a few players that could be acquired in a fashion similar to how the Wild acquired Bjugstad, dealing a pick or prospect while the other team retains some salary.
Johansson signed a two year deal with the Sabres as a free agent last summer. The forward had his best campaigns during the 15/16 and 16/17 seasons with the Caps where he put up 104 points through 156 games. He had most of that success as a winger but Sabres coach Ralph Krueger decided to put him at centre, something he hadn't done since early in his career.
The results were underwhelming as the forward lost 297 of the 491 faceoffs he took (40.1%) and his overall production took a dip as well. Johansson has never been a dominant possession player in his own right and is likely best suited playing the wing with a more talented centre to dish him the puck.
Buffalo has been reported as wanting to hit an internal cap of 72 million and there are 14 players on the team that either need to be replaced or given new contracts due to being UFA or RFA; Sam Reinhart, Victor Olofsson, Domink Kahun, and Brandon Montour being more notable ones.
After missing the playoffs again, Sabres new GM Kevyn Adams will want to shake things up and that could mean moving the 4.5 million dollar cap hit (4 million in actual salary) that Johansson commands.
Dzingel put up two consecutive 20+ goal seasons in Ottawa prior to being traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets at the deadline in 2019. Since then he has played a total of 85 games, split between the Blue Jackets and then the Hurricanes and amassed a mere 12 goals total in that time.
A big reason for the point drop was Dzingel was no longer "the guy" like he was in Ottawa. He went from averaging over 17 minutes a night to just over 14 in both Columbus and Carolina. In addition his shooting percentage took a big hit this past season. After averaging a S% of 14.9 over his first six seasons, this past year Dzingel was firing at only 8.2%.
The Hurricanes have proven to be one of the smarter teams in the league in the analytics department but with one year remaining on his deal at 3.375 million (3.5 million in actual salary) and a potential replacement in RFA Warren Foegele, perhaps the team looks to save some cash by moving Dzingel out.
Earlier in December, it was reported that the Oilers had at least inquired about Blackhawks forward Brandon Saad. The 27 year old left winger was never traded and finished the year with 21 goals and 33 points through 58 games. Saad did not have a bad year; he actually produced at a higher clip than his previous two seasons with the Hawks. The only reason I am including him is because of potential internal cap constraints.
Saad has one year left on his contract with a cap hit of 6 million (actual salary 6.5 million). According to CapFriendly the Hawks have roughly 8 million in cap space and still need to sign four RFA's; Caggiula, Strome, Kubalik, and Koekkoek. The most challenging will be left winger Dominik Kubalik who scored 30 goals as a rookie, finishing third in Calder voting.
Saad won't be dealt for a conditional 7th and half salary like Bjugstad but if Edmonton can provide some value they may be able to get the Hawks to retain something.
How badly do the Blues want to keep Pietrangelo?
That will be the big question facing St Louis up to free agency this year. Doug Armstrong has already started moving the pieces by moving out over 4 million in cap space by dealing Jake Allen but he will need more space than that.
I included this as an honourable mention due to the recent news that Tarasenko would still be out at least another 5 months and I don't think Armstrong will rush to deal Schwartz with that knowledge. Regardless, the 28 year old left winger has one more year on his deal at 5.35 million dollars (though only 4 million in actual salary) and appeared in all 71 games for St Louis producing 22 goals and 57 points.
Schwartz will have value across the league and in any normal year I don't think "salary retained" would ever come up in the conversation with this player. This is not a normal year though and teams that have the ability to retain some salary will be able to do such and acquire even more assets by doing so.
Thanks for reading.