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You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, Yzerman does

October 16, 2020, 8:35 PM ET [56 Comments]
Jeremy Laura
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The free agent market has crashed to some degree. The past few days of reflections made me realize the kind of deals players are waiting for. 3 million dollar players being offered 1 million dollar deals. That’s Athanasiou. In arbitration (had he been qualified) he could have gotten up to 4.5 million and Edmonton would have had to ante up (can’t walk away from player at that dollar amount). This is new territory. I wouldn’t blame players for looking overseas, but spots have been grabbed up by younger players that teams are worried about. The CHL cancelled its season. Crazy times.

Tampa Bay is now in cap hell. 79 million with 3 players (including Sergachev) that need deals. They’re looking to clear 10 million, and it sounds like Stamkos was approached about waiving his NTC. Not interested. That, in the end, is the issue for most players. The NTC (and low state tax) was part of the tools Yzerman used to keep players at a lower (relatively) cap hit. Toronto’s version is signing bonuses. Players know that more of their take home goes away in certain cities, so those are on the “no trade” (many Canadian, others include bottom teams where Detroit finds itself). TB won the cup, all the “pain” will be worth it to have hit the summit. Chicago Fans accept the issues because of the hardware. Detroit, similar, but far too long in coming.

BriseBois has made it clear that 30 GMs know their issues and 30 GMs are unsympathetic. In a normal market, moves could have been made more easily. Johnson can’t be jettisoned without sweetener. There is a lack of appetite to move Killorn out. Bettman just let it be known that a team not cap compliant won’t be playing until they are. For the first time in a while, an offer sheet could really do some damage...

Yzerman is playing poker. What’s interesting is, he doesn’t have to do anything. If a particular hand looks good, he can ride it out. Only 13 teams have more than 5 million in cap space, with Detroit and Ottawa showing 18 and 20 million respectively. We’re in a rebuild, we don’t need to make any other moves outside of signing Mantha and Bertuzzi (which will eat better than half of that space). There is still 6 million in Zetterburg money that can be somewhat offsetting, and Weiss is off the books next year (remember him?) along with 10 UFAs to be. Plenty of room opening up again.

I’m not going to push for Yzerman to do anything else. He’s added defense, upgraded in net, got a winger and a centerman. For a rebuild season, it’s all good. The “what ifs” become intriguing, and fodder for online banter. October is halfway over. For a Jan 1 start, teams have 2 months to figure it all out. Not sure when training camp starts, but it’s likely 2 weeks. So, 6 weeks of waiting for someone to blink. There are teams that want to compete who have space (Buffalo, CBJ, Nashville, COL, even Boston has 10 mil). Those same teams don’t want to do TB any huge favors.

Yzerman is in an ironic situation on the outside of a situation that was largely created during his tenure. No one could plan for COVID and a potential 3 year flat cap, so there is no ill intention in my opinion. It’s just a different seat at the table and a pile of chips known as cap space. A bluff or a fold can go a long way in high stakes.
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