Not long ago, Corey Perry, Dion Phaneuf, Milan Lucic and Patrick Marleau were among the NHL's top players. But with their best seasons now behind them and carrying expensive contracts, these thirty-somethings could become cost-cutting casualties.
On Saturday, TSN's Pierre LeBrun reported the Anaheim Ducks could reach a mutual agreement with Perry to part company. Knee surgery limited the 34-year-old winger to just 10 points in 31 games. According to CapFriendly, Perry carries an annual average value of $8.625 million through 2020-21.
LeBrun also said the Kings are trying to find a trade partner for Phaneuf. Like Perry, the 34-year-old defenseman has two years left on his contract. While his annual average value is $7 million, the Kings carry $5.25-million per season while the Ottawa Senators pick up the rest.
Lucic is a frequent fixture in the Oilers trade-rumor mill. Once a dominant power forward, the 31-year-old winger's scoring has steadily declined since 2016-17. He has four seasons remaining on his deal with a $6-million annual cap hit. Sportsnet's Iain MacIntyre reports the latest gossip suggests Lucic could be shipped to the Vancouver Canucks for Loui Eriksson. The 33-year-old Canucks winger is another fading veteran with a costly contract. He carries an annual cap hit of $6 million through 2021-22.
Marleau's contract could be the easiest to move. The 39-year-old has one season left with a $6.25-million cap hit. In actual salary, he'll earn $4.25 million, with $3 million of that in a signing bonus. That could make Marleau attractive to a budget-conscious club in need of reaching the cap minimum, especially if the deal occurs after Toronto pays that bonus on July 1. Of course, the Leafs will try moving him before then.
Marleau spent the bulk of his career with the San Jose Sharks. On June 1, Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos reported the winger's family is returning to San Jose and he would prefer playing close by. Kypreos said the Los Angeles Kings, Colorado Avalanche and Arizona Coyotes were in the mix. The Los Angeles Times' Helene Elliott dismissed the notion of Marleau joining the Kings as the respective cap issues of both clubs made a trade unworkable. LeBrun reported the Leafs and Coyotes discussed the winger but the latter wants a premium asset as part of the return.
In addition to their expensive cap hits, the four carry a measure of no-trade protection. Perry, Lucic, and Marleau have full no-movement clauses, while Phaneuf has a modified no-trade clause. The decline of their performances and their hefty contracts could force their respective clubs to absorb part of their cap hits to facilitate a trade. Otherwise, they'll have to kick in a sweetener such as a high draft pick, a quality prospect or a young, NHL-ready player. If no trade partners can be found, the four could be bought out during the buyout period from June 15-30.
Marleau, however, is on a 35-plus deal. While the Leafs can still buy him out, they won't receive any cap savings. Lucic's deal, meanwhile, is structured in such a way that the Oilers wouldn't see any significant cap savings until the final four years of the buyout.
NO KESSEL DEAL?
After weeks of trade conjecture, it appears the Pittsburgh Penguins won't be trading Phil Kessel after all. The Athletic's Josh Yohe reports GM Jim Rutherford said he considers that move unlikely.
It was assumed Kessel was a prime trade candidate after Pittsburgh was swept from the opening round of the 2019 playoffs. On May 23, reports emerged claiming the Penguins discussed a potential trade with the Minnesota Wild. The proposal was spiked after Kessel refused to waive his no-trade clause.
Rutherford declined to say if other clubs expressed interest in Kessel. He went on to praise the winger's performance as a Penguin, insisting they still have a good relationship. He also admits that the Penguins have to cut some salary, perhaps by trading one or two players. CapFriendly indicates the Penguins have more than $79 million invested in 18 players for 2019-20.
TSN's Darren Dreger speculates Kris Letang could be in play. The 32-year-old defenseman carries a $7.25-million cap hit through 2021-22 and an 18-team trade list. Dreger also believes Rutherford will listen to offers for everyone but captain Sidney Crosby. That includes Evgeni Malkin, who was also the subject of media trade chatter earlier this spring. Yohe, however, believes Malkin isn't going anywhere. Other trade options could include blueliners Justin Schultz and Olli Maatta and winger Patric Hornqvist.
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