Warning: apc_store(): Potential cache slam averted for key 'w3tc_blogs.thescore.com_4_object_3df5dc9c420a12a0ebe1f6aa0b7320c0' in /opt/blogs/wp-content/plugins/w3-total-cache/lib/W3/Cache/Apc.php on line 41 Dave Lozo’s Bag Skate: The offseason will be an orgy of trades, signings and buyouts like never before | Backhand Shelf | Blogs | theScore.com

Pittsburgh Penguins v Boston Bruins - Game Four

How can a hockey season that’s only 48 games feel so long? You could swear the lockout happened years ago, but in reality, if you conceived a baby on the night the third lockout began (September 15), that baby has already slipped through the birth canal and into the world.

Unless, of course, that baby is Buster Bluth.

Well, the 48-game cash grab that is the 2013 season concluded Monday night with the Chicago Blackhawks winning their second Stanley Cup in four years. As is the case in any season, the end of the postseason signals the beginning of a rest and recovery period for everyone – players, coaches, fans, media, peanut vendors and agents. Head to the cottage, drive to the shore house, fire up the barbecue; it’s a well-deserved break everyone has earned.

Sadly, all they’ve earned after a 48-game season is a 48-hour break, and that’s not even a guarantee for everyone.

A season that starts late, ends late, and that means transactions that have been brewing for weeks and months are going to flood the hockey landscape like a wild river barreling through a dam held together with sticks and hockey tape.

It started over the weekend with the Toronto Maple Leafs acquiring goaltender Jonathan Bernier from the Los Angeles Kings for Matt Frattin, Ben Scrivens, a second-round pick and $500,000 in salary-cap relief, a deal that had been in the works for about a year. That deal is just the start of the avalanche of transactions coming down the pipeline.

The compliance buyout period starts Thursday; free agency begins July 5 and the swap meet that is the NHL Draft takes place Sunday in New Jersey. The salary cap will drop by about $8 million next season, so it all translates into what should be the most hectic offseason in the history of the league.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers. Well, sometimes I do. But not in this instance. All 30 NHL teams have at least one major decision to make this summer, and this will be my attempt to get you ready for it with guesswork – some of it educated – along with the occasional intelligent insight.

So here’s at least one person on each team to keep an eye on now that the season is over.

Anaheim Ducks, Bobby Ryan: He seems not long for Southern California. There was all the trade me, trade me stuff in the past, the signing of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry to big deals under a shrinking cap, and with his deal expiring after 2014-15, now seems like the time to move him. Sure, the Ducks could buy him out, but he has a lot of value at his current cap hit and in the long-term, so a trade seems very likely.  As potentially the only person in the world who’d rather live in Philadelphia than Anaheim, maybe Paul Holmgren should grant his wish.

Boston Bruins, Tuukka Rask: The goaltender is an RFA who is going to get paid a large sum of money to perform his duties for the next four, five or six years. With the Bruins so close to the cap, exactly how many dollars Rask extracts from the Bruins will be huge in terms of what Peter Chiarelli does with the rest of his roster, similar to what happened with the Minnesota Wild and Niklas Backstrom on Monday. The difference between Rask getting $4.5 million and $5.5 million would be massive in terms of flexibility. How the chips fall in Boston depend largely on Rask’s contract.

Buffalo Sabres, Darcy Regier: Remember as a child when you heard a scary noise or envisioned a boogeyman in your closet and your instinct was to hide under your covers? Well in the NHL, Sabres fans are the children and Darcy Regier is the boogeyman and the covers aren’t protecting you from his next poor signing. He’s already told the media he won’t use any buyouts, so Ville Leino isn’t going anywhere. Even worse, the Sabres have significant cap room, even if he doesn’t deal Ryan Miller or Thomas Vanek, so when you hear that scary noise on July 5, it’s like the boogeyman negotiating a contract with Bryan Bickell.

Calgary Flames, Miikka Kiprusoff: It sounds like he’s leaning toward retirement, but with a $5.8 million cap hit but just $1.5 million in salary, he could be perfect New York Islander because he could help get the team to the cap floor with minimal dollars shelled out. He could be great for any frugal team looking to maneuver around the floor, or perhaps he will suck it up and play for his meager $1.5 million salary if he’s on a contender. But it sounds like Kiprusoff would rather retire than play hockey for $1.5 million.

Carolina Hurricanes, the No. 5 pick: One look at this team’s roster, and it’s a wonder they don’t allow five goals a night. Five of their six highest-paid players are forwards, and the sixth is goaltender Cam Ward at a crazy $6.3 million per season through 2015-16. Chip Alexander believes the Hurricanes want to trade down, and perhaps they can land a veteran defenseman who can actually play defense in that trade.

Chicago Blackhawks, Marian Hossa: It seems ludicrous that someone of Hossa’s talent would be a compliance buyout victim, but it looks inevitable because of cap recapture penalties should he retire before the contract expires. Short term, the Blackhawks don’t have much room to fill out its 2013-14 roster. Long term, they could be facing cap penalties between $5 million and $9 million per season depending on when Hossa retires. Sure, the cap will go up between now and 2020-21. The next lockout isn’t scheduled until 2021-22, so Chicago could gamble that the cap will rise to such an extent that a cap penalty wouldn’t matter so much. Be it trade or buyout or him staying, Hossa will figure largely in how Chicago goes about its offseason.

Colorado Avalanche, the No. 1 pick: Say this for the Joe Sakic/Patrick Roy era – it should be fun. Both have talked about a desire to trade out of the top spot, and Sakic has said the Avs don’t plan on taking defenseman Seth Jones, which is the equivalent of your girlfriend passive aggressively saying, “You pick” where the two of you will eat dinner. The Avs’ blue line is pretty close to a street with six parking meters on it, so passing on Jones seems strange. But if they can get out of that spot, add assets, and still take the forward they covet (Nathan MacKinnon), maybe Roy/Sakic are smarter than we all think.

Columbus Blue Jackets, the No. 14, 19, 27 picks: Whatever Sergei Bobrovsky gets from the Blue Jackets as an RFA, it won’t affect the overall salary structure of the team. But what GM Jarmo Kekalainen does with his three first-round picks will have a far greater effect on the team. Maybe he’ll package some picks and move up to No. 5, maybe he’ll make a deal for an NHL-ready forward. The Blue Jackets are one of the power brokers in Newark on Sunday along with the Avalanche and Cory Booker.

Dallas Stars, Jim Nill: The Stars are one of the teams that made their big splash before the end of the postseason, acquiring and signing free-agent defenseman Sergei Gonchar and hiring Lindy Ruff as the new coach.  Beyond that, there’s not much happening here. No one seems to be a buyout candidate, but it’s very likely Nill isn’t done reshaping the team.

Detroit Red Wings, Damien Brunner: Along with Valtteri Filppula, Brunner is the biggest UFA decision for Ken Holland. At 27, Brunner isn’t a spring chicken, but he had a solid first year in the NHL and he’s the likely the guy that reminds old timers Pavel Datsyuk, Todd Bertuzzi and Mikael Samuelsson to take their medicine and record NCIS. Filppula is 29 and a perpetual disappoint. He’s basically the writing version of me from five years ago. It may be time to cut bait and move on if Filppula’s demands are far exceeding that of Brunner.

Edmonton Oilers, Ales Hemsky/Shawn Horcoff/Sam Gagner: Hey, some teams have more going on than others. New GM and former Oilers player Craig MacTavish said in a radio interview that Hemsky and Horcoff are likely done in Edmonton, whether it’s a buyout or trade. But the 23-year-old Gagner will likely receive a nice RFA contract (or get traded to Toronto because everyone gets traded to Toronto). It must be nice for Oilers fans to enter an offseason where picking first overall in the draft isn’t the team’s top offseason storyline.

Florida Panthers, Ugh: Is there anyone on this roster with a cap hit bigger than $4 million who you wouldn’t buy out?  Dale Tallon sure isn’t shy about spending money, but how would he justify to ownership buying out Ed Jovanovski two years after he signed him? Kris Versteeg isn’t eligible for an amnesty buyout, as he’s still recovering from knee surgery in March. I know Roberto Luongo is dying to have trade talks around him end, but would it really be worth it if he ends up in Florida?

Los Angeles Kings, Rob Scuderi: The Jonathan Bernier trade gets all the attention in Toronto, but with Dean Lombardi acquiring inexpensive players in return, it becomes easier to sign Scuderi. But even if Scuderi only nets a minimal raise to $4 million per season, the Kings will be rubbing so close to the cap that Lombardi will feel like a fat guy in skinny jeans with RFAs Alec Martinez, Trevor Lewis, Jake Muzzin and Kyle Clifford needing new deals. Dealing Bernier is just the start of Lombardi’s busy offseason.

Minnesota Wild, Dany Heatley: The awful visual of Dean Lombardi in skinny jeans applies here after Chuck Fletcher signed Niklas Backstrom on Monday. Heatley would be a no-brainer for a compliance buyout with a $7.5 million cap hit, but he had surgery in April on a torn labrum. With a 4-6 month recovery period, he wouldn’t be cleared by doctors until August at the earliest. The Wild may be able to buy out Heatley during the second buy-out period following the arbitration period. It’s all very complicated. Michael Russo has all the particulars here. Backstrom is just the first piece of the puzzle.

Montreal Canadiens, Yawwwwwn: Marc Bergevin burned his second and final compliance buyout on Tomas Kaberle, leaving the Canadiens in a pretty good spot with about $9 million in space for free agency. But Bergevin isn’t expected to be a major player in free agency.

Nashville Predators, Yawwwwwn Part 2: It seems Shea Weber isn’t going anywhere and Patric Hornqvist is all locked up, so it’s up to David Poile to find a way to improve an offense that scored 2.27 goals per game. He has about $12 million in cap space, but considering free agents would rather play in Winnipeg than Nashville, good luck with all that.

New Jersey Devils, David Clarkson/Patrik Elias: Let’s face it – if the Devils keep these two or lose them, they are not going to be very good next season. So if you’re a 37-year-old Elias dying for one more Cup run or a 29-year-old Clarkson essentially choosing the franchise for nearly the rest of your career, why stay in New Jersey? In May, GM Lou Lamoriello said he started talks with Clarkson but not Elias. Both are sought-after commodities, but Clarkson could be in for one of the biggest paydays in summer despite scoring five goals in his final 34 games.

New York Islanders, Evgeni Nabokov: The veteran is a UFA and both sides are reportedly close to getting a deal done. But if the Islanders were in the hunt for Jonathan Bernier, they are very likely aware that Nabokov is old and not very good and would prefer to exhaust other options before settling on Nabokov. Tim Thomas is also a free agent and is expected to sign a lease to remain in his bunker until Obama is done with his presidency.

Brad Richards, coping with the stress of potentially being given $24 million to not play hockey for the Rangers next season by golfing in New Jersey.

Brad Richards, coping with the stress of potentially being given $24 million to not play hockey for the Rangers next season by golfing in New Jersey.

New York Rangers, Brad Richards: Richards is in the same boat as Marian Hossa – he has a massive recapture penalty should he retire early. However, Richards’ cap hit isn’t restrictive in the short term, as the Rangers can sign their key RFAs (Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin) without dispatching Richards.  The Rangers could gamble and buy out Richards next year – which makes the most sense to me, still – or buy him out now and go after a short-term solution like Patrik Elias. A decision is coming very soon.

Ottawa Senators, Bryan Murray: If there’s one team set up to make a big splash this summer, it’s Ottawa. After two seasons of postseason hockey under Paul MacLean, it became evident against the Penguins that this team needs more firepower. They have about $22 million in cap space, and it would make sense for Murray to go hard after the top UFAs or swing a deal for players on teams looking to get under the cap. Ottawa might be in the best shape of any team entering free agency.

Philadelphia Flyers, Ilya Bryzgalov: What a fun, delightful mess. His agent says no way he’s getting bought out; Perhaps that’s not the case. Looking at the Flyers roster, there seems to be no way possible for the Flyers to keep Bryzgalov, but as financially well off as the Flyers are, giving a guy $23 million to go away is a lot of rubles. The Flyers have to do something after overpaying for Mark Streit. Perhaps Holmgren will fake the death of a player. Is there anything in the CBA about that? (Editor’s note: yep, this happened. Bought out.)

Phoenix Coyotes, Mike Smith: The best thing to ever happen to Mike Smith was Sean Burke; the worst thing to ever happen to Mike Smith was Ilya Bryzgalov, who proved to be quite the inferior goaltender outside of Phoenix’s defense-first-second-third system. Just like Bryzgalov before him, Smith is the best free-agent goaltender in a weak market and expects to be compensated handsomely. But if Niklas Backstrom is worth less than $4 million, what is a 31-year-old Smith worth? Probably not as much as he thinks.

Pittsburgh Penguins, Kris Letang: Yeah, this one is obvious. The Penguins really need to trade this guy. Now seems like the perfect time, too. Teams are under the impression he’s one of the best defensemen in the league and unaware he’s a glorified version of Marc-Andre Bergeron who consistently turns the puck over, is out of position often and not strong enough to defend the front of his net. Anything GM Ray Shero gets in return if he trades Letang at the draft should be considered a coup.

San Jose Sharks, Nothing to see here: GM Doug Wilson conducted just about all of his business already, going back to dealing veterans with expiring contracts at the trade deadline (Doug Murray, Michal Handzus, Ryane Clowe), re-signing his own guys after the season (Logan Couture and Raffi Torres) and announcing pelvic surgery on Marty Havlat will prevent him from buying out his contract. The 2013-14 season will be the final one for veterans Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle under their current contracts.

St. Louis Blues, Alex Pietrangelo/Kevin Shattenkirk: I really like the Blues coming out and saying if anyone offer sheets their RFAs, they will match. It’s like a guy walking into a bar with his smoking hot girlfriend and declaring if anyone even looks at her, you’re getting a beer bottle over the head. The Blues have plenty of money to spend on their defensemen and fellow RFAs Chris Stewart and Patrik Berglund.

Tampa Bay Lightning, Vinny Lecavalier/Ryan Malone: They are the two biggest targets for a buyout. The problem with buying out Lecavalier is it would cost the Lightning $30 million over 14 years, a lot of money for a team that probably doesn’t have that type of extra cash floating around. The more likely candidate is Ryan Malone, who is not as good as Lecavalier at hockey, is injured all the time, and would only cost $3.33 million over four years and would free $4.5 million in cap space.

Toronto Maple Leafs, Everyone and Anyone: Buy out Mikhail Grabovski! Buy out John-Michael Liles! Trade Dion Phaneuf! Trade for a No. 1 goaltender despite already having one of those! Sign Nazem Kadri! Sign Tyler Bozak! Don’t sign Tyler Bozak! Sign Phil Kessel to a reality television show that follows him around while he jogs called The Kessel Run! So that last one isn’t real but at this point, I’m willing to consider every rumor out of Toronto a reality.

Vancouver Canucks, David Booth/Keith Ballard: Yeah, Roberto Luongo will be the name you hear most from now until 2013-14 gets started or he is traded or Cory Schneider is traded or a new NHL rules says teams can use two goaltenders at the same time, but Booth/Ballard buyouts are extremely important to the Canucks staying under the cap. The Canucks need space to sign a host of players, and while dealing Luongo would do that, buying out Booth and/or Ballard is a far easier solution for Mike Gillis.

Washington Capitals, Mike Ribeiro: There’s no denying he was really good for Washington, but it appears contract talks have stalled. If the Caps were to pay him the $4.5-5 million he deserves, they’d have to look to buy out Martin Erat to fit under the cap, and that doesn’t make much sense. In case you were curious, the Caps would owe Alex Ovechkin $53 million over 16 years if the used an amnesty buyout on him.

Winnipeg Jets, Kevin Cheveldayoff: Firstly, if you’re not saying Kevin Cheveldayoff the way Nicolas Cage says “face off” in the movie Face/Off (Kevin Chevelday….OFF), you’re missing out.  That entire sentence is my way of distracting you from noticing the GM hasn’t said anything about his offseason plans – not a hint, a mention, a throwaway quote about “all options being available” – so who’s to say what will happen here. Silence is golden in Winnipeg. Trade Dustin Byfuglien?  Who knows. I’m going to watch Face/Off now.

(No mailbag this week, but if you want to get one in for next week, dave111177@gmail.com is the way to go)