On the second day of the NHL draft, the salary cap crashed the party.
P.K. Subban, Patrick Marleau and J.T. Miller were on the move Saturday as teams tried to get into position to bring back their own players or add to their roster during free agency. The trades started before Ottawa opened the second round with American center Shane Pinto at No. 32 overall, pushing the conclusion of the draft into the background.
A day after taking American center Jack Hughes at No. 1 overall, New Jersey acquired Subban in a trade with Nashville. The Predators picked up defensemen Steven Santini and Jeremy Davies, the 34th pick in this year’s draft and a second-rounder next year.
Toronto created $6.2 million in cap space by trading Marleau to Carolina. Aside from landing a 21-year veteran, the Hurricanes acquired a conditional first-round pick and a seventh-round selection in next year’s draft.
Tampa Bay shed the remaining four years of Miller’s $26.25 million contract by sending him to Vancouver. The Lightning received journeyman minor-league goalie Marek Mazanec and two draft picks in the deal, including a conditional 2020 first-round selection.
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Teams across the NHL are preparing for a salary cap expected to come in between $81.5 and $82 million, lower than the initially projected $83 million figure. The league year begins with the start of free agency July 1.
The first round of the draft featured just one trade. Florida sent a second-round pick to Philadelphia to move up three spots to No. 11.
As uneventful as the trade market was on Friday, Philadelphia’s Chuck Fletcher was among several general managers predicting things would pick up.
“I think we made the only trade, didn’t we? Yeah, that’s really unusual,” Fletcher said. “But I think the fact the draft’s so early, and there’s still 10 days until the start of free agency … my expectation is there’ll still be some activity before July 1.”
The 39-year-old Marleau is entering the final season of an $18.75 million, three-year contract that he signed in free agency. The Maple Leafs face a cap crunch in opening talks to re-sign forward Mitchell Marner, a restricted free agent after completing his three-year rookie contract.
The trade was made two days after Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas said there was “a strong chance” Marleau would be back next season.
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Penguins GM Jim Rutherford said the lack of deals on Friday was an indication of a strong pool of top prospects.
“We’ve still got a ways to go, but the draft was so strong, I don’t think people wanted to move their picks,” Rutherford said.
Stars GM Jim Nill noted draft picks are also more valuable, because rookie contracts are capped over the first three years.
As for the draft, Pinto is from Franklin Square, New York, and his selection continued a trend in which 11 American players were chosen in the first round — one short of the record set in 2016.