The focus of most NHL fans and pundits right now is on the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Meanwhile, the general managers of teams that failed to qualify for the postseason or those eliminated from the first two rounds are already at work on their offseason plans for the 2023-24 season.
For the second straight season, the salary cap is projected to increase by just $1 million, this time rising to $83.5 million. Puck Pedia indicates 15 of the NHL's 32 clubs will have less than $10 million in salary-cap space, while seven others have less than $15 million.
That could force clubs with limited cap space, like the Boston Bruins, to make cost-cutting trades to re-sign some key players or replace others. Meanwhile, teams flush with cap space, such as the Detroit Red Wings, could be ready to make a significant deal to address a roster weakness.
Here's a look at 10 NHL teams that should consider making bold trades in the 2023 offseason.
Since Bill Armstrong took over as general manager in 2020, the Arizona Coyotes have stuck to rebuilding by stockpiling draft picks or acquiring affordable young players. That usually meant trading away veteran players to achieve those goals.
The process has left the Coyotes awash with picks for this year's draft and the following three years. They've also got a pool of prospects considered among the league's top ten. Meanwhile, their roster contains young homegrown talent like Clayton Keller, Matias Maccelli, Barrett Hayton and J.J. Moser.
Armstrong has done a tremendous job loading up the Coyotes for the future. However, he should consider adding some veterans in their mid-to-late 20s who can fit in well with his young stars and help this roster take the next step toward playoff contention. He can draw upon that deep pool of draft picks and prospects without moving a key roster player to do it.
With a projected $25.3 million in cap space and 15 roster players under contract for 2023-24, the Coyotes have the room to bolster their roster if they wish. Their young players need to see that Armstrong is also trying to help them improve right now. Otherwise, they could lose patience and follow the lead of former teammate Jakob Chychrun by asking to be traded.
Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney acknowledged that his club will have a different look next season during his end-of-season press conference. They currently have $4.9 million in projected salary-cap space for 2023-24, with Jeremy Swayman and Trent Frederic among his restricted free agents this summer.
The Bruins face uncertainty over the future of captain Patrice Bergeron. He and veteran center David Krejci are slated to become unrestricted free agents this summer. Sweeney also admitted he can't re-sign UFAs like Dmitry Orlov, Tyler Bertuzzi and Garnet Hathaway right now, even if he wanted to, because of his salary-cap constraints.
The Athletic's Fluto Shinzawa suggested trading winger Taylor Hall for salary-cap relief. The 31-year-old left winger is signed through 2024-25 with an average annual value of $6 million. His 16-team no-trade clause reverts next season to a 10-team NTC.
Shinzawa also proposed that the Bruins peddle defenseman Matt Grzelcyk and his $3.7 million cap hit for next season to clear cap space or acquire a forward. Perhaps bundling Hall and Grzelcyk in a blockbuster move to a club with cap space that wants experienced depth might address both needs for the Bruins.