Saturday, June 11, 2016

Hartnell Could Waive Goodbye

Reports are surfacing that Scott Hartnell was approached by the Columbus Blue Jackets back in February to provide a list of teams that he would approve to be traded to, waiving his no-movement clause to do so.  Obviously, a deal couldn't get done at the trade deadline for the scrappy forward, so he was left to finish the season with the Jackets and didn't exactly have the best of seasons, when it was all said and done.

Now, with the team looking forward, they could really use some more cap space and possibly find a player that is much better suited to the style of play that management and the coaching staff want for their club.  Heading into the Summer, you could look at their signed group of players and establish that they have about 19 players, including Hartnell, who would be in the lineup, when the puck drops in October, in theory.  This group is already coming in at $65.7 million, which wouldn't leave a lot of space for improvement through free agency, with fears that the cap ceiling isn't going to go up much, if at all.  The cap ceiling in the 2016 season was $71.4 million, just for measuring purposes.

Elliotte Friedman suggests in his 30 Thoughts from Saturday that teams are being considered are probably not keen on how much is left on Hartnell's deal, three more years at $4.75 million against the cap per year.  That's fair, especially since Hartnell hasn't exactly been a sure thing every year.  Between Nashville, Philadelphia and Columbus, already 15 seasons deep, how much does the 34-year old have left in the tank and what kind of consistency are you going to get from him?  Both are great questions, thus becoming a much bigger gamble.

Since he is already getting up there in age, you would have to believe that he is looking at teams that are trending upwards in their championship trajectory.  With those in mind, a lot of those teams are already facing cap issues, either already having players signed or they have building blocks that they want to take care of first.

Without any doubt, you can bet that Hartnell likely won't move until the salary cap numbers are announced and even more likely, when free agency opens up, teams start spending and then find out what they have left for Hartnell.

And then there is the return that the Blue Jackets want for Hartnell and Friedman reported that the deadline request for a return was quite high.  With the way the market is shaping up and likely how much the team wants to shed his salary, that the asking price will be somewhat lower than what it was at the deadline.  No team is going to take on this salary without sending some back in return and/or having the Jackets retain some of his money for the next three years.  The latter being less than ideal for the Jackets.

One team I could see making a move for Hartnell this Summer would be the New York Rangers, who have been cycling through the rumour mill, more so for their overhaul that could be coming this Summer, including a move to get Rick Nash off of their books.  I am not suggesting that Nash would go back to Columbus in a deal for Hartnell, that doesn't make any sense, rather, once the Rangers move Nash, if they do, they would have a lot more space to work with and they never seem to be afraid of sizable cap hits.

In a much less likely deal, the Buffalo Sabres could send troubled forward Matt Moulson and his $5 million cap hit for the next three seasons to Columbus for Hartnell and his three years remaining on his deal.  It's troubled player for troubled player, but this deal would not solve Columbus' salary cap crunch, rather it would make it less comfortable and that's not really what they want to accomplish here.  The Sabres could use Hartnell's leadership for the kids, while Moulson might be able to find some more scoring in the Jackets' system, which would make it a hockey trade, but still a head-scratcher.

The Anaheim Ducks also fall into the category of a perennial playoff team, which really showed some promise in the 2016 season and currently has some potential openings, where Hartnell's experience, grit and nose for the net could come into play.  They are a team that could absorb a good portion of Hartnell's contract, sending pieces in return and could be a pretty good fit.  The Ducks are closely looking at the numbers that the league comes up with, in terms of the cap ceiling, and they have decisions to make with restricted free agents, but it could be a good move on either side of the conference border here.

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