NHL Rumors: Oilers to buyout James Neal, Golden Knights to trade goalie, and Canucks moving Nate Schmidt

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Mar 6, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames forward Matt Tkachuk (19) and Edmonton Oilers forward James Neal (18) fight during the first period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

As three major offseason dates approach on the calendar, you can expect several NHL Rumors post per day. The Expansion Draft is July 21st, Entry Draft is the 23rd, and Free Agent Frenzy starts on the 28th.

We kick off today’s offseason transaction talk with the Edmonton Oilers who have plans to add Duncan Keith via trade. They will also seek more cap flexibility and will use the first buyout window to do so.

NHL Rumors: Oilers to buyout James Neal

James Neal is the leading candidate for a buyout according to many NHL experts. Frank Seravalli also listed him as one of the top candidates when the buyout window opens after the Stanley Cup Final.

Oilers GM Ken Holland indicated he could buyout one, if not two players this summer and Neal rises to the top of the list. He was a healthy scratch for a large chunk of the season after struggling to regain form from an early season COVID-19-related illness. Neal finished with 10 points in 29 games. A buyout would leave Edmonton with a $1.92 million dead cap charge for the next four seasons, representing just shy of a $4 million savings in each of the next two campaigns.

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Depending on the parameters of a deal with the Chicago Blackhawks for Duncan Keith, that savings on a Neal buyout helps pave the way to take on salary. The 37 year-old rearguard has two years left at $5.5 million per season with a full no-move clause. 

Golden Knights dynamic duo done in Vegas

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Vegas has elite goaltending (Jeff Vinnick / Getty Images Sport)

Marc-Andre Fleury partnered with Robin Lehner to capture the William M. Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals in 2020-21. The 36 year-old Fleury also captured his first Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goalie. Head coach Peter DeBoer indicated on breakup day that the dynamic duo may not be back together for next season.

Owner, Bill Foley who was adamant last season about keeping Fleury seems to agree. “I like having our two goalies. They’re both skilled. They’re both great guys. Alternating two top goalies like that, really getting into a tandem situation, I believe really helps,” he said. “But we’ll just have to see how things evolve over this next few weeks or so.”

The biggest issue for the Golden Knights is the fact both goalies are being paid starter salaries. Marc-Andre Fleury makes $7 million and Robin Lehner earns $5 million. If they can, moving Fleury should be a priority since he only has one year left on his deal. I for one believe there are a few teams he would waive his no move clause, one being his old Pittsburgh Penguins. The Golden Knights will need to eat up to 50% of that salary in order to facilitate a deal.

Canucks searching for cap space shopping Nate Schmidt

canucks shopping nate schmidt
Feb 17, 2021; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Vancouver Canucks defenseman Nate Schmidt (88) skates against the Calgary Flames during the first period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The Vancouver Canucks need cap space desperately. That’s because two of their best, Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes are up for new deals as RFAs. GM Jim Benning needs to protect against the threat of an offer sheet, but more importantly he wants to lock down the cornerstones of the franchise.

When it comes to finding more money, trading Nate Schmidt is the likely option. He is a 29 year-old defenseman with four years remaining at $5.95 million AAV. There’s also been speculation he’s asked to be moved but it hasn’t been confirmed.

Regardless, it hasn’t really worked out for him in Vancouver and he is going to be a sought after commodity.