In a series of tweets on Friday afternoon, Vince Mercogliano revealed some important information. See the string below for my points of view. The first three were about the center, and the latter two were about Kaapo Kakko and Vitali Kravtsov.
GM Chris Drury should be doing his homework, picking up every rock and stone in search of a center. Given the team’s cap problems, which are entirely their own fault, free agency is unlikely to be an option. I’m not criticizing the agreements Jeff Gorton and Drury made, with the exception of perhaps the price range at which Jacob Trouba is now, but this has resulted in around $10 million or so remaining to cover the voids in the roster. Signing a second-tier free agent is unlikely to fill your position at 2c. Unless Filip Chytil is given an opportunity to shift into that role with the addition of a third line pivot.
This is where youth must step up. However, as Larry Brooks pointed out, just because there are potentially cost-effective solutions does not indicate that each is ready for prime time. Rushing Brennan Othmann or Will Cuylle Foley because of their low cap hit is pointless and counterproductive. Give them every opportunity to earn a position, and if they prove deserving, keep them on. But they have choices if they aren’t ready, especially with Julien Gautier, who signed a one-year, $800,000 contract Friday and will be an RFA with arb rights next season, to be transferred, and Frank Vatrano exploring the open market as a UFA.
Mercogliano goes over numerous well-known names. Andrew Copp and Ryan Strome will scout the market and may be back-up possibilities if not signed immediately. Kirby Dach, who was widely mentioned in the comments, and J.T. Miller, who would be a one-year rental, were both discussed. Add in Pierre-Luc Dubois, the flavor of the month, and Mark Scheifele, who has been mentioned earlier and is expensive if his pay is not kept, and most of the key names have been covered, with the exception of Evgeni Malkin.
However, Mercogliano mentions Radek Faksa, who is under contract for the next three seasons with a reasonable cap charge of $3.25 million. If you feel Chytul can be your second-line center, Faksa, at a lower cost, makes sense. Yanni Gourde, who is under contract for the next three seasons at an AAV of $5.167 million, is at the salary level that New York would pay Strome or Copp, and if they miss out on both, spending that much cap space on Gourde looks silly. I’m not interested in Alex Wennberg, who will earn $2.25 million over the next two seasons.
Nazem Kadri has recently been discussed significantly in free agency. However, how the organization fits in at least $7 million per year given their existing salary space appears to make him an improbable decision. Many readers of this blog adore Paul Stastny. He has no speed left, but he can win draws and may be a backup option. Vincent Trocheck wants Strome/Copp money, and I’d rather spend less on either or, albeit he, too, may be a fallback alternative.
The brand-new dazzling twins. The question for Kakko is partly how long he will sign, since the two sides are apparently close to a bridge contract. If it’s only for one year, that certainly opens the door for him to go on because he may not be considered as a future component of the year. Two years and may be a sign he will stay, yet the duration of the contract makes selling him simpler, especially if for a center. If no contract has been signed by the time free agency begins, well, you fill in the blank.
Kravtsov would have to go through waivers if New York decided to send him down once his ELC ended in October. He’ll be in the NHL as a Ranger or another team if he’s dealt. Based on the current lineup and assuming Alexis Lafreniere is the first line right flank, Kakko is the second line right wing and Kravtsov is the third line right wing. He comes with a significant potential discount, which is a crucial necessity for this club.
You already know what I think about both. I’ve always been a huge fan of having Kravtsov on the squad. He must regain control of the club, but he possesses skill and potential, two areas of necessity and two components that should never be overlooked. Kakko still has space to develop, and I’m not going to sell him for pennies on the dollar because of the Game 6 scratch. He must put forth the effort to defeat Coach Gerard Gallant. His work on the boards and below the hash marks, though, was crucial to the Kid Line. Work with Jessica Campbell to help him improve his skating and see whether that boost can propel him to the next level.