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NHL Rumor Mill – August 21, 2019

Updates on Mitch Marner, Torey Krug, Jesse Puljujarvi, and Derick Brassard in today’s NHL rumor mill.


TSN: Darren Dreger yesterday reported via Twitter that the representatives for Mitch Marner have spoken with Swiss League club ZSC Lions about training with them next month. There’s been little progress in contract talks between the Marner camp and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Could Toronto Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner practice in Switzerland if unsigned before training camp opens? (Photo via NHL Images)

Dreger also said Marner could pay the insurance premium and attend Leafs training camp next month without a contract. “What a circus that would be,” he said. Dreger also suggested trade interest in the 22-year-old winger “will grow as well as days go by.”

The Lions released a statement yesterday confirming Marner’s European agent sought permission to participate in their practices. “Whether and when the player will train with Zurich is not decided yet.”

It’s believed the Leafs have discussed three, six, and seven-year deals with the Marner camp worth between $9 to $11 million annually.

TORONTO SUN: Lance Hornby believes all this posturing could come to nothing by the end of Leafs camp. By then, the club will have made another trade to get close to Marner’s $11 million or activate $10.55 million in cap space by placing Nathan Horton and David Clarkson on long-term injury reserve.

SPORT-EXPRESS’ Igor Eronko tweeted Marner wasn’t drafted in the KHL so he could sign with any KHL club he wishes. “Some of them could offer much more than Zurich or any other Swiss team. Avangard did a lot to land William Nylander but he was set to sign with the Leafs. Is Mitch set?”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This looks like an insurance move by Marner’s reps. If there’s no deal in place when camp opens next month, I doubt he’ll attend without a contract. Should it take until the start of the season to get a new contract in place with the Leafs, he’ll need a team to practice with. It ensures he can stay sharp and close to NHL-ready when the season begins.

Some teams could call the Leafs to inquire about Marner’s availability. However, they’ll have to make a significant offer to tempt general manager Kyle Dubas. Any club interested in Marner must also ensure they have sufficient cap space to pay him what he seeks.

I doubt Marner signs with a KHL team. He wants to play in the NHL, preferably with the Leafs, but he also wants to get what he believes is a fair price for his services.


BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy cites an NHL source claiming there have been no new contract extension talks between the Bruins and Torey Krug. The 28-year-old defenseman is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next July. He’s in the final season of a four-year, $21-million contract.

Murphy speculates the lack of communication could be tied to the Bruins’ ongoing efforts to re-sign blueliners Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo. He thinks Krug could command up to $9 million annually on the open market and wonders if the Bruins can afford to retain him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Krug’s UFA status will make him the subject of some trade speculation throughout this season. If the Bruins are out of playoff contention by the February trade deadline, maybe they’ll consider shopping the rearguard. Otherwise, they could retain Krug for another run at the Stanley Cup next spring and deal with his contract situation afterward.


TSN: reports Jesse Puljujarvi still seeks a fresh start away from the Edmonton Oilers. He told Finnish TV station Laari he’s hoping for a top-six forward role with a new NHL team. “I want a team where I get a place in one of the first two lines and where I get to play for 15 minutes per game. Then I could show what I’m going for. That is my main goal.”

Puljujarvi also admitted he’s struggled to learn English since coming to North America in 2016. Meanwhile, his agent insists his client isn’t bluffing about wanting a trade out of Edmonton. “Puljujärvi is and has been convinced that he needs a change. He is an NHL player,” said agent Markus Lehto on Monday. “This is about getting an opportunity for a new start. The salary can be almost anything.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t doubt the Puljujarvi camp is sincere about their trade request. However, he’s coming off a disappointing performance throughout his entry-level contract and holds no leverage here. He’s not a core Oilers player and his trade value is low right now. Until Oilers GM Ken Holland finds what he considers a decent return, I doubt he’ll move Puljujarvi.


NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 21, 2019

The latest on Elias Pettersson, T.J. Oshie, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

SPORTSNET: Vancouver Canucks center Elias Pettersson said he’s worked on improving his conditioning and the strength and power in his legs this summer. The 2019 Calder Trophy winner admitted he found games tougher late last season and hopes to avoid hitting that wall again in his sophomore campaign.

Vancouver Canucks center Elias Pettersson is looking forward to his sophomore NHL campaign (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pettersson dazzled through most of 2018-19 but his production notably declined down the stretch. With improved strength and conditioning, the 20-year-old center should exceed last season’s 28-goal, 66-point performance. 

THE SCORE: Speaking of the Canucks, they officially announced yesterday the three-year contract extension for general manager Jim Benning.

NBC SPORTS: Washington Capitals winger T.J. Oshie said he’s recovered from the broken collarbone that ended his 2018-19 campaign. He’s put more emphasis on building up the muscles in his shoulder and upper body.

THE ATHLETIC: The Boston Bruins have opened contract extension talks with head coach Bruce Cassidy. Over the past three seasons, he’s sported a record of 117-52-22.

The Bruins reached the playoffs in each of those seasons and reached the 2019 Stanley Cup Final. Cassidy was a finalist last season for the Jack Adams Award.

NEWSOBSERVER.COM:  The Carolina Hurricanes unveiled their new road jerseys for 2019-20.


EAGLETRIBUNE.COM: Former hockey writer Russ Conway died at age 70 of coronary disease. In 1992, Conway was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for his stories that exposed corruption at the highest levels of professional hockey.

His work led to the downfall and imprisonment of former NHL Players Association director Alan Eagleson. In 1999, Conway was “awarded the prestigious Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award for journalists in the Hockey Hall of Fame.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Conway’s family, friends and colleagues. His book about Eagleson’s activities, Game Misconduct, stoked my interest in the often contentious labor relations between the league and the NHLPA.

During the 2004-05 lockout, I briefly corresponded with Conway. I appreciated his advice, as well as his willingness to help an aspiring hockey writer. 

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NHL Rumor Mill – August 20, 2019

The latest on the Leafs plus an update on Zach Parise in today’s NHL rumor mill. 


TORONTO SUN: Lance Hornby reports there’s no real update in the “contractual game of chicken” between the Maple Leafs and Mitch Marner. Both sides seem willing to wait until training camp or “more specifically, the end of pre-season”. That’s when the Leafs can place permanently sidelined forwards David Clarkson and Nathan Horton, who have a combined salary-cap hit of over $10.5 million, on long-term injury reserve.  

Could Mitch Marner’s contract negotiations with the Toronto Maple Leafs drag on into the regular season? (Photo via NHL Images)

The Marner camp could push for a cap hit comparable to Auston Matthews’ $11.6 million annual average value. If so, Hornby suggests they must either accept a short-term bridge deal (which neither side is keen on) or take the Leafs to the RFA wire as William Nylander did last year. 

Hornby also notes former Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner is waiting to see what unfolds. The unrestricted free agent has yet to sign elsewhere in hopes the Leafs find extra cap space to sign him. At this point, that would mean trading a set roster piece.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s believed the combined annual average value of Clarkson and Horton is how high the Leafs are willing to go with Marner. They could also free up a little more room by demoting or trading a lower-salaried player but I doubt they want to go as high as $11 million annually.

I don’t see Marner attending training camp without a contract. It remains to be seen if he’ll risk missing the early weeks of the regular season, especially after seeing the toll it took on Nylander’s performance last season. 

As for Gardiner, I don’t see how the Leafs can bring him back once Marner is re-signed without shedding some salary. General manager Kyle Dubas has proven adept at cost-cutting creativity this summer without hurting his roster depth. He could have another trick up his sleeve with Gardiner. 


THE ATHLETIC: Michael Russo reports Zach Parise hopes to put last season behind him as he enters Minnesota Wild training camp in a positive frame of mind. The 35-year-old left-winger expressed shock over last month’s firing of general manager Paul Fenton, who explored trading Parise back in June.

Russo said one team made an offer and remains interested in Parise. He has a full no-movement clause and wouldn’t comment on the trade speculation. He remains focused on helping the Wild this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In a recent mailbag segment, Russo said that trade offer for Parise involved the Wild taking on another bad veteran contract. With six seasons remaining on Parise’s contract and an annual cap hit of over $7.5 million, that unnamed club must be desperate to shed that other contract.

Parise remains a solid top-six forward when healthy but age and his injury history are cause for concern. Factor in that cap hit, his actual salary being $9 million this season and his movement clause, and trading him is a daunting challenge. 

As Russo points out, it’s unlikely Fenton’s replacement will attempt moving Parise as his first act unless it’s a no-brainer. The Wild would either have to take back a bad contract or absorb a big chunk of his cap hit to make it work.