A call for the Leafs to move Nazem Kadri this summer plus updates on the Minnesota Wild and Florida Panthers in today’s NHL rumor roundup.
SHOULD THE LEAFS TRADE KADRI?
TORONTO SUN: With center Nazem Kadri facing a suspension for another undisciplined postseason performance, Steve Simmons believes the Toronto Maple Leafs should part ways with him this summer. Kadri was ejected from Game 2 of the Leafs’ opening-round series against the Boston Bruins for cross-checking Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk. A year ago, Kadri received a three-game suspension in last year’s series against Boston and could face a longer one this time.
Simmons feels Kadri’s reckless antics means the Leafs can no longer depend on him to be a central part of a contending team. Of the five penalties the Leafs took in Game 2, Kadri had four of them.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kadri could be facing a five-game suspension, which will finish him for this series and rob the Leafs of an invaluable third-line center. You can bet that won’t sit well with Leafs management and head coach Mike Babcock.
Just because a pundit calls upon the Leafs to move Kadri doesn’t mean the club shares that view. Nevertheless, this is the second year in a row Kadri’s emotion got the better of him during a playoff series. For a team that sees itself as a Cup contender, they cannot afford one of their key players to be a loose cannon in the heat of postseason competition.
It’ll be interesting to see if this incident affects Kadri’s future with the Leafs. He’s in the third season of a six-year contract with an annual salary-cap hit of $4.5 million and a 10-team no-trade list.
LATEST ON THE WILD
STAR-TRIBUNE.COM: Sarah McLellan reports the Minnesota Wild enter the offseason with salary-cap room and a need to bolster their scoring. Assuming the cap rises to $83 million as projected, they’ll have around $18 million in salary-cap space to work with. Some of that will be invested in re-signing restricted free agents such as Ryan Donato, Joel Eriksson Ek, and Kevin Fiala. She speculates they could focus on realistic targets in this summer’s unrestricted free agent market, which includes such notable scorers as Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene, Jeff Skinner, Anders Lee, and Brock Nelson.
McLellan also speculates the Wild could create more salary-cap space via the trade market. Winger Jason Zucker could be a trade candidate, as he was nearly shipped to the Calgary Flames at the trade deadline in February.
TWINCITIES.COM: Dane Mizutani reports Zucker acknowledged his uncertain future with the Wild after seeing former teammates Nino Niederreiter, Mikael Granlund, and Charlie Coyle get traded. Zucker insists he wants to return with the Wild and intends to focus on improving his play this summer. However, Mizutani feels it wouldn’t be surprising if Zucker was traded to shed his $5.5 million salary-cap hit.
McLellan also reported contract extension talks with defenseman Jared Spurgeon are an offseason priority for Wild general manager Paul Fenton. Spurgeon has a year remaining on his four-year, $20.75-million contract and is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. However, he’s indicated his preference is to re-sign with the Wild. “My family loves it here,” he said. “We love it here. I want to win here, so you can just go about it the way you can and let your agent do his thing.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fenton appears intent on shaking up the Wild’s forward lines by adding younger, more affordable talent with upside. If he gets a quality offer for Zucker this summer I don’t think he’ll hesitate to move him. The 27-year-old winger would be enticing to playoff contenders seeking an experienced scoring winger.
Cap Friendly indicates Zucker’s modified no-trade clause kicks in on July 1. If Fenton decides to shop Zucker, expect it to be around the 2019 NHL Draft weekend (June 21-22) in Vancouver.
As for Spurgeon, it’s clear Fenton values his contributions to the Wild blueline. However, he’ll turn 30 in November and currently carries an annual average value of over $5.187 million. He’ll turn 31 in the first year of his next contract and Fenton might not be keen to invest too much for too long.
UPDATE ON THE PANTHERS
THE ATHLETIC: With the Florida Panthers signing Joel Quenneville last week as their new head coach, Eric Duhatschek noted they have around $17.55 million in projected salary-cap space to bolster their roster via trade and/or free agency. Quenneville’s hiring has some observers suggesting that could prove enticing for Columbus Blue Jackets winger Artemi Panarin, who had a good relationship with Quenneville during their days with the Chicago Blackhawks.
If the Panthers intend to pursue Panarin and teammate Sergei Bobrovsky via free agency, Duhatschek believes they’ll have to free up more cap space to comfortably afford the two and still leave sufficient space for other moves, like adding a skilled defenseman such as Winnipeg’s Tyler Myers.
Duhatschek suggests adding Bobrovsky means moving out either Roberto Luongo or James Reimer. If they land Panarin, they’ll be forced to part with one of their top-six forwards to make the salary cap numbers work.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Panthers were among the top-10 in scoring this season. Panarin is a luxury they don’t need. Goaltending and defense are the problem areas that must be addressed. Should they bring in a goalie as expected, Reimer is likely the odd man out as he carries an affordable $3.4 million annual salary cap hit and lacks no-trade protection.
If they wish to go the trade route for a defenseman, Winnipeg’s Jacob Trouba could be a good fit. He’s an RFA this summer with arbitration rights and a year away from UFA eligibility. Given his contentious contract negotiations with the Jets, who also have to re-sign Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine this summer, they could be willing to move Trouba. The Panthers have the depth in young assets to make a competitive pitch.