Update on Jake Gardiner, three teams that should go the offer-sheet route, and the latest Sabres speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.
LATEST ON JAKE GARDINER
NBC SPORTS: Former Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner topped Scott Billeck’s list of five potential value unrestricted free agents. Wingers Justin Williams, Michael Ferland, Ryan Dzingel, and Patrick Maroon completed the list.
Reports indicate Gardiner is seeking $7 million per season. Billeck suggests the 28-year-old rearguard is pricing himself out of range of cap-strapped teams (like the Winnipeg Jets) that could benefit from his services. He suggests the New Jersey Devils make a pitch. He and the recent acquisition of P.K. Subban would make the Devils’ blueline more formidable.
YAHOO SPORTS: Justin Cuthbert wonders if the cooling UFA market might make it possible for the Leafs to bring back Gardiner at a reduced rate. It’s assumed the blueliner could accept less than market value to return to Toronto. Given the ongoing uncertainty over Mitch Marner’s new contract, Cuthbert feels the Leafs would have to shed salary via trade to sign Gardiner to a less-expensive contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There are teams, like the Devils, with sufficient cap space to sign Gardiner. Those who could use him, however, could be hoping to get him for much less than $7-million annually.
As for returning to the Leafs, I don’t see how that’s possible right now. General manager Kyle Dubas has done a fine job this summer making moves to bolster his roster and free up salary-cap room. The Marner situation, however, could make signing Gardiner a bridge too far.
THREE TEAMS THAT SHOULD GO THE OFFER-SHEET ROUTE
THE SCORE: Josh Wegman suggests the Colorado Avalanche, New Jersey Devils, and Carolina Hurricanes should attempt to sign a top restricted free agent to an offer sheet. He points out the Avalanche and Devils have the cap space to sign Toronto’s Mitch Marner to an offer worth an annual average value of $12 million.
The addition of Marner could push the Avalanche into Stanley Cup contender status. Bringing Marner to the Devils could convince Taylor Hall to stay in New Jersey. Given their respective depth in young talent, the two clubs could afford to part with four first-round picks as compensation to the Leafs.
Wegman admits there’s a low possibility of the Hurricanes signing a player to an offer sheet after matching one for Sebastian Aho from the Montreal Canadiens. However, he points out they have sufficient cap payroll room to target someone like Washington’s Jakub Vrana. They also have depth in draft picks to part with second- and third-round picks as compensation.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Interesting suggestions by Wegman, though it remains to be seen if those three clubs will go that route. While Sakic signed an offer sheet as a player, he reportedly isn’t a fan of them as a general manager.
Sakic’s in an enviable cap position and could prefer not tying up too much of his long-term cap space. He also has to re-sign RFA Mikko Rantanen, who could cost over $9 million annually.
Cap Friendly indicates the Devils have over $20-million in cap room. However, they’re trying to re-sign Hall to a long-term deal. Nico Hischier will need a new contract next summer. GM Ray Shero likely wants to ensure he’s got sufficient room for both.
As for the Hurricanes, I don’t see them doing an offer sheet. But if they did, the Canadiens would be their likely target. That move could be two or three years down the road when one of the Habs younger players, like Max Domi and Jersperi Kotkaniemi, become RFAs.
MORE MOVES AHEAD FOR THE SABRES?
THE BUFFALO NEWS: After shipping Alexander Nylander to Chicago for defenseman Henri Jokiharju, Lance Lysowski speculates the Sabres might not be done in the trade market. He points out the Sabres have around $6.6-million in salary-cap space and need scoring help. “With the free-agent market mostly picked over, the Sabres could theoretically trade from their defense corps to add a top-six forward, specifically a second-line center.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen is a frequent topic of trade chatter this off-season. This latest move should stoke that speculation.