Latest on P.K. Subban and Steven Stamkos, plus speculation over the Maple Leafs going the offer-sheet route in June.
Updates on Subban and Stamkos.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks recently claimed hearing some “serious chatter” claiming the Montreal Canadiens are “more than prepared to listen to offers” for defenseman P.K. Subban, “whose $9 million cap charge that runs through 2021-22” will be a big part of the conversation.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: For the record, Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin claims he’s not shopping Subban, though he didn’t come right out and claim the blueliner’s untouchable. That prompted some pundits to suggest Bergevin’s keeping his options open, but the overwhelming consensus is Subban’s not going anywhere. Besides, the Canadiens need Subban to attract pending free agent center Steven Stamkos. Oh, you didn’t know Stamkos would like to come to Montreal? Read on…
LA PRESSE: Richard Labbe reports former Tampa Bay Lightning GM Brian Lawton believes Toronto and Montreal are the destinations of choice for Lightning captain Steven Stamkos if he become an unrestricted free agent in July. Lawton believes the Stamkos camp would consider an offer from the Canadiens, in part because he’s been friends since childhood with P.K. Subban. He points out the friendship between Zach Parise and Ryan Suter was a contributing factor in their decision to sign together with the Minnesota Wild in 2012.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Would the Canadiens have interest in Stamkos? Of course they would! And it would be a helluva swerve to those true believers in Leafs Nation who feel he’s signing with Toronto in July. Can the Habs afford him? Not without freeing up a big chunk of cap space. The Habs currently have over $64 million invested in 20 players for 2016-17. Assuming Stamkos seeks an annual salary-cap hit comparable to Chicago Blackhawks stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane ($10.5 million annually), the Canadiens lack the room to make a competitive bid. In other words, don’t expect to see Steven Stamkos, with his buddy P.K. Subban grinning at his side, pulling on an Habs jersey at a press conference in Montreal come July.
Could the Leafs go the Offer-Sheet Route?
SPORTSNET: Luke Fox wonders if Toronto Maple Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello might consider going the offer-sheet route in hopes of landing a player who can accelerate the club’s rebuilding program. He notes Lamoriello saying there’s nothing out of the question or crossed off the board that his club wouldn’t do, while team president Brendan Shanahan said if something “glitzy and glamorous” came along his club would consider it. Though it’s been three years since an offer sheet was made in the NHL (the Calgary Flames to then-Colorado Avalanche center Ryan O’Reilly, which could’ve blown up in the face of then-Flames GM Jay Feaster had the Avs declined to match), Fox suggests Lamoriello’s the type of crafty GM to resurrect the process. With the Leafs possessing considerable depth in draft picks, they can afford the compensation for successfully signing away a restricted free agent.
“A swing at a big-money, marquee 2016 RFA — Seth Jones, Nikita Kucherov, Filip Forsberg, Jacob Trouba, Nathan MacKinnon, Tyson Barrie — requires both a first- and a third-rounder, minimum,” Fox said. “A dreamer’s list of offer-sheet-ready players in 2017 (Ryan Johansen, Tyler Johnson, Aaron Ekblad, Colton Parayko, Leon Draisaitl, Sam Bennett) and 2018 (Connor McDavid, Dylans Strome and Larkin) is just as tantalizing.” He points out budget teams (Colorado, Winnipeg) and cap-strapped ones (Tampa Bay) could be vulnerable over the next couple of years.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lamoriello and company could explore the offer-sheet option. They could certainly put the screws to the budget-conscious clubs or those with limited cap space carrying rising restricted free agent talent over the next two summers. It could also be a better option than pursuing a big-ticket unrestricted free agent.
While I wouldn’t dismiss that move, however, I doubt the Leafs will try it. They currently have over $60 million invested in 15 players for next season. That’s including Nathan Horton and his $5.3 million cap hit on LTIR and Jared Cowen being buried in the minors. Making an unmatchable offer to a top RFA player is expensive and will take up a big chunk of the Leafs salary-cap payroll. There’s no guarantee they’ll be able to shed the salaries of players like Joffrey Lupul ($5.25 million) and Stephane Robidas ($3 million) next season. Buying out Cowen will help, but a massive offer sheet will still eat up a lot of valuable cap space.
Rather than using offer sheets, I think the Leafs will go the trade route to better their team. They will target budget teams or cap-strapped clubs in need of shedding salary before next season by using their depth in draft picks as trade bait.