Latest on the Leafs, Lightning and Blue Jackets – May 6, 2017
Looking at some possible defense options for the Toronto Maple Leafs, the possibility of the Tampa Bay Lightning and how the Columbus Blue Jackets could try to protect Josh Anderson.
THE ATHLETIC: James Mirtle wonders if the Toronto Maple Leafs should give up part of their future to bolster their blueline. He quotes Lamoriello saying this about his defense: “We have a couple of younger players and then we have a couple of free agents that we have to make decisions on, I think we have to add to that group and not make decisions just for simply adding. They have to be people who can come in and help.”
Mirtle points out the Leafs need depth on the right side of their blueline and points out Kevin Shattenkirk and Cody Franson are among the right D available via free agency this summer. Looking at the trade market, he lists Carolina’s Justin Faulk, Winnipeg’s Jacob Trouba, Anaheim’s Josh Manson, Colorado’s Tyson Barrie, Vancouver’s Chris Tanev, Minnesota’s Matt Dumba and the New York Islanders’ Travis Hamonic as possible options who might (emphasis on “might”) become available this summer.
Mirtle notes the Leafs have a window of opportunity with lots of cap space and three young stars (Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander) on entry-level contracts. He wonders if they might give up a first-round pick in the near future to make a bold move for a defenseman if they don’t want to make a significant subtraction from their roster.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Mirtle also observers that landing a good, young impact defenseman could prove expensive for the Leafs. It’s also worth remembering he’s not saying all of those blueliners he listed will be available. But thanks to this summer’s expansion draft and a possibly stagnant salary cap, some of them could be.
The Leafs are well-positioned in cap space and depth in draft picks and prospects to pick up a quality rearguard this summer. Of those on Mirtle’s list, I think Manson, Tanev and Dumba could be obtainable.
FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols recently cited NHL insider Bob McKenzie discussing the possibility of the Tampa Bay Lightning trading winger Jonathan Drouin this summer on Vancouver’s TSN 1040. McKenzie said Lightning GM Steve Yzerman hasn’t indicated what his club’s plans are for the offseason. However, he notes it’s “strongly believed” Drouin was part of a package offer in January to the St. Louis Blues for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who was eventually shipped to the Washington Capitals.
McKenzie doesn’t consider a Drouin trade to be far-fetched, citing the club’s need to alleviate financial pressure and to land a premium defenseman. He said he wouldn’t be surprised if the winger gets dealt but adds such a move will have nothing to do with the bad blood that once existed between the Drouin camp and Lightning management, calling it “ancient history.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Under the current $73 million cap ceiling, the Lightning have over $17 million in cap space for next season. They must re-sign Drouin, Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat plus add a top-four defenseman.
Though Yzerman was able to get Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman and Nikita Kucherov to accept less than market value to re-sign, Drouin, Johnson and Palat could still eat up most of the Bolts’ cap space.Adding a quality defenseman could cost them someone such as Drouin.
If Yzerman can re-sign those three and add a top-four defenseman while staying cap compliant and icing a playoff contender, don’t bother waiting until next spring to name him GM of the year.
COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Tom Reed recently reported on the difficulty the Blue Jackets could have protecting forward Josh Anderson from the expansion draft. They’re expected to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and a goaltender. Of their forwards, David Clarkson, Brandon Dubinsky, Nick Foligno and Scott Hartnell all have no-movement clauses and would have to be protected, though Clarkson is expected to waive his.
” Assuming the Jackets protect Cam Atkinson, Boone Jenner, Brandon Saad and Alexander Wennberg, it leaves Anderson, William Karlsson and Matt Calvert exposed,” writes Reed. If Hartnell were to agree to waive his NMC, the Jackets would have to choose between Anderson, Karlsson and Calvert.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Of those three, the Vegas Golden Knights will target Anderson. If the Blue Jackets cannot find a way to protect him, they could put him on the trade block rather than lose him for nothing to Vegas.
Also, as noted in the comment section below, Clarkson is on the list of players exempt from the expansion draft. The Blue Jackets don’t have to worry about protecting him. However, they still must face choosing between Anderson, Karlsson or Calvert unless another player (such as Hartnell) agrees to waive his NMC.