Latest on the Leafs & Sharks – July 11, 2017
Toronto Maple Leafs could make a salary-dumping deal and Chris Tierney has an uncertain future with the San Jose Sharks.
TORONTO STAR: Kevin McGran reports a lack of salary-cap space means the Toronto Maple Leafs currently can’t afford to re-sign restricted free agent forward Connor Brown. The 23-year-old isn’t interested in signing an offer sheet with another club and is willing to wait for the Leafs to sort out their salary-cap issue.
Teams are allowed to spend over the cap ceiling by 10 percent. The Leafs currently have around $420K of available cap room. McGran suggests they could wait until the start of the season to re-sign Brown, as they would clear sufficient cap room by assigning players to the minors and placing some on injured reserve.
McGran said trade rumors linked center Tyler Bozak to the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins. One had the Rangers offering up Nick Holden for Bozak but McGran cites sources saying the Leafs aren’t interested in what the Blueshirts proposed. Another rumor has the Penguins interested in reuniting Phil Kessel with Bozak, leading McGran to wonder if they might part with defenseman Olli Maatta.
McGran also noted there was talk last month of swapping Brown for Anaheim’s Sami Vatanen but that died when the Ducks successfully protected him in the expansion draft. Los Angeles Kings blueliner Drew Doughty sparked some speculation when he mused that one day he might like to play for the Leafs, but McGran believes it would cost more than Brown and Bozak to get him.
Freelance Leafs pundit Howard Berger yesterday tweeted the Leafs “apparently talking trade with Colorado, Calgary and the Rangers. Details sketchy. But, looking to off-load salary for a d-man.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bozak and left wing James van Riemsdyk have surfaced of late as trade candidates. Both carry annual salary-cap hits of over $4 million for 2017-18 and are eligible for UFA status next summer. It’s believed the Leafs offered up van Riemsdyk to the New York Islanders last month for defenseman Travis Hamonic before he was shipped to the Calgary Flames.
While the Leafs are feeling the offseason cap squeeze, Brown’s patience and unwillingness to sign an offer sheet relieves pressure to make an immediate move. If they do trade Bozak or JVR for a defenseman, they still must ensure they have sufficient cap room for Brown, who’ll likely cost over $2 million annually to re-sign on a short-term bridge deal.
I can’t see the Penguins trading away Maatta for Bozak unless the latter is willing to re-sign a long-term deal. Even then, moving out Maatta would leave the Pens thin on the blueline. The Ducks reportedly took Vatanen off the market after the expansion draft so it’s likely pointless to pursue him now. Doughty’s got two seasons left on his current contract and isn’t going anywhere. Don’t be surprised if the Kings re-sign him next summer.
CSN BAY AREA: Kevin Kurz reports the San Jose Sharks re-signed restricted free agent center Chris Tierney to a one-year, $735K contract. Kurz points out, however, the Sharks didn’t offer the 23-year-old more than his qualifying offer while re-signing center Ryan Carpenter to a two-year deal. That’s prompted questions about Tierney’s future with the Sharks and won’t quell the trade speculation about him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tierney’s a checking-line center who specializes in killing penalties. While he showed some offensive promise in 2014-15 with 21 points in 43 games, he tallied only 20 points in 79 games the following season and 23 points last season. This season could be make or break for Tierney with the Sharks.