NHL Rumor Mill – March 5, 2018

by | Mar 5, 2018 | Rumors | 38 comments

Latest on the Maple Leafs and Blackhawks in your NHL rumor mill.

This season is likely James van Riemsdyk’s last with the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo via NHL Images)


TORONTO STAR: In a recent mailbag segment, Kevin McGran said he expects this season will be the last for forwards (and pending free agents) James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak with the Maple Leafs. He pointed out the Leafs’ salary structure will soon be very different with Auston Matthews at the top and everyone else fitting under his salary. Regarding van Riemsdyk, he noted his scoring is elite but “The rest of his game is not.”

McGran suggested Ilya Kovalchuk as a possible, more affordable replacement this summer for JvR,  He also noted San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton is a UFA and highly regarded by Leafs head coach Mike Babcock.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: While the Leafs risk losing van Riemsdyk and Bozak for nothing this summer to free agency, the feeling is they’re being considered as “own rentals” for the upcoming playoffs. Any chance of re-signing JvR was blown out of the water by last summer’s signing of Patrick Marleau. If this is Lou Lamoriello’s final season as general manager as recent speculation suggests, the Leafs might not play contract hardball with Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner, meaning all three will be in line for substantial raises. That will affect any potential additions this summer via free agency.

Thornton might be available but I wouldn’t rule out the possibility he signs a one-year, bonus-laden deal with the Sharks. Kovalchuk’s preference is supposedly New York-area clubs (except for New Jersey, as that ship has probably sailed) but perhaps he’ll consider Toronto as a destination. However, it remains to be seen if the Leafs would be interested in him. We’ll have to wait until this summer to find out. 


THE ATHLETIC: Scott Powers recently observed the Chicago Blackhawks could have the salary-cap space to make a splash via trade or free agency this summer. He noted speculation they could attempt to ship out some salary, as center Artem Anisimov’s no-movement clause shifts this summer to a modified no-trade.

They could once again put Marian Hossa’s $5.275-million on long-term injured reserve again this year. Powers suggested they perhaps attempt to package his rights with a draft pick or prospect to a rebuilding club with the cap space to carry that deal. As Hossa’s unlikely to play again, he probably won’t mind waiving his no-movement clause.

Noting the Hawks biggest need is defense, he speculated they could pursue a top blueliner but such a move could cost them some young assets. They must also be mindful of contracts down the road for youngsters such as Nick Schmaltz and Alex DeBrincat.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Powers suggested the Blackhawks, with the right moves this summer, “may be able to restore their seat near the head of the NHL table.” Such moves, however, could prove to be short-term fixes that ultimately hurts them over the long haul.

Management must proceed carefully here. A wiser course of action could be trying to shed more salary and invest in younger players. Granted, moving some of those high-salaried players won’t be easy. But wherever there’s a chance to do so, they must seriously consider it. 



  1. Lou no longer being the GM in Toronto could be pretty interesting in terms of a change in culture. It’s not often you see a team go from last place to playoff team, to minor contender so rapidly, then it’s even less often they have a change in management.

    I think there are moves that Lou has made, or would have made, that will be very different if say Dubas is getting his voice heard more. For instance, I have a feeling signings such as Zaitsev’s, Marleau’s and Martins wouldn’t have been Dubas priority, which may make things interesting in the summer. I also think his strategy is to avoid bridge deals, as he was apparently instrumental in getting the Leafs to go longer on Gardiner and Rielly in each of their last contract negotiations.

    There is also the possibility of Hunter’s voice becoming the dominant one, and that could be a wild card, as I haven’t heard as much about his philosophies on things like 2nd contracts, etc.

    It could be interesting just because of the unknown. I am not suggesting any big radical changes, as I believe there is already the fingerprints of several different managers and styles on this team, but it the Leafs to this point have seemed like a hodge podge of collective ideas, and it will be interesting to see if one particular direction becomes more dominant as they try and take the next step.

    • Danny,
      Well put. My sense is Dubas will make sure to “shape” things his way and I believe the elder statesman steps aside to an advisory capacity. KD will likely lock long term on the three but I believe bridge is better way to go…. giving 3 year bridge deals and then if all goes well …. lock for 8 while Leafs still have rights (RFA)…. that would be 14 years … 3 EL, 3 Bridge, + 8. Lock the 8 now …. you could be in a scenario that NYI is currently facing with JT … but signing AM to an 8 year extension for $100 M come July first …. then causes a potential problem of July 1st 2027…. are you then forced to pony up $150 M for 8 more years ( years starting as a 30 yr old to 37 year old)…. 3 year bridge plus 8 … gets you his last year under contract st 32 years of age and less pressure to lock to his late 30’s…. also doesn’t need to sign an extension July 1st this year…. could wait another year (as with MM)… only wee Willy must be signed…. just a thought

      • I fully agree. I have been a proponent of bridge deals for just that reason who wants to be faced with having to give 6+ years to a player in their late 20’s to early 30’s.

        Bridge makes cap management & your ability to lock the stars up longer. Teams should us the leverage the CBA gives them for the 1st 7 years to their advantage, especially the 1st 5. Elc & bridge then decide if you wish to sign that player for 8 years.

      • I agree with bridging as well. The problem from a Matthews perspective is the deals Buffalo and Edmonton gave their comparables in Eicel and McDavid.

        Matthews is going to want dough now and of course would want the term both the other two received. From my perspective, nothing wrong with bridging him at a high salary for three years. This could be a way to get the bridge done for him and hopefully acceptable to Matthews given the comparables

        I suspect Marner and Nylander will be easier and less costly to bridge.

        Bridging the three sets the team up very well – IMO.

      • the problem with the bridge deals is if the player is established they wont sign it. Why would Matthews sign for 3 and chance blowing out a knee and never being the same. He could miss out on 50-60 million. What would you do? put your future earnings on the line for a chance you might win a cup or get more later. the other 2 that might work then you chance the Subban in Mtl and Kucherov in TB. Subban got 2-3 million more afetr winning a norris, Kucherov is going to get paid large afetr this season, they could of locked him in for millions less last time around.

      • Subban didn’t need to be signed for 9 mil per that was all Geoff Moulson.

        Then the player is forced to sit until they do sign, just like Trouba or Kucherov.

        Just because Kucherov took a bridge doesn’t mean he’s getting more than he’s worth on his next deal. That should be about 9.5 give or take a mil trying to factor in compared to McDavid, Eichel, etc.

        Players are insured, if they sustain a long term injury they are collecting disability insurance just like you or I till age 65.

        Players have no arbitration rights coming out of their ELC’s, & the earliest they can become a UFA if everything goes perfectly is 7 years currently.

        If teams flex that leverage they can force every player to bridge. It’s a choice. TB wil be far better served having bridged Kucherov than EDM signi g McDavid a year before his ELC was even up. Same with Eichel.

        I don’t want to be confronted with a player like Reilly or any other at 28 to 31 wanting an big 8 year deal.

      • Kucherov couldve been signed for 7 now it will be 9.5. No way is Matthews signing a bridge deal and will be signed by just after July 1st. If not an offersheet will be coming his way the 1st of July the following year. then you match the 10 – 12 million 7 years some other team will offer. Players are only insured for the contract lenght & thats more to protect the team. they can purchase there own but its nowhere near what they couldve made in the case of a long term contract.

      • Convenient to forget offer sheets

  2. Patrick Marleau’s contract is not in any way a deterrent to the Leaf’s signing free agents. If you look at his contract, as of July 1 2019 (when Matthew’s and Marner’s cap hits take affect) he will have been paid everything except 1 million in salary. 1 million is not enough for a guy like Marleau to put his body through the rigors of another NHL season. He will pull a Hossa/Robidas/Lupul and disappear on injured reserve for the last year of his contract. He will still get his 1 million plus the Leafs will give him a cushy coaching/scouting job to make sure no one can prove anything.

    If you look at their cap math, even paying Matthews, Marner and Nylander top dollar the Leafs will still have enough to go big name hunting in free agency this July 1. They just want to spend their money on Taveres and not JVR.

    • After the rigours Leafs went through to “prove” Lupl was really injured… don’t see this LTIR for PM happening unless he really really is injurred… more likely he picks up his signing bonus paid July 2019, maybe plays opening night … then retires …. no matter when he retires …. Leafs on hook for entire cap hit in 2019-20

      • Marleau is a 35+ contract. LTIR has not affect on his cap hit. The only way to save any money on his cap it is to sent him down to the minors, but that will only save 100k on his cap hit. 35+ contract either can’t be bought out, or it is bought out at full cap hit and length of contract, I can’t remember which. Even if he retires the Leafs are still stuck with his cap hit until the end of the contract.

      • If I understand how it works, they could trade him to a “budget team” once his salary goes down. That new team would only have to pay the $1M salary but assume the full cap hit, which would help them reach the cap floor if needed; or they may get a pick from the Leafs in exchange for the cap relief.

      • Kev Toronto can put Marleau on the LTIR to hide the cap hit. They can`t send him to the minors NM and the 35+ extends to the minors too. Remember Robidas was a 35+ contract. Marleau`s contract was designed so Toronto would pay his 3 mill signing bonus on July 1st of the 3rd year and Toronto could with Marleau`s approval trade him to a team that needs the cap hit with only 1.25 mill salary. I think he had returning to San Jose and retiring a shark in mind.

      • KevJam, I don’t think 35+ has anything to do with LTIR. Robidas was over 35 when signed, and he is an infamous LTIR case.

        I agree that I don’t think Marleau’s signing was completed with the intention of putting him on LTIR, and I don’t think the Leafs will get away with it unless he actually suffers a severe injury.

      • Mareau also has a full NMC. Most likely doable if Mareau is injured and on LTIR. If he is not injured and healthy enough to play, which he pretty much has been his fill career, why would he accept a trade to a budget team who usually are not in contention?

      • I believe the current cap savings burying a contract in the AHL is about 1.025 at least that is what Buf is saving on Moulson’s contract buried. It used to be 950K but it may have increased nominally with the cap last season.

      • Doubbleminor.

        Marleau would have to want to go as he contains a full NMC. He has a family so that may or may not be an issue for him. The contract structure works very well for such as you have expressed.

        This is how Ott traded for Brassard originally, they waited for NYR to pay his 2 mil signing bonus on July 1 so the salary paid by Ott was only 3 mil even though they took the full 5 in cap hit.

        No team has yet needed to use a players cap hit with an LTIR player to clear the cap since the cap was brought in in 2004-05. All did so as they were paid to, a player, pick, picks or some combination of the 3.

        I’m not saying Marleau won’t be moved at some point but he demanded this security of a 3 year deal with an NMC from Tor so I assume he had a reason. His NMC also means he can’t be sent to the AHL with out his permission.

    • Lets not forget Marleau’s 3 mil signing bonus due that July, it also counts against the cap & for all intense & purposes is salary, bringing his total salary to 4.25. Good luck with that, Marleau has missed like 15 games in 20 years, he will still be dinging the cap in Tor in his final year & pretty much be the player he is today.

      A 3rd line, 2nd unit PP guy, scoring 20 to 25 goals & 40 to 45 points.

      If the NHL keeps allowing players to be banished to Robidas/Lupul/Grabovsky/Hossa island just a matter of time before the at least 12 teams in the NHL have had enough & force a resolution to this issue.

      • I Agree! I think you will see this soon if the Wings face a cap recapture penalty on Z. The Hossa once in particular is reeking of cap circumvention.

  3. Next two off-seasons for Sharks will be very interesting. Agree Thornton comes back for at least one more year. Hope he doesn’t rush back too soon this season.

    • Thornton would be a fantastic addition to any team under a 1 year bonus laden contract …. if in his heart he truly believes that his best shot at a cup is not in SJ…. and really wants this as a career ending shot …. who can/would fit him in?

  4. I wonder coming into July 1st what teams have the most cap space without RFA’s looming

    • Arz must be up there

    • Go look at Capfriendly, easy enough to do will take you about 2 mins.

      • Meant what might be space at July 1; not what is projected now based on current rosters…. expect lots of trades at/pre draft which will change cap space avail. Sorry for the confusion I put out… I was guessing Arz would end up as one of the teams with the most room after trades settle and as at start of Jul 1st

      • Not directed at you but a response to Matt’s inquiry. The NHL has very limited trade acqtivity even in the summer so what you see for the most part is what you get. The odd trade comes out of no where but most are floating for months before they happen if the happen so easy enough to look at a teams roster on Capfriendly & extrapolate out a few scenario’s.

        Let your imagination run wild. Ha-ha!

  5. “Noting the Hawks biggest need is defence”….. GMSB…. did you not get the call from GMJR a couple of weeks ago about a diamond in the rough called Hunwick??? No offer too low BTW!!!

  6. Kovalchuk is now a gold medalist. But would he have been in an Olympic dream team style tournament?. I doubt it very highly. The Russians had not even medalled since 2002! Yes, the “Russians” won but does this medal require an asterisk? I realize it is a team game but what really has Kovalchuk accomplished? (Two KHL championships is nothing to sneeze at; but the experts would say it does not equal two Stanley Cups) I would not be lining up for his services. When all players are created marginally equal team success has to be factored into individual accomplishments. Thus, you could argue that players like Crosby, Malkin, and Kessel are more successful individually as they won back to back Cups with a team that apparently had a poor defence (not sure that’s the case). Look at Ovechkin what has he won; sure all kinds of individual accomplishments but nothing as a team member and this with teams who were branded as sure bets to win. Who honestly would have put their life savings (insert hyperbole here) on Pittsburgh to win the Cup in 2016 or 2017? Toronto does not need Kovalchuk, or Thornton, or Tavares, or anybody else that requires a top level salary. Remeber we have Matthews, and Nylander, and Marner (who when Babcock utilizes properly shows he will be a star), and Kapanen (who is the real deal), and Kadri, and I would even suggest Marleau is still quite effective. Now, let’s improve the defence! This will be done by trading JvR and a package of picks and prospects.

    • If JvR is traded before he becomes a UFA on July 1st the return at best will be a marginal pick. Think 4th rounder or worse, just like Goligoski, Yandle, Bishop, etc. He & prospects thus summer aren’t returning any Dman that can help.

      Tor’s D is being built internally.

      I think Tor like many teams is waiting to see what happens with Trouba this summer & de Haan a solid 2nd pairing Dman now, is a UFA this summer should NYI not extend him before July 1st. Weird contract extension, 1 year, by Snow making de Haan a UFA at 27; turns such on May 9th, & with only 304 NHL regular season games under his belt still not fully developed at the NHL level yet.

      I’m not in on Karlsson or Doughty, I assume Doughty will be extended for about 10.5 for 8 years by LA on July 1st. These are the 2 Dman I’m waiting on before i do anything else.

  7. Nor am I in on Kovalchuk. 35 & will want 5 mil+ on at least a 3 year deal, oddly enough someone will pay it.

    • Striker, all joking aside … and please disregard the dressing room factor of Patrick Marlea; no question his presence contributes to the overall team. However, are you inferring that 3 years of Kov (starting at 35) is worth less than 3 years of PM (starting at 38)? If his agent just focuses on the two NY franchises the bids won’t be as high as they could be … but opening it up broader and I believe he’ll be offered 3 @ $6.5M per…. Knicks Leafs out of that bid… SJ???

      • I wouldn’t have signed marleau for 3 years at 6.25, I would have designated that money to getting JvR locked up long term, 6 years at or near 6, ideally around 5.75. He has warts but his goal scoring abilities are worth the warts. Replacing him with potentially Marleau makes little sense to me.

        Kovy will get his money just not from me, nor do I see SJ bidding. I think SJ will do everything they can to lock Kane up & Thornton will get a 1 year bonus laden deal.

        If you look at SJ’s contract structure baring trades, Hertl, Demelo & Tierny are both RFA’s this summer, Meier, Labanc & Ryan next summer. Pavelski & Couture both UFA’s the summer of 2019-20, not enough money to sign Kovy baring trades & numerous other players will need to be replaced as UFA’s as well.

        Kovy will sign some where in the east.

      • I wouldn’t sign Kovalchuk if I was the Penguins even if I could find the cap space or he signed for less to play for a contender. The league’s future is going to be more about relying on good draft and development and a lot less about free agency. Teams that win are going to be teams with depth at all positions. And although it’s definitely not the norm if you’re a team that trades your picks you are going to have to find good young players in other places. The Penguins keep finding such players and you really have to give their amateur scouting a lot of credit right now. Sheary, Aston-Reese, taking a flier on Simon in the draft, and now finding and signing Bellerive who is going to have a 100 point season in the WHL and playing as a number one centre. These are not lucky accidents, somebody knows their job veart well. Signing older free agents might create a little buzz for your team but it’s no longer the difference maker it once was.

      • Sigh. If pens could git kovalchuk under budgy they would and be grateful for it. Malkin kovy!?!?

  8. Why not sign JVR for market value, or even a discount if you can get one, for five to seven years then keep him at least one more year then make a decision on him? He would be under contract long term and they would get full value for him in a trade. Only Nylander gets his new money next year. This is how you maximize a return on your assets. Without Bozak they will be looking for two centers.

    • Wouldn’t Nylander finally be moved to centre when Bozak leaves? Mathews, Nylander, Kadri, that’s pretty good centre depth.

      • Marleau can play C as well but Nylander is better suited to the 2nd line role allowing Tor to ice 3 solid scoring lines. Brown moves back to play with Matthews & Hyman & Kapanen moves into the top 9 replacing Nylander on the right side on a scoring line.

  9. The Leafs are building internally. Striker if right!