NHL Rumor Mill – April 25, 2018
Latest John Tavares speculation plus an update on the Philadelphia Flyers in your NHL rumor mill.
LATEST TAVARES SPECULATION
TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons believes the Toronto Maple Leafs “will take a run at centre John Tavares in free agency,” though perhaps not as aggressively as they did two years ago with Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos. Simmons claims the Leafs laid it on so thick with Stamkos that he opted instead to return to the Lightning.
FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cites NHL insider Pierre LeBrun telling Montreal’s TSN 690 he doesn’t rule out the Leafs surprising us with a bid for Tavares if he hits the open market this summer. However, he expects teams like the San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights could also get into the bidding.
LeBrun said he “knows for the fact” the Sharks will make a play. He notes the Golden Knights have plenty of salary-cap room plus there’s the allure of Vegas. It’s also possible Tavares re-signs with the Islanders.
DENVER POST: Mark Kiszla and Mike Chambers discussed the possibility of the Colorado Avalanche making a bid for Tavares. Chambers feels the Avs will make a solid pitch, citing the opportunity for the superstar center to play with Nathan MacKinnon. Kiszla feels those two would provide the Avalanche with a one-two punch similar to that of Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg during the club’s glory days.
Chambers believes the Avs can afford to sign Tavares, though he would be an expensive addition, forcing them to buy out someone such as Carl Soderberg or Colin Wilson. He also notes GM Sakic said he could add a piece or two in the offseason. While he wouldn’t comment when asked about pursuing Tavares but he didn’t say no to the notion.
BOSTON GLOBE: Kevin Paul Dupont recently reminded us that the high cost of signing Tavares or acquiring Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson could limit potential destinations for the duo. He cited TSN analyst Craig Button musing over the difficulty of adding a high-salaried player to a roster, especially if it means clearing out some players to make room for just one.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A lot of NHL teams would love to have a center such a Tavares (or a defenseman like Karlsson) on their roster. But as Button notes, the expense will whittle down the potential suitors to a handful of teamss, and some of those could be those that aren’t on Tavares’ list of preferred destinations. If it’s only about the money, he takes the best the offer regardless of the club’s championship potential. But if playing for a potential Cup contender is of significant importance to Tavares, he might not find many suitable options via free agency.
The Leafs could certainly check all the boxes for Tavares but their situation has changed since making their pitch for Stamkos two years ago. They now have a franchise-player in first-line center Auston Matthews, whose best days remain ahead of him. Their biggest need is for an established top-pairing defenseman. Sure, the Leafs could surprise us by going after Tavares but that won’t address their obvious defensive issues.
I concur with LeBrun that the Sharks or perhaps the Golden Knights could make a play for Tavares, and he could find both clubs attractive. The Avalanche could make a play but Sakic said he’d like to see his club become even younger. I think will look at more affordable options via trades or free agency.
UPDATES ON THE FLYERS
NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien reports Philadelphia Flyers GM Ron Hextall will be given free rein by his bosses in this summer’s free-agent market. For the first time in years, the Flyers will have considerable salary-cap space in the offseason.
O’Brien notes an $80-million salary-cap ceiling for next season would give them around $22 million to work with, and buying out Jori Lehtera could push it to over $25 million. That’s plenty of cash to pursue a big ticket potential UFA such as John Tavares. They could also address their longstanding problems in goal or some more affordable (Patrick Maroon? Michael Grabner? Ian Cole? Michael Hutchinson?) short-term options.
O’Brien suggests the Flyers might be better off trying to improve via the trade market. He proposes pursuing someone such as Montreal’s Max Pacioretty or Ottawa’s Mike Hoffman. “The Flyers would get at least one season to see how such additions fit into their system, maybe opening the door for a team-friendly extension.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As O’Brien pointed out, Hextall’s done a good job breaking the Flyers’ front office from its long-term habit of acquiring expensive veterans via free agency. He’s also shed some bloated salaries in favor of rebuilding with younger, cheaper talent.
I daresay Hextall will be a player in this summer’s free-agent market and could swing a deal or two in the trade market. However, he could pass on adding expensive big-tickets players in favor of more affordable short-term veteran options to boost his roster depth and take some pressure off the Flyers’ developing young talent.