Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – April 29, 2018
Latest on the Maple Leafs, Blue Jackets and Flyers in your Sunday NHL rumor roundup.
TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan expects rumors will run rampant before the unrestricted free agent market opens on July 1, pointing out the Maple Leafs have already been linked to potential UFAs such as Washington’s John Carlson and the New York Islanders’ John Tavares. Noting the Leafs need to bolster their blueline, he notes Carlson, Detroit’s Mike Green, Calvin de Haan and Ian Cole could hit the open market.
Koshan also wonders what the future holds for Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner. He’s a year away from UFA eligibility and Koshan speculates the Leafs could chose to trade him.
OTTAWA SUN: Ken Warren recently dismissed the notion of the Ottawa Senators trading Erik Karlsson to the Leafs. Among the reasons is he doesn’t see the Leafs having sufficient long-term salary-cap space to sign Karlsson to an expensive contract extension while leaving sufficient room to re-sign Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.
SPORTSNET: Damien Cox expects the Leafs to stick with the “Shanaplan” of building their roster with their young players. He doesn’t anticipate they’ll trade one of them for a top-pairing defenseman.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs must improve their blueline corps or they can forget about being a legitimate Stanley Cup contender next season. If they’re unwilling to consider moving one of their promising youngsters for a defenseman, they’ll have to address that need via free agency. If they’re unwilling to do either, they’d better hope that their young blueliners show significant improvement in 2018-19.
As for Gardiner, I know most Leafs fans want him gone after his horrible performance in Game 7 against the Bruins. Trading him, however, is a pointless move if there isn’t anyone of equal or greater skills coming in to replace him.
Despite Gardiner’s sometimes questionable defensive abilities, he’s a skilled puck-moving rearguard who tallied a career-best 52 points this season. His absence could adversely affect the Leafs’ production from the blueline, especially on the power play. Perhaps if the Leafs can find a good shutdown d-man, they can pair him with Gardiner.
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Michael Arace recently reported the Blue Jackets’ lack of depth at center was among the factors that led to their opening-round elimination by the Washington Capitals. He called upon general manager Jarmo Kekalainen to make bolstering that position a priority and suggested he consider pursuing New York Islanders center John Tavares if he hits the open market on July 1. Failing that, Arace proposed looking at secondary targets via trade, using the Jackets depth in defensemen as trade bait.
FANRAG SPORTS NETWORK: Chris Nichols cited TSN’s Darren Dreger’s recent appearance on Buffalo’s WGR 550 discussing the future of Blue Jackets forward Matt Calvert, who’s likely to depart this summer via free agency. Calvert’s performance this season didn’t impress Jackets coach John Tortorella, who compared the winger’s game to being up and down like a toilet seat. Dreger, however, believes there are probably 15 NHL teams that would have an interest in Calvert. Among them could be the Buffalo Sabres, who are in need of a hard-working character player.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lack of skilled depth at center is an ongoing issue for the Jackets stretching back to last season. That’s why the Jackets were frequently linked last summer to Matt Duchene before he was shipped last fall to the Ottawa Senators.
While Tavares would certainly address that issue, the Jackets probably can’t afford to bid for his services. Cap Friendly indicates they have over $61 million invested in 19 players. While that’s plenty of room to make a big bid, doing so would push their cap hit well over $70 million for next season, which could be too much for the team’s ownership, especially with Sergei Bobrovsky, Artemi Panarin and Zach Werenski all due for big raises next year. They’ll have to turn to the trade market to address that need or consider more affordable free-agent options such as Winnipeg’s Paul Stastny, Toronto’s Tyler Bozak or San Jose’s aging Joe Thornton.
I concur with Dreger’s take on Calvert. While he was inconsistent this season it may have had something to do with Tortorella’s system. Calvert won’t lack for suitors via free agency this summer. The Sabres could be among them.
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: John Boruk recently reported there won’t be any changes to the Flyers coaching staff. He also wasn’t planning on re-signing pending UFAs Matt Read, Valtteri Filppula and Brandon Manning, but hasn’t ruled out bringing one of them back next season. He could also look toward affordable additions via free agency.
Hextall also indicated he doesn’t intend to buy out the final season of Jori Lehtera’s contract. Noting the Flyers’ prospect depth, Boruk speculated Hextall might get creative and attempt a bold move at this year’s draft.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hextall also enters this summer with considerable salary-cap space. Cap Friendly indicates the Flyers have over $57 million invested in 17 players with all their core talent under contract through next season. Should the cap jump to $80 million as projected, he’ll have around $23 million to work with this summer. While Flyers’ ownership has given Hextall the green light to spend as he sees fit to improve the roster, it doesn’t sound as though he’ll chase the big fish in this summer’s free-agent market.