Latest on the Leafs and Canadiens – May 12, 2018
Latest on the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens in your NHL rumor mill.
WHAT WILL THE LEAFS NEW GM DO?
THE ATHLETIC: Jonas Siegel believes the big challenge facing new Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas is turning his roster from a good to a great team. Among the issues facing him is determining how much to invest and for how long in young stars Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander and whether Nylander is a center or winger and what his potential upside will be.
Siegel also wonders if Dubas will engage in some outside-the-box thinking, such as tendering offer sheets to players such as Vegas’ William Karlsson, Detroit’s Dylan Larkin, Winnipeg’s Jacob Trouba or Minnesota’s Matt Dumb. Perhaps he’ll offer up a top UFA such as the New York Islanders’ John Tavares a rich one-year deal, or address their blueline instability via free agency (Washington’s John Carlson), a big trade or trying to unearth undiscovered gems in other franchises.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dubas has been touted as part of the next generation of young general managers, like Arizona’s John Chayka, expected to bring a fresh approach to building and maintaining a championship contender. Unlike Chayka, however, Dubas is working in the world’s biggest hockey market. He’ll be under intense pressure and considerable scrutiny from Leafs fans and the Toronto media.
It’ll be interesting to see how much “outside-the-box thinking” Dubas brings to the role. Offering up a one-year contract for the maximum salary ($16 million if the salary cap reaches $80 million for next season) or tendering offer sheets to a cap-strapped rival’s top restricted free agent has been done before by other clubs, but both are rare occurrences.
A one-year deal at the league maximum takes a big bite out of any club’s cap payroll, while offer sheets are almost always matched and can spark ill will among general managers. I suspect Dubas will look at more traditional methods this summer to bolster the Leafs roster, but he could also look at trying to acquire promising players unable to shine on deep rosters.
The Leafs did the right thing by grooming Dubas for the role for several years so he knows what he’s getting into. Still, he has little room for error. If Dubas starts making mistakes, this will be the constant meme from Leafs Nation:
LATEST ON THE CANADIENS.
JOURNAL DE MONTREAL: New York Islanders center John Tavares, Winnipeg Jets center Paul Stastny, Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson, Islanders blueliner Thomas Hickey and Anaheim Ducks center Antoine Vermette could be the top-five free-agent targets this summer for the Montreal Canadiens.
TVA SPORTS: Analysts Michel Bergeron and Louis Jean discussed whether Winnipeg’s Paul Stastny would be a good fit for the Canadiens. Bergeron cites Stastny’s leadership and experience, noting the Colorado Avalanche weren’t the same team after he departed via free agency four years ago. Jean, however, doubts Montreal is an attractive destination for Stastny. He also feels the 32-year-old center will seek a six- or seven-year contract worth $7 million per season.
THE ATHLETIC: If the Canadiens fail to land Tavares via free agency, Arpon Basu recommends they hang onto their salary-cap space and wait for next summer, when the free-agent pool will be considerably deeper.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t doubt Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin will try to woo Tavares if the Isles center decides to test the UFA market, but I just don’t see him signing with Montreal. If the Canadiens were coming off a 103-point season as they were a year ago, maybe there will be a chance. But after missing the playoffs twice in three years, I doubt he’ll see the Canadiens as a potential Stanley Cup contender. Same goes for Carlson, who I expect will re-sign with the Capitals.
Stastny would be a good option but I agree with Jean that they shouldn’t overpay for the privilege. Hickey and Vermette would be much more affordable but they won’t significantly improve the Canadiens.
Among the notables eligible next summer for UFA status include Los Angeles’ Drew Doughty, Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson and Matt Duchene, San Jose’s Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture, Columbus’ Artemi Panarin, Dallas’ Tyler Seguin, Winnipeg’s Blake Wheeler, Arizona’s Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Nashville’s Ryan Ellis.
Most of these players, however, will be re-signed by their current clubs. Those that remain will not only seek top dollar but they could also seek to join a Cup contender. Factor in the fishbowl existence of playing in Montreal and a Canadiens team flush with cap space could still find it difficult to land a top free agent.