NHL Rumor Mill – July 19, 2018
Updates on Jacob Trouba, Brandon Montour and Brock Nelson as their arbitration hearings approach, plus the latest on the Toronto Maple Leafs in your NHL rumor mill.
TROUBA, MONTOUR AND NELSON
NBC SPORTS: Scott Billeck yesterday cited Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reporting the Winnipeg Jets and Jacob Trouba remains “millions apart” with the defenseman’s July 20th arbitration hearing fast approaching. Friedman said the 24-year-old blueliner seeks $7-million annually while the Jets have offered $4 million.
Billeck points out this isn’t an unusual strategy for a team to make a low-ball offer while the players “shoots for the moon” leading up to arbitration. He also notes Trouba’s underlying numbers suggests he’s among the league’s best blueliners but his offensive numbers and durability could work against him.
Billeck lists Columbus’ Seth Jones ($5.4 million per season), St. Louis’ Colton Parayko (five years, $27.5 million) and Nashville’s Roman Josi (seven years, $28 million) as comparables. He speculates a one-year deal worth between $5-$5.5 million could be the outcome for Trouba.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see if the two sides avoid the process and reach agreement on a long-term contract before Friday. If this goes to arbitration, the Winnipeg Sun’s Ken Wiebe expects the Jets will choose a one-year award as Trouba is eligible for unrestricted free agency on July 1, 2020. It’s possible the defenseman gets a one-year deal from an arbiter for around $5.25 million and he and the Jets attempt to work out another deal before next summer.
THE ATHLETIC: Eric Stephens reports Anaheim Ducks defenseman Brandon Montour’s arbitration hearing is slated for Tuesday, July 24. Contract negotiations have been going on between the two sides. Montour’s agent, Matt Keator, said those discussions are going well, adding “we will see” if the two sides move closer to an agreement before the hearing. Stephens wonders if they’ll get something done, be it a two- or three-year bridge deal or something longer.
Arthur Staple reports there’s been plenty of discussions between New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello and forward Brock Nelson but they don’t appear close to a deal. Nelson’s arbitration hearing is slated for Aug. 3. As he’s a year away from UFA eligibility, Nelson can only get a one-year deal through arbitration. Staple feels Lamoriello could seek a one-year deal, either via arbitration or negotiation, with the promise of a longer-term contract after the Isles GM has had a full season to evaluate Nelson as their second-line center.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s possible Montour and Nelson will be re-signed before their respective arbitration hearings. As Stephens points out, it’ll be interesting to see if the Ducks want to sign Montour to a bridge deal or lock him up for a longer term. Sounds like Nelson will get a one-year deal one way or the other.
LATEST ON THE LEAFS
THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, James Mirtle was asked if he believes Jake Gardiner will still be with the Toronto Maple Leafs at the start of 2018-19. Though Gardiner’s a year away from UFA eligibility, Mirtle believes he’ll still be with the Leafs this season. “It only makes sense to move Gardiner if (a) you don’t want to meet his contract demands, (b) (Travis) Dermott is ready and (c) you get a good return that doesn’t impact your ability to win now.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Despite Gardiner’s defensive weaknesses, he’s a solid offensive contributor. It makes no sense to trade him this summer if there’s no suitable replacement to be found via trade or free agency.
Asked if the possibility of the Leafs acquiring Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, Mirtle said his general understanding is Ottawa has an “anyone but Toronto” mentality with that deal. He doesn’t see a direct deal between the two clubs involving Karlsson, though he acknowledged the possibility of a three-team deal. Mirtle also points out there’s a limit to the Leafs’ salary-cap situation and adding a defenseman who could cost $11 million annually to re-sign might not be possible.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s possible a team could trade for Karlsson and flip him to the Leafs, but I doubt very much that scenario takes place. Whoever acquires the Senators’ superstar intends to keep him.
Mirtle also thinks too much is being made of the Leafs’ need to trade for a top defenseman, “mainly by people outside Toronto”. He believes there’s “a very legitimate case” that Morgan Reilly is a No. 1 defenseman.”Gardiner is a top four D. Dermott is getting close to that. And they have a whole bunch of players you can argue are very cromulent third-pair options.”
While he agrees the Leafs should try to improve the right side of their defense, he believes the forward lines will be better defensively while incredible depth at center could go a long way. If the Leafs don’t do anything by the trade deadline and there’s still a need to improve the defense, Mirtle feels there will be enough cap space to address that issue next summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Count me in as one of those people outside of Toronto who believes the Leafs need to improve their defense corps. No one’s arguing Reilly isn’t top-two caliber. Gardiner’s offensive skills makes him at least a second-pairing rearguard.
However, Ron Hainsey will be 38 in March and shouldn’t be logging top-pairing minutes anymore, as he appeared out of gas in that series against the Bruins. Dermott has potential but lacks experience. Nikita Zaitsev must bounce back from last season’s inconsistent performance while Connor Carrick was a frequent healthy scratch.
This is pretty much the same Leafs blueline that was shredded by the Boston Bruins during the opening round of last spring’s playoffs. Without adding a top-four rearguard via trade or a promising young kid stepping up from within their ranks, I’m not optimistic about their chances of significant improvement.