NHL Rumor Mill – August 8, 2018
Latest on the Senators, Maple Leafs and Hurricanes in your NHL Rumor Mill.
UNCERTAIN FUTURE FOR KARLSSON, DUCHENE AND STONE.
THE ATHLETIC: Chris Stevenson reports this hasn’t been a good offseason for Ottawa Senators fans. Three key players – defenseman Erik Karlsson, center Matt Duchene and winger Mark Stone – are eligible next summer for unrestricted free agent status. Karlsson is reportedly on the trade block while Stone’s recent signing of a one-year contract raises doubts over his long-term future with the Senators.
Stevenson suggests the possibility that all three could be moved before the Feb. 25, 2019 trade deadline. He also notes there’s rumors of individuals or groups willing to buy the club from owner Eugene Melnyk but so far that talk appears to be wishful thinking by Senators fans.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The only way I see the Senators retaining Karlsson, Duchene and Stone is if the team enjoys a strong bounce-back performance from last year’s meltdown. That could also be considered wishful thinking.
Karlsson appears to have one foot out the door and Stone’s new contract suggests he could test next summer’s UFA market. If those two move on there’s little incentive for Duchene to stay unless the Senators are willing to overpay for his services.
SHOULD THE LEAFS PURSUE KARLSSON?
BETWEEN THE POSTS: Former Toronto sportswriter Howard Berger believes the Maple Leafs should look into acquiring Erik Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators. He feels landing a Norris Trophy-caliber defenseman is the lone missing piece in the Leafs’ arsenal, suggesting they cannot win the Stanley Cup with their current imbalance between their forwards and defensemen. Berger proposes offering up William Nylander to the Senators for Karlsson.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree with Berger’s take that the Leafs won’t win the Cup with their current blueline depth. Adding a Norris-caliber defenseman could put them over the top. I also concur it could cost someone like Nylander to acquire that type of defender but I don’t believe they can land Karlsson.
As far as anyone knows, the Leafs and Senators aren’t discussing a Karlsson trade. While the two clubs surprised the hockey world with the Dion Phaneuf trade in 2016, I doubt the Sens are willing to move their best player to their biggest rival. Karlsson carries a modified no-trade clause and Toronto might not be on his list of preferred trade destinations.
Having already paid out big bucks to sign John Tavares, the Leafs face re-signing Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner to hefty raises next summer. I don’t believe they can afford to re-sign Karlsson, who could command over $11 million annually.
LATEST ON FAULK
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Luke DeCock recently examined what the Jeff Skinner trade could mean for Carolina Hurricanes’ defenseman Justin Faulk. He considers Faulk’s case to be curious, as he’ll be earning $6 million in actual salary ($4.83-million annual cap hit) this season to play third-pairing minutes and is expected to lose his co-captaincy under new head coach Rod Brind’Amour.
However, the Hurricanes have no financial imperative to move Faulk’s contract as they carry plenty of salary-cap space. Skating on their third pairing could make him the Hurricanes’ blueline version of Matt Cullen, “the matchup nightmare who slices through the opposition’s soft underbelly.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With Faulk under contract for two more seasons, the Hurricanes aren’t in any danger of losing him to free agency next summer, which they were with Skinner. While there’s no rush to move him, he could still become a trade chip if the Hurricanes struggle to replace Skinner’s offense.