NHL Rumor Mill – October 23, 2018
Updates on William Nylander plus a look ahead at four pending restricted free agents who could also prove difficult to sign in your NHL rumor mill.
TSN: Bob McKenzie noted the appearance of Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas at Sunday’s game between the Calgary Flames and New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden created a buzz on social media, with some speculating Dubas was there scouting players for a possible trade. McKenzie, however, pointed out that player agent Lewis Gross, who represents Leafs restricted free agent William Nylander, also lives in Manhattan. He also noted Dubas ” likes to go to hockey games.”
Pierre LeBrun also noted Gross, who represents Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau, also attended the game. Darren Dreger said Dubas and Gross spoke together before the game. The Leafs and Nylander’s representatives are reportedly trying to find a way to end their ongoing contract impasse.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As always, there’s a simple explanation for why the general manager of one team attends a game involving two other clubs. It’s also worth noting the Leafs play the Flames next Monday so perhaps Dubas was doing some scouting before that contest.
NICHOLS ON HOCKEY: Dreger also appeared yesterday on Toronto’s TSN 1050 discussing Dubas’ appearance at the Flames-Rangers game. He also speculated the Leafs GM was there on a scouting trip, though he doesn’t know if he was watching the Rangers, who’ve been scouting the Leafs. Dreger thinks “general speculation” suggests the Leafs could be looking at a Rangers defenseman.
While Dreger’s uncertain if there’s anyone in that group to help the Leafs, he feels the retooling Rangers are willing to consider just about anything. He noted the Leafs kicked the tires last season on a Blueshirts rearguard (he didn’t know if it was Ryan McDonagh, who was eventually shipped to Tampa Bay) but the Rangers were interested in Leafs forward Kasperi Kapanen. Dreger also believes the Rangers want to move a couple of centers. “Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Hayes is another one the New York Rangers would be willing to part with.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Plenty of speculation suggesting the Leafs could trade Nylander for a defenseman if unable to re-sign him prior to the Dec. 1 deadline. If they’re interested in a right-side defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk might fit that need but I think they would have more interest in Brady Skjei, even though he skates on the left side. However, I don’t see the Rangers parting with him.
SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston joined Hockey Central at Noon yesterday and was asked which general managers he thinks are calling Dubas about Nylander. He thinks Don Waddell of the Carolina Hurricanes could be one as the Hurricanes have a number of defenseman that could interest the Leafs if they decide to trade Nylander. Johnston also speculated the Rangers and Nashville Predators could be possibilities. The show’s host also mentioned Peter Chiarelli of the Edmonton Oilers could be interested.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Hurricanes and Leafs have been linked for weeks in the rumor mill. Dubas reportedly called Waddell in the summer to inquire about Justin Faulk’s availability but it was said to be a brief discussion and Nylander wasn’t mentioned. Still, there’s no certainty a trade of Nylander for Faulk or one of the other Hurricanes’ top-four blueliners takes place. The Hurricanes are off to a good start and Waddell might prefer staying patient with his roster for now.
I don’t think there’s a fit with the Rangers unless they’re willing to part with Skjei and that doesn’t seem likely. Some pundits like linking Nylander to the Predators because of their blueline depth but it appears Preds GM David Poile wants to keep that group intact for a run at the Stanley Cup this spring. If he feels the need to add depth on the wing he might find more affordable short-term options later in the season. As for the Oilers, unless they’re willing to part with Darnell Nurse I don’t see Nylander heading to Edmonton.
TORONTO SUN: Michael Traikos suggests Nylander’s contract standoff “could be a warning sign to a number of teams, who have a star young player in the final year of his contract.” He suggests Colorado Avalanche winger Mikko Rantanen, Tampa Bay Lightning center Braydon Point, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner and Vancouver Canucks winger Brock Boeser could be difficult to re-sign.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Much will depend upon those players’ performances, how much salary-cap space each club has and other notable players those teams must re-sign.
As per Cap Friendly, the Avalanche have over $46 million invested in 12 players and I don’t think they’ll have any qualms paying Rantanen a big raise, especially if he finishes among this season’s top-10 scorers. Where it could get sticky is if he seeks considerably more than Nathan MacKinnon’s team-leading $6.3-million annual average value.
The Lightning and Point recently agreed to put off contract talks until season’s end. With over $67 million tied up in 14 players and with Yanni Gourde due for a raise next summer and goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy the following year, the Bolts could face shedding some salary or letting Gourde walk as a UFA in July.
It’s going to cost the Leafs a fortune to re-sign Marner and Auston Matthews, perhaps as much as $20 million combined if Matthews gets $12 million and Marner $8 million. That’s a conservative estimate on my part. They could seek more than that. Assuming they manage to get those two plus Nylander re-signed for under $25 million, that will push their projected cap payroll for 2019-20 to nearly $75 million invested in 14 players, leaving little room to re-sign Kasperi Kapanen and re-sign or replace defensemen Ron Hainsey and Jake Gardiner.
The Canucks have over $47 million committed to 12 players. If Boeser hits 30-or-more goals this season he could seek over $7 million per season. They might push for just over $6 million per season.