Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – December 2, 2018
The fallout from the Leafs re-signing William Nylander and the latest on the Flyers in your Sunday NHL rumor roundup.
AFTERMATH OF THE NYLANDER SIGNING
TORONTO SUN: In the wake of the Maple Leafs re-signing William Nylander to a six-year, $41.7-million contract, Steve Simmons believes they “will be almost certain to have $40 million invested in John Tavares, Nylander and the eventual signings of Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner — which will represent almost half of their salary cap in the coming seasons.”
He points out Nylander will be earning more than Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon, Boston’s David Pastrnak, Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele, Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau, and Florida Aleksander Barkov. That’s a lot of money for a player “yet to show he is anywhere near the player that MacKinnon, Pastrnak, Scheifele or Barkov happen to be.”
Simmons points out a good portion of Nylander’s actual salary, including two large bonuses, will be paid within the first two seasons. If the winger fails to measure up in years three through five, the Leafs can trade him without restrictions, as the limited no-trade clause only comes into effect in the final season of the deal.
Simmons also believes the Nylander signing and the new contracts due for Matthews and Marner means the Leafs have no room to re-sign defenseman Jake Gardiner, who’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent in July. “Memo to Jake Gardiner: Start planning your free agency. Your team can’t afford you anymore.” If Ron Hainsey (also a UFA in July) isn’t re-signed, the Leafs will have to repair one-third of their blueline next summer.
THE ATHLETIC: In an in-depth analysis assessing the aftermath of the Nylander deal, James Mirtle examined the potential long-term salary-cap implications for the Leafs. Estimating the new long-term deals for Matthews and Marner could come to within a combined $20-million range, he calculates they’ll have around $72 million invested in just 14 players for 2019-20. Assuming an $84-million salary-cap ceiling next season, that won’t leave much cap space to re-sign other pending free agents such as Gardiner, Hainsey, Kasperi Kapanen, and Andreas Johnsson, which could bring about a roster shuffle.
If the Leafs pass on Gardiner, Mirtle feels they can easily afford to re-sign the others. If they ink Gardiner for around $6 million per season, other players will have to go to make room. He doubts they’ll move Patrick Marleau, who has a year remaining on his contract, suggesting Nikita Zaitsev or Connor Brown could be traded in a salary-dumping deal while leaving the non-Matthews/Marner RFAs like Kapanen and Johnsson facing bridge contracts.
USA TODAY: Kevin Allen points out the Leafs can still trade Nylander, and it’s probably easier now that he’s finally under contract. Given the hardball negotiations on both sides, he suggests “it seems likely Nylander will eventually be moved.”
Allen wonders if Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk might be a good fit, though he has only another year remaining on his contract. Minnesota Wild blueliner Matt Dumba might be a better option. While the Wild would be reluctant to part with Dumba, Allen feels they could use a young marquee forward.
TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan reports Leafs management had no interest in trading Nylander during the contract standoff. He feels that’s unlikely to change now that he’s finally signed.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As per Cap Friendly, the Leafs now have a projected $56.275 million invested in 12 players for 2019-20. The new deals for Matthews and Marner will be very expensive, perhaps pushing that cap payroll to $78 million for just 14 players. Even if we assume Mirtle’s lower figure, the Leafs still won’t have much money to work with.
Some have pointed out the Leafs will get some cap relief by once again placing the all-but-retired Nathan Horton ($5.3 million) on injured reserve, but they can only do that at the start of the season, not during the offseason. They are allowed to go over the cap ceiling by seven percent during the summer but must be cap compliant when the season begins.
Perhaps the Leafs can find a taker for Horton’s cap hit by packaging a top prospect or a promising young player in the deal. Whatever they do, somebody’s going to have to move to find sufficient cap room, and it will affect their overall roster depth, most likely on defense.
Even if the Leafs re-sign Gardiner, they’ll have to replace Hainsey, and the problem is compounded if they can find a taker for Zaitsev, which might not be easy given his $4.5-million annual cap hit through 2023-24. That’s why the Nylander trade speculation will probably resurface next summer. I’m not saying he will be traded, but we certainly can’t dismiss that possibility.
LATEST ON THE FLYERS
BOSTON GLOBE: Assessing the Philadelphia Flyers’ recent management shakeup, Kevin Paul Dupont suggests whoever comes in as their new general manager will have to find a bona fide starting goaltender. He suggests bringing back Sergei Bobrovsky, who’s a pending UFA with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
NBC SPORTS: John Boruk reports the first order of business for the new Flyers GM will be addressing the status of pending UFA winger Wayne Simmonds. Now-former Flyers GM Ron Hextall said he spoke with Simmonds’ agent but the two sides were far apart on a contract extension. It’s believed Simmonds wants to remain with the Flyers but prefers a long-term contract.
PHILLY.COM’s Sam Carchidi believes Flyers winger Travis Konecny will benefit from Toronto Maple Leafs winger William Nylander’s new contract. “TK is 21 and has scored 42 career goals. He is an RFA after this season. Nylander is 22 and has 48 career goals and will have a $6.9M cap hit after this season. So there’s that for the Flyers’ next GM.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Former Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher is still considered the front-runner for the Flyers’ post, though the club has reportedly spoken with Columbus Blue Jackets assistant GM Bill Zito and sought permission to speak with Anaheim Ducks consultant (and former Leafs GM) Dave Nonis. Whoever gets the job is expected to be more aggressive than Hextall in addressing the club’s immediate needs.