NHL Rumor Mill – February 28, 2019
Were the Oilers close to a deal that would’ve sent Adam Larsson to the Leafs? Get the details, plus Jake Gardiner’s future in Toronto and an update on a failed trade involving Jason Zucker in today’s NHL rumor mill.
LARSSON TO THE LEAFS?
EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples cited a report from Boston sports commentator Jimmy Murphy citing sources claiming the Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs discussed a large deal that would’ve seen Oilers defenseman Adam Larsson shipped to the Leafs in exchange for right wing Connor Brown. Murphy said there was “a lot of moving pieces” to this deal which was probably why it didn’t go down, suggesting the two sides might revisit it in the offseason. However, Staples cites Oilers radio analyst Bob Stauffer claiming Larsson’s name was never mentioned in any trade discussions by the Oilers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stauffer is well-connected with the Oilers so I take him at his word. Besides, this deal wouldn’t have made any sense for the Oilers. If they’re going to trade away one of their few decent blueliners in Larsson they’d better get more back than Brown, who is not the top-six right wing they desperately need.
GARDINER’S DAYS IN TORONTO NUMBERED?
TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons believes this is defenseman Jake Gardiner’s last season as a Leaf. An unrestricted free agent this summer, Gardiner would love to stay in Toronto but he’ll likely get over $6 million per season on the open market. That’s more than the Leafs can afford, especially with youngsters Mitch Marner, Kasperi Kapanen, and Andreas Johnsson to re-sign this summer. Unless Leafs GM Kyle Dubas can find a way to shed aging winger Patrick Marleau’s $6-million cap hit for 2019-20, Gardiner will depart via free agency on July 1.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs have over $72 million invested in 15 players for 2019-20. Yes, they’ll free up an additional $5.3 million by placing Nathan Horton on long-term injured reserve at the start of next season, but that still won’t leave enough to re-sign Marner (who’ll likely get at least $10 million annually), Kapanen, and Johnsson (who could cost at least a combined $7 million, probably more). That won’t leave enough to re-sign Gardiner and fill their remaining roster spots.
If Dubas can actually find a way to shed Marleau’s contract he should be awarded GM of the Year on the spot. Marleau is on a plus-35 contract. If he retires his cap hit still counts against the Leafs’ payroll. He also carries a full no-movement clause. Good luck!
LATEST ON THE FAILED “ZUCKER-TO-FLAMES” DEAL
THE ATHLETIC: Michael Russo provided more details on the trade that would’ve sent Minnesota Wild winger Jason Zucker to the Calgary Flames on deadline day. Sources claim the Flames would’ve sent winger Michael Frolik and a draft pick to the Wild. Frolik has a partial no-trade clause but Russo confirmed the Wild weren’t on “No” list. Zucker’s contract (signed through 2022-23 with a $5.5-million annual average value) may have created an issue for Calgary to take him on. He said Zucker was never officially traded as no trade call was made and no e-mail sent to the league’s Central Registry.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t think we’ve heard the last of this. As I noted yesterday, Zucker’s partial no-trade clause kicks in on July 1, giving the Wild enough time in late-June to perhaps revisit this deal with the Flames. Failing that, they can explore other trade options without his consent.