NHL Rumor Mill – March 21, 2019

by | Mar 21, 2019 | Rumors | 20 comments

Check out the latest Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill. 


TORONTO SUN: Michael Traikos and Steve Simmons noted recent comments by Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock aimed at general manager Kyle Dubas regarding the club’s perceived lack of roster depth. Babcock was unhappy over management not addressing the issue at the trade deadline, which has been exacerbated by recent injuries to defensemen Jake Gardiner and Travis Dermott. He’s also been critical of the roster’s lack of physicality and its goaltending depth.

Is there growing discord between Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas and head coach Mike Babcock? (Photo via NHL.com)

Traikos speculates Babcock may be “planting the seeds” if the Leafs should suffer another first-round playoff exit. However, he also pointed out the Leafs core players – John Tavares, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, Morgan Rielly, and Frederik Andersen – are healthy and playing well for the most part. Meanwhile, the team ahead of them in the standings, the Boston Bruins, lost four key players at times this season to injuries (Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy) and haven’t missed a beat. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Both pundits also suggest the rumors of discord between Babcock and Dubas will disappear if the Leafs start winning. Both believe the Leafs’ woes are collective and not confined to one area, but I maintain defense remains their primary concern.

That blueline weakness, especially on the right side, was apparent last season but seemingly ignored by management.  Instead, they put themselves into potential salary-cap jeopardy this summer by signing a player they didn’t need in center John Tavares last July to a massive contract.

Tavares is a superstar forward but his addition did nothing to improve the Leafs’ defense. I don’t know how much input Babcock had in that decision, but if he was okay with it he deserves his share of the blame. 


ESPN.COM: Finding the right coach and weaponizing their salary-cap space should be priorities for the Ottawa Senators this summer. Regarding the latter, they would be perfectly positioned to take on contracts from cap-strapped clubs that also include draft picks and prospects as part of the return. Some of those players might have no-trade clauses, such as Edmonton’s Milan Lucic, but perhaps they’d waive them for the opportunity to play big minutes again. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Senators have nearly $45 million invested in 13 players for 2019-20. Apart from restricted free agent Cody Ceci, their other free agents would be affordable re-signings. That would still leave them plenty of room to take on an expensive contract packaged with picks and prospects from a club looking to shed salary.

I doubt they’ll consider doing that for a player like Lucic, who has more than two years remaining on his contract. A better option could be someone like Florida Panthers goaltender James Reimer, who’s got two years left on his deal with a cap hit of $3.4 million. He also lacks no-trade protection. 

Another option would be acquiring the rights of an all-but-retired player whose career has been ended by injuries. Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen would fit the bill. 


  1. Jack Johnson could easily slide into the Leafs right side and for the next 4 years. Just saying.
    RE B and Gs comment yesterday. Yeah the Pens are not playing that bad, just not getting results and said dman keeps making stupid decisions that cost the team late in the games. Guentzel has been incredible, 37 goals(could easily be 45 by the end of the season) from a third round pick is a dream come true. D is set and has lots of depth if they could get poor Shultz away from you know who and get Maatta back in there it would be even better. Nice not to have to watch Trotman suck every game any more.

    • Dee…Off season (maybe at the draft) Phil Kessel to Anaheim for Either Josh Manson or now I’m hearing Cam Fowler is available. Cam Fowler is a brilliant skater, tremendous puck mover, and a good power play guy.
      He makes $6.5 Phil makes $6.8 Anaheim in desperate need of scoring…not sure of his 6 team list……

      You add Fowler to Letang and Schultz that’s three excellent puck movers and skaters.. plus Dumolin your top 4 is awesome…

      Then move Jack Johnson in the off season for a 20th pick in the 50th round of the draft.. 🙂

      Move Matta too that clears almost $8 million in cap space..

      • I doubt Anaheim trades Fowler straight up for Kessel. Fowler is a top pairing D (not necessarily a 1D, but definitely a 2D) on nearly every team in the league and has a very affordable contract for 7 more years ($6.5M/year). Kessel is an excellent scoring winger, but is 4 years older and likely to decline in the next couple years.

        In addition, defenceman have more value than wingers all things being relatively equal. If that trade were to happen, Pittsburgh would likely need to add something of value to the deal.

        IMO, Anaheim needs to get younger at forward, not older. Getzlaf, Perry and Kesler are all at least 33 and they don’t have any potential star forwards on the horizon that are early to mid-20’s other than possibly Rakell or Terry. I don’t watch a lot of Anaheim games, but Rakell has taken a massive step back this year after having a great 2017/2018.

      • I’m not ready to trade Kessel and Johnson is untradeable and I’m not ready to move Maatta either. I’d like to see what we have a training camp next year before making any moves. The Pens have some kids that will be available next year for the first time in Bellerive, Almeida, Hallander, Addison, Bjorkvist, And Pavlechev. Let’s give them a legit shot before shopping elsewhere. Need some ELCs for cap purposes.

  2. Sounds good Dee, JJ for Zaitzev…straight up! Jus sayin…

    • I’d probably take that if Toronto retains enough that the salaries are equal. Zaitsev has way more upside and is younger.

  3. Lyle….it was not a mistake to sign Tavares….he cost only money….he was only available last year which was inconvenient timing for the Leafs but he has done what was asked…

    The real issue is who does he allow the Leafs to trade for the right hand D help and other needs they have….

    I hope that someone high in the organization decided they needed a year to see who they preferred trading now they had Tavares….The contracts of Nylander, Kadri, have bonuses that are paid next July and should be easier to trade for better returns…I think this is what is behind the recent cartoon tweet of Dubas.

    Also in general….I suspect that talks behind the scenes as to what players are going to be traded to whom at what cost at what pay…..is far more involved than fans think.

    I believe this only because there is so much money, so many players rights & desires involved….for example I think it is one of the things behind the bonus structure. Does anyone think the huge Stone contract with Vegas was not on the cook months before the trade deadline, or the annual July 1 st contracts only started the week before, or that Tavares didn`t have the Leafs in mind years ago when he turned good contract offers from the Islanders

    To go back to your observations ….the first impact of the Tavares is scored 41 goals this year, secondary is that it is clear ( to me ) that the signing disturbed the room as the players knew it would cause trades which would affect some family lives…..the third impact will be this summer when someone gets traded for D and size and that trade was enabled by the Tavares signing

    My prediction Kapenen + for a good Hurricane D man…Connor Brown to Oilers do not what would come back….Marleau + to the Sharks for very little coming back…

    • OBD, very good post. I haven’t posted in awhile. The Leafs would have been stupid not signing Tavares and I agree Taveres has known he would be a Leaf for quite awhile.

      I don’t know where you have gotten any impression that this signing has affected the room. The cap situation is a constant in hockey and every good team will go through it at times.

      I don’t know what they are going to do with Marleau, I don’t know that Dubas knows for sure at this point. He’s very well liked in the room and still very good for Matthews and Marner. His actual dollars owed will be very little come July 1. I get the cap hit is a problem, but only for teams with a real chance to make the playoffs. Teams in rebuild should want a guy like Marleau.

      I see Kadri gone as he will garner the best return of the guys that are expendable and I don’t believe Dubas will be dealing Nylander. I get he hasn’t put up big point, but has been very good the last few weeks. Missing all that time early on is never easy on anyone.

      I also see Johnnson as potentially gone. But that will depend on what happens with Marleau.

      Alot depends on this years playoffs and unfortunately we will be facing the top two teams in the entire league rounds 1&2 (assuming we get to 2).

      I know alot of people don’t give the Leafs a chance against Boston, I’m not one of them. I like our chances. And I get Boston will be favored.

      • Yes, I think it will be a good series. obviously Boston has won the last 2 playoff series but both went 7 games, don’t think a blowout is a given if looked at objectively.

      • Agree on the playoff series Trekkie, Leafs have struggled of late, and need to get healthy on the blue line, but both of those could and likely will change.
        They need Gardiner back or it will make it tougher, but the Bruins have 3 D out now as well, so call it even.

        Coin toss the way I see it, if either team sustains more injuries that of course changes it.
        I just can’t believe that Babcock and the team leadership won’t get them playing the right way again.

  4. So…then by all that – this year was NEVER the year all along and Dubby knew it. (behind the scenes as you’re suggesting) Everyone who’s played hockey to at least pee-wee knew that defense would get them into the play offs…but not past 1 round.

    So….it’s next year then? Once they have some defense who can actually play defense.

    The waiving of all those goalies is still a curious move that gets lost in a lot of the leaf talk…

  5. What’s better about Guentzel is his cap hit, $6 million/year is a steal, especially when you look around the league and you have people talking about skinner getting $9, or marker $11.

    I mean are these guys worth $3-5 million more than guentzel? I personally don’t think so.

    Lots of these contracts are getting out of hand and Jack eichel’s started it all. He’s ok, but sure isn’t worth $10 million/year.

  6. Signing the best ufa to an under market contract could never be considered a wrong move.

    Not using that free asset to weaponize other offensive assets is a bad move.

    Nylander Kapanen kadri all could have been moved for d man.

    • They still can. If you look back at the beginning of the season you had uncertainty with Nylander, they sign the best UFA available in recent memory which cannot be a mistake, especially since he left money on the table. their defense could be better but they have a pretty good record for a team that has the defense of a peewee team judging by the comments i read. I’m not the biggest Nylander fan but he has something like 19 pts in the last 26 games so he is coming along. If they can get through next season the cap becomes more manageable, the big RFA’s will be locked up for awhile and lose some big hits off the cap, this is the reality under a hard cap system. I do think it’s crazy to say Tavares was a mistake, a top 5 centre in the league who is having the best season of his career. If he wasn’t needed he wouldn’t be their #1 centre. I think either Nylander or Kadri is traded. Would be a shame to lose Kadri but he is a luxury at #3C.

      • It is too late for this season. And this was a go for it season. Last year of mm am elc.

      • No, I’m pretty sure they’re going to make the playoffs which means it is a go for it season. I don’t know how far they will go, they are in a hard division but the playoffs are funny. Would anybody have picked a Washington/Las Vegas final last year, even in the first round would day have picked that as the final round?

      • Sorry Chris, unless you meant it’s too late to trade those guys for defenceive assets this year than obviously that is correct.

  7. van,
    You may be right we might have to add something maybe a young player like Dominick Simon…

    Don’t forget Kessel is in his prime at is a pure sniper which Anaheim needs they don’t really have that…plus Pittsburgh and Anaheim have made several trades over the years.

  8. Babcock I believe is right. Not enough depth. And the club has no bite to it. And this idea of smaller is better is horse crap. Come playoff team it’s a whole new season. Bigger teams like Boston, St’Louis Tampa will wear small teams down. No matter how fast they are.

  9. Dee…we need to move some cap space for next season. While Kessel is still scoring now is the time to move him…

    Either Josh Manson or cam Fowler fit our system and make us really strong back there..

    I agree we should see the kids Hallander and a few others are close.

    we gace away Kapanan got Kessel win there

    Oscar Sundqvist got his 14th goal last night we moved him for Ryan reaves not really a win there

    Daniel Sprong has 12 goals now working out in Anaheim Pettersson has played big minutes here and has been good even on this trade.

    Moving guys like Tristan Jarry nice young goalie would slide in nicely behind Jimmy Howard in Detroit who resigned a one year deal..

    Olli Matta frees up 4 million… Dominick Simon another guys who bring us a pick

    huge OT win in Nashville last night 2-1 Crosby shootout winner he is so clutch. best OVERALL PLAYER IN THE GAME…