NHL Rumor Mill – March 21, 2019
Check out the latest Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.
FRICTION BETWEEN DUBAS AND BABCOCK?
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.
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.
OFFSEASON KEYS FOR THE SENATORS
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.