Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – April 28, 2019
Check out the latest on Mitch Marner plus updates on the Edmonton Oilers and some suggested free-agent targets for the New Jersey Devils in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.
WILL THE LEAFS RE-SIGN OR TRADE MARNER?
SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston recently observed every roster decision for the Toronto Maple Leafs is on hold until the club addresses Mitch Marner’s new contract. He believes there can’t be a creative contract that might keep unrestricted free agent defenseman Jake Gardiner in Toronto or new deals for RFA forwards Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson without first re-signing Marner.
During his season-ending press conference, Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas indicated it was imperative to get Marner re-signed before July 1, when the young forward becomes eligible to sign an offer sheet from a rival club. Dubas also hopes to avoid repeating the lengthy standoff that led up to re-signing William Nylander last year.
Johnston believes there will be two types of comparables discussed between Dubas and the Marner camp. The first will be the contracts of teammates Auston Matthews (five years, $11.6 million annually) and John Tavares (seven years, $11 million) and those of star wingers on other clubs, such as Chicago’s Patrick Kane ($10.5 million), Washington’s Alex Ovechkin (over $9.5 million) and Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov, Vegas’ Mark Stone and Dallas’ Jamie Benn ($9.5 million).
Johnston’s colleague Nick Kypreos believes Dubas’ offer must come in close or at par to Matthews’ contract. If it doesn’t, Kypreos feels Marner owes it to himself to take this to July 1. Elliotte Friedman believes the Leafs are mentioned July 1 as their way of indicating they’re not going to let anyone else dictate what Marner’s salary will be. As for the possibility of a trade, Friedman doesn’t rule it out if an agreement on a new contract isn’t reached by July 1.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bear in mind there’s still plenty of time for the Leafs and Marner to hammer out an agreement before July 1. I believe they’ll get this worked out but it’s going to cost a lot of money.
We’re talking about a 21-year-old forward who was the Leafs’ leading scorer this season and last, who’s coming off a career-high 94-point campaign and proven more durable than Matthews, who was sidelined a total of 34 games by shoulder injuries since last season. It’ll be quite the accomplishment if Dubas convinces Marner to accept less than $10 million per season. I think it’ll be closer to $11 million.
As for a trade, I’ll be stunned if the Leafs actually move Marner this summer. Yes, they’ll get a substantial return, including perhaps that elusive top-two right-side defenseman they desperately need, but I feel they see him as one of their foundation players. I consider Kapanen, Nazem Kadri or even William Nylander to be the more likely trade candidates.
LATEST ON THE OILERS
THE ATHLETIC: Allan Mitchell recently addressed the dissatisfaction Edmonton Oilers fans feel toward defenseman Adam Larsson. He defended Larsson’s abilities as a shutdown rearguard and felt he’s being made the scapegoat for an otherwise porous Oilers blueline. Mitchell believes it would be “insane” for the Oilers to trade Larsson this summer, pointing to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman’s Feb. 28 column indicating there were multiple denials from the club regarding the rumors swirling around the defenseman at the trade deadline.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples cited Friedman telling Bob Stauffer on Oilers Now that the club has narrowed the search for a new general manager to three candidates, likely Mark Hunter, Kelly McCrimmon, and Sean Burke.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A big reason why Oilers’ fans are so down on Larsson is the player sent the other way in the trade that brought him to Edmonton (Taylor Hall) blossomed into a Hart Trophy winner with his new team. It may be insane to trade Larsson but the Oilers have a reputation for making head-scratching moves. A new general manager could decide to keep Larsson or float his name in the trade market this summer to see what he might fetch in return.
SUGGESTED FREE AGENT TARGETS FOR THE DEVILS
NJ.COM: Earlier this month, Chris Ryan examined some possible options for the New Jersey Devils in this summer’s unrestricted free agent market. Those on his list include Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Artemi Panarin and center Matt Duchene, San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson, and Buffalo Sabres left wing Jeff Skinner.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ryan pointed out Devils GM Ray Shero has avoided making big splashes in the UFA pool in recent years but could attempt to swing a major signing to speed up his club’s rebuilding process. As per Cap Friendly, the Devils have over $47.3 million invested in 13 players. Pavel Zacha, Will Butcher, Connor Carrick, Mirco Mueller, and Stefan Noesen are their noteworthy restricted free agents and all should be affordable re-signings, leaving Shero plenty of cap room to land a big fish in the UFA pond.
It’s one thing to have the cap space and the willingness to use it to sign a top UFA. It’s another to actually get it done. Even if Shero can offer more money and term than other clubs, that might not be enough to convince someone like Panarin or Karlsson or Skinner to sign with a rebuilding team. As attractive as it might be to a center like Duchene to have an elite winger like Taylor Hall skating on his wing, he would have to be convinced that the Devils are poised to become a serious playoff contender in the coming year.
That’s not to say Shero won’t sign a decent free-agent forward or two, but he might have to settle for second-tier talent. To land an impact player, he might have to go the trade route and target teams looking to shed salary.