NHL Rumor Mill – April 15, 2019
More speculation over Nazem Kadri’s future with the Leafs, plus the latest on the Canadiens and Flyers in today’s NHL rumor mill.
QUESTIONS RAISED OVER KADRI’S FUTURE IN TORONTO
TORONTO STAR: Bruce Arthur noted Nazem Kadri faces his second playoff suspension in as many years, suggesting it raises questions over his future with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Kadri received a three-game suspension last April for boarding then-Bruins forward Tommy Wingels and could face at least five games for cross-checking Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk during Game 2 on Saturday.
Arthur feels it’s worth asking if Kadri can ever learn to rein in his emotions, and if a team with Stanley Cup aspirations like the Leafs can trust someone who’s done this two years in a row.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Arthur isn’t calling for the Leafs to trade Kadri this summer like the Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons. Nevertheless, it’s fair to wonder if his latest antics tests the patience of Leafs management and head coach Mike Babcock. Those questions will grow this summer if Kadri’s expected lengthy suspension ends up costing the Leafs in this series with the Bruins.
LATEST CANADIENS SPECULATION
TVA SPORTS: Lists San Jose Sharks center Joe Pavelski, New York Islanders winger Anders Lee, Buffalo Sabres left wing Jeff Skinner, Columbus Blue Jackets left winger Artemi Panarin, and Blue Jackets center Matt Duchene as possible free-agent options for the Montreal Canadiens this summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I expect the Sharks will re-sign Pavelski, who probably wants to finish his playing career in San Jose. Having lost one captain to free agency last summer when John Tavares signed with Toronto, I believe the Isles will re-sign Lee.
The Sabres acquired Skinner for peanuts and can’t afford to lose the best linemate Jack Eichel’s ever had. Panarin apparently wants to play in a big American market.
That leaves Duchene, who the Habs were reportedly interested in prior to the trade deadline. If the Jackets don’t re-sign him and if his asking price isn’t ridiculously high, perhaps the Canadiens will revisit their interest in him this summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: No, they shouldn’t. The factors that make the 26-year-old Gallagher’s value high in the trade market (a tenacious, agitating lead-by-example 30-goal scorer with an affordable contract) make him invaluable to the rebuilding Canadiens.
FLYERS TO SEEK VETERAN DEFENSEMAN?
COURIER-POST: Dave Isaac reports bringing more experience to the Philadelphia Flyers blueline is a priority for general manager Chuck Fletcher. He’s likely to pursue a veteran defenseman this summer to take some of the pressure off their younger rearguards.
Isaac notes the free-agent market for defensemen isn’t that deep beyond San Jose’s Erik Karlsson, with blueliners such as Winnipeg’s Tyler Myers, Vancouver’s Alexander Edler, and Tampa Bay’s Anton Stralman as the other notables. He feels that big splash will likely come via the trade market, perhaps by acquiring the rights of Winnipeg’s Jacob Trouba, who’s slated to become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights.
Flyers blueliner Shayne Gostisbehere had a disappointing follow-up to last season’s 65-point performance. Isaac suggests his puck-moving skills and team-friendly contract ($4.5-million AAV) could make him a player a rival club might want in return for a veteran defenseman. However, a healthy Gostisbehere could also prove helpful to the Flyers next season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Flyers have over $47.7 million invested in 13 players for 2019-20, giving them around $35 million to work with should the cap reach $83 million as projected. That’s more than enough to re-sign RFAs like Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny and Travis Sanheim and still leave plenty of cap dollars to bring in a high-priced blueline talent via free agency or trade.
Karlsson would be the most expensive, probably at around $11 million annually on a seven-year contract. If Fletcher wants to go the trade route, perhaps he’ll target a club looking to shed salary for next season. Trouba could be a good fit but he’ll have to give up one of his good young defensemen as part of the return.