NHL Rumor Mill – April 16, 2019
More speculation over Nazem Kadri’s future with the Leafs, an update on Karl Alzner, and the latest on the Kings in today’s NHL rumor mill.
COULD KADRI BECOME A SALARY-DUMP CANDIDATE?
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ken Campbell joins a growing list of pundits suggesting Nazem Kadri’s latest suspension could bring his tenure with the Toronto Maple Leafs to an end. Campbell points out the Leafs face a salary-cap crunch for next season and face re-signing restricted free agents Mitch Marner, Andreas Johnsson, and Kasperi Kapanen and signing or replacing unrestricted free agents Ron Hainsey and Jake Gardiner.
Kadri carries a $4.5-million salary-cap hit over the next three seasons. While Campbell praised the center’s two-way skills and feistiness, his recent antics and the need to free up salary-cap room could make it easier for the Leafs to justify moving him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: You can question the logic of trading Kadri over his playoff suspensions but the need to find sufficient cap space to re-sign other key players could rationalize moving him.
Cap Friendly indicates the Leafs currently have over $75 million invested in 19 players for 2019-20. They’ll get $5.3 million in cap relief to start the season by placing all-but-retired Nathan Horton on long-term injury reserve. Assuming a cap of $83 million for next season, they’ll have less than $13 million to re-sign Marner, Johnsson, and Kapanen and re-sign or replace Hainsey and Gardiner.
Shedding Kadri’s cap hit would provide some much-needed cap relief. His 10-team no-trade list and recent suspension history could complicate things. Still, if the Leafs were to shop Kadri this summer they should be able to find a club looking for a center of his talents and affordable contract.
LE JOURNAL DE MONTREAL: Mathieu Boulay reports Canadiens defenseman Karl Alzner faces an uncertain future with the club. He spent most of this season with their AHL affiliate in Laval. The 30-year-old blueliner still has three years remaining on his contract with an annual salary-cap hit of $4.625 million. He said he’d like to find himself in a situation where he can play in the NHL again but said he’s had no discussions about his future with Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: In a league trending toward swift-skating youth, Alzner’s age and lack of speed hurt his effectiveness as an NHL defenseman. Maybe Bergevin can peddle Alzner to a club lacking blueline depth in need of reaching the salary-cap minimum this summer but he’ll likely have to include a sweetener like a draft pick or a prospect or agree to pick up half of Alzer’s annual cap hit as part of the deal.
A buyout would provide the Canadiens $3.55 million in cap savings for 2019-20 but the cap hit jumps to $4.1 million in 2020-20 and over $2 million the following season before dropping back to 1.069 million for the final three seasons.
LATEST ON THE KINGS
THE ATHLETIC: Josh Cooper suggests goaltender Jonathan Quick’s lack of no-trade protection could make him a trade candidate this summer. He feels the Kings will have to pick up part of his $5.8-million annual average value through 2022-23 to make a deal happen.
Cooper considers aging defenseman Dion Phaneuf a buyout candidate. He has two years remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $5.25 million. The buyout cap hit will be high over the next two seasons but Cooper feels the Kings won’t be concerned about that as they retool with a younger roster. He also believes the Kings trading Jake Muzzin to Toronto indicates they’ll retain Alec Martinez.
LA KINGS INSIDER: Jon Rosen reports Kings GM Rob Blake intends to meet with left wing Ilya Kovalchuk to discuss the club’s plans for next season and his potential role under a new head coach. Kovalchuk had a disappointing first season with the Kings and was a frequent subject of trade rumors. He’s got two years left on his contract ($6.25-million AAV) and a full no-movement clause.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The solid performance of goaltenders Jack Campbell and Cal Petersen was among the few bright spots in an otherwise miserable season for the Kings. They also earn considerably less combined than Quick. If there’s a market for the veteran goaltender, I think the Kings will explore it. I agree with Cooper regarding a potential buyout of Phaneuf and their retention of Martinez.
As for Kovalchuk, he holds all the cards here. If he wants to stay put – and he’s made it clear how much he and his family love living in Los Angeles – the Kings will have to hope his production improves next season under a new head coach. Buying him out isn’t an option for cap relief as he’s on a plus-35 contract, meaning his full cap hit will still count against their payroll.