NHL Rumor Mill – April 26, 2019
Could the Penguins consider trading Evgeni Malkin or other big-name players? Is another summer trade in the offing for the Predators’ P.K. Subban? Should the Maple Leafs consider shopping William Nylander? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.
BIG MOVES COMING FOR THE PENGUINS?
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Jason Mackey reports sources within the Penguins’ organization say management is considering almost every available option to chart the course of the next several years. That includes everything from possibly trading key players such as Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Phil Kessel to standing pat.
Should they decide on making major changes it wouldn’t be a teardown rebuild. Rather, it would be to move established assets while their trade value is high for returns of younger, affordable talent who can keep the club’s championship window open. It’s believed there’s a select group of players – captain Sidney Crosby and goaltender Matt Murray among them – the Penguins believe they can build around.
Several days ago, Mackey also reported Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford could consider trading one or two defensemen under contract through next season to address their other roster needs. Mackey considered Olli Maatta as the most realistic trade candidate as moving him would free up $4.083 million in salary-cap space. He doesn’t believe Rutherford intends to move Brian Dumoulin and it would be very difficult to find any takers for Jack Johnson, who has four years remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $3.25 million.
PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW: Jonathan Bombulie agrees Maatta is the most likely to be moved but he doesn’t anticipate a major overhaul of the Penguins’ blueline. He noted Rutherford recently saying their defense “is probably the best now that it’s been since I’ve been here, as a group.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: While the notion of the Penguins trading someone like Malkin or Letang makes for sexy headlines, I doubt very much they’re going that route with those two. Cap Friendly indicates Malkin has a full no-movement clause and I don’t think he’s keen to move on. Letang has a modified no-trade listing 18 clubs he can be traded to but I doubt Rutherford intends to make him the scapegoat for the Penguins’ early playoff exit.
If a major move takes place it’ll probably be Kessel. He’s clashed with Penguins coach Mike Sullivan and Rutherford reportedly fielded trade offers for the right winger last summer. I agree with Mackey and Bombulie that Maatta also seems a likely trade candidate this summer. Sullivan seems to have lost confidence in the 24-year-old and he could probably benefit from a change of scenery.
WILL THE PREDATORS SHOP SUBBAN THIS SUMMER?
THE ATHLETIC: Adam Vingan believes the Nashville Predators cannot justify maintaining the status quo following their first-round playoff exit at the hands of the Dallas Stars. Changes could be coming this summer, perhaps to shore up an offense that relied too much on the top line of Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, and Viktor Arvidsson.
While they could dump center Kyle Turris, Vingan believes it’ll be difficult finding takers for the remaining five years and $30 million of his contract. He suggests they could turn to their defense, with P.K. Subban the natural target considering his expensive contract and wasn’t drafted and developed by the Predators. He also notes Ryan Ellis’ performance was a disappointment this season.
THE TENNESSEAN: Paul Skrbina reports Subban, who has three years remaining on his contract with a $9 million annual average value, wants to remain with the Predators and be part of the solution. However, he also acknowledged the business of hockey and that he has trade value if they were to shop him for a scoring forward. “If I’m talking facts, I’m the highest paid player on this team,” he said Wednesday. “With that comes responsibility. Just like everybody else, the responsibility is on me to take the fact that we didn’t win the first round; we didn’t accomplish what we wanted to accomplish.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Skrbina also noted Predators GM David Poile conceded his club failed to meet expectations this season and changes will be coming to their roster this summer. If he does decide to draw upon his blueline depth for a trade chip to bring in a scoring forward, Subban or Ellis seem the likely candidates.
I doubt Poile intends to move captain Roman Josi and will try to free up some long-term cap room for Josi’s new contract next summer, while Mattias Ekholm earns a very affordable $3.75-million annually through 2021-22. Subban and Ellis also lack no-trade protection and both will attract plenty of interest in the trade market.
LATEST ON THE LEAFS
TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons reports Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas wouldn’t confirm if head coach Mike Babcock will return next season but he also didn’t say he was contemplating a coaching change. He said team president Brendan Shanahan will do a full evaluation on everyone, including Dubas. Simmons assumes Babcock will be back but suggests there could be some changes to the assistant coaching staff.
Dubas’ priority will be re-signing restricted free agent winger Mitch Marner. Simmons expects the Leafs will lose defensemen Jake Gardiner and Ron Hainsey to unrestricted free agency. Dubas must also decide if he’ll trade or retain center Nazem Kadri, trying to re-sign RFAs Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson, and finding a solution to the Patrick Marleau situation.
Marleau told Simmons he’s not considering retirement. The 39-year-old winger wouldn’t say if he’d accept a trade, adding it’s tough to speculate. Trading Marleau and his $6.25 million salary-cap hit would free up salary-cap space. Simmons also believes Dubas would like to shed Nikita Zaitsev’s $4.25 million cap hit and feels the Leafs GM must consider moving William Nylander no matter what he may have told the winger personally about staying in Toronto.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Among his five burning offseason questions for the Leafs, Matt Larkin wonders if Dubas will move an impact forward like Kapanen, Johnsson, Nylander or Kadri for a defenseman this summer. “Nylander for Subban or Hamilton, anyone?”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Babcock isn’t on the hot seat yet but it’s starting to get warm. Despite Dubas comments, I expect the Leafs coach will be back next season. However, I daresay there will be discussions with Babcock regarding the usage of several players, including giving too much playing time to the fading Marleau.
It appears Dubas isn’t going to let Marner’s contract situation drag on throughout the summer. Quite frankly, he can’t afford to.
He needs to get the winger under contract as quickly as possible to determine how much salary-cap space he needs to free up to retain other players and to address other roster needs. Whether that involves moving Nylander or Kadri for a top-pairing, right-shot defenseman like Subban or Carolina’s Dougie Hamilton remains to be seen.