NHL Rumor Mill – June 10, 2019
Updates on the Maple Leafs, Hurricanes, and Blackhawks in today’s NHL rumor mill.
TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons points out how much Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas has on his plate. He’s trying to re-sign restricted free agent winger Mitch Marner before the end of the month. He must also try to free up sufficient salary-cap room to re-sign Andreas Johnsson and possibly Kasperi Kapanen.
Dubas has to come up with enough money to upgrade the defense or re-sign Jake Gardiner. Simmons said the pending unrestricted free agent defenseman would prefer staying in Toronto.
Simmons reports a “bevy of sources” claim the Leafs have been active “talking trade” with other teams about “Kapanen, Patrick Marleau and possibly Connor Brown.” Simmons has heard conflicting reports on Brown. Some sources say the Leafs would like to trade the 25-year-old winger while some claim otherwise. He also wonders where William Nylander fits into all this.
Regarding Marleau putting his house up for sale, Simmons said that decision was made months ago. He said Marleau was selling whether he stayed in Toronto next season or not.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Simmons is correct when he calls this summer the biggest test of Dubas’ young career as an NHL GM. As per Cap Friendly, the Leafs have over $74 million tied up in 17 players. Marner is due for a big raise and could seek over $10 million annually. Johnsson and Kapanen could get affordable short-term bridge deals but each could ask for around $4 million annually. Gardiner could seek $6 million annually. Dubas must shed salary to free up room to address these issues.
Haven’t heard much about Brown in the Leafs recent rumor chatter. He has a year remaining on his contract with a $2.1 million cap hit. He’s due to become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights next July.
Surprised Simmons didn’t mention anything about Nikita Zaitsev. The blueliner recently requested a trade and Dubas said he’ll try to accommodate him. He’s been linked to the Vancouver Canucks though that might not advance beyond the tire-kicking stage. Zaitsev carries an annual average value of $4.5 million through 2023-24. The length of his contract, not the cap hit, could be a sticking point.
Some Leafs fans believe Dubas should trade Nylander ($6.96-million AAV). He told Nylander last December that as long as he was around the winger wasn’t going anywhere. It wouldn’t be the first time a GM had to break a promise to a player. Will Dubas go that far? We’ll find out soon enough.
THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun reported the Carolina Hurricanes have reached out to Justin Faulk’s camp to see if he’s willing to sign a contract extension this summer. The 27-year-old defenseman is a year away from UFA eligibility. LeBrun speculates Faulk could have some interest. Depending on the offseason market, LeBrun feels the Hurricanes could keep their top right-shot blueliners (Faulk, Dougie Hamilton, and Brett Pesce).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: For over two years, the Hurricanes were expected to move a defenseman for a forward. Faulk, Hamilton, and Pesce frequently surfaced in this season’s rumor mill. Given the Canes’ improvement this season, they might not tinker with their blueline. Perhaps they’ll use their cap room (over $28 million) to bring in someone via free agency. They could also target a cap-strapped club with depth in scoring forwards looking to shed salary.
THE ATHLETIC: Scott Powers reports the Chicago Blackhawks recently expressed interest in Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Ryan Murray. It doesn’t appear a deal will get done but Powers doesn’t rule out the possibility that changes in the coming weeks.
Murray, 26, is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights who’s a year away from UFA eligibility. Injuries are an issue. An upper-body injury limited him to 56 games this season and sidelined him from the postseason. Powers believes the asking price could be draft picks.