NHL Rumor Mill – July 23, 2019

by | Jul 23, 2019 | Rumors | 67 comments

Updates on Jake Gardiner and Nikita Gusev, plus five players who could need training camp to get new contracts in today’s NHL rumor mill. 


TSN: Bryan Hayes and Mike Johnson discussed why former Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner remains unsigned. Johnson said he’d heard whispers suggesting Gardiner enjoyed playing for the Leafs so much he’d prefer taking a lesser deal for Toronto. Hayes wondered if he’d accept a one-year deal to bolster his value for next summer’s market.

Speculation abounds over why Jake Gardiner remains unsigned (Photo via NHL Images).

Hayes considers Gardiner a top-four defenseman on most teams in the league and doesn’t believe he’s not getting calls. His back, which was injured last season, could be an issue but Hayes isn’t convinced that’s the case.

Hayes feels Gardiner wants to play for a specific club and believes it’s the Leafs, despite the flak he sometimes got from fans and media. Both men point out the blueliner was very popular with his Leafs teammates. 

Both agree it could depend upon the outcome of Mitch Marner’s contract talks. Johnson also wondered if the Montreal Canadiens could be a destination for Gardiner if there’s no deal to be had with the Leafs. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ve assumed Gardiner became the odd man out in the musical chairs that is the NHL UFA market. In other words, the teams that might have had interest in him no longer have sufficient cap space to sign him to a lucrative long-term deal. That would force Gardiner to accept a short-term deal for below market value. I also felt last season’s back injury might have scared off potential suitors. 

Hayes and Johnson, however, believe something else is afoot. They raise good points about Gardiner’s back and the possibility he prefers returning to the Leafs or only playing in specific markets. Nevertheless there hasn’t been a peep from the blueliner or his representatives that he’s close to inking a new deal.

I don’t see Gardiner returning to the Leafs unless Marner accepts a very affordable bridge deal, which I doubt he will. Still, Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas has done a good job juggling his club’s limited salary-cap space this summer. Maybe he’s got one more trick up his sleeve that could bring Gardiner back for one more year. 


TSN: cites a report from a Russian news outlet indicating the agent for winger Nikita Gusev will advise his client to remain in the KHL if he isn’t re-signed by the Vegas Golden Knights or traded before a set date. Yuri Nikolaev said he’s aware the Golden Knights have received trade offers for his client but Gusev prefers to re-sign with Vegas. The two sides are reportedly around $2 million apart, with Gusev seeking $4 million and the Knights offering up $2 million. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It appears Gusev’s agent is trying to speed things along for his client. Over two weeks ago, it appeared the Russian winger’s NHL rights were on the verge of being traded but things have gone quiet since then. The Golden Knights’ limited salary-cap space could force Gusev to accept their offer if he’s determined to play in the NHL this season. 


THE HOCKEY NEWS: Derick Brassard and Andrew MacDonald top Jared Clinton’s recent list of five veteran NHLers who could need training camp to land new contracts. Riley Sheahan, Devante Smith-Pelly, and Tobias Rieder round out the list. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I wouldn’t be surprised if all five accept professional tryout offers if they remain unsigned when September rolls around. Some of them could also avoid that possibility by inking cheap one-year deals in hopes of bolstering their value for next summer. 


  1. I suspect that Gardiner is on the sidelines awaiting Leafs final Cap number..

    Maybe Jake would be willing to do a 1 year bonus laden deal to be with the Leafs.

    A defence lineup of Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner, Jake Muzzin, Tyson Barry, Travis Dermott, Cody Ceci would be a formidable Defense core.

    I also think this will not play out until the beginning of the season.

    • Antoni, IF Gardiner’s back issues could become chronic (and only he and his doctor have any substantial knowledge about that possibility), the LAST thing he’d want to do is risk it flaring up again while toiling under a 1 year deal. He just turned 29, so he’s got to be thinking about his long-term future.

      With that doubt lingering and not about to be revealed one way or another by the player, his agent or his doctor, I seriously doubt any team is about to fork over anything close to the $7 mil reportedly being bandied about leading up to his free-agency. So perhaps, after earning $4 mil per for the past 5 seasons, and looking reality square in the face, he will swallow his pride and accept a 3-year deal at around the same cap hit.

      But the team options for even that kind of deal are fast disappearing, and I’m fairly certain Toronto won’t be the one to bite.

      • Teams routinely get medical reports from players they are about to sign. They could also require allowing their medical staff evaluate the player’s health. It’s part of their due diligence, so any team serious about Gardiner should be able to have full knowledge about his health.

      • I understand that, LJ. But chronic sufferers go through periods where they can play effectively and pass medicals. That’s the nature of chronic injuries.

        One minute they’re fine – then boom. And with back issues that’s probably the worst of all. Don’t kid yourself – it’s in the back of the mind of any GM contemplating the possibility of signing him.

    • Excuse my ignorance here but if someone gets a bonus laden deal does that mean that the bonus comes out from the team’s cap the year after?
      If that is in fact the case then there is no way the Leafs can afford it with their cap situation next year

      • Bonuses come out from the next year, however you need to be on an ELC or over 35 to have bonuses on your deal. That won’t apply to Gardiner.

        The Leafs cap situation next year likely isn’t too much of an issue, as they have no big contracts to sign, but in general, after the price they just paid to get out from under some bad contracts, I don’t see them promising future cap space for players that may not be on the roster any further. So even if they could do a Bonus laden contract for Gardiner, I don’t think they would. They either feel Gardiner is worth clearing space for, or they don’t.

      • Muzzin and Barrie combined cost less than 7M and both are up next year. They also have Freddie coming up the year after and no contracts coming off the books

      • Well, they do have Muzzin and Barrie becoming UFAs next year, along with Marincin and Holl, and RFA Dermott all from their D. If these players are not re-signed they have to be replaced

      • Yes, I was referring to performance bonuses. The comment sounded like it was referring to non-guaranteed bonuses, which only exist for performance based bonuses.

        Signing bonuses can be offered on any deal, but are gauranteed AAV. The Leafs, and other cash rich teams in high tax areas already use high signing bonus contracts to try and counteract the appeal of lower tax cities, so they aren’t usually a big consideration in getting a cap hit way down.

        As for the Leafs cap situation, they will be tight against it, depending on what they choose to do, but they won’t have the same pressures. They will have about $18M in cap space next year, with just Dermott to sign (that is assuming marner somewhere around $10.5M, and a $2M cap increase) amoung their ELCs. They will have their entire top 9 group signed, all to reasonable contracts, their number 1 D signed, and their starting goalie.

        Things will be able to be flexible on how they negotiate with Dermott based on how his season went, and where they see him long term. Also, depending on the progress of their younger D, they will either need 1 or 2 top 4 guys, and 1 or depth D, a back up goalie, and some fourth liners.

        They won’t be in the same crunch they are this year where they had to pay assets to move bad money. The team can evaluate, if they still feel good about the percentage of the cap they have allocated for D and forwards, they can put together a reasonable blue line. If not, they are likely making moves using forwards to get a D, but given that their forward contracts are all fair value or better, that won’t be as difficult to do as it was with this year’s constraints.

    • Not sure I’d label that D core as formidable. Muzzin is the only one that plays a physical style, the others struggle in their own zone.

  2. Barring the unforeseen, I too believe Gardiner is gone and any perceived back problems don’t heal easy; if at all; and once the back gets injured, most everyday people would agree if tends to linger; much less on a pro athlete and the demands of that sport

  3. Re the 5 “inking cheap one-year deals in hopes of bolstering their value for next summer. ”…, for MacDonald (32) and Brass (31)… that’s a big gamble

    The other three are 26 & 27 …. so inking single year contracts to prove themselves still gives them opportunity to sign (after a hopeful resurgence) 4 + year contracts

    I’m certainly not saying that this WILL happen ; but it’s much more likely for Reider to have a turnaround year and sign a 4 or more year contract at 27 than MacDonald doing it at 33

    Re Gardner AND MM as Leafs this fall…. I really can’t see that happening

    Re the hold up for a contract being concerns regarding his back OR he has his eyes set on just a few teams….. I can’t see it necessarily being an “OR” ; more likely a combination of the two

    His agent should be counselling him not to focus on such a narrow field of opportunities ; Caps are filling up and his opportunities are artificially closing out of his control

    Montreal makes sense to me ; I get the rivalry issue; but that would be a good fit

    Personally I don’t want Leafs to take the risk on him (even if GMKD could somehow miraculously make space)

    The other day there was talk that GMJR had interest in him … how is that friggin possible? He is over the cap already and team still has the brutal JJ (note GMJR’s window for the buyout now has just over 24 hours left). I also would not like to take the gamble on Gardner as a Pen

    • My uncertain interpretation of the buyout rules leads me to think that Johnson’s buyout window was never re-opened. The second buyout period lasts for 48 hours, beginning on the third day following the buyout team’s last salary arbitration award or settlement. The Penguins didn’t have a settlement that was decided by arbitration. Aston-Reese, their only filer, re-signed before his scheduled arbitration hearing.

      What’s your take on this?

      • Thanks Francis

        Sorry I was in meetings all day.

        Sorry I wasn’t aware of the 3 days then 48 hours.

        Per TSN; as long as the PLAYER filed (and not the team) then Window DOES open even if their was a deal made prior to actual Arb; … I just thought it was 48 hours starting immediately …. so per your statement …. I guess it starts 3 days from yesterday morning … so GMJR has to do this From Thursday afternoon until early Sat morning ….

        Many thanks for that info …. not sure if he’ll do it 🤞🙏 , but at least there is still a chance 😀

      • Pengy

        After researching Capfriendly, I don’t think that that site agrees with TSN about the arbitration requirement.. Also, if you look at “Requirements” under “Buyouts Outside of the Regular Period” you will see that it says “The player must have a cap hit of at least $3,455,438 for the 2019 offseason.” Johnson does not meet that requirement.

    • @ Pengy: If there is a perception out there that Gardiner’s back is suspect, if even the Habs could use him, would they risk it?

      Sadly for Jake, he’s a UFA with a suspect back who can lead a powerplay but there are few teams with the cap space to entertain the idea of signing him as it stands right now

      • Hi JOEY

        Sorry only getting back now …. meetings

        Leafs don’t have space to take the risk; but IMHO; Habs have the space ; risk might be worth it…. downside …. it flares up bad ; Habs in the hook for the amount that Ins. Company does NOT cover (15-20 % I believe).

        Upside …. he will sign now for less than $7M and if the back isn’t wonky … Habs get a very fair deal on the contract

        I was just more inferring that Habs had better shot at landing him and the risk/reward was positive IMHO at the Cap he’s likely to sign at

    • PENGY…..Hey Black N Gold here what’s your obsession with Eric Stahl and bringing him to the Penguins?

      We are getting younger, faster, and more skilled. Stahl certainly doesn’t fit that…

      Guentzal – Tanev, – Galchenyuk – Kahun- Rust (for now) Dumolin, Murray, Pettersson, ASton Reese, Blueger, McCann Bujgstad Simon (FOR NOW)

      we need another D T.J Brodie Calgary wants to move him…$4. 7 tough to squeeze in but worth it.

      move rust J.J and Simon somewhere.. ZAR IS RESIGNED CHEAP TOo..

      • Hi BlackNGold

        Sorry if I misconveyed my trade proposals insinuating that getting younger and faster wasn’t the proper strategy

        Certainly not the case

        Younger faster more skilled is always the best move (NOTE: as long as JJ is also moved)

        I just want to emphasize how mandatory it is to rid JJ. Under no circumstances can they win a cup with him as a regular … ZERO; and it is possible with him in the lineup as a regular that they miss the playoffs …. they made playoffs by only 4 points last year … so making the playoffs is not a given with JJ as a regular

        My trade proposal had side benefits but the main thrux was ridding JJ

        Rust was the casualty in the trade but I stand firm that there is somewhat of an issue with 3C now and if the switch was from the much younger Bjug at 3C to Staal ; I would take that move every time .

        Staal would fit in perfectly at 3C and would be , IMO , a marked improvement at that position ; than Bjug

        I realize the proposal is multi-faceted; and a long shot ; but would (1) get rid of the thorn in all Pens’ (and Pens fans’) sides; and (2) shore up 3C (at cheaper and with more production)

        The window might be around for 2 more years …. Staal this fall at 35 and next year at 36 would fit fine

        I do realize that ZAR at $1M is a reasonable contract; but IMO if there is a forward that needs to be moved to round out a deal ; then losing ZAR won’t be catastrophic; a loss but not catastrophic

        To me he is not as good as any of he other wingers currently listed on the roster

        A miracle deal for me would have JJ jettisoned; an upgrade at 3C; and perhaps another young winger (Gusev)

        A far fetched deal below would do this

        Bjug ; Rust ; ZAR; JJ

        for Staal ; Rask (50%) , 2nd, 5th, Soucy (Iowa Wild LD)

        Pens then waive Ruhweedel and then have $7.1M in space

        Flip 2nd + 5th for Gusev rights

        Sign Petterson and Gusev

        Now with this line up ; I think you will agree that it is way stronger than what they have today:

        Sid Guentz McC

        Gino G-Chuck Gusev

        Staal at 3C with 2 of (in no particular order): Tanev ; Simon; Horny; Kahun ; Rask

        Blueger at 4C with 2 of (in no particular order): Tanev ; Simon; Horny; Kahun; Rask

        Anthony Angelo

        Letang Dumo

        Shultz Pettersson

        Gudbranson Riikola


        De Smith

        That team IMO ; is much better than what Pens have signed right now. The team above; IMHO ; has an excellent shot at winning Div and meeting TBay in ECF

        Current roster as is (JJ in as regular; Pettersson not signed) …. has a chance unfortunately ; of missing the playoffs

        Now if all GMJR does is to move JJ (or buy him out) and waive Ruhweedel and sign Pettersson ….. GMJR CAN do this BTW; then Pens already much better …. ZERO chance at cup as at this very second; now becomes a fair possibility


  4. Best bet for a cheap 1-year deal is Brassard, a C who turns 32 on Sept 22 who has bounced around 4 different teams the past 2 seasons, making it difficult to develop any cohesion with new iinemates. Over 142 gp in that stretch he has contributed 35g 34a 69 pts. Some team will find a use for him as C on their 4th line

    The rest will be fortunate to receive PTO. Rieder, a RW, turned just 26 on Jan 10 but after a decent season with Arizona in 2016-17 (16g 18s 34 pts) has bounced around with L.A. and Edmonton with limited results – a career – F

    • For the right price, I’d be happy to see Boston try Brassard at 3C and move Coyle to 2RW.

      • Hi DM

        That could be a good move ; what’s the fair price you would give him?

      • It’s tough to say. I was thinking of Spezza as a comparable but Spezza signed for league minimum. I think that was more out of a desire to win a cup than to max out his salary. I think he could have gotten more from other teams.

        My guess is Brassard will end up signing for 1 year in the $1.5-2M range. Again, this may depend on Brassard’s priority (winning vs max money).

      • DM

        Fair IMHO;

        At that price ; Brass at 3C and Coyle on 2nd line 👍👍

        Sad as a Leaf fan; but prudent and a good fit

    • Agreed George, Brassard was a very effective player in New York. He was good on the sens initially as well before things got out of hand from a management prospective. If he can be had at 1.5-2M then he should be signed. How about a team like the Wild?

      • The Wild, as usual, have been pretty quiet. At the moment they have 4 to go to reach 23 (CapFriendly listings) with 45 of 50 signed and $9,446,411 to re-sign their two key RFAs C Joel Eriksson Ek, coming off an ELC of $894,000 & LW Kevin Fiala & his ELC of $863.000.

        Considering what Sisson just signed for in Nashville for 7 bloody years, neither should be getting much, so there’s plenty of room for Brassard.

        Next year they don’t have an RFA (yet) and their UFAs are Koivu, Brown and Spurgeon.

  5. Outside chance we could see Brassard returning to Rangers. Figuring they might have to move some guys like a Strome and Namestikov, they could add Brass later on a pto.
    Not very deep at center. Gardiner would be a fit in NJ. They have cap space and this could be Greene’s last year. He’ll be 37 at start of season. Who would you rather have next year?

    • I am sure Brass has some offers but waiting to see which contender might have cap space even if its 1 million+bonuses. CBJ could use him back.
      Rangers still need to see if any of the kids can play the pivot

      • Agree, but figuring Strome right now is likely 2C, if they trade him Brass might be a cheaper alternative. Good chance we see a trade this week. Wonder how much not making a trade could be effecting Buchnevich signing, as his signing will trigger next buy out period.

    • Is Brassard any better then Strome at this point? I thought Strome played well once he got to NY?

      • Strome was solid the last two months of the season but with the cap issues and all the kids he could be a casualty even though he is the only 2nd line center option at this point.

        Rather keep Strome or Kreider….

      • I only suggest Brassard if he comes cheap. Like 1M. Strome is cap hit this year is 3.1m. I’m guessing a scenario where Rangers trade away some players to get cap compliant and they could have some space to get Brassard on a try out deal.

      • Brassards main complaint in Pittsburgh was being cast as a bottom six. More than money or winning I think he wants a team to come at him like a top 6. Maybe he even waits until a serious injury occurs to a top 6 center during the season and signs them?

  6. It almost seems like Toronto knows what Jake will accept to stay in Toronto and he’s waiting to see if they can make that happen.

    They trade WW for a player on a cheaper deal and then sign Jake with the extra cap space created from that deal without touching the cap space they basically have allocated for Marner at this point.

    Doesn’t seem too far fetched to me.

    • What may be far-fetched is finding a team with the required cap space now – and with no substantial UFAs/RFAs of their own to consider next season – willing to take on a long-term $7 mil contract of a player who may or may not be closer to the player he was last season than to what he was the previous two. That’s a big gamble. Perhaps Anaheim.

      • That’s a very good point George. Cap space is pretty hard to come by right now for a lot of teams. There is a lot of history between Toronto and Anaheim.

        Willy had great metrics and his shooting percentage was less than half of what it was the 3 seasons prior so you’ve got to think after a full training camp that he will be ready to go this season and go back to more of where he normally is. I’m of the opinion that his trade value is lower than it will be later in the season.

      • I agree. And it becomes a gamble for the Leafs too as to whether he turns out to be the player from last season, or the one from the previous two.

        If the former, his value and appeal will drop even lower and make him virtually untradeable with that cap hit. If, however, he has the legendary “bounce back” season not only will his value soar but it would give the Leafs pause for thought about dealing him at all. Why would they?

        One thing is certain, if the Leafs have to enter the season with him on the roster, you can bet Babcock will be under directions to play him a lot of minutes, especially on the pp, because Dubas will need to know early on which Nylander he has.

      • @ George: The Quacks seem to have made the most trades with the Leafs in recent history.

        Perhaps Nylander is a fit there in return for a Josh Manson; and/or some kind of combo of picks n stuff; that is if the Leafs are on his ok list.

      • I don’t see why they wouldn’t be on his ok list Joey. Anaheim is looking for offense and perhaps would be inclined.

      • Hi George

        I believe NYI has a fit

        WW for Pulock would work for both teams

  7. If Gardiner is patient he will get his money.

    Maybe money isn’t everything

    • I can see that happening with Nylander if they’ve decided to showcase him to the league and see what his true value is. I don’t really have much faith in Babcock anymore….he has proven he’s not willing to make adjustments to his game plan for a better outcome. Being stuck in your ways as a coach is horrible come playoff time.

  8. Does anyone know (Lyle?!?) what the long term situation is with Gusev and Vegas.

    At some point it would seem that that Vegas would lose their control over his rights, indentured servitude having gone out of fashion.

    At what point does this happen?

    • I have heard that since he never signed an ELC Vegas owns his rights indefinitely. I am far from 100% sure it is accurate, as it does seem odd to me.
      If so, he takes what Vegas offers or plays in the KHL.

      • RB – thanks.

        Gusev actually signed a 1 year ELC with Vegas in April 2019, I believe it expired with the end of the season.

        Hence my question.

        Standard CBA says a “European” player’s rights belong to the Drafting NHL team for 4 years unless offered a contract.

        Vegas picked up those rights, pre-contract, in a trade, but I don’t believe that changes anything.

        So – it’s complicated.

        Anyone else have a thought?

  9. Just read that Freeman is reporting that Nashville has signed RFA Colton Sissons to a SEVEN-year $28 mil deal which translates to an annual cap hit of $2,857.000.

    He must really love Nashville because that contract is going to look real good in short order for a C who had 15g 15a 30 pts last season. That brings Nashville to 23 at the major league level (according to CapFriendly) 44 pf 50 and with $2,334,667 in cap space left to re-sign Grimaldi

    • I”ve always like David Poile assembled teams.

  10. Sorry – typo – that’s $20 mil

  11. I’m still not sure I agree with the “good job” of clearing cap space by Dubas. He gave up a first to get rid of Marleau which cleared some space.

    The deal with Ottawa was cap neutral in the first year but does clear a slight overpay for Zaitsev in the following years. Ceci was struggling in Ottawa, we’ll see how he performs in Toronto but that may not be a bargain.

    I can’t stand Kadri but his deal wasn’t a bad one. Getting Barrie at half price for a year helps this season but between his cap hit and Kerfoot’s new deal they didn’t actually save money there.

    To me it doesn’t look like the team got any better and they kind of treaded water cap wise.

    • Part of the thinking might be that one or more of the prospects with the Marlies could make the big team in 20/21. I think one of them, Rosen, is pencilled in for the upcoming season.

      • He might well be penciled in BCLeafFan – but it’ll be with Colorado where he went with Kadri in the Barrie deal.

    • He did pay a steep price to get rid of Marleau’s contract, how many other GMs have you seen successfully dump a big contract since? We also don’t know if Kapanen or Johnsson would be on the team if he didn’t do that and if we held onto that first rounder it would be most likely a late one which won’t yield someone as beneficial as the two mentioned players above.

      The Ottawa deal is basically a wash cap space wise but just shorter term. We could always flip Ceci to another team also later on.

      Kadri was a great skilled, heart and soul guy (which we really lack) but he can’t control his temper and it’s hurt us a lot at the worse times so it was bound to happen. We did a deal where two teams were dealing from strength that was a good hockey trade.

      I think overall he’s done a pretty good job with what he started with and where this could’ve gone otherwise.

      • Thanks, George, it’s July but my brain’s still back in April. One of those prospects better hurry up and make the team this October, then.

    • Would not be shocked to see Barrie or Ceci dealt at the trade deadline if Sandin is ready and Gardiner comes back somehow. One will surely be elsewhere next season.

      • I see no chance of Barrie getting traded unless the Leafs are out of the playoff picture

  12. My understanding is that there are just a few places that Gardiner in interested in playing. Toronto and Minnesota being the two favorites. Minny isn’t really looking like they need him right now. He put off surgery last spring, but Dubas may have told him that IF they can get Marner signed, the team would be willing to do a short cap-friendly deal and Gardiner go on long-term injury to rehab or get his surgery, that would save the cap hit and see Gardiner ready for the play-off push.
    IF that were to happen and the Leafs get a major contribution from him in the post-season, he’d be ready for much better offers than are out there this summer.

    • That scenario supports what I say above re GMs being ultra-cautious.

    • Has Gardiner been to you for a diagnosis, DoctorDave?

      • I thought it was concern for his back too, which makes perfect sense, but there is a report out there that Gardiner had an MRI and it came back clean.
        If it isn’t anything structural and simply a strain/tear that was causing it to spasm, which it can a will, then it should be something he can over come with no more risk of injury they he had before.
        Like somebody said on here you can have your own specialist examine him before you finalize a contract.
        It may simply be him waiting for the right opportunity and not just $$. Problem is you don’t want to be the last guy standing when the music stops.

  13. Coukd the smart stat people explain the clarkson deal to me?

    • It’s a cap move…allows Leafs to sign Marner and maximize LTIR relief, and also means if Leafs need to start season without Marner they will have extra room on the LTIR if/when they do sign him during the season. I think they are preparing for a hold out, and this now allows GMKD the flexibility to do so.

      • LeafMedic

        I think your bang on

        No chance they can sign MM pre first day now as the LTIR can only be used if the LTIR players are on roster day 1… but day 1 with Clarkson ; Horton; Hyman ; and Dermott on LTIR gives them >$13M in space to sign MM

        For Vegas …. one move and they will have space to sign Gusev

    • I believe its called (wink wink) acceptable circumvention of a salary cap.

      • all misery needs it’s a little company

  14. Clarkson’s wanted to retire a Leaf.