NHL Rumor Mill – July 23, 2019
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.
WHY IS GARDINER STILL UNSIGNED?
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.
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.
GUSEV COULD STAY IN THE KHL
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.
FIVE NHL VETERANS WHO COULD NEED TRAINING CAMP TO GET NEW CONTRACTS.
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.