NHL Rumor Mill – August 20, 2019
The latest on the Leafs plus an update on Zach Parise in today’s NHL rumor mill.
MARNER AND GARDINER
TORONTO SUN: Lance Hornby reports there’s no real update in the “contractual game of chicken” between the Maple Leafs and Mitch Marner. Both sides seem willing to wait until training camp or “more specifically, the end of pre-season”. That’s when the Leafs can place permanently sidelined forwards David Clarkson and Nathan Horton, who have a combined salary-cap hit of over $10.5 million, on long-term injury reserve.
The Marner camp could push for a cap hit comparable to Auston Matthews’ $11.6 million annual average value. If so, Hornby suggests they must either accept a short-term bridge deal (which neither side is keen on) or take the Leafs to the RFA wire as William Nylander did last year.
Hornby also notes former Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner is waiting to see what unfolds. The unrestricted free agent has yet to sign elsewhere in hopes the Leafs find extra cap space to sign him. At this point, that would mean trading a set roster piece.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s believed the combined annual average value of Clarkson and Horton is how high the Leafs are willing to go with Marner. They could also free up a little more room by demoting or trading a lower-salaried player but I doubt they want to go as high as $11 million annually.
I don’t see Marner attending training camp without a contract. It remains to be seen if he’ll risk missing the early weeks of the regular season, especially after seeing the toll it took on Nylander’s performance last season.
As for Gardiner, I don’t see how the Leafs can bring him back once Marner is re-signed without shedding some salary. General manager Kyle Dubas has proven adept at cost-cutting creativity this summer without hurting his roster depth. He could have another trick up his sleeve with Gardiner.
THE ATHLETIC: Michael Russo reports Zach Parise hopes to put last season behind him as he enters Minnesota Wild training camp in a positive frame of mind. The 35-year-old left-winger expressed shock over last month’s firing of general manager Paul Fenton, who explored trading Parise back in June.
Russo said one team made an offer and remains interested in Parise. He has a full no-movement clause and wouldn’t comment on the trade speculation. He remains focused on helping the Wild this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: In a recent mailbag segment, Russo said that trade offer for Parise involved the Wild taking on another bad veteran contract. With six seasons remaining on Parise’s contract and an annual cap hit of over $7.5 million, that unnamed club must be desperate to shed that other contract.
Parise remains a solid top-six forward when healthy but age and his injury history are cause for concern. Factor in that cap hit, his actual salary being $9 million this season and his movement clause, and trading him is a daunting challenge.
As Russo points out, it’s unlikely Fenton’s replacement will attempt moving Parise as his first act unless it’s a no-brainer. The Wild would either have to take back a bad contract or absorb a big chunk of his cap hit to make it work.