Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – September 1, 2019
Updates on Jake Gardiner and Rasmus Ristolainen plus the latest Stars speculation in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.
WHERE WILL GARDINER GO?
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman recently weighed in on the status of Jake Gardiner, who remains unsigned with training camp less than two weeks away. While Friedman believes there’s mutual interest between Gardiner and the Toronto Maple Leafs, he wonders how the 29-year-old defenseman could increase his value by rejoining the Leafs in a potential third-pairing role.
If returning to the Leafs isn’t an option, Friedman said he’s heard the Montreal Canadiens, Arizona Coyotes, and Winnipeg Jets have been linked to Gardiner. The Buffalo Sabres could be another if they trade away Rasmus Ristolainen. So could the Carolina Hurricanes, depending on what they do.
Luke Fox also believes Montreal could be a destination for Gardiner, as well as the Detroit Red Wings and New Jersey Devils. He also noted Friedman naming the Jets as a possible destination.
Fox also wondered why it’s taking so long for Gardiner to land a new contract. Dominic Moore suggests part of it could be because NHL general managers could be letting the dust settle after a busy period from June into early July before determining their next moves.
TORONTO STAR: In a recent mailbag segment, Kevin McGran speculated Gardiner could return to the Leafs if Mitch Marner agreed to a short-term deal worth around $9 million per season. The defenseman would also have to agree to an affordable salary.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Most speculation this summer suggested Gardiner could have a verbal agreement with a team that’s waiting to make another move before officially signing him. When asked by pundits about his status, Gardiner has politely declined to elaborate, providing fodder for the “handshake agreement” theory.
Given the difficulty the Leafs seem to be facing getting Marner under contract, it appears unlikely they’ll bring back Gardiner. Still, general manager Kyle Dubas has proven capable of juggling his salary-cap space this summer so we probably shouldn’t fully dismiss that notion.
If Trevor van Riemsdyk takes longer to recover from shoulder surgery, perhaps the Hurricanes might consider Gardiner as a short-term replacement. However, they’ll likely give Haydn Fleury, Jake Bean or Gustav Forsling an opportunity.
The Canadiens and Jets could certainly use Gardiner. So could the Wings but GM Steve Yzerman could be willing to give his younger blueliners more playing time this season. If the Sabres trade Ristolainen it’s believed they’ll want a top-six forward in return. That probably won’t leave much cap room for Gardiner.
WHY NO RISTOLAINEN TRADE YET?
THE BUFFALO NEWS: During a recent mailbag segment, Lance Lysowski was asked why the Buffalo Sabres haven’t yet traded defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. One reason could be the unusually large number of restricted free agent stars still unsigned by several teams. That includes the Jets, who seem an ideal fit for a Ristolainen deal.
Lysowski also feels Ristolainen didn’t do the Sabres any favors by publicly voicing his frustrations, hurting the club’s leverage in the trade market. He points out they’re not going to move the blueliner unless they get “a high-upside, 24-year-old right-shot defenseman with a reasonable contract.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Timing is also another factor. Teams usually don’t swing trades involving a significant player during the off-season’s dog days. But with the calendar flipped to September and training camps opening next week, activity could pick up in the trade market. That would improve the Sabres chances of landing a decent return for Ristolainen.
LATEST ON THE STARS
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Matthew DeFranks recently observed the Stars are expected to put Martin Hanzal on long-term injury reserve when the season opens. The 32-year-old center has been hampered by a chronic back injury and carries a $4.75-million salary-cap hit.
Placing Hanzal on LTIR could allow the Stars to acquire a pending UFA player carrying an annual salary-cap hit between $4 and $5 million. Options could include Calgary defenseman T.J. Brodie, New York Rangers’ winger Chris Kreider, and Los Angeles’ Tyler Toffoli.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Stars have around $970k in salary-cap space for the upcoming season with RFA blueliner Julius Honka to re-sign. It’s expected he’ll be traded or assigned to the minors if he accepts his qualifying offer.
Putting Hanzal on LTIR will give them some flexibility if they feel the need to bolster their roster via trade this season. It remains to be seen if they’ll go after someone like Brodie, Kreider or Toffoli but it could be worth keeping an eye on the Stars.