NHL Rumor Mill – January 6, 2020
The latest on the Leafs and Blackhawks, plus an update on Chris Kreider in today’s NHL rumor mill.
tHE LATEST LEAFS SPECULATION
TORONTO STAR: In a recent mailbag segment, Kevin McGran was asked if he sees a scenario whereby the Toronto Maple Leafs make a move before the trade deadline for a backup goaltender or a stay-at-home defenseman. Given the Leafs’ limited salary-cap space, McGran believes any trade will have to be dollar-for-dollar.
TORONTO SUN: Michael Traikos speculates the Leafs’ recent call-up of Mason Marchment might suggest they’ll look for toughness before the trade deadline. However, there’s an argument to be made for the Leafs to build on their strength by adding another skilled player. Traikos acknowledges the Leafs aren’t built for grinding opponents down physically, but it can do so with offense.
THE ATHLETIC: Jonas Siegel believes the emergence of winger Pierre Engvall provides an option for Leafs management to move another forward for help on the blueline. Perhaps Andreas Johnsson, Kaspari Kapanen or someone else gets moved before the trade deadline or in the off-season. Engvall’s a restricted free agent after this season. Siegel suggests the Leafs re-sign him to a two- to a four-year deal that trades a lower salary-cap hit for extra security.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Conventional wisdom suggests the Leafs won’t get far in playoff hockey where the game tends to be more physical than during the regular season. That certainly proved the case in their last two postseason appearances.
While there can be a debate over skill versus toughness, I believe the Leafs’ biggest need remains a reliable backup for starter Frederik Andersen. If he struggles or becomes sidelined over the remainder of the season or in the playoffs, the Leafs are screwed. Given their limited salary-cap space, addressing that need or others means dollar-in, dollar-out, and that could mean giving up a good, affordable forward like Johnsson or Kapanen.
LATEST ON THE BLACKHAWKS
THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Mark Lazerus was asked if the Chicago Blackhawks might weaponize their newfound available cap space to acquire an asset. He thinks it would be poetic for the Blackhawks, who spent years shedding players due to limited cap space, to take advantage of a desperate club’s salary-cap constraints and take on some bad money for a sweetener or two.
It remains to be seen if Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman stands pat at this year’s deadline or attempt to bolster his roster for a run at the playoffs. Much will depend upon what unfolds over the next several weeks. They’ll also face decisions over pending UFAs like Corey Crawford and Erik Gustafsson. Crawford’s modified no-trade clause would limit efforts to move him.
Lazerus doesn’t see the Blackhawks trading defenseman Connor Murphy. Andrew Shaw’s recent concussion injury takes him off the trade table. Lazerus acknowledged recent reports indicating interest from rival clubs in winger Brandon Saad, but he believes it would take a significant offer to move him.
Scott Powers reports a league source claims the Blackhawks have attempted to shore up their defensive depth since the start of the season. Those efforts have been unsuccessful because rival clubs want prospects the Hawks aren’t willing to give up. Their newfound salary-cap space makes it possible to add a blueliner, but it’s complicated because they’ll only want to take on a rental player.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With defensemen Brent Seabrook and Calvin de Haan out for the season, the Blackhawks have an additional $10 million to work with if they want to add a player. The problem, however, is they have limited tradeable assets and don’t want to move their few promising prospects.
The Hawks would have better luck as sellers if they decide to move Crawford or Gustafsson. If they fail to gain ground in the standings over the next month, they could attempt to use their available cap space to take on another club’s toxic salary for this season if they can also get a quality draft pick or prospect as part of the return.
NO CANADIAN CLUBS FOR KREIDER?
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks believes Chris Kreider’s limited no-trade clause likely means he won’t be accepting a trade to a Canadian team. Brooks believes that’s why the Montreal Canadiens decided to sign winger Ilya Kovalchuk.