NHL Rumor Mill – March 18, 2020
The NHL regular-season may be paused, but the trade and free-agent rumor mill churn on. Check out the latest on the Leafs and Sharks.
LEAFS WOULD BE AFFECTED BY FLAT SALARY CAP
SPORTSNET: Luke Fox examined the effect of the salary cap remaining at $81.5 million could affect the Toronto Maple Leafs. He wondered if pending UFA forwards Kyle Clifford and Jason Spezza would accept something near the league minimum to re-sign with the Leafs.
UFA defenseman Tyson Barrie and Cody Ceci aren’t expected back. Their spots could be filled by affordable youngsters like Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren, but that would leave only Morgan Rielly and Jake Muzzin as established veterans. Fox wonders who they could add via trade or free agency and what the price would be. Re-signing RFAs like Ilya Mikheyev, Travis Dermott, and Frederic Gauthier will also eat up valuable cap room.
A nuclear option to address their blueline needs would involve trading a top forward like William Nylander, Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews or John Tavares, but Fox doesn’t detect any desire from Leafs management to go that route. Instead, they could be forced to swap a middle-class forward such as Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, or Alexander Kerfoot for a defenseman.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Every NHL team will be affected by a flat cap for 2020-21. Teams like the Leafs with limited cap space will feel the pinch more than others. They have over $76 million invested in 16 players next season
Clifford and Spezza probably won’t get much more than offers that are close to the league minimum from other clubs, so they could be open to staying in Toronto. Bringing in one or two veteran blueliners will cost more than the Leafs can afford right now.
If they’re unwilling to move one of their top-four forwards for a blueliner, a deal involving Kapanen, Kerfoot or Johnsson seems the only viable option. Unless they can free up the additional salary, such a move could end up being dollar-for-dollar.
LATEST SHARKS SPECULATION
THE MERCURY NEWS: In a recent mailbag segment, Curtis Pashelka was asked if the San Jose Sharks might move a big contract in the off-season. While general manager Doug Wilson insists he likes the core of his team, he hinted after the trade deadline that there could be a deal made in the off-season. The effect of the current health crisis upon league revenue will also affect the salary cap, which could hamper any potential deals by the Sharks unless it’s a “money-in, money-out” move.
Regarding their next head coach, Pashelka thinks they could take a long look at former Nashville Predators bench boss Peter Laviolette if they decide not to keep interim coach Bob Boughner in that role. He also thinks they could consider adding more grit to their lineup.
Asking if former Sharks Brenden Dillon or Patrick Marleau might return via free agency, early indications are Marleau will be back next season. Pashelka doesn’t see Dillon coming back after the Sharks re-signed Radim Simek to a four-year contract extension.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $66 milion committed to 13 players, the Sharks will have around $15 million to work with under an $81.5 million cap. While all their core players are under contract, upgrading their roster could prove difficult. Wilson has proven adept in the past in retooling a roster quickly through trades and free agency, but this off-season could prove challenging.
If Wilson moves a big contract, I suspect it’ll be for a return that provides immediate roster help. It won’t easy. Timo Meier is the only high-salaried Shark lacking any form of no-trade protection. Erik Karlsson and Marc-Edouard Vlasic have no-movement clauses, while Logan Couture, Brent Burns, Evander Kane and Martin Jones each have modified no-trades listing three preferred trade destinations.
Interesting that it appears Marleau could return with the Sharks next season. He’ll have to a pay cut to do so, but at this stage in his career, I don’t think that’s a concern for him. The same goes for Thornton. If they want to return to the Sharks and if Wilson wants to bring them back, it’ll be under affordable, one-year deals.