NHL Rumor Mill – March 2, 2020

by | Mar 2, 2020 | Rumors | 64 comments

Some suggested off-season blueline targets for the Leafs, the Rangers’ goalie situation, and the best remaining UFAs in today’s NHL rumor mill.


SPORTSNET: Luke Fox recently looked ahead at this summer’s potential trade and free-agent targets to shore up the Toronto Maple Leafs’ defense corps. He doubts general manager Kyle Dubas can go into next season with Justin Holl, Timothy Liljegren and Joseph Duszak as right-side defensemen. He also expected Tyson Barrie and Cody Ceci will depart via free agency in July.

If Alex Pietrangelo tests the UFA market, can the Toronto Maple Leafs afford him? (Photo via NHL Images)

St. Louis Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo tops this summer’s UFA market for defensemen, following by second-tier options like Sami Vatanen, Travis Hamonic, Mike Green, Dylan DeMelo, Justin Schultz, Chris Tanev and Kevin Shattenkirk. The Leafs had previous interest in Hamonic and Tanev.

The thin free-agent market combined with the Leafs’ limited salary-cap space could push Dubas into the trade market. Options could include Minnesota’s Matt Dumba, Anaheim’s Josh Manson, Vancouver’s Troy Stecher, and Buffalo’s Brandon Montour and Rasmus Ristolainen.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $77 million tied up in 16 players for 2020-21, the Leafs won’t have much room to bid for the best UFA rearguards unless Dubas sheds salary before the start of next season. Even then, he doubt they could afford Pietrangelo, who could seek over $9 million annually if he hits the open market. Hamonic ($3.857 million) and Tanev ($4.45 million) could be more affordable, especially if they go unsigned beyond the opening weeks of free agency.

Forwards Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, and Alexander Kerfoot was often suggested as trade candidates for a defenseman this season. I daresay we’ll see their names floated in the off-season rumor mill.

Dumba, Manson and Ristolainen carry annual average salaries of $4 million or more. Montour ($3.387 million) and Stecher (2.325 million) are more affordable trade options. The Sabres could be reluctant to trade Montour to a division rival like Toronto. Stecher was linked to the Leafs before the trade deadline, so perhaps there’s a possibility there.

Fox rules out the possibility of the Leafs pursuing Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, who could be traded or have his contract terminated this summer.


Fox also believes New York Rangers GM Jeff Gorton must sort out his goaltending situation in the off-season. The Rangers have carried three netminders – Henrik Lundqvist, Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev – since January.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With long-time Rangers starter Lundqvist relegated behind Shesterkin and Georgiev, some in the New York media (hello there, Larry Brooks) believe “King Henrik” could be bought out of the final season of his contract in June.

They could attempt to trade him first, provide Lundqvist is willing to waive his no-movement clause. Even then, the Rangers could be asked to absorb part of his $8.5-million annual cap hit.


Fox also listed his ” All Impending UFA Starting Lineup in 2020″ following last week’s trade deadline.

Taylor Hall–Carl Soderberg–Mike Hoffman

Torey Krug–Alex Pietrangelo

Jacob Markstrom

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hall, Soderberg, and Hoffman could be the only ones still available when July 1 dawns. I expect Pietrangelo, Krug, and Markstrom will be re-signed by their respective teams.


  1. The Canucks bestter hope Markstrom is a quick healer or theyre in big trouble.

    • Here in Maple Leaf rumor mill, comments should reference the sainted Toronto Maple Leaf Hockey Club. Perhaps if you were to mention Markstrom as a potential “Leaf” signing your post would be more in keeping with interests of our readers. Thank you for your co-operation.

      • @strider Prime example why I believe Lyle should not bother posting anything Leaf related.

      • My apologies….

        Canucks better hope future Leaf goalie Markstrom is a fast healer.


  2. I think the Leafs should try to get Manson, he would add a little more grit plus potentially play with Reilly . Muzzin plays well with Holl . That leaves the third pairing of Sandin with Dermott .
    Pietrangelo is too expensive, plus why would he want to leave St. Louis. They have a great team and everyone likes living there.
    Toronto has some speed pieces that Anaheim would be looking for. Would be a good place to send Marner. While I like Marner he would be the one I would trade of the big 4.
    Toronto’s defensive problems can be fixed by the forwards commitment to team defense

  3. Re Leafs and RHD for ‘20/‘21 ++

    Vats maybe; Pietro not happening IMHO

    Would love WW for Manson + trade but that would leave Duck with only GudB at RHD plus Hakanpaa (who I believe is yet to play a game)

    As you pointed out ; trading within the div esoecially with Sabres is hard ; but would love a WW for Montour & Kahun trade

    Best IMHO…. WW straight up for Dumba

    All 3 trades make Leafs D much stronger and saveCap space

    • @ PENGY

      Don’t see Petro leaving ..wayyy to many emotional attachments at this point ..team is trending in a upward swing as well.
      In the past the Blues didnt mind sending players away pre Stanley Cup win ..but this is different ..IMHO
      They may just very well win it again this year also ..LOL .

      Hey Pengy I disagree with the Montour deal ..
      I see Montour very much like a Barrie very similar player …maybe able to sign him for less ..but very similar style to many of these players in the system all ready !

      I am very curious to see what happens with a Rielly contract ..I am not so sure you can get him under the $7 – 8 million mark ..this time around.
      This will have to be taken into account for who every they bring in and the money that comes with them as well..

      Dumba may very well be the best over all player as he has a controlled contract ..but if I had my choice id go Manson or Brayden Mc Nabb for less AAV

      PASS… on Stecher .. No thx !


      • Hi Kal El

        Would love McN but he’s LD; and no way Knights part with a player of his stature that is only costing them $2.5 M for next 2 years

        Re Reilly …. won’t know his Cap cost until at least 1/7/21 (first opportunity to extend)

        Dumba yes … best option as I said…. WW straight up for Dumba 👍

        and would love Manson but long shot to me

        However I disagree with you wrt Montour…. I don’t see him as the D end liability that Barrie has been

        Montour + Kahun for WW fits for me

    • Pengy why do you always suggest trading Nylander?

      Has he offended your family?

      Just asking?? You’re obsessed..

      I prefer his salary commensurate with his production than say Marner at $4M more!?

      I know Dubas in your opinion capitulated, but it was other way around.

      It’s Marner that never should have been signed full stop.

      • Hi Antoni

        I don’t dislike him at all

        I am only looking at it from the over-all Leaf perspective and long term.

        I truly believe that the best return wrt getting a top 2/3 D a s with WW…. his current play along with only owing $2.5 M for next year (after SB I s paid) and valance of Contract cash AAV ~$5M per (with 7 Cap) is abundantly more attractive to teams than MM’s close to 9

        Re capitulation … yes per all reports … it was Dubas whi capitulated

        I’ve said all along that if he had sat that year…. there is no change to where Leafs finish that year and all 3 contracts (WW , AM, MM) come in cheaper (and maybe better term than they signed for

        I very very rarely see eye to eye with Burke but he said on HNIC (almost a year after I had posted repeatedly that making WW sit the year would have saved at least $3M (from the 3 contracts) per that could be much better spent on a D upgrade… he said “he should have sat the year and …..easily $3M to $5 M saved a year… and that’s almost enough for your 3rd or 4th D “ (that was paraphrased but very very close to what he said

        So … no animosity to WW… but to make the Leafs better they need a D upgrade and moving WW will absolutely get thr best bang for your buck IMHO

    • It was mentioned awhile ago but Darnell Nurse rejoining his old Soo Greyhound buddies Dubas and Keefe in Toronto could happen now that Caleb Jones has taken the next step in his progression. What was the rumoured return? Kapanen and prospect Nicholas Robertson I think.

  4. Vats maybe; Pietro not happening IMHO

    Would love WW for Manson + trade but that would leave Ducks with only GudB at RHD plus Hakanpaa (who I believe is yet to play a game)

    As you pointed out ; trading within the div especially with Sabres is hard ; but would love a WW for Montour & Kahun trade

    Best IMHO…. WW straight up for

    All 3 trades make Leafs D much stronger and saveCap space

    • ANA actually doesn’t have much cap space next year either.
      Backes @ 4.5 and Perry has a buyout bubble over $6.
      The year after they will have more space to make these types of moves where they can take on salary.
      They could get it done, but to Pengy’s point, that leaves them really thin on the back end.
      And they love Manson.

    • oooooops

      “Best IMHO…. WW straight up for” was cut off…. should have finished with “ Dumba”

    • Maybe Toronto would want to take on Kesler’s LTIR contract to continue with that loophole next year. Horton’s and Clarkson’s contracts are up after this season. If Anaheim is interested in trading Manson, Kesler’s contract could become part of that trade and help both teams. Anaheim is a budget team and I could see a trade like this happening after Toronto pays the signing bonus for Nylander or Marner.

      • Nice thinking.
        This is very likely to happen.

  5. Lyle,

    I hope that you’re correct regarding the Blues resigning Petro, but I’m curious what you think the TERM of the contract should be?? I don’t want Armstrong to go beyond 5 years, but I expect Petro wants more. Maybe $9.25m/5yr??

    • I think Armstrong would prefer five but I can see him bending for six. It’s the dollars that’s the issue. Armstrong reportedly prefers something comparable to Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s $8.25 million AAV. The Pietrangelo camp is said to be seeking over $9 million.

  6. I don’t believe Toronto D is as bleak as many think they have 2 quality d in Rielly and Muzzin, some young prospect that can fill out the bottom two, add another 3rd and 4th dman and should be solid.

    Bigger issue is not committing to a different style of play and being more structure. They have shown they can play that way but unfortunately for them they don’t seem committed to playing that style. Is it because they want to chase the stat line? I don’t know, but more commitment to defensive coverage would be a good place to start.

    I think the biggest mistake Dubas made wasn’t necessarily signing JT but giving him the NMC.

    JT is off last year scoring pace, 5yrs remaining, will be 30yrs old in Sept. and counts for $11m on the cap. $11m should include not getting a NWC.

    Without the NMW could you then swing JT to Anaheim for Rickard Rakell $3.8m and Mason at $4.45m total cap hit of $8.25 and still have a relief of a $2.75 cap space. Maybe Anaheim has to add a piece.

    All other Toronto forwards are around 22 and 23 years old let them grow together. Unfortunately with JT NMC you may not be able to do that.

    • Caper,

      Sound reasoning but I cant see why Anaheim would want Tavres at 30 yrs old and 11 million per. To me, this is precisely the age of player and contract the Ducks should avoid during a rebuild.

    • Caper , I agree but don’t see Tavares waving his no trade.
      Why not Marner for Manson and Rakell.
      I don’t like moving Marner but Nylander is a good contract and it looks like Matthews is turning into a very good 2 way centre
      I agree their defense isn’t as bad as it appears. The team needs to play defense

      • Vinnie: I could see a trade like this working with Toronto possibly taking on Kesler’s LTIR contract. I think Toronto would have to add something to Marner otherwise. Mansen and Rakell aren’t as good as Marner, but they are very good players on great contracts the next two years.

        The timing of this trade would play a factor as well. If Toronto pays Marner’s $14.3M (!!) signing bonus before the trade happens, that could swing things in the other direction with Anaheim adding to the trade.

        It will be very interesting to see what Toronto does this summer because I think one of Marner or Nylander is gone. I agree with you that Toronto should trade Marner if it is one of the two.

  7. You are an optimist, Caper. Essentially what you have said is the Leafs have Muzzin and Reilly, need a 3/4 combo and then hope to get by with rookies for 5/6. This is sunny days?

    As for Tavares, he wouldn’t have signed with Toronto without one. You may have an argument that the Leafs paid too much for him; many, including me, think the issue is signing Nylander to nearly 7 million with the $ already committed to Tavares, Matthews and Marner.

    That’s why the Leafs need a better 3/4 and 5/6 pairing than they have to avoid losing in the first round.

  8. The signings were Tavares , Nylander, Matthews and then Marner.
    Kypreos caused the problem along with several other media people by saying everyday over and over that Marner was worth 11 million a year.
    Dubas didn’t have to sign him I guess but all the influential people as well as supposed knowledgeable kept saying he was worth it. And then when he was those same condemned Dubas.
    It’s a tough world. You had to sign Tavares, you got him for free.

    • Thanks for the correction on the signing order, Vinnie.

      But it is too difficult for me to believe that Dubas was convinced by Kypreos and others in the media to pay Tavares 11 million. The comparables at the time Tavares was being courted by numerous teams were McDavid @ 12.5, Towes at 10.5 and Kopitar at 10. 11 million was referenced simply because that was in the range of the highest paid forwards.


      • Thanks ray. And no Kev. Like my own supposition that’s assuming much goes the way you presume.

    • Correct that Tavares didn’t cost anything off your roster or picks/prospects etc, but IMO there was a cost.
      The opportunity cost of the lost cap space.
      Question – Would the Leafs still have Kadri and Brown? Could they have used that space for a UFA D or be more aggressive in a trade? Would they be considering moving a very good young player like Nylander to get D help?
      Would they have taken a more patient approach and stuck with the plan? Did they feel more pressure to sign these kids to big$$ extensions because it is now win now?
      We’ll never know, but it cost them flexibility/leverage and how much better are they today than in the spring of 2018 when they finished with 105 pts without Tavares?

      • Not only would the Leafs stiff have Kadri and Brown, but they would also still have JVR and Bozak, Gardiner, and Hainsey.
        So the Tavares signing did come at a cost of roster players, IMO.

      • You are right there was a cost, and I know I was surprised that he came to Toronto. Didn’t expect it. Would have been nice to keep Kadri and Brown. Pretty sure when they signed Tavares they didn’t expect Nylander and Marner to cost as much. And I do think Kypreos influenced the cost of the signings. Even people on this site were saying he deserved as much as Matthews.
        Regardless they will probably have to move one of them.
        But I wouldn’t rush it , I don’t think there defensemen are that bad. If the forwards don’t help it isn’t going to matter who is playing defense.

      • I don’t understand the disappointment of Leafs fans towards Marner.
        As it stands right now Marner has the same points per game as Matthews which is right on pace for his totals last season, but nobody is getting on Matthews for not performing.
        Is it a coincidence that Matthews is in the race for the Rocket Richard Trophy this season with Marner on his wing? and going to smash his last season totals without Marner?
        Matthews last season got 37 goals in 68 games without Marner. This season Matthews already has 45 goals in 66 games with Marner.
        As overpaid as Marner is, so is Matthews, and the Tavares signing is to blame for them, not the media, IMO.

      • Tavares shouldn’t have cost the cap space cause Marner or nylander should have immediately been moved for a d man. A free agent top line center who is a legit star goes to ufa while relatively young almost never. Tavares would have gotten close to McDavid money elsewhere. Great signing. Terrible management of assets afterwards.

      • That is the other option Chrisms, for some reason they haven’t. I am not as eloquent as you (bequeathing and satiated in one post is outstanding), and one of my key points was it pushed the rebuild forward faster than the original plan. IMO before they had built proper depth at some positions.
        I would actually rather have the young guys grow together all heading into their prime now, VS Tavares (really good player) reaching the end of his prime years.
        IMO it was the first domino that forced difficult decisions and operating from a position of having to do something RFN vs being patient for the right deals.

      • @Chrisms,
        My thinking is, just because somebody else would have given him more doesn’t make it right. Let it be somebody else’s problem. Especially when he turns 33 and still has an $11 million dollar cap hit on a virtually buyout proof contract.
        I believe that the Leafs would be an actual contender today with a better cap situation if they didn’t sign Tavares. Because of the Tavares signing, that automatically meant that Marner and Matthews were going to get similar contracts, and that cost the Leafs all of their support players and d-men in Bozak, JVR, Brown, Kadri, Gardiner, and Hainsey.
        The above players with Marner and Matthews at about $8.5 million cap hit looks like a lot better team than what the Leafs are now IMO.
        JVR – Matthews – Marner
        Hyman – Kadri – Nylander
        N/S – Brown – Kapanen
        N/S – Spezza – Bozak
        Rielly, Gardiner, Hainsey, Muzzin, Holl, Sandin
        Looks better with the two Not Sure’s (N/S) than they look today doesn’t?

      • No Kev. Doesn’t mean automatic mean they would have spread those dollars out better. Gardiner is a drain on Carolina. I ain’t heard hainsey jvr bozac name all year. All are anchors. We are playing with hypotheticals now but to me. The failure of Dubas was not weaponizing the Tavares signing.

  9. The latest developments with the injuries to Rielly, Muzzin and Ceci are in my opinion a positive thing for the Leafs defense…..It will be a major learning experience for the Marlie D men playing NHL and will inform management who can and can’t cut it

    Once you learn that……IMO the most important question facing the Leafs is who is the best D man you can get for Marner and how much money will you have to hold back in order to get a good D man back for him….

    Every manager makes mistakes….Dubas big two are:

    Marner too much money so Dubas has pinned the team against a hard cap system denying management the flexibility they need

    Matthews on a 5 year contract which pins the team’s window to a 4 year winning period after his summer chance to make D stronger…IMO they will not win the cup without a big dominant center and none are available by trade…

    Hindsight is easy ( butDubas is paid for foresight)……IMO ….Matthews at 14 million on a 7 year contract but that short window will look realy bad in 3 years…..Marner should have been a high 8 million max or trade him last year….these contracts are more damaging than the Nylander one…

    I am not and have not been overly enamoured of Dubas or Marner…..love to be wrong…..

    Leaf fan daydream….Marner for Doughty……OR Pietrangelo as 10 million free agent with Marner thereafter traded for draft choices and first year pros

    Just one Leaf fan’s opinion….

    • What really cant be understated is how much playing for Babcock costs the leafs in leverage for salary.
      I hate critiquing bc I like what he has done, I dont think Matthews will be an issue at all. Love the JT and Nylander signing. Muzzin and Campbell trades. Kadri trade has to be done based on consecutive suspensions.

      The Marner one pisses me off- he is the most over rated player in the league (based on salary not play). he is not an elite player.

  10. How about MM for Rakell and Lindholm? The Leafs save 2 million

  11. The talk of dealing Nylander continues no matter was he does? He is the value signing and if I had my choice I would deal Marner before anyone else. An 11 million dollar miniscule winger doesn’t equate to playoff success great player at 7- to even 8.5 not at 11.

    The critique of Tavares is really unwarranted he is on pace for a point a game and around 30 goals- which is what he does every year (actually better) except for last year when he scored 47. great two way player. He would get over 11 this year if he was a free agent

    They wont deal Marner, but they could comfortably deal Kerfoot and Johnnson for D or for almost 7 mill in capspace.

    John Taavres is worth so much more than Kadri and Connor Brown. A career 90 point 2nd line all around centre – very few teams have that

    • type career 80 point

    • Tavares last season had a career high in goals and points.
      Matthews this season in 66 games played he already has career highs in goals and points.
      I wonder what the common denominator is in both situations?
      It certainly isn’t Nylander.
      How can Tavares and Matthews be worth their money, but Marner isn’t worth his?
      Also if the Leafs didn’t sign Tavares then neither player would have gotten even close to $11 million, they probably would have gotten something comparable to Draisaitl’s $8.5 million instead.

      • Careful, Kevjam, you don’t want to be logical with your comments about Tavares, Nylander and Marner. That doesn’t work with most of these guys.
        Until Matthews kept scoring goals and scoring more goals, he was the majority choice for best guy to trade. Now it’s Tavares and Marner. Nylander’s always had his supporters for best trade candidate but it’ll always be one of the big four, count on it.
        Somebody the other day said that Sandin should be moved because he’s hit his ceiling as a prospect. Sandin’s nineteen years old. This is the type of intelligent opinion that pretty much defines Leaf fans. I have seen the problem and it is us.

      • Yeah it isn’t the increase in power play time or playing more minutes – it must just be Mitch Marner even though Matthews has been the top 5 x 5 goal scorer in the league for the past 3 years . Goodness its like you cant critique Marner without backlash. Great player- not worth his money – very few are at that salary.
        And if there people that still think he is as good as Matthews they need to really watch more closely.

    • Sam, how about Kadri, Brown and $4.5M in cap space for a D man? I think that equals Tavares salary.
      I’ll throw out a name like Martinez at $4M who was dealt at the deadline and has a year left after this one.

  12. Van and Sam you both make good points. Nylander is a good contract and Marner would be the one I would move.
    I like Manson, I think he would look good with Rielly.

  13. Kevjam, I don’t think anyone is disappointed with Marner but the talk is someone has to go .
    And my choice would be to keep Matthews the center, Nylander because his contract is more affordable and Tavares has a no trade.
    I really don’t want anyone traded

    • Matthews will walk at the end of his current contract and the Leafs will have nothing to show for it.

      Trade him for everything you need.

      Mitch is a bit overpaid but he wants to be there, just like Tavares.

      • Shoreorrpark, you could be right about Matthews leaving but I sure wouldn’t trade him now. Would have to wait till closer to the end of the contract.
        3 more years till I would consider that.

      • Fair enough, Vinnie.

        My belief is that MM is going to be an absolute incredible hockey player, once he puts on his man suit.
        He’s got vision like few in the league and has the desire to get it done.

        Matthews is a shooting center, and a bit of a puck hog. Not at all a bad thing, but…… imagine what you could get for him after next year, while he still has a little term left.

        He’s the guy I’d move…….but I never would have traded Kadri either…….so there’s that.

      • I hope the leaves win the cup before mathews walks. I would love for an American to lead the leafs out of purgatory. I would love a kid who is direct creation of bettman and his expansion into non traditional markets to lead the leafs out of purgatory. I would love to see the kid who thumbed his nose at the traditional path that the nhl tries to force and played professionally before nhl lead those leafs. Dream come true.

      • I like all of that, Chrisms, except the Leafs winning the cup part.

        I’m pretty sure we’re in the minority that believes that Bettman has done way more good than harm.

      • As a pens fan I can be magnanimous with bequeathing cup wins on other teams. I’m fairly satiated. One more in this era would be nice but it feels like dessert.

      • I think Bettman has done a good job. Having said that, there is something annoying about him.

      • He’s tiny. Not quite a dwarf. But oddly small.

  14. IMO the leafs should have kept Lou around until these kids were under contract, then handed the team to Dubas. I think he would have had all 3 under contract with about 8 mill left in cap space. He may have overpaid a few vets, but he never got bullied by kids that were RFA and no Arbitration rights. Nylander would be still sitting with Lou. lol

  15. Well Chad you may be right , but Lou did get bullied by Kovalchuck

    • How so?

      Those two played the league big big.

  16. I was wondering, could Carolina trade for a goaltender to play the rest of the regular season. And if they could would Ryan Miller be a good option.

    • Carolina has 7 or 8 goalies under contract as of right now.

      You probably won’t get Miller away from the West coast, even if they could acquire him.

  17. Leafs will just sign Tanev who will fit with Rielly. If they need space they can just trade kerfoot to get the 2 3rds we gave up in kings deal back from someone. Leafs have tons of good forwards. Sure Marner is overpaid but there is no cap problem of concern. Thank God Lou is gone or he would sign Thorton to a Marleau like anchor contract.

    • Solid plan.
      Think Tanev will sign for league minimum for em?

  18. dubas should call patient joe s to make another deal with the avs…

    • Lol.

  19. Kadri trade didnt work out but they can get tanev for about same salary as kadri and what he currently makes due to injury history and hometown discount. Cap space is an asset.Then the kerfoot trade for 2 3rds basically changes trade to kadri and hutchison for tanev, Campbell, Clifford and Rosen. Not bad when dealing a 3rd line centre and getting back their 3 biggest needs, solid backup defensive Rhd and a depth dman and toughness.

    • Lol. None of this has happened.

      Why would Tanev give them a hometown discount?
      He isn’t an idiot, yo the best of my knowledge.