NHL Rumor Mill – March 6, 2020
The latest on the Leafs, Jets, and Canucks in today’s NHL rumor mill.
LEAFS GM ACKNOWLEDGES DEFENSE IS A LONG-TERM NEED
TSN: Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas told The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun the reason he didn’t adjust his roster at the trade deadline was in part because he didn’t see an opportunity to solve his club’s long-term needs on defense. Dubas received calls about defenseman Tyson Barrie, but Bob McKenzie reported the Leafs GM sought a right-handed blueliner as part of the return. Barrie remained with the Leafs and is slated to become an unrestricted free agent in July.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dubas could’ve resolved that issue much sooner if he hadn’t handcuffed himself by signing center John Tavares to a seven-year, $77-million contract. Even if next season’s salary cap jumps to $88 million, he still has over $77 million tied up in 16 players. That won’t leave much wiggle room to suitably address that need and fill out the rest of the roster.
St. Louis Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo has come up as a possible target for the Leafs if he tests this summer’s market, but they can’t afford what’s likely to be at least a $9-million annual average value to sign him without first shedding considerable salary in the process. Sami Vatanen, Kevin Shattenkirk, Justin Schultz, Travis Hamonic, and Justin Braun would be more affordable, but it would still lead to a cap crunch.
Dubas could be forced to shop a forward to address that long-term blueline need. Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, and Alexander Kerfoot often surfaced in this season’s rumor mill as trade candidates.
COULD THE JETS BECOME FREE-AGENT SPENDERS THIS SUMMER?
WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Mike McIntyre believes the projected rise of the salary cap to between $84 million and $88 million will allow Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff to go shopping for talent this summer. The rise in the cap and the potential termination of Dustin Byfuglien‘s contract ($7.6 million AAV) could leave the Jets with $22 million to fill nine roster spaces. Four of those could be filled by re-signing Jack Roslovic, Mason Appleton, Jansen Harkins, and Sami Niku.
McIntyre recommends re-signing Dylan DeMelo and Nathan Beaulieu. He also proposes scouring the free-agent market for blueline depth, suggesting Calgary’s Travis Hamonic, Carolina’s Joel Edmundson, and Washington’s Brenden Dillon as options. McIntyre acknowledged that it could be mitigated if Ville Heinola and Dylan Samberg are ready for full-time duty next season. There could also be a need for depth at center and a new backup.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cheveldayoff could make a splash or two via free agency, but that’s not a certainty. The Winnipeg Sun’s Paul Friesen points out the Jets GM usually isn’t a big spender in the off-season, preferring more cost-effective options. Maybe he changes his mind this summer, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he remains a bargain hunter.
LATEST ON THE CANUCKS
THE ATHLETIC: Rick Dhaliwal recently sorted through the Vancouver Canucks’ free-agent scenarios for this summer. While they’d like to re-sign pending UFAs like Jacob Markstrom, Tyler Toffoli, and Chris Tanev, their limited salary-cap space could hamper those efforts. They have over $63 million invested in 15 players for 2020-21. Given Markstrom’s value as their starting goalie and Toffoli’s contributions to their forward lines, Tanev could be the odd man out unless they shed salary to retain him.
Dhaliwal also wondered if the Canucks will attempt to trade winger Loui Eriksson, bury him in the minors, attempt a mutual contract termination or buy out the remaining two years of his contract. Eriksson will be paid a $3 million bonus on July 1, after which he’ll only be owed $5 million in actual salary over the remainder of his deal. A rival club could be willing to take on Eriksson if the Canucks take on another bad contract or give up a draft pick.
Nikolay Goldobin could also be shopped this summer. Dhaliwal claims the Ottawa Senators showed some interest in the 24-year-old winger before the trade deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dhaliwal’s report came out before the recent news the cap could rise as high as $88 million next season. That will make it easier for the Canucks to re-sign those key UFAs, but they must ensure they don’t eat up too much cap space going forward when Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes will be due for big raises next summer.
Trading Eriksson actually could be easier because of the higher salary cap. A budget-minded club like the Ottawa Senators looking to hit the cap minimum ($65 million?) could be amenable if the Canucks include a draft pick or a decent prospect.