NHL Rumor Mill – April 27, 2020
Recent speculation on the Leafs and Coyotes in today’s NHL rumor mill.
THE LEAFS’ GOALTENDING AND DEFENSIVE NEEDS
NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien recently examined the long-term needs of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Goaltender Frederik Andersen will be due for a new contract after 2020-21 and defenseman Morgan Rielly following 2021-22. The Leafs’ defense needs improvement but limited salary-cap space means they’ll need to get the most out of entry-level blueliners like Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren. Cap constraints could force them to part with players they like but don’t need, like winger Kyle Clifford.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): James Mirtle and Jonas Siegel recently debated whether the Leafs should find an upgrade on Andersen between the pipes. Mirtle feels they should at least explore that option, especially if Andersen seeks a raise on his next contract. He pointed out Robin Lehner could be available in this summer’s UFA market. Siegel still thinks the Leafs can win the Stanley Cup with Andersen, but suggested trading for Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray as an option.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Andersen’s future in Toronto will be determined by his performance this season (assuming it resumes this summer) and next, as well as the Leafs’ cap payroll. According to Cap Friendly, they have over $68 million tied up in just 12 players for 2021-22. That won’t leave much wiggle room to sign Andersen to a larger deal. And if the Leafs fail to advance beyond the first round this year and next, they could consider other goaltending options.
As for adding Lehner or Murray this off-season, the Leafs have nearly $77 million invested in 16 players for next season. With the salary cap expected to remain around $81.5 million, they can’t afford to add another netminder unless they intend to trade Andersen. I think they’ll hang onto him for another season and focus instead on improving the blueline.
LATEST ON THE COYOTES
THE ATHLETIC: Craig Morgan speculates Taylor Hall, Michael Grabner, and Brad Richardson stand a good chance of leaving the Arizona Coyotes in the off-season. Hall and Richardson are unrestricted free agents following this season. Hall and his agent want to sign with a playoff contender, and the Coyotes’ second-half swoon could hurt their chances of retaining him. They also have to shed some salary to re-sign him.
Grabner has a year left on his contract worth an annual average value of $3.35 million. However, he was a frequent healthy scratch late in this season, making him a potential cost-cutting candidate.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Coyotes GM John Chayka remains hopeful of having productive discussions with the Hall camp. Nevertheless, the Coyotes’ limited cap space will make it difficult to come up with suitable cap space to keep the former Hart Trophy winner in Arizona.