NHL Rumor Mill – August 26, 2020
What next for the Leafs and Penguins following yesterday’s Kasperi Kapanen trade? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.
TORONTO SUN: Lance Hornby singled out the Maple Leafs’ acquisition of a first-round pick (15th overall) and prospect forward Filip Hallander while freeing up salary-cap space from shipping winger Kasperi Kapanen to the Pittsburgh Penguins yesterday. Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas isn’t ruling out shopping that pick if it would help his team. “If there’s another Jake Muzzin, we’d be interested, to put it mildly,” he said.
Dubas also suggested he might not be done dealing. “I don’t think this will be it for us,” he said. “We need to gain greater (cap) flexibility than what we have.” The Leafs GM pointed out they have to re-sign restricted free agents Travis Dermott and Ilya Mikheyev and he’d like more space to address other needs.
Hornby’s colleague Michael Traikos wondered if the Leafs will trade another third-line winger, or replace goaltender Frederik Andersen with a more affordable (but unproven) option, or break up their core. He feels they need a defenseman or two and a scoring forward who plays with a snarl like former Leafs Nazem Kadri is doing with the Colorado Avalanche.
Traikos suggested trading Kapanen opens up cap room to perhaps pursue Boston’s Torey Krug, Calgary’s T.J. Brodie or Travis Hamonic or Vancouver’s Chris Tanev via free agency. They could even pursue St. Louis’ Alex Pietrangelo if Dubas moves out another player like Andreas Johnsson, Alexander Kerfoot, or even William Nylander.
Signing Pietrangelo, however, could cost between $8 million and $11 million annually. Traikos also warns there’s no certainty those free-agent blueliners will sign with the Leafs. “After all, it’s not like the team has won anything lately.”
THE SCORE: Josh Gold-Smith cites The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reported the Leafs also spoke to the Anaheim Ducks, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, and New Jersey Devils before trading Kapanen to the Penguins. The Leafs attempted to reacquire the pick they sent to the Hurricanes last summer but the Canes weren’t interested in parting with the 13th overall selection. The Blackhawks also balked on moving their first-round pick (17th overall).
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): James Mirtle cites sources indicating Kapanen wasn’t the only player dangled by Dubas in the trade market since the Leafs were eliminated from the qualifying round two weeks ago.
Andersen could apparently be had in a salary-dumping deal, leading Mirtle to wonder if the Edmonton Oilers might be interested if they can find the cap room. Kerfoot, Pierre Engvall, and Johnsson were also mentioned. The Leafs could free up $17 million if they could move all four.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dubas is not done making moves after yet another disappointing postseason performance. I concur with Traikos that the Leafs GM must bolster his blueline and bring in a physical scorer. Perhaps he’ll revisit talks with some of those clubs he spoke with regarding Kapanen.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Dubas shops that first-round pick. Their core players – Nylander, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, and Morgan Rielly – will be between 22 and 29 when next season begins. The Leafs don’t want to waste their playing primes. They’re in “win-now” mode and could use that pick to bring in a player who can immediately address a roster need. If there are no suitable offers, Dubas can retain that pick and perhaps use the prospect selected as part of a deal in the near future to bring in an impact player.
Signing any of those UFA defensemen listed by Traikos will require freeing up more salary-cap payroll. Cap Friendly indicates the Leafs have $73.7 million tied up in 16 players. Signing one of those blueliners will eat up most or all of that cap room, leaving nothing for Dermott and Mikheyev.
Landing Pietrangelo won’t be easy. Indeed, it might not be possible, as the Blues captain already stated his wish is to stay in St. Louis. And no, he’s not going to accept less than whatever the Blues offer to “come home” to Toronto. St. Louis is his home now and it’s where he wants to stay. If that’s not possible, he’ll seek a lucrative deal in the UFA market despite the flattened salary cap for next season. If the Leafs want him, they’ll have to pay a lot to sign him.
Krug will also be expensive, though nowhere near as much as Pietrangelo. Figure it could cost between $6-$7 million annually. Brodie, Hamonic or Tanev won’t cost that much but they’ll still eat up a big chunk of change, perhaps over $5 million annually. Assuming the flat cap hurts their UFA value, they could seek cap hits similar to what they’re making now.
Moving Andersen is dangerous unless Dubas intends to add a better option and that might not be readily available. He could pursue Braden Holtby or Robin Lehner via free agency, but either guy could cost more than Andersen’s current $5 million AAV. In Holtby’s case, it would be ponying up for what appears to be a declining asset.
It’ll be interesting to see what Dubas and his capologist have in mind. They proved capable of salary-cap gymnastics last summer, but those moves failed to improve the Leafs. He must do better this time around and that won’t be easy given the current economic landscape.
PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW: Seth Rorabaugh believes the Penguins’ addition of Kapanen rules out re-signing pending UFA winger Conor Sheary. He also suggests it clouds the futures of restricted free agent goalies Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry and forwards Jared McCann and Dominik Simon.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Pierre LeBrun suggests Murray could be the next Penguin on the move. Rutherford already indicated he needs to trade one of his goalies and sources told LeBrun his focus is on moving Murray. His RFA status (with arbitration rights) is a sticking point. One source said they’re worried the goalie could command $6 million in arbitration, after which he’s eligible for unrestricted free-agent status.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Murray’s injury history and inconsistent play could also be a concern. Rutherford might have to package him with a draft pick or prospect if teams are worried about his contract for next season.