NHL Rumor Mill – September 14, 2021
TORONTO STAR: Chris Johnston recently suggested the large contracts signed this summer by several notable NHL defensemen could make it difficult for the Maple Leafs to sign Morgan Rielly to a contract extension. Chicago’s Seth Jones, Columbus’ Zach Werenski, Colorado’s Cale Makar and New Jersey’s Dougie Hamilton inked multi-year deals worth an annual average value of $9 million or more.
Johnston doubts Rielly’s next contract will come in lower than $8 million per season. He and Dallas’ John Klingberg would become next summer’s top unrestricted free agent defensemen if they opt to test the market. Rielly’s averaged roughly the same point percentage as Hamilton and Washington’s John Carlson over nearly the same number of games.
Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas could take a wait-and-see approach to this season before engaging in contract discussions with Rielly. He could also take the same approach as he did last season with Zach Hyman and Frederik Andersen by treating the blueliner as an “own rental” for this season and letting him skate away next summer. Johnston points out, however, those players weren’t as valuable as Rielly.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Johnston also noted the Leafs’ limited salary-cap space for 2022-23. Cap Friendly shows them with a projected $67.78 million invested in 14 players. Goaltender Jack Campbell is also slated to become a UFA while promising defenseman Rasmus Sandin is a restricted free agent.
Considering how much those blueliners Johnston mentioned received this summer, we can forget about Rielly accepting a “hometown discount” to stay in Toronto. While the salary cap is expected to rise by just $1 million to $82.5 million for ’22-’23, there will be teams prepared to sign him to a long-term deal worth $9 million annually or more. The Leafs won’t be among them unless they shed some salary first.
The Leafs could trade Rielly but that’s not going to happen unless they’re hopelessly out of playoff contention by the March trade deadline. The front office still believes their current roster can stage a deep playoff run and contend for the Stanley Cup but they can’t do it without their best defenseman.
THE ATHLETIC: Michael Russo reports Minnesota Wild GM Bill Guerin admits some obstacles remain in his quest to get Kirill Kaprizov signed before the start of training camp. Part of it involves getting a work visa to travel to the United States, get tested for COVID-19 and undergoing a seven-day quarantine as per NHL protocols before joining the Wild.
Russo believes Guerin and the Kaprizov camp have once again reached a stalemate. Sources say the Wild has offered a variety of terms with an annual average value of $9 million. Guerin doesn’t believe they’re very far apart but acknowledged negotiations can take a while. Nevertheless, he said his club has made “a very fair offer, and that’s just where we are.”
OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports talks are continuing between the Senators and Brady Tkachuk’s representatives. While discussions have been cordial they could increase in intensity as the start of training camp on Sep 23 approaches. It’s believed the Senators have offered up an eight-year, $64 million contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators have a better chance of getting Tkachuk into training camp than the Wild with Kaprizov given the number of hurdles the latter would have to clear. Russo speculated the Wild’s unwillingness to include signing bonuses in their contracts could be a sticking point.