Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – May 15, 2022
What next for the Leafs, Bruins and Kings following their first-round playoff exits? Check out the latest in the Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup.
ARE CHANGES COMING FOR THE LEAFS?
SPORTSNET: Despite another first-round playoff exit by the Toronto Maple Leafs, Elliotte Friedman didn’t think there needs to be a shakeup in the front office, behind the bench or on the roster. He cited their fourth-overall Eastern Conference finish in the regular season and losing to the defending Stanley Cup champions by one goal in Game 7. He felt there needs to be some tweaks but no one should be fired.
Kelly Hrudey agreed that no one deserves to be fired but there must be changes on the ice. He felt the Tampa Bay Lightning were beatable but the Leafs failed to take a 3-1 series lead in Game 4 and couldn’t finish off the Lightning with a 3-2 series lead. Hrudey isn’t buying excuses such as bad calls.
Jennifer Botterill felt the Leafs did well this season. However, she believes they couldn’t adjust in certain games to find a way to win in the playoffs.
ESPN.COM: Kristen Shilton suggested a lack of killer instinct remains a problem for the Leafs. She thinks there must be changes, likely starting in the front office as team president Brendan Shanahan and general manager Kyle Dubas have to answer for yet another first-round failure.
Turning to the roster, Shilton points out goaltender Jack Campbell is slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. He’s in line for a big payday but the cap-strapped Leafs could have difficulty accommodating him. She also wondered about veteran defenseman Jake Muzzin’s status as the Leafs continue to get younger on the blueline.
TORONTO STAR: Mark Zwolinski also pointed out the Leafs have over $77 million invested in their 2022-23 roster with over $40 million going to core forwards such as Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares and William Nylander. That will complicate efforts to re-sign Campbell, who could seek maybe $12 million over three years. Other UFAs include Mark Giordano, Jason Spezza and Ilya Mikheyev.
THE ATHLETIC: Jonas Siegel is among those who believe the Leafs only need to tweak their roster for next season. He doesn’t see their core forwards being moved, though it may be time to question Tavares’ role with the club given his line’s defensive struggles. Defensemen Morgan Rielly and T.J. Brodie aren’t going anywhere.
They’ll have to find a suitable backup goalie if they bring back Campbell as expected. That would mean trying to move oft-injured Petr Mrazek and his $3.8 million cap hit over the next two years. Siegel is also curious about the 33-year-old Muzzin’s future and wondered if the Leafs will try to bring back Giordano.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Shanahan, Dubas or head coach Sheldon Keefe could lose their jobs over this but I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re back next season. Leafs ownership has been very patient with them and their improvement this season could give that trio one more opportunity to turn this club into a Cup contender.
I’ll be shocked if the Leafs peddle any of their core players. Their hefty contracts would make them difficult to move anyway with the salary cap only rising by $1 million for next season. Nylander is the more affordable at $6.9 million but he’s also been their most reliable playoff performer going back to last year.
The Leafs will try to bring back Campbell but I expect he’ll be seeking more than $4 million per season. Try between $5 million and $6 million annually on a five-year deal.
Even if the Leafs convince Campbell to accept $4 million per season, they must shed salary to sign restricted free agents such as Rasmus Sandin, Timothy Liljegren and Pierre Engvall. Moving Mrazek will help but they’ll need to find a suitable backup. They’ll also have to free up more space if they hope to keep Giordano.
WHAT NEXT FOR BERGERON AND THE BRUINS?
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Nick Goss reports Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron wasn’t ready to discuss his future during his post-game press conference following his club’s first-round elimination by the Carolina Hurricanes. The 36-year-old center is slated to become a UFA in July but said it was too early to talk about it following a heartbreaking end to the season.
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said he didn’t know which way Bergeron was leaning regarding his future. He said everyone on the team wants him back.
Goss points out a potential departure by Bergeron would create a huge hole at center for the Bruins, leaving Charlie Coyle and Erik Haula as their top-two centers. There aren’t a plethora of potential replacements via free agency or within the organization while the club lacks sufficient assets to use as trade bait to address that issue.
THE ATHLETIC: Fluto Shinzawa considers getting an answer on Bergeron’s future as the club’s top priority. He also believes they must make a decision on Jake DeBrusk’s trade request, which he didn’t withdraw despite signing a two-year contract extension in March. They could also shop a left-shot defenseman like Matt Grzelcyk, who became the odd man out during the playoffs.
ESPN.COM: Kristen Shilton also believes the Bruins need a decision on Bergeron’s fate and DeBrusk’s trade request. She also felt they need to improve their scoring depth.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bergeron’s status and DeBrusk’s trade request will be the dominant issues for the Bruins. His return will buy some time to start building up their depth at center. Perhaps trading DeBrusk, who’s signed through 2023-24 at $4 million per season, could address that issue.
WHAT IN STORE FOR THE KINGS?
ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski wondered if Los Angeles Kings GM Rob Blake will be aggressive in adding to his roster this summer as he was when he brought in Phillip Danault and Viktor Arvidsson last summer. He mused over whether Blake will revisit his interest in Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun.
The Kings will have over $20 million in salary-cap space with Dustin Brown’s contract coming off their books. However, they only have 14 players under contract for next season with Adrian Kempe, Gabe Vilardi, Carl Grundstrom and Sean Durzi among their restricted free agents.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Blake must give priority to his key RFAs as well as re-sign or replace UFAs like Andreas Athanasiou and Alex Edler. Depending on how those negotiations go, he might have enough room to make another significant veteran acquisition.
Chychrun and his $4.6 million annual cap hit through 2024-25 would be an affordable pickup cap-wise. However, the Coyotes seek a significant return including high draft picks and top prospects.