NHL Rumor Mill – May 16, 2023
The latest on the Leafs and Oilers plus what’s next for the Kraken in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
COULD THE LEAFS TRADE A CORE FORWARD?
TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan reports Kyle Dubas said he’s open to moving one of his core players if he remains general manager of the Maple Leafs. “I would take nothing off the table at all, and I think everything would have to be considered with regard to anything to do with the Leafs,” he said.
Captain John Tavares and defenseman Morgan Rielly have full no-movement clauses. Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner have NMCs that kick in on July 1 while William Nylander has a 10-team no-trade clause that also goes into effect on July 1.
Matthews and Nylander are slated to become unrestricted free agents next summer. Matthews indicated his intent to sign a contract extension with the Leafs while Nylander is hopeful of doing so as well.
TORONTO STAR: Rosie DiManno suggested Marner as a trade candidate pointing to his postseason struggles. However, he’s coming off a 99-point performance this season and could fetch a power forward or a stalwart defenseman.
COLORADO HOCKEY NOW: cited Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek wondering if Nylander would be available. He thinks there would be a huge market for the 27-year-old winger, suggesting the Colorado Avalanche could be a fit with Gabriel Landeskog sidelined next season and uncertainty over Valeri Nichushkin’s future with the club.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Matthews’ intent to re-sign with the Leafs and his status as their top player likely rules out any thought of trading him. That could change if Dubas is replaced as GM by someone whose vision for the Leafs doesn’t include the 25-year-old superstar but I consider that a remote possibility.
Marner could be a trade candidate but the Leafs would have to act fast to move him before July 1. I don’t rule it out but I also don’t see this as a certainty.
That leaves Nylander as the most likely trade candidate of their core forwards. Marek’s not wrong when he says there will be plenty of interest in him. He’s coming off a career-best 40-goal, 87-point performance while his career postseason points (40) are just behind Matthews (44) and Marner (47).
Nylanders’ $6.9 million cap hit for next season is affordable and his next contract will be more cost-effective compared to what Matthews and Marner currently make. His 10-team NTC for 2023-24 is an obstacle but it’s not insurmountable.
MORE SPECULATION ABOUT POSSIBLE OILERS OFFSEASON MOVES
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jim Matheson looked at some possible offseason moves for the Oilers following their second-round exit from the 2023 postseason. He anticipates changes but they won’t be blowing things up.
Matheson noted one rumor has Ken Holland giving up the general manager’s role to let assistant GM Steve Staios take over that job. He considers that to be “debatable” given that Holland has a year left on his contract and will probably want to see this through.
Player changes could involve winger Kailer Yamamoto and maybe a defenseman like Cody Ceci or Brett Kulak.
They’ll also have to determine how much to pay puck-moving blueliner Evan Bouchard and for how long. They could ink him to a bridge deal comparable to the $4 million annually being earned by the New York Islanders’ Noah Dobson or go all-in with a seven- or eight-year deal worth $6 million annually.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers only have around $5.9 million in projected cap space next season with 17 players under contract. They’ll have to shed one or two contracts to free up sufficient space for Bouchard and to fill out the rest of the roster. Yamamoto, Ceci and Kulak could become cost-cutting trade candidates.
WHAT NEXT FOR THE KRAKEN?
Vince Dunn, Will Borgen and Morgan Geekie are restricted free agents this summer. Dunn will be the most expensive to re-sign following his career-best 64-point performance this season. Fortunately for the Kraken, they have a projected $18.5 million in cap space for 2023-24.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dunn is coming off a two-year deal worth $4 million annually and is a year away from unrestricted free-agent eligibility. It could cost around $6.5 million per season on a long-term deal to re-sign him. Borgen and Geekie are coming off short-term deals worth under $1.5 million annually but should be affordable re-signings.