NHL Rumor Mill – May 23, 2023

by | May 23, 2023 | Rumors | 48 comments

More speculation over Leafs trade and general manager candidates plus the latest on the Blues and Rangers in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.


TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons believes the Maple Leafs must re-sign center Auston Matthews. “You can’t win a Stanley Cup without a front-line centre. And you don’t trade away Matthews – or let him walk in free agency – because you can’t replace a player of that calibre.”

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (NHL Images).

Simmons also noted that Matthews agent and good friend Judd Moldaver is close to former Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas but even closer to Dubas’ agent Chris Armstrong. He wondered how much that relationship might affect Matthew’s future with the Leafs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As Simmons also observed, that’s impossible to know right now without a general manager in place. We’ll find out once the calendar flips to June when the Leafs have a new GM and we learn what their vision is for the club in the future.

I concur with Simmons that the Leafs must re-sign Matthews. He’s their franchise player and they need him if they hope to end their long Stanley Cup drought. The only reasons they should trade him are if he asks to be moved or he’s reluctant to sign a long-term extension.

The next Leafs GM has to decide whether to trade Mitch Marner or Michael Nylander if they won’t stick with the core four. Nylander is the more spectacular player who can change a playoff game. Marner is a better all-around player but has not yet become a postseason game-changer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Most Leafs observers share Simmons’ take that the Leafs must re-sign Matthews. They also acknowledge John Tavares won’t be traded because of his no-movement clause. That leaves Marner or Nylander if management wants to shake up the roster.

It could come down to which player draws the most interest and the best offers in the trade market. Each has their strengths and weaknesses but they can also fetch a solid return that provides immediate help for the Leafs.

Simmons’ colleague Terry Koshan believes Nylander is the trade candidate, claiming he “still requires a kick in the pants every so often”. However, he feels his best days are still to come and would bring in a top defenseman.

Koshan considers Marner as “the heartbeat of this team” and thinks he can still help the Leafs win the Stanley Cup, pointing out that Steve Yzerman and Alex Ovechkin did so later in their careers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nylander’s contract could also make him easier to move. He’s more affordable than Matthews and Marner with a cap hit of over $6.9 million for next season. While the other two have no-movement clauses that kick in on July 1, Nylander has a 10-team no-trade clause that goes into effect on the same day.


THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun looked at recent conjecture over possible candidates to fill the Leafs’ vacant post of general manager. He claims there have been rumblings linking them to St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong.

LeBrun believes Armstrong had the experience, championship pedigree, confidence and wherewithal to withstand the pressures of the Toronto market. However, he doesn’t believe that the Blues GM has an “out clause” in his contract that runs through 2025-26.

Nevertheless, LeBrun wondered if Blues owner Tom Stillman would be okay with the Leafs approaching Armstrong if that’s what the latter really wanted. “Maybe, maybe not,” he writes. “Pretty hard to know exactly how Stillman would react.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: We can’t rule anything out, but Armstrong is committed to the Blues. He wouldn’t have signed that long-term extension if he wasn’t. Despite the club’s disappointing performance this season, Armstrong has been busy since February laying the groundwork for a quick turnaround on the ice next season.

Speaking of which…


DAILY FACEOFF: Frank Seravalli reports the St. Louis Blues are willing to move their two late first-round picks to improve in the short term. They acquired those picks from the Dallas Stars and Toronto Maple Leafs.

Seravalli pointed out that Doug Armstrong has done this before. He used first-round picks he acquired by trading away Kevin Shattenkirk and Paul Stastny to bring in Brayden Schenn and Ryan O’Reilly.

It’s believed Armstrong seeks a player or players in their mid-twenties who are under contract.


NEW YORK POST: Mollie Walker looked at some backup goaltending options that make sense for the Rangers.

One is re-signing Jaroslav Halak provided he’s willing to accept a pay cut from the $1.55 million he earned this season. They also have an in-house option in Louis Domingue, who spent this season with their AHL affiliate in Hartford.

Other low-cost options could include Tampa Bay’s Brian Elliott, Detroit’s Alex Nedeljkovic, St. Louis’ Thomas Greiss, Winnipeg’s David Rittich and Vegas’ Jonathan Quick.


  1. Oh Lord … here we go again. First we go through endless speculation on Eichel, then it was Chychrun … now it seems the Matthews conundrum will be a daily subject.

    • George, At the end of each TML elimination, isn’t it the same conversation every year: “They can’t come back with the same players next year, it doesn’t work.” or something similar. I think the new GM will roll back that same core 4 next year…unless he gets a sweetheart deal, and I don’t see that.

      • I have never seen so much BS- players don’t leave teams because their GMs leave- lol. I hate this toronto media- anything to sell the sky is falling. Maybe Matthews likes, I dont know the city, the passion, his teammates more.

      • Redmonsters, I think you’re dead-on. I bet the next GM changes nothing as far as the core 4.

    • Takes the focus off PLD

    • Seem like. Id trade Tavares. Could get a decent, tougher player and lose some of that contract as well as picking up a first rounder perhaps. Your thoughts??

      • Ultimately, Tavares will go somewhere ONLY if he’s not opposed to going there. And I would venture a guess that would include the vast majority of the other locations.

      • Also a team that has a big contract or two to off load…maybe one of those contracts will be the player you want but doubtful. He’s also in complete control of staying or where he’ll go… he also, contrary to what you heard, still a very good player producing just under a PPG.

        The question is, if you can convince him of moving, where to that either can absorb his cap hit and has a player you’d want in exchange? Maybe a big contract for big contract type deal? One option might be (if you can convince him to go) LA for Doughty since they both have big cap hits both still good and since Tavares’ plan B was an LA team…or maybe Karlsson in SJ or maybe the Ducks for?
        Anything can happen but will it? Who knows.

  2. Easy to say don’t move a franchise Center but if he won’t sign or wants 15 million then your hands are tied. Not many teams could handle his next contract without moving out a huge contract of their own. The teams that can afford him are nowhere close to competing for a cup.

    • Exactly Obe, must re-sign him is the wrong use of the word must. If he doesn’t want to stay or insists on testing the market, than he can and it doesn’t matter what Simmons says you “must” do. Of course you want to keep him and on a contract that matches his value.

      What they must not let happen, is he walks for nothing.

      They won’t get a return that equals his impact on the current roster, but it is the lesser of 2 evils to get the most you can.

      The Leafs will obviously try and keep him, but in the end is isn’t just their call, in fact Matthews has way more leverage.

  3. Toronto has four prime assets. Three, if you accept the common thought that JT will exercise his privilege. Decision one, however, is whether Woll/Samsonov are the answer & Murray can be dumped. Find a solution at goal. The teams you’ll be playing every year for the next few all have goaltending. The year you make your cup run your goalie is likely to be a trophy candidate. Decision 2 is to seriously look at the overall team configuration based on the impact of the trade deadline players, who were of a different type than were in Toronto before. Starting with the core four and the cap limits doesn’t have much potential to get you out of the lane you’ve been driving in; Tampa will still be around, Buffalo and Ottowa are clearly on the move, The Hurricanes will address their scoring (as they tried this year),
    the Rangers will see a shrink and Florida is still a wild card. Do you really want the same old same old?

    • Just a thought:

      Nylander & Murray to Wpg for Hellebuyck.

      • Why would anyone want Murray? He gets hurt putting on a heavy coat.

      • Wow Winnipeg has a few Nylander’s and no way you trade for Murray…try harder with a first and Mathews if we are going this way

      • Big risk for Toronto for only one sure year of Conner. But props for actually proposing a fair trade for both teams. That’s unusual round these parts.

      • Chrism you do realize all 3 players have 1yr remaining.

        Murray has no value

        Winnipeg would be taking in over $11m in capspace while shipping out $6m

        This deal is not a deal that Winnipeg would remotely consider.

        Toronto would only consider if they thought Hellebuyck would bring home the goods.

      • Nope. I did not realize nylander had one year left. So he is also in the same boat as mathews and Conner. Value is really indeterminable unless they announce intentions. So subtract murray and a swap of the two is about fair value.

        Ps. Fair value isn’t a proposal either team should do it. Just commentary on my perceived market value of the assets.

  4. “ What about Bob? “ in Florida
    A classic case of playoff goaltending .
    Leafs Status quo is easy and will get you into the playoffs, likely.
    If you want to shift the paradigm move Mathews . Even though top 5 player in the league. At least in regular season !
    Guenther Crouse Sodderstrom Ottawa’s first and Arizona third this year. Maybe even adding something else
    Marner still top 10 in playoff scoring with 14 points

    • You really think a rebuilding team that might be moving is going to give up all that for Matthews and set back their rebuild even longer? You think Matthews is going to want to stay with a team that doesn’t know where they are going to play and basically have nobody to play with?

      Arizona is not a Matthews away from being a contender or even a playoff team (especially if they give up all that for him). The fact he might not even be in Arizona next season means he very well might not even be going home to play anymore.

      I don’t think this is a fit for Arizona. A team that is losing money by the truck loads that is looking to spend under the cap floor with LTIR players.

  5. Why does it have to be one or the other. Why not truly shake it up by trading both Nylander and Marner.

  6. Call me crazy but I would bring the top 4 back to start the season. I would like to see what this team looks like with knies for at least 25 games. If he is not ready I would then look at trading nylander.

    One thing they need to do is figure out how to get Murray off the books . they can use this money to sign a proven player like severson from NJ who is a right D and 3/4 pairing.

    • Re “One thing they need to do is figure out how to get Murray off the books …”

      Easier said than done – even their portion of his cap hit isn’t sufficient to interest anyone from the perspective of LTIR relief … besides which he stays on LTIR just long enough to be irritating.

      I remember posting in here when they got him from Ottawa – “you’re gonna be sorry!” Holding back a portion of his cap hit in order to get a suck… err, a dupe, to take him was once of Dorion’s best moves – after making a huge mistake in getting him in the first place.

      • Yup that’s true…too bad when he’s on LTIR you’re teams 25% retained cap hit doesn’t give you relief…also you’ll be tagged for a bit of the cap penalty if the Leafs decide to buy him out.

        I wonder if that $8m in actual cash he is owed is actual only $6m since Ottawa is holding on to 25%. In hindsight, it might of been better to of kept him, letting you shelter (and keep what look like good) younger goalies and play them when Murray injures himself at least that way you can use all of his LITR for the team to add.

        I see your comment as it was a good move to move on from Murray… but you do that so you can get who again and for what? Looking at it that way plus what i mentioned above, I can’t say it was a win or one of his best moves. I would rank it slightly better than the initial signing…bad bad contract/signing that we are seeing all the ways mistakes come back to bite you in the ass and hard, even when you try to correct it.

      • Oh yeah — those “two Stanley Cups” in his repertoire put stars in Dorion’s eyes … and the fact he and Dubas had a connection in the Soo put stars in the eyes of the former Leaf GM.

        Dorion simply ignored his injury history in Pittsburgh … as did Dubas with regard to his injury history in Ottawa.

        Did they both think all that would disappear as he got older simply by changing locations?

        And Dorion did it again with Talbot!

      • Heh George but you gotta try, right?

        I heard Dubas was a Sens fan. It would spice things up if he ever was to be the Sens GM. But where ever he does end up, I’m curious to see how he does without Shanahan…you know that guy who we don’t know exactly how much influence he had on Dubas’ moves. We do know of some trades he did veto, like the one for MAF.

        Oh well time will tell. For me, anything but returning to the Ballard years is still a win, though if they do mess up this run, it’s close to par they had in the past (post Ballard). Not the end but definitely could be better.

    • So your strategy is founded on a rookie who has played 7 games, adding a middle d and then otherwise going with a roster which has proven beyond doubt that they cannot get it done in the playoffs.

      How about we just call you excessively optimistic, Jeff.

      • Can I just say there’s a goalie in Florida that has beaten a team that had a season for the ages, a team that finally beat Tampa Bay and has, so far, held Carolina to the minimum.
        Anyone who predicted this from Goalie Bob should be buying lottery tickets.
        I’m with Jeff.

      • LJ think of Knies as the same thing you guys thought of Caufield… a young player who looks like he can play/produce.

        Just for fun, did you know none of the players on the leafs had as many slot shots in the playoffs than Knies has. When you know the Leafs lack players that go consistently go to the dirty areas and cause havoc and produce scoring chances and is a rookie, yeah like Caufield, there’s a lot to be excited about. Make sense?

      • Maybe I am a pessimist, Ron. I actually didn’t want the Habs to draft Caulfield, I just don’t think small players are built for the physical demands of the playoffs. And I may yet be right about the size issue with him.

        Maybe Knies will turn out to be a solid player. But right now 7 games is an awful small body of work upon which to build the type of hope on that Jeff has. Last year the Toronto media was hyping Nick Roberston. Cautionary tale …

      • Just curious what you thought of knies in his first 7 games? You can’t say he looked look out of place He did drive the play and looked comfortable. That’s why I mentioned 25 games…not sure what to expect as the sample size is small. I don’t think you get a number 1 D in any trade involving Matthews, Marner or nylander. The team that would be willing to trade for these guys are contending and will not be willing to give that type of D. So I would rather settle and get another D that could slot in on the second pairing. Not optimistic just realistic

  7. This team obviously can’t risk losing Matthews- so if he hasnt signed by the draft you ho choice but to move him….

    Side note- how any reporter can watch this leafs team in the playoffs and think Mitch Marner is the “heartbeat of this team” is just mind boggling.. he is a non factor – he is a winger that cant shoot or hit and isnt able to cycle

  8. Spec
    am I missing something or does Marner NMC clause kick in July 1st as well? 1 year before he can sign an extension? Did his agent actually do him in here? How can they not deal him- you are literally held over a barrel if you dont deal him before July 1

  9. What about Armstrong from AZ to GM TML???

    Nylander, Murray and Muzzin and a pick to CHi for Jones?

    Chi doesn’t néed him or the rebuild rebuild he may want to pay for a contender

    Bedard and Nylander would be a nice draw for fans to watch

    • Have you seen this Jones guy from Chi “play”. I think he’s like a $9m bag of pucks, right?

    • IHC, Muzzin is unlikely to play again, he suffers from prolonged and significant back issues. And you likely know Murray’s injury history so neither player will feature in any trade unless a team wants LTIR cap relief.

      • LJ muzzin can help chi stay above the cap floor. Chi can’t hold 50% and flip Murray to a team in need.

        They get Nylander to play with Bedard. His is going to need a competent winger to play with to grow faster.

        TML frees cap and gets their RD to play with Reilly and can let kerfoot and Holl go to free up more cap too.

        I think jones on TML will certainly be better version of himself than on CHI when the entire Load isn’t on his shoulders.

        IMO win for both teams

      • Ihatecrosby, when you say “when the entire Load isn’t on his shoulders” – you realize you are talking about the Toronto media, aren’t you?

        There, he won’t be able to fart without being the subject of umpteen talk shows, never mind the newspapers.

        No pressure, Seth, just lead us to the Cup.

      • I knew someone would make your comment. Sure thing about the Leafs, zero pressure.

        Jeff what did you get out of the stat I mentioned regarding Knies? 100 games is the standard for a player as what he is or will be. Yes seven isn’t much but it ain’t nothing to brush off. Also as for being realistic and not optimistic, I think all three of those players would net you a “number one” or top pairing D and maybe more as in the case of Matthews.

  10. Does it make sense to commit $15 million per year (about 1/6 of the current salary cap) to one player? I realize the cap will rise but I think TO would be better off with a $9 or $10 million player and spent the other $5 or $6 million on defence or in goal.

    • $15M per year means the fair market value, value other teams would be willing to spend, is also $15M. There isn’t other teams looking to cut that cheque.

      Matthews signs for less. He is more concerned about his “brand”. Notice how many commercials he’s in? While he remains with TML at the centre of the universe he earns more income in endorsements than he could earn elsewhere.

      Endorsements are free of escrow … so do the math.

      • No one knows what he’ll eventually be paid but I suspect it will be seen as too much for not enough term. One thing I am sure about is it will take up a certain percentage of the cap it’s initial year…that percentage, pandemic be damned, will continue to shrink as the cap ceiling rises. So what I am saying, the toughest bite to swallow is in the first year in regards to cap constrains. This is in all contracts. Actual money owed, trade clauses, term, etc can complicate trades but the idea is you sign guys you want to keep, not trade away.

        The one thing the Leafs can do is insure that the player will receive the majority of his money sooner than spread out over the term of the contract. With that you can enjoy your earnings while you’re young and also do it as signing bonuses which are both lockout proof and escrow free, which let’s be honest, that’s a big deal, bigger than no state tax at least to me.

  11. I think TML can really use a goalie as I don’t think Samsonov is the answer. Could there be a deal between the Leafs and Jets on a Hellebuyck for Marner/Nylander as the core and pieces on both sides to balance?

    • I think Nylander bolts from Winny and will not re-sign there. So trade Marner to them instead as he has 2 yrs left.
      Helly and Nino and Stanley and a 2025 2nd for Marner + Sammy

  12. Do you think Parayko and Saad to Toronto for Nylander and Lilgegren would create interest??

    Who says no?

    • Parayko would say NO! It is said he would only go to Edmonton.

  13. Bruins trade Charlie McAvoy ,Linus Ullmark to Toronto for Matthews and Samsonov. Win win

    • Obe, why would the Bruins trade their #1 defenseman who is locked up for 7 years in his prime? A non-starter.

  14. Bruins need a center more than a D man and Leaf’s need a d and a goalie.