NHL Rumor Mill – May 24, 2023

by | May 24, 2023 | Rumors | 32 comments

Will the Leafs keep their “core four” together after all? What roster priority faces new Flames GM Craig Conroy? What’s the latest Capitals speculation? Find out in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.


TSN: Chris Johnston reports Toronto Maple Leafs team president Brendan Shanahan told the club’s top players – Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner and William Nylander – that they are not likely to be moved. The club’s vision right now is for those “core four” to return next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Speculation abounded following the Leafs second-round elimination that one of those four would be moved. The consensus was Matthews, who is a year away from unrestricted free agent eligibility, was too valuable to trade and the club would do all it could to re-sign him. Tavares’ no-movement clause meant he wasn’t going anywhere given his stated intent to finish his contract with the Leafs.

Toronto Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner (NHL Images).

That left Marner and Nylander as the most likely trade candidates with pundits debating which one would get dealt. The belief was either guy would fetch a power forward or a No. 1 defenseman.

If Shanahan intends to keep those four, it means another offseason where the Leafs are hampered by limited salary-cap space to augment the depth around those core players. They have $9.1 million invested in 15 players for 2023-24, though they’ll garner $5.625 million in salary-cap relief if required with Jake Muzzin expected to remain on long-term injury reserve next season.

The only other player who would fetch a quality return is Morgan Rielly and he’s far too valuable to their blueline corps. So, if the Leafs keep their “core four” forwards, don’t expect any blockbuster trade or major free-agent signing this summer that pushes the Leafs over the hump next season.

It’ll just be more of the same. They’ll be a terrific regular-season team that struggles in the playoffs.


CALGARY SUN: Daniel Austin believes addressing Elias Lindholm’s future is among the priorities facing Craig Conroy, who was formally introduced yesterday as the Flames new general manager.

Lindholm is among several Flames (Noah Hanifin, Tyler Toffoli, Mikael Backlund, Nikita Zadorov and Chris Tanev) eligible next summer for unrestricted free-agent status. The 28-year-old center was non-committal about a contract extension during his end-of-season interview but that was before the club fired head coach Darryl Sutter.

Conroy indicated calling Lindholm is among his priorities to determine if he’s changed his mind. He’d love to keep him beyond next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Conroy indicated that it doesn’t make sense for the Flames to enter next season with seven pending UFAs on the roster. He also said that he’d like to add more youth to his roster core “a little bit” but not change “the core pieces”.

Conroy could decide to peddle some of those UFAs if they’re unwilling to sign contract extensions. The Flames could be worth monitoring during the offseason. They don’t want a repeat of last summer when they lost Johnny Gaudreau to free agency for nothing.


DAILY FACEOFF: Frank Seravalli reports Anthony Mantha has popped up in a few different trade conversations. The 28-year-old winger is signed through next season with a $5.7 million cap hit and is eligible next summer for UFA status.

Seravalli speculates another club might take a flyer on Mantha. However, his struggles this season mean the Capitals won’t get much in return for him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Capitals might have to retain some of Mantha’s cap hit for next season if they’re keen to move him. I agree with Seravalli that they won’t get much of a return for him.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Sammi Silber suggested the Arizona Coyotes could offer up some interesting trade options for the Capitals. She noted Clayton Keller’s agents meeting with the Coyotes to discuss the club’s future. While Keller didn’t request a trade, she wondered if he’ll be on the move sooner rather than later.

Silber acknowledged bringing in Keller would be a stretch for the Capitals. The Coyotes will set a high asking price. There’s also the cost of taking on his $7.15 million AAV through 2027-28.

Nick Schmaltz could be another option. He carries a $5.85 million cap hit through 2025-26 but there are injury concerns.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I doubt that the Capitals can afford to get in on Keller or Schmaltz if the Coyotes put them on the trade block. They’ve only got $7.3 million in cap space with 17 players under contract for 2023-24. They also lack sufficient depth in draft picks and prospects to win a bidding war.


  1. Boy, Lyle, I bet the Leafs wished right now that they had “$9.1 million invested in 15 players for 2023-24”

    • Yep, that solvescap problem…. But man, if they come back next year with basically the same roster? I am not a TML fan,but ifI was, I would not be happy.

  2. George, issue isnt the cap space lol. if it was matthews nylander tavares and either a Brady or Matt Tkachuk it wouldnt be an issue. The issue is the core 4 are flawed and its disappointing if this report is true.. That being said- short of CJ talking to all 4 players – who knows..

    Leafs short comings havent been bc they couldnt field a good lineup even with cap constraints- the issue is the core four didnt produce enough

    • …talking to 3, should not talk to Tavares. His Pajamas would become an issue.

      • It was bed sheets.

      • You could say he sheet the bed against Florida.

        I get it, break ups hurt. Just enjoy that since he left the Islanders have still won more playoff series actually in Toronto than Tavares.

  3. Shanahan need be reminded of Einstein’s definition of insanity. Doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result.

    The Leafs will have a new GM soon. Likely a new coach as well. If (when?) they flop again next spring, there should be no doubt as to who in upper management will need to go.

    • I have to wonder – if Shanahan had actually told the Core 4 they are unlikely to be moved – what the point of hiring an new GM would be?

      Such decisions about the roster are usually the purview of the GM. Shanahan is effectively saying to any candidate/hire: the most important decisions on the roster have been made. Live with them for the next several years. You can decide who the trainers are. Oh, and your job is on the line if you fail.

      • Smart play would be to talk to LA about a defenseman.

        Nylander for one of there rd, they only have 4 that play and i think they have 2 good prospects as well.

        Cap dollars would have to be worked out but its a starting point.

      • Exactly my point a couple of days ago, LJ. when I asked by what rationale Shanahan keeps his job as a Teflon go-between? I also wondered why he just doesn’t assume the GM duties? He’s already making decisions for him before he’s even hired!

        One of things attributed to Dubas in his thinking just before he was canned was his musing about the need for “more autonomy.” In that he was bang on.

      • Hey George I think it’s fair to say we don’t know exactly what a president of hockey does in the chain of command for any team and especially one as secretive such as the Leafs. My guess, which is as good as yours, is I see him as something similar to a project manager overseeing the team and gathering the assets to build it in a time frame, budget, etc to appease the client or in this case corporate owners. To simply dismiss him because you honestly don’t know what his role is or how much of one he has is not a great look, especially when you see how much he has accomplished since his hire…from bottom feeder to real contenders.

        And as a big if that report is true, I think it would be smart to tell your star players that “we are keeping the band together” BEFORE you begin your negotiations to renew their contracts, right? No one can say exactly what their intentions truly are whether or not they can or do play them out.

        Dubas leaving had a lot more involved than a question of autonomy, which neither he nor Shanahan mentioned or alluded to but Dubas’ replay where he said little after Shanahan raked him does speakable volumes. I can say that since I had a similar thing happen to me, including receiving an NDA which no doubt Dubas also received.

      • Well, Ron, call me “old-fashioned” or “a dinosaur” – but I firmly believe that when you hire a “General Manager” (with emphasis on “general”) you let him run the team the way HE sees fit and make him answerable only to the owners.

        Sticking a “director of operations” in between is an unnecessary level – kind of like the federal government discovered during “work from home” when Covid was running wild – and that is, why the hell are we paying “middle management” types millions of dollars when it’s been proven beyond doubt that we don’t them. In fact, things ran generally smoother during “work from home” when the results of the work went straight to senior management.

    • Howard, that’s isn’t Einstein that said that nor the definition of insanity, it’s a stupid saying.

      I think everyone can agree you build a team with the best players and hope when they reach their prime, you’ll have a great team. So far not the case for the Leafs in the playoffs but during an 82 game season, there’s definitely something there. To say, “ It’ll just be more of the same. They’ll be a terrific regular-season team that struggles in the playoffs.” might be true but Calgary is doing just that but no one has any issues with that even though the Flames didn’t even make it to the playoffs and personally I’d like to see what the Leafs could do with someone else instead of a coach who’s clearly been out coached in the playoffs. Keefe has his strengths but his weaknesses over come those strengths especially when his go to move is load up a line and hope the young core can overcome it. D-u-m dumb.

      The Leafs are not a team that can’t win, it’s a team that needs different deployments and other types of elements/player types along with that talented core to lead them through the adversity which Keefe hasn’t been able to do. A new GM and coach might fix things, if not then you should look at moving players out. Or maybe someone might come calling with an offer too good to pass up on but I wouldn’t hold my breath for that.

      • Ron, you tend to be just a bit prickly about your Leafs. You are entitled to believe anything you want about them, and to have a contrary opinion to anyone and everyone else who sees things differently.

        There are a lot of elements that need to be present to win. Secondary scoring, good goaltending, no injuries to key players.

        And your best players being your best players.

        Here are the stats of the Core 4 the last 5 playoff games against Florida:

        Matthews: 0 goal, 1 assist.
        Marner: 1 goal, 2 assists.
        Tavares: 0 goals, 1 assist.
        Nylander: 2 goals, 1 assist.

        Believe all you want in the Core 4 and the need to have others in the line up rise to the occasion. But the statistics and history of the Core 4 in the playoffs are irrefutable. That others, including myself, see the continual failure of the Leafs best players in the playoffs as an accurate prediction of next year is our privilege too.

      • LJ what were the stats of those players the first round or are you unaware that the Panthers defeated the Leafs in the 2nd round? You can not be basing your findings on just one round and ignore the first one, or the regular season results. You should know better and that it’s BS, half assed or whatever to do so. By your logic, the Burins have some massive issues too right? Maybe bigger than Toronto or any team like the Habs that didn’t come close again from qualifying for the post season…actually if we were to compare when the Leafs landed the first overall pick and selected Matthews, the Leafs made the playoffs that year but when the Habs picked first they didn’t. Is that something we should be talking about like how we agonizingly analyze the Leafs to death? No, right?

        I think the point you seem to miss is that the problem with “my Leafs” is that the flaws and issues are more complex than just pointing to 4 guys on the team and 3 of those four guys are just entering their prime. I think people need to pump the breaks and not simply echo sediments just because. I think the real Leafs fans in general (around these parts) know this team fairly well and others seem to know based on what gets said no matter how dumb it sounds.

        It’s not a problem to state your opinions, everyone’s got one but few are ever correct, including my own. I think I have commented on the Leafs in an honest and unbiased way pointing out issues that a lot of people over look simply because the running narrative is easier. Thats all. Like I’ve said many times now, the issue with the Leafs are more complex and number greater than just looking at those 4 players and the construction of the team. If it wasn’t, Dubas would probably still be the GM.

      • Am I aware that the Panthers beat the Leafs in the second round, Ron?

        Yep. Quoting the stats of the Core 4 to illustrate that they didn’t get the job done was my point. Can you think of any team that has won a playoff round without their 4 best forwards making a meaningful contribution? I can’t. The reason the Core 4 get criticized for not delivering is that they don’t deliver. That’s why the narrative is what it is.

        And in my post above I pointed out to other key factors in the playoffs: secondary scoring and goaltending. Reilly was terrific in the playoffs and scored 4 goals; O’Reilly scored 3 goals in this year’s playoffs, the rest of the line up scored a total of 10.

        So when the Core 4 don’t score, there is too little talent in the rest of the line up to make up for it.

        Your point about 3 of the 4 of the Core still being in their prime is a good point. The counter to that is that Matthews and Marner have been in the league 7 years, Nylander 8, and Tavares 14. Seasoned vets all, so it’s not as if they haven’t had a chance to learn what it takes to win playoffs.

        If this were just an opinion and not a fact then how does one explain the Leafs playoff record? Surely it flows from the best players not delivering.

      • I know Tavares has a “No Trade”

        But he is the one that should be moved out of the 4 ? the other 3 are worth keeping together,
        the leafs need a top 4 offencive d/man

        JT has one year left, it may cost them a 1st pick to move JT out at the draft they have bostons pick in the first round…. ⁉️
        maybe they get a 3rd pick back in a trade…..
        Chicago have lots of cap room $41M and 2x3rd round picks to go with there 2x1st picks and 4 2nd picks this year

        they use that and a 5th pick or a prospect to move Matt Murray out and his $4.M Salary🤔

        then they can start to re tool….

  4. How J.T. working out with the Leafs.Ay. Not so good Ay .Even for free you can have him Ay.Could not happen to a nicer guy.Ay. The curse of Darcy Tucker Ay.1967 pay back Darcy.

    • It’s, “eh”, and try not to be an ignoramus.

      • That was pathetically lame.

  5. Losing Keller would be an even worse disaster for the fledgling Coyotes. If the ownership doesn’t find an adequate place for them to play and soon… other players will be getting anxious about the future of the team in the desert. Schmaltz more than likely will be traded before Keller.

  6. I’m going to guess that report on the core 4 is bologna. Shanny’s quote about wanting a gm with bite that can make tough decisions seems to contradict that as Kyle was very open about not trading any one of them as long as he was gm

  7. You will see more youth next year in the Flames line up for certain. Pelletier Wolf Duehr and potentially Coronato
    Conroy will let Lucic Lewis and Ritchie walk. One of the goalies move likely Vladar
    Hanifin and Lidstrom will resign.

    • Would CGY be opposed to Backlund and a pick to PHI for Couturier?

      Backlund is 34 so term could be a sticking point for CGY

      Courtourier is only 30 so you get 4 semi youthful years

      Philly can flip Backlund to clear more cap.

      CGY is left with room in the cap for resigning pending UfAs and roster openings to bring in more kids.
      Courturier cap is basically Lucic and Ritchie.

      • Why would you trade a great C for an average 2nd line c and a pick? Is that pick a 1st rounder? It’s gonna have to be and then add something to that trade.

      • Philly isn’t true trying to clear cap and obtain assets.
        Backlund is flipped for a pick.
        Courtourier is not in long term plan for Philly so clear the 7m plus per allows them the flexibility to weaponize their cap space for even more assets.
        Additionally, not many playoff teams have the cap space to take on Courtourier cap hit.
        So this move works foroth teams. CGY gets younger with skilled asset on term in prime playoff years.
        Philly gains significant cap relief and obtains picks.
        SOmetimes you take less To give flexibility to move an asset out.

  8. Keep the “core 4”? Why? They couldn’t get it it done….for a while now. I am thrilled that tavares didn’t choose the Bruins. And the core for the Bruins couldn’t get the job done either, so my expectation there will be movement on the B’s too.

  9. For all the complaints about Tavares, he has been a consistent point a game player from day as a TML.

    He hasn’t had a single season that inflated his numbers either.

    People see a big contract and have decided there is no way he can live up to it despite the fact that his production has not fallen from his 10 years as a NYI

    • I wish Pajama Boy to have every post-season similar to this year’s, and to never win the Cup.

      • LOL!!! Let it go already. I can see why you’re so bitter since the guy gave his best years of his playing career there all the while forcing him to carry slugs as wingers making them look like legit top six players. Now you don’t have someone to do that and your now still butt hurt.

        I hope for your sake, you get past it because petty looks bad on everyone.

  10. I still like Provorov to WSH for Mantha and their 1st

    WSH adds solid D to their core of Carlson, Sandin and Jensen
    TVR now is properly slotted on bottom pairing.

    Philly gets picks for rebuild and more cap space to weaponize in order to garner more draftpicks for that rebuild.

    • Philly gets more than that for Provorov.