NHL Rumor Mill – May 8, 2023
With the Leafs on the brink of playoff elimination, the speculation about their offseason has already begun. Check out the latest as well as updates on the Jets and Kings in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
OFFSEASON SPECULATION ALREADY STARTED FOR LEAFS
TORONTO SUN/THE ATHLETIC: With the Maple Leafs down 0-3 in their second-round series with the Florida Panthers, the Sun’s Steve Simmons and The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun and James Mirtle are already wondering about the club’s offseason moves.
The trio pondered whether general manager Kyle Dubas and head coach Sheldon Keefe will be replaced. Dubas is in the final year of his contract and could garner interest from other clubs if his bosses decide not to re-sign him.
They also noted that Auston Matthews is a year away from unrestricted free-agent eligibility. Does he sign a lengthy and expensive contract extension or decide his future belongs elsewhere?
Simmons mused over whether Leafs president Brendan Shanahan survives after yet another solid regular season dissolved into another unimpressive playoff run.
Meanwhile, Mirtle took note that William Nylander is also a year away from UFA status and wondered if Nylander or Matthews becomes the priority to re-sign. He also wondered which players on the current roster under expiring contracts will be brought back given that next season’s salary cap is expected to remain flattened.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This seems like feasting on a carcass while it’s still barely breathing but it’s understandable given the rarity of clubs overcoming 0-3 postseason series deficits.
There was talk about Dubas and Keefe having saved their jobs during those giddy days following the Leafs series victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. All of that has disappeared in this series against the Panthers.
Barring a miraculous comeback those issues will be paramount in the minds of Leafs Nation.
What does the future hold for Dubas, Keefe and Shanahan? Will it be Dubas attempting to open contract extension talks with Matthews and Nylander or someone else?
Are those players interested in staying in Toronto? Have they grown weary of the fishbowl existence and postseason underachievement and intend to their sights elsewhere?
The answers to some of those questions could be coming by the end of this week if the Leafs get swept on Wednesday.
POTENTIAL TRADE DESTINATIONS FOR HELLEBUYCK
SPORTSNET: Ryan Dixon recently looked at seven potential off-season trade suitors for Connor Hellebuyck. The 29-year-old Winnipeg Jets goaltender is a year away from unrestricted free-agent eligibility. He indicated during his end-of-season interview that he’s not interested in a roster rebuild if Jets management goes that route.
Topping Dixon’s list is the Los Angeles Kings if they decide to part ways with trade-deadline acquisition Joonas Korpisalo. Taking on Hellebuyck, whose annual average value is $6.16 million, would be more expensive than re-signing Korpisalo. However, the former Vezina Trophy winner could help the Kings finally reach their potential.
Atlantic Division clubs like the Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings and Ottawa Senators could be among the suitors. The Sabres and Senators appear primed to become serious playoff contenders with the right goaltender.
Perhaps a current playoff club that comes up short comes calling. The Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils could fall into that category depending on the outcome of their current series.
Dixon also included the Maple Leafs in his list. However, their limited cap space would probably take them out of the running.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: We don’t know yet whether the Jets’ ever-cautious management will shake things up or attempt to bolster their depth around core players like Hellebuyck for one more run next season.
Nevertheless, Hellebuyck will garner plenty of interest if he hits the trade block. Several of those aforementioned clubs are bound to come calling. I would also include the Pittsburgh Penguins in that bunch.
LATEST ON THE KINGS
Trade-deadline acquisition Vladislav Gavrikov was a terrific fit for the Kings. While his teammates went to bat for him to return, Kings GM Rob Blake noted his club has just $2.5 million in cap space for next season. Stephens believes Blake must make a cost-cutting trade to keep Gavirkov.
Defenseman Sean Walker could be a trade candidate. He appeared in just two of the six playoff games against the Oilers and was a healthy scratch at times in the second half of the season. Walker carries a $2.65 million cap hit for 2023-24.
Stephens also noted the Kings’ goaltending situation remains unsettled. Trade deadline pickup Joonas Korpisalo is slated to become a UFA this summer and Blake was noncommital over whether he’ll re-sign him.
Pheonix Copley is signed through next season. Meanwhile, the Kings might have no choice but to try and improve Cal Petersen, who struggled in the first season of his three-year contract with its $5 million annual cap hit.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Walker was a frequent subject of trade speculation this season as a cost-cutting candidate. It seems likely he’ll be on the move to clear space for Gavrikov if the latter is willing to stay and doesn’t seek an unreasonable raise over his current $2.8 million cap hit.
Korpisalo seemed certain to be re-signed by the Kings following his strong play down the stretch and early in that series with the Oilers. However, he struggled as that series went on which would explain Blake’s seeming reluctance to include him in his future plans.