NHL Rumor Mill – April 13, 2023
What next for the Penguins after being eliminated from playoff contention? Could this season’s playoffs affect Auston Matthews’ future with the Maple Leafs? Check out the latest in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
WHAT NEXT FOR THE PENGUINS?
The new ownership group will have to decide if they’ll bring back general manager Ron Hextall and president of hockey operations Brian Burke or replace one or both men. Rossi observed that Hextall and Burke were hired by the previous ownership.
Vensel noted that Hextall made several savvy trades and signings. However, there were also crippling mistakes, including the blueline being worse than last season and trade deadline acquisition Markus Granlund failing to pan out.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ll be very surprised if Hextall and Burke are back for 2023-24. They seemed like deer in headlights this season when it came to addressing their team’s on-ice woes.
Head coach Mike Sullivan is signed through 2026-27. Rossi doesn’t see them paying Sullivan for the next five seasons not to coach. Vensel observed that ownership thinks highly of him.
Both writers believe Sullivan will return. If so, Vensel believes he must make changes to adapt to his personnel and figure out why a veteran-laden club lacked composure this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sullivan’s contract pretty much ensures he’ll be behind the Penguins’ bench next season. I agree that he must evaluate what he can do to remedy his club’s on-ice issues but management must provide him with a better roster than the one he had to work with this season.
Venzel doesn’t expect the Penguins will trade Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang after re-signing them last summer. He believes pending free-agent goaltender Tristan Jarry should not be re-signed, though the other goalie options in this summer’s unrestricted free-agent market are a bit underwhelming. He suggested the Boston Bruins’ restricted free agent Jeremy Swayman could be worth considering.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Vensel didn’t indicate if the Penguins should attempt to acquire Swayman via trade or offer sheet. The Bruins face more of a cap pinch than the Pens so perhaps an offer sheet might work provided Swayman is willing to sign one.
Along with Jarry, Rossi pointed out that their other notable UFAs included Brian Dumoulin and Jason Zucker. Rossi observed the Penguins have over $63.2 million invested in 15 players for 2023-24. Vensel doesn’t expect Dumoulin and Zucker will be back unless the Penguins can free up some cap space to re-sign the latter.
Vensel speculated the Penguins could attempt to trade away a high-salaried player. It could cost them a draft pick to move Granlund and his $5 million average annual value. Jeff Petry has a partial no-trade clause and the Penguins would have to find a suitable replacement.
Jeff Carter has a full no-trade clause. He’s on a 35-plus contract meaning the Penguins get no cap relief if he retires or is bought out. Short of somehow sending his contract to a team like the Arizona Coyotes, Carter will likely remain on their books next season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: They don’t have many good options here that won’t cost them a draft pick or a prospect as a sweetener in the deal. Teams could prefer they retain some salary.
WILL THE 2023 PLAYOFF AFFECT MATTHEWS’ FUTURE WITH THE LEAFS?
TORONTO STAR: Nick Kypreos observed that the Maple Leafs can open contract extension talks with Auston Matthews on July 1. However, he wondered what impact the coming playoffs will have on Matthews’ future with the Leafs.
Matthews is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next July. He’s earning an average annual value of $11.6 million on his current contract.
Kypreos suggests a successful first round by the Leafs could go a long way in convincing Matthews to remain in Toronto for the long term. Another early postseason exit, however, had Kypreos wondering if that will decrease Matthews’ odds of signing a lengthy extension, especially if the Leafs end up replacing general manager Kyle Dubas.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kypreos believes the Leafs will triumph this time over the Tampa Bay Lightning in the rematch of last year’s first-round series. If Matthews isn’t convinced to sign long-term, he envisions the Leafs star inking a three- or four-year deal to take advantage of the salary cap rising over that period.
The Leafs and Matthews have plenty of time to negotiate a new deal regardless of length. Nevertheless, his contract status could dominate this summer’s rumor mill if the Leafs make another first-round departure. The longer Matthews goes without a new deal, the more questions will be asked about his future.