The Leafs have a tentative deal to send Nikita Zaitsev to the Senators. Check out the details, plus the latest on Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene, Sebastian Aho, and more in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.
ZAITSEV FOR CECI?
TSN: Bob McKenzie reported the Toronto Maple Leafs could have a tentative deal in place shipping Nikita Zaitsev to the Ottawa Senators for Cody Ceci. This trade won’t be finalized until July 1 when the Leafs pay Zaitsev his $3-million signing bonus.
The Toronto Maple Leafs strike a tentative deal to send Nikita Zaitsev to the Ottawa Senators (Photo via NHL Images).
McKenzie adds there could be other pieces in this deal. The Leafs could include a “sweetener” like a player (Connor Brown?) or a draft pick. Zaitsev, 27, has five years remaining on his contract worth an annual average value of $4.5 million. Ceci, 25, is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights.
TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan adds Zaitsev has agreed to waive his modified no-trade clause, which kicks in tomorrow, to go to Ottawa. Senators head coach D.J. Smith, a former Leafs assistant coach, got involved to help facilitate the deal.
OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports this move is an indication Ceci and the Senators aren’t on the same page in contract talks. It’s believed Ceci, who earned $4.5 million on a one-year contract this season, seeks a five- or six-year deal worth between $5 – $5.5 million annually.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: On the one hand, the Leafs will honor Zaitsev’s trade request and move out his troublesome contract. On the other hand, they’ll have to re-sign Ceci, who’ll cost more for longer than Zaitsev. It’s interesting that Smith got involved to make this happen. He seems to see more in Zaitsev’s game than the blueliner’s critics.
Ceci’s faced considerable criticism from Senators fans for his defensive miscues. However, maybe a move to Toronto could benefit his play. The Leafs could flip Ceci to another club. Given their blueline needs, however, I think they’ll try to keep him.
If Ceci’s seeking up to $5.5 million annually, it could complicate the Leafs’ efforts to re-sign Mitch Marner. It’ll also hinder efforts to land a suitable replacement for Jake Gardiner and perhaps Ron Hainsey.
LATEST ON THE AVALANCHE AND PANARIN
COLORADO HOCKEY NOW: Adrian Dater recently reported a source close to Artemi Panarin said the Colorado Avalanche continued to have serious interest in the 27-year-old left winger. The source also claimed the club met with Panarin personally this week. Dater acknowledged Panarin’s trips this week to the Florida Panthers, New York Rangers, and New York Islanders.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stick tap to regular reader “Shawn” for the link. It’s worth noting Dater wrote this before the Avalanche acquired Andre Burakovsky on Friday from Washington. While he doesn’t think that move takes them out of the running for Panarin, “the optics aren’t good.” He also noted the Avs are among the suitors for winger Joonas Donskoi. If so, I think that takes them further out of the Panarin sweepstakes.
UPDATE ON THE PREDATORS AND DUCHENE
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the Montreal Canadiens could still have a shot at signing Matt Duchene. While it’s assumed Duchene will land with the Nashville Predators, Friedman said more than one source indicates that’s not locked in. Whatever happens, Friedman suspects the Predators will make a major move via trade or free agency. He also linked the Predators to Anders Lee.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Last weekend’s trade of P.K. Subban to New Jersey was done to free up cap space to add a scoring forward. If the Predators miss out on Duchene I can see them pursuing someone like Lee. I don’t think they’re in the bidding for Panarin as he’d be way out of their price range.
HURRICANES PLAYING HARDBALL WITH AHO?
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon intends to play hardball with Sebastian Aho. The 21-year-old center is a restricted free agent completing his entry-level contract and lacks arbitration rights. The Hurricanes, to Brooks’ knowledge, haven’t indicated that they wouldn’t match an offer sheet for Aho. The pundit suggests it would be interesting to find out if they would.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sportsnet’s John Shannon recently reported the Hurricanes are talking an eight-year deal for Aho worth $6 million per season. Of course, that could simply be their opening bid. Hurricanes GM Don Waddell said he didn’t think the two sides were that far apart. He also expressed confidence a deal will be reached before training camp in September.
Waddell also indicated he’s not concerned about Aho receiving an offer sheet. I can see the two sides agreeing to a long-term deal worth around $8 million per season. Given Aho’s upside, he’ll be worth more than that in a few years.
UPDATE ON PAVELSKI
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Ali Thanawalla cites Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reporting Joe Pavelski has initiated contract talks with the Dallas Stars. He met with the club earlier in the week. He also noted The Athletic’s Michael Russo reported Pavelski decided not to meet with the Minnesota Wild. Meanwhile, Russo’s colleague Aaron Portzline reported the Columbus Blue Jackets were among the clubs Pavelski politely declined to visit this week.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: By the sound of things, Pavelski is making the Stars his top destination when the UFA market opens tomorrow. Of course, another club could swoop in at the last minute with a better offer. Stay tuned.
As for the Wild, The Athletic’s Michael Russo cites sources claiming they’re “aggressively pursuing” winger Mats Zuccarello. They’re prepared to offer him a long-term contract. Russo speculates it could be a five-year deal worth up to $6 million per season. I like Zuccarello but that’s too much for too long for a winger who turns 32 in September.
RISTOLAINEN TRADE RUMORS PERSIST
THE BUFFALO NEWS: Mike Harrington believes the Sabres’ recent acquisition of defenseman Colin Miller means Rasmus Ristolainen will be traded soon. He cites Sabres GM Jason Botterill speaking of the options it gives his club on the blueline and “flexibility within their lineup”.
Ristolainen’s been the subject of trade speculation for weeks. While Botterill attempted to downplay the rumors, Harrington noted the Sabres GM also didn’t deny them. He points out the Sabres need for offense, suggesting Ristolainen would be the best trade chip to address that requirement.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t rule out a Ristolainen trade this summer. However, as TSN’s Darren Dreger observed, a team must “step up” in a big way or the Sabres won’t part with him. In other words, it’ll take a top-six forward to pry Ristolainen away from the Sabres.