Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – November 27, 2022

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – November 27, 2022

Could the Sabres be a suitor for Jakob Chychrun? Which defensemen should the Leafs target to shore up their injury-ravaged blueline? Are the Oilers shopping for a forward? Find out in the Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup.

COULD THE SABRES OR LEAFS PURSUE CHYCHRUN?

SPORTSNET: With Jakob Chychrun returning to action last week for the first time this season, Jeff Marek wondered if the Buffalo Sabres might be a dark-horse candidate to acquire the 24-year-old Arizona Coyotes defenseman.

Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun (NHL Images).

Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams has maintained he’s sticking with youth. However, Marek noted that “there is a feeling out there” that they’re running their young blueliners (Rasmus Dahlin, Owen Power and Mattias Samuelsson) hard this season. He believes they’ve got their young core locked in that doesn’t need any more prospects and need to start putting together their team.

Marek also expects the New York Islanders, Los Angeles Kings and Columbus Blue Jackets will be linked to Chychrun.

TORONTO STAR: Nick Kypreos believes Chychrun would be the best answer to address the Maple Leafs’ banged-up blueline corps. He claims Leafs GM Kyle Dubas had a great interest in the Coyotes’ rearguard from the start and that hasn’t wavered.

Kypreos claims the Leafs will have competition, saying there are believed to be six clubs sniffing around for a deal. Four of the more serious contenders have a wider range of prospects than the Leafs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Chyrchrun rumor mill will grind away now that he’s returned to action from off-season wrist surgery. So far, he’s looked good in the three games he’s played, collecting three points with a plus-minus of plus-four. The longer he plays, the more interest he’ll draw and perhaps the sooner this year-long saga will come to an end.

The Kings have long been linked to Chychrun and possess considerable depth in prospects and young players to tempt the Coyotes. So do the Blue Jackets, who were rumored to have looked into acquiring him leading up to this year’s draft.

I don’t see where Chychrun’s a fit with the Islanders. They’ve already got two solid left-side defensemen in Adam Pelech and Alexander Romanov plus right-shot Noah Dobson has emerged as their blueline point producer. Their focus over the summer was finding a scoring forward.

The Sabres’ biggest need thus far seems to be reliable goaltending. If they want to bolster their blueline perhaps they’ll consider more affordable, healthier options than Chychrun.

As for the Leafs, I can’t see them outbidding other clubs for Chychrun, especially if the Coyotes insist on getting a couple of first-rounders and a high-end prospect or good young NHL player in return.

MORE PROPOSED LEAFS TRADE TARGETS

Nick Kypreos also suggested several other defensemen that could address their blueline woes if Chychrun wasn’t feasible. One was the Nashville Predators’ Dante Fabbro, who’s a restricted free agent next summer. Word is the Predators are willing to move the right-shot defenseman for the right price. Kypreos believes it could cost the Leafs prospect Matthew Knies.

The other is Vladislav Gavrikov of the Columbus Blue Jackets. He’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent in July and could cost a first-round pick and more to acquire.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I must confess this is the first I’ve heard that Fabbro might be available. Perhaps the right price would be a scoring forward. The Predators, however, won’t be under any significant pressure to move him by the March 3 trade deadline given his RFA status.

I still believe the Blue Jackets will try to retain Gavrikov. Nevertheless, he will draw plenty of interest if he hits the trade market before March 3.

Other options include the Seattle Kraken’s Carson Soucy, the Vancouver Canucks’ Luke Schenn, the Anaheim Ducks’ John Klingberg and the Minnesota Wild’s Matt Dumba.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Soucy and Dumba won’t be going anywhere as long as their clubs remain in playoff contention by the trade deadline. Klingberg, on the other hand, will become available when his no-trade clause expires on Jan. 1. Expect the Ducks to start peddling him between then and deadline day.

OILERS SEEK A FORWARD

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman believes the Edmonton Oilers are in the market for “edgy”, grinding depth forwards. There’s a feeling since Evander Kane was sidelined that they’re easier to play against. He points out that they’re close to the salary cap and wonders if they can find a budget player to address their needs.










NHL Rumor Mill – November 24, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – November 24, 2022

Check out the latest Canadiens speculation plus a look at some other potential blueline trade targets for the Leafs in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.

LATEST ON THE CANADIENS

MONTREAL HOCKEY NOW: The New Jersey Devils’ rumored interest in Josh Anderson apparently hasn’t waned since the offseason. Canadiens podcaster and former broadcaster Tony Marinaro reports Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald wants the 28-year-old Canadiens winger badly.

Montreal Canadiens winger Josh Anderson (NHL Images).

Marinaro wonders if the Devils would part with a promising youngster such as Luke Hughes, Simon Nemec or Alexander Holtz in a package deal. It remains to be seen if Canadiens GM Kent Hughes (no relation to Luke or Devils winger Jack Hughes) would be willing to move Anderson.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Marinaro also claims there are a couple of teams besides the Devils who would take Anderson. Assuming the Canadiens are willing to move him, they probably aren’t in any rush to do so at this stage in the season.

If there is interest in Anderson, it might be best to wait until the March 3 trade deadline approaches to start considering serious offers. His value in the trade market could be much higher by that point.

Marco D’Amico recently listed Sean Monahan, Joel Edmundson and Christian Dvorak as the Canadiens’ top-three most valuable trade chips.

D’Amico noted TSN’s Pierre LeBrun recently linked Monahan to the Colorado Avalanche, who could be among several clubs that will be in the market for a second-line center. Edmundson has apparently been the subject of conversations between Hughes and his peers, while the recent improvement of Dvorak could bolster his trade value.

Speaking of Anderson, D’Amico speculated the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers could present irresistible offers to Hughes at some point.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I believe Monahan, Edmundson or Dvorak could be moved before Anderson. Much will depend on where the Canadiens are in the standings leading up to the March 3 trade deadline and what the market is for those players. Given the plethora of defensemen the Canadiens are carrying, maybe Edmundson gets traded first.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Stu Cowan reports the Canadiens possess a logjam of defensemen with Mike Matheson’s recent return from injury and the rise of promising blueliners like Kaiden Guhle, Jordan Harris, Arber Xhekaj and Johnathan Kovacevic. He also noted there were 19 scouts at Tuesday’s game between the Canadiens and Buffalo Sabres.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some of those scouts would’ve been there simply because their teams will be playing the Canadiens or Sabres in the near future. However, I daresay some could be there to check out some potential trade bait.

LIST OF POTENTIAL BLUELINE TRADE TARGETS FOR THE LEAFS

THE SCORE: Sean O’Leary recently published a list of 10 defensemen the Toronto Maple Leafs could target to bolster their injury-ravaged blueline.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: O’Leary’s list came out before the Leafs acquired promising rearguard Conor Timmins from the Arizona Coyotes on Nov. 23. However, they could perhaps pursue one of his suggested trade targets if Timmins doesn’t pan out or if Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin and TJ Brodie are sidelined longer than expected.

Pending unrestricted free agent options include the Columbus Blue Jackets’ Vladislav Gavrikov, the Washington Capitals’ Dmitry Orlov, the Minnesota Wild’s Matt Dumba, the New Jersey Devils’ Damon Severson, the Seattle Kraken’s Carson Soucy and the Vancouver Canucks’ Luke Schenn.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t see Orlov, Dumba, Severson and Soucy going anywhere as long as their respective teams remain in playoff contention. Gavrikov could be shopped if he hasn’t signed a contract extension before the trade deadline. Schenn will likely become available if the Canucks fail to gain ground in the standings.

Notable defensemen with term remaining on their contracts include the Arizona Coyotes’ Jakob Chychrun, the Boston Bruins’ Mike Reilly and Matt Roy and Sean Walker of the Los Angeles Kings.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The high asking price for Chychrun is likely too rich for the Leafs. Reilly could be a good option but the Bruins may be reluctant to trade him to a division rival. Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas has a trade history with Kings GM Rob Blake so perhaps Roy or Walker would be more likely options here.










NHL Rumor Mill – November 23, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – November 23, 2022

A look at the early season trade targets in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.

ANALYSIS OF THE EARLY-SEASON TRADE TARGETS

DAILY FACEOFF: Vancouver Canucks center Bo Horvat top Frank Seravalli’s first list of trade targets for 2022-23. He pointed out there hasn’t been much talk about a contract extension between the pending free agent and Canucks management since prior to training camp. Seravalli suggests “Colorado, Detroit, Boston and Edmonton” among the clubs that could use a top-flight center like Horvat.

Vancouver Canucks captain Bo Horvat (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports Canucks president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford is in no hurry to decide what to do with Horvat. That’s understandable since the trade deadline isn’t until March 3 so there’s no reason for Rutherford to rush into a decision regarding his captain at this point.

Nevertheless, the longer Horvat remains unsigned the more speculation over his future will increase as the trade deadline approaches. We’ll find out in due course if those clubs mentioned by Seravalli actually get into the bidding for the Canucks captain.

Chicago Blackhawks forwards Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews sit second and third on Servalli’s list.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seravalli indicated the Blackhawks are expected to start a conversation with Kane in December to gauge his interest in a trade. He and Toews have complete control over their fates given their no-movement clauses.

Friedman wonders whether the Los Angeles Kings would make a pitch for Kane. He indicates they have the picks and prospects to make this move. Provided Kane is willing to accept a trade to Los Angeles, I question whether the Kings can comfortably afford to pick up the remainder of his $10.5 million cap hit.

Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun and Anaheim Ducks blueliner John Klingberg sit fourth and fifth on this list.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Friedman reported the Coyotes are still asking for “two first-rounders (upcoming picks or recently-drafted prospects), plus something else.”

TSN’s Pierre LeBrun believes the Coyotes based their high asking price for Chychrun on what the Ducks received from the Boston Bruins last season for Hampus Lindholm. That package included a first-round pick and two second-rounders. He also cited the two first-round picks the Chicago Blackhawks received as part of the return from the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Brandon Hagel deal.

As for Klingberg, Seravalli reminds us that the pending UFA’s no-trade clause is lifted on Jan. 1. We can expect to hear his name more frequently in trade rumors between New Year’s Day and March 3.

San Jose Sharks winger Timo Meier, Florida Panthers winger Anthony Duclair, Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov, Los Angeles Kings blueliner Sean Walker and Sharks rearguard Erik Karlsson fill positions six through 10.

Seravalli points out Meier’s expensive qualifying offer ($10 million) will have teams looking at him as a rental player than as a restricted free agent…Duclair is only on the list because the Panthers will have to shed salary when he’s ready to return from his offseason Achilles tear but he might not necessarily be the player who gets traded. He carries a $3 million cap hit.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Meier could be shopped unless he and the Sharks can agree to a new deal with a more affordable cap hit. Given his RFA status next summer, the Sharks can wait until the offseason to shop him if they don’t get any offers they like before the trade deadline.

As for Duclair, I think the Panthers intend to keep him after he rediscovered his game playing for them last season. They’ll have to shed around $3 million to become cap compliant.

Gavrikov is a pending UFA but I’m not convinced the Blue Jackets will move him unless contract talks go south before the trade deadline…Seravalli pointed out the Kings have a glut of defensemen. They don’t want to move Walker but he could be the odd man out given his injury history.

Karlsson would help any NHL club but, as Seravalli notes, his $11.5 million annual cap hit and full no-movement clause significantly limit the number of potential trade destinations. That could be a trade that happens in the offseason provided Karlsson is willing to waive his NMC and the Sharks retain a big chunk of his cap hit.

Blue Jackets center Jack Roslovic, Washington Capitals defenseman Nick Jensen, Blackhawks winger Andreas Athanasiou, Coyotes blueliner Shayne Gostisbehere and Sharks goalie James Reimer coming in at spots 11 through 15.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Roslovic’s inconsistency really hurts his trade value…The Capitals could peddle Jensen if they’re out of playoff contention leading up to the trade deadline. The same goes for Athanasiou and Reimer…I would place Gotisbehere higher on this list, perhaps in the bottom half of the top 10. The puck-moving defenseman had 51 points in 82 games last season on the offensively anemic Coyotes and has 10 points in 17 games this season. He should draw plenty of interest near the trade deadline from teams seeking offense from the blueline.

Canucks winger Brock Boeser, Blackhawks center Max Domi, New York Rangers winger Ryan Reaves, Canadiens center Sean Monahan and Pittsburgh Penguins winger Kasperi Kapanen round out the remainder of this list.

If the Canucks continue to spiral they could start unloading expensive contracts like Boeser’s…Reaves has been a healthy scratch in recent games. The Rangers wouldn’t want much in return as they’d prefer the cap flexibility.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Boeser’s a scoring threat when healthy but his injury history could make him difficult to move…Domi would draw interest from contenders seeking a versatile depth rental…Reaves’ toughness should make him an affordable and enticing option for contenders seeking postseason grit…Monahan’s having a solid season (11 points in 17 games) with the Canadiens and would make a good depth center on a playoff contender…Kapanen’s trade value is so low right now that the Penguins probably couldn’t give him away at this point.










NHL Rumor Mill – November 22, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – November 22, 2022

What defensemen could the Leafs target in the trade market? What’s the latest on the Canucks rumored efforts to peddle Tyler Myers? Find out in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.

POTENTIAL LEAFS’ BLUELINE TRADE TARGETS

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox recently looked at several potential trade targets for the Toronto Maple Leafs to upgrade their blueline. The biggest names believed available are the Arizona Coyotes’ Jakob Chychrun, the San Jose Sharks’ Erik Karlsson and the Anaheim Ducks’ John Klingberg.

The Leafs are believed to have some interest in the 24-year-old Chychrun. However, his injury history and the Coyotes’ expensive price tag are areas of concern.

Karlsson’s strong start to this season has bolstered his trade value but his no-movement clause gives him full control. His $11.5 million cap hit through 2026-27 is a stumbling block even if the Sharks retained some of it.

Anaheim Ducks defenseman John Klingberg (NHL Images).

Fox is warming to Klingberg. He’s a right-shot puck-moving defenseman who logs big minutes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Chychrun finally made his season debut last night following off-season wrist surgery. He’ll need to stay healthy and perform well in the coming weeks to convince interested clubs that he’s worth the Coyotes’ high asking price. The Leafs might be reluctant to get into that bidding war.

Karlsson is far too expensive for the Leafs even if San Jose retained a healthy chunk of his cap hit. The Sharks will also seek a significant return that could prove too rich for the Leafs. That’s assuming he’d waive his NMC for Toronto.

Klingberg could be the better option here. His $7 million salary for this season is expensive but the Ducks will probably retain part of it for a sweetener in the return. How much they’d want as part of the return could be an issue. Anaheim general manager Pat Verbeek could prefer to wait until the trade deadline in hope of drawing more interest in Klingberg.

The Athletic’s Eric Duhatschek isn’t fully sold on Klingberg. While the blueliner had an impressive 17-point performance during the 2020 playoffs with the Dallas Stars, he managed just one point in their seven-game opening-round defeat at the hands of the Calgary Flames. The 30-year-old Klingberg has eight points in 19 games with the offensively anemic Ducks.

Pending UFA options on Fox’s list include the Minnesota Wild’s Matt Dumba, the Columbus Blue Jackets’ Vladislav Gavrikov, the Washington Capitals’ Dmitry Orlov, Ottawa Senators’ Artem Zub, Pittsburgh Penguins’ Brian Dumoulin, New York Islanders’ Scott Mayfield, and the New Jersey Devils’ Damon Severson. He also suggested the Vancouver Canucks’ Luke Schenn and Tyler Myers, who still has a year remaining on his contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t see Dumba, Orlov, Dumoulin, Mayfield or Severson being available as long as their respective clubs remain in playoff contention. I think the Blue Jackets will try to re-sign Gavrikov and the Senators will attempt to re-up Zub.

Fox’s colleague Elliotte Friedman reported a couple of sources believe the Leafs are interested in Coyotes defenseman Conor Timmins, who’s currently with their AHL affiliate on a conditioning stint. He also said they were looking at Ducks winger Frank Vatrano but would have difficulty fitting his $3.65 million cap hit within their payroll even if the Ducks retained half of it.

LATEST ON TYLER MYERS

CHEK TV’s Rick Dhaliwal talked about the details of the Vancouver Canucks’ attempt to trade Tyler Myers to the Ottawa Senators for Nikita Zaitsev. He revealed that the 32-year-old defenseman gets a $5 million signing bonus next July 1, which is difficult for most teams to swallow. Dhaliwal believes that’s why the Senators asked for a sweetener in the deal which the Canucks weren’t willing to give up.

THE ATHLETIC: Thomas Drance believes the Canucks would be better off waiting to move Myers after that $5 million is paid next July. He’ll be in the final season of his contract by that point, which could improve his trade value by making him more palatable to interested clubs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Once the Canucks pay out that $5 million next July, Myers will be owed just $1 million for the remainder of next season. That could make him attractive to teams looking for teams seeking blueline depth hoping to remain close to the cap minimum.










NHL Rumor Mill – November 17, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – November 17, 2022

Could the Senators attempt to bring back Erik Karlsson or are there better trade options for them with the Canadiens or Penguins? Should the Leafs target Karlsson or are there better alternatives to address their defense? Check out the latest in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.

COULD THE SENATORS TRY TO REACQUIRE ERIK KARLSSON?

SAN JOSE HOCKEY NOW: Sheng Peng cites Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman speculating the Sharks may have had conversations with the Ottawa Senators regarding Erik Karlsson. In 2018, the Senators traded Karlsson to the Sharks, who signed him to an eight-year contract with an average annual value of $11.5 million.

San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson (NHL Images).

Karlsson has never lost his affection for the city of Ottawa and he and his family still maintain a home there. With the 32-year-old defenseman enjoying the best start of his career, Sharks general manager Mike Grier earlier this week indicated he was willing to entertain offers for the blueliner.

Peng points out that trading Karlsson will be difficult given how few teams can afford his contract, which also contains a full no-movement clause. He also noted that Friedman doubted the Senators could afford to do so even if the Sharks agreed to retain 50 percent of Karlsson’s cap hit. That’s because they still want to re-sign winger Alex DeBrincat and defenseman Artem Zub.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Grier’s comments combined with Senators GM Pierre Dorion telling reporters he’s still actively shopping for a defenseman prompted some folks to suggest a reunion with Karlsson. If the Sens had more long-term cap space perhaps there would be a possibility, assuming that Karlsson would waive his NMC to return to Ottawa.

The Senators have $21.7 million of cap space for 2023-24 if the cap only rises by $1 million as originally projected with just 10 players under contract. DeBrincat, Zub and Shane Pinto will eat up a big chunk of that cap room as well as pending UFA goaltender Cam Talbot if they attempt to re-sign him. If not, replacing Talbot could also prove to be expensive.

There is also the question of the Sharks’ asking price. They’re not going to just give Karlsson away, especially if they have to retain a portion of his cap hit to facilitate a trade. They’ll want a decent return, perhaps in the form of a package containing a first-round pick, a high-end prospect and a promising young player like Pinto or Jake Sanderson. And if it becomes a three-team trade to spread the cap hit around, that third team will also want a sweetener.

ARE THERE OTHER BLUELINE TRADE OPTIONS FOR THE SENATORS?

TVA SPORTS: Louis Jean wondered why the Senators didn’t attempt to sign David Savard in 2021 when he became an unrestricted free agent. He felt the 32-year-old rearguard would’ve been a perfect complement for Thomas Chabot.

Savard is currently signed with the Montreal Canadiens through 2024-25 with an AAV of $3.5 million. Jean wondered if Dorion might put in a call to Habs GM Kent Hughes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Anything’s possible, I suppose, but I don’t see that call taking place. If Dorion wasn’t interested in Savard in 2021, he’s probably not interested now.

PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Dan Kingerski recently wondered if the Penguins and Senators could become trade partners. In addition to needing defensemen, the Senators could use some help at center with Josh Norris sidelined until at least January with a shoulder injury.

Kingerski suggested Brian Dumoulin and Jeff Carter as short-term options for the Senators since both are slated to become UFAs next summer. Other options could include center Teddy Blueger and defensemen such as Mark Friedman or Ty Smith.

In return, Kingerski suggested the Senators part with Alex Formenton. The Sens have until Dec. 1 to sign the RFA winger or he’ll become ineligible to play in the NHL this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators could be on Dumoulin’s 10-team no-trade list and I don’t see Carter agreeing to waive his no-movement clause to go to Ottawa. If Dorion were interested in the Penguins’ defensemen I believe he’d prefer Marcus Pettersson or Pierre-Olivier Joseph than Friedman or Smith.

LATEST LEAFS SPECULATION

TORONTO STAR: Nick Kypreos proposed a way for the Maple Leafs to acquire Erik Karlsson. “Could the Leafs get the Sharks to take (Jake) Muzzin’s contract back, retain salary, and build a deal around top prospect Matthews Knies?”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Why would the Sharks want Muzzin’s contract? He’s earning a $5.6 million AAV through 2024-25 with a full no-trade clause this season. They could agree to that if the Leafs are taking Karlsson’s full cap hit through 2026-27 off their books, assuming Muzzin agrees to be shipped to the Sharks.

I’m assuming the “retain salary” bit refers to the Sharks’ absorbing part of Karlsson’s $11.5 million AAV. However, if they’re taking on Muzzin’s contract, why would they retain any part of Karlsson’s cap hit? Sorry, I don’t see that happening.

DAILY FACEOFF: Frank Seravalli lists six trade options for the Leafs to replace Muzzin by using his placement on long-term injured reserve to acquire a defenseman.

The Anaheim Ducks’ John Klingberg tops Seravalli’s list, followed by the Columbus Blue Jackets’ Vladislav Gavrikov and the Los Angeles Kings’ Matt Roy. The Seattle Kraken’s Carson Soucy and the Washington Capitals’ Nick Jensen or Dmitry Orlov round out the list. He also suggested keeping an eye on the Minnesota Wild’s Matt Dumba.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those defensemen likely won’t be available until close to the March 3 trade deadline.

Klingberg isn’t a shutdown blueliner like Muzzin so I don’t see him as a good fit for the Leafs. Gavrikov could be a better option but I think the Jackets intend to re-sign him.

Seravalli points out the Kings have a surplus of defensemen and Roy has another year on his contract. However, they could be reluctant to part with him given his adaptability and ability to play big minutes. Seravalli also admitted Soucy might not be available yet given the Kraken have exceeded expectations thus far this season. I agree that he could be an intriguing option if the Kraken are out of playoff contention by March and looking to sell.

The Capitals could go into sell mode if they’re out of a playoff berth before the March trade deadline. However, I see them improving as their injury-ravaged roster gets healthier, which could put Jensen or Orlov out of reach. As for Dumba, his status could depend on where the Wild are in the standings as March approaches.










NHL Rumor Mill – November 1, 2022

NHL Rumor Mill – November 1, 2022

The Leafs’ shaky start to this season is a growing concern to their followers. Could it lead to changes in the front office, behind the bench or to the roster? Read on for the latest in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.

TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons believes the Maple Leafs 4-4-2 start to this season isn’t something to be taken lightly. He feels the club is heading toward an implosion that could lead to big changes depending on their upcoming performances against the Philadelphia Flyers, Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes and Vegas Golden Knights.

Simmons puts the blame squarely on the performance of the Leafs players, especially during their losses to three of the worst teams in the league in Arizona, San Jose and Anaheim. He singled out core players Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares and William Nylander for not playing up to expectations.

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (NHL Images).

Simmons acknowledged the Leafs have a banged-up defense corps. Nevertheless, he believes their best players must improve while their worst need to get better. He also criticizes general manager Kyle Dubas for not providing head coach Sheldon Keefe with a roster suitable for success.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some of the Leafs defenders point out that they were 4-4-2 at the same point in 2021-22 and wound up with a franchise-best 115-point season. Others, however, point to the poor performance of their best players as one of the more concerning issues compared to this time last season.

The Leafs have questionable goaltending and a defense that when healthy isn’t deep enough to make them a serious Stanley Cup contender. Nevertheless, they have sufficient talent to be playing better than they currently are even with an injury-riddled blueline.

Maybe they’ll snap out of their current doldrums and turn things around during that upcoming stretch of games mentioned by Simmons. If they don’t, however, this situation could lead to a coaching change or a roster shakeup.

THE ATHLETIC: James Mirtle suggests the Leafs could need a trade to snap out of their current tailspin. He reminds us that Dubas has had some success with in-season trades, pointing to the acquisitions of Jake Muzzin, Jack Campbell, Ilya Lyubushkin and Mark Giordano. With Muzzin on long-term injury reserve, it frees up a large chunk of his $5.6 million cap hit to put toward acquisitions.

Mirtle suggested Dubas could shop some of his underperforming players to free up more cap space. Justin Holl ($2 million), Pierre Engvall ($2.25 million), Alex Kerfoot ($3.5 million) or Nicolas Aube-Kubel ($1 million) could be trade candidates, with bigger names perhaps becoming available if the losing continues.

Given the Leafs need to address their puck-moving issues among their defensemen, Mirtle suggested Arizona’s Jakob Chychrun or Anaheim’s John Klingberg as possible options. Others included Columbus’ Vladislav Gavrikov, New Jersey’s Damon Severson or Arizona’s Shayne Gostisbehere.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs were reportedly interested in acquiring Ethan Bear from the Carolina Hurricanes but didn’t want to part with a draft pick. He wound up shipped last Friday to the Vancouver Canucks.

That indicates Dubas is looking around for help in the trade market. Finding a suitable return will be difficult at this point in the season given how many clubs have limited salary-cap space but it’s not impossible. However, it could require some creativity on his part, including parting with a quality draft pick or a promising prospect.

Mirtle acknowledged Chychrun’s injury history well as the Coyotes’ high asking price. Klingberg could be a more affordable option in terms of return and perhaps the Ducks would retain some of his $7 million cap hit for the right offer. However, Jamie Drysdale’s potentially season-ending shoulder injury could force the Ducks to hang onto Klingberg for a while.

Gostisbehere could be a possibility as he won’t cost nearly as much as Chychrun to get from the Coyotes. I don’t see the Blue Jackets parting with Gavrikov given his solid all-around play and value to their blueline. The Devils are off to a terrific start and aren’t under any pressure right now to move Severson.

THE JEFF MAREK SHOW (stick tap to NHL Watcher): Elliotte Friedman believes Auston Matthews will sign a contract extension with the Maple Leafs. He doesn’t necessarily believe it’ll be a long-term deal.

Friedman is concerned about things going off the rails. He doesn’t believe the 24-year-old center is currently unhappy but felt the Leafs have to “constantly take his temperature”.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The earliest Matthews can sign with the Leafs is July 1, 2023. He’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent a year later. It’s interesting that Friedman believes he’d sign a short-term extension. Perhaps it would be a three-year deal taking him up to age 30.

Of course, as Friedman also points out, it will depend on whether Matthews is happy with the direction of the Leafs. If things do go off the rails, he could decide to test the market on July 1, 2024.