NHL Rumor Mill – March 2, 2020
Some suggested off-season blueline targets for the Leafs, the Rangers’ goalie situation, and the best remaining UFAs in today’s NHL rumor mill.
OFF-SEASON BLUELINE TARGETS FOR THE LEAFS
SPORTSNET: Luke Fox recently looked ahead at this summer’s potential trade and free-agent targets to shore up the Toronto Maple Leafs’ defense corps. He doubts general manager Kyle Dubas can go into next season with Justin Holl, Timothy Liljegren and Joseph Duszak as right-side defensemen. He also expected Tyson Barrie and Cody Ceci will depart via free agency in July.
St. Louis Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo tops this summer’s UFA market for defensemen, following by second-tier options like Sami Vatanen, Travis Hamonic, Mike Green, Dylan DeMelo, Justin Schultz, Chris Tanev and Kevin Shattenkirk. The Leafs had previous interest in Hamonic and Tanev.
The thin free-agent market combined with the Leafs’ limited salary-cap space could push Dubas into the trade market. Options could include Minnesota’s Matt Dumba, Anaheim’s Josh Manson, Vancouver’s Troy Stecher, and Buffalo’s Brandon Montour and Rasmus Ristolainen.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $77 million tied up in 16 players for 2020-21, the Leafs won’t have much room to bid for the best UFA rearguards unless Dubas sheds salary before the start of next season. Even then, he doubt they could afford Pietrangelo, who could seek over $9 million annually if he hits the open market. Hamonic ($3.857 million) and Tanev ($4.45 million) could be more affordable, especially if they go unsigned beyond the opening weeks of free agency.
Forwards Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, and Alexander Kerfoot was often suggested as trade candidates for a defenseman this season. I daresay we’ll see their names floated in the off-season rumor mill.
Dumba, Manson and Ristolainen carry annual average salaries of $4 million or more. Montour ($3.387 million) and Stecher (2.325 million) are more affordable trade options. The Sabres could be reluctant to trade Montour to a division rival like Toronto. Stecher was linked to the Leafs before the trade deadline, so perhaps there’s a possibility there.
Fox rules out the possibility of the Leafs pursuing Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, who could be traded or have his contract terminated this summer.
WHAT WILL THE RANGERS DO ABOUT THEIR GOALTENDING?
Fox also believes New York Rangers GM Jeff Gorton must sort out his goaltending situation in the off-season. The Rangers have carried three netminders – Henrik Lundqvist, Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev – since January.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With long-time Rangers starter Lundqvist relegated behind Shesterkin and Georgiev, some in the New York media (hello there, Larry Brooks) believe “King Henrik” could be bought out of the final season of his contract in June.
They could attempt to trade him first, provide Lundqvist is willing to waive his no-movement clause. Even then, the Rangers could be asked to absorb part of his $8.5-million annual cap hit.
TOP 2019 NHL UFAS
Fox also listed his ” All Impending UFA Starting Lineup in 2020″ following last week’s trade deadline.
Taylor Hall–Carl Soderberg–Mike Hoffman
Torey Krug–Alex Pietrangelo
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hall, Soderberg, and Hoffman could be the only ones still available when July 1 dawns. I expect Pietrangelo, Krug, and Markstrom will be re-signed by their respective teams.