NHL Rumor Mill – July 2, 2021
Are the Oilers interested in Duncan Keith? What’s the status of Oilers’ blueliners Adam Larsson, Tyson Barrie and Oscar Klefbom? Could July become a busy month for Leafs GM Kyle Dubas? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.
LATEST ON THE OILERS
Leavins suggests they need a solid, reliable blueliner in case sidelined Oscar Klefbom misses next season. He thinks there’s mutual interest between the Oilers and Keith’s camp. The longtime Blackhawks rearguard apparently wants to be traded to a club close to his offseason home in Penticton, BC to be near his son.
Despite the decline in Keith’s performance in recent years, Leavins feels he has enough left to slot in behind Darnell Nurse on the right side. He also carries a reasonable $5.538 million annual average value for two more seasons.
The Blackhawks’ asking price, however, could be a sticking point. If they won’t retain part of Keith’s cap hit, he wondered if they’d take back a contract they can buy out.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Leavins colleague David Staples believes Keith’s cap hit is a steep price for the Oilers to pay for an aging defenseman on his last NHL legs unless the Blackhawks take a contract like James Neal or Mikko Koskinen in return.
Neal has two years left on his deal at $5.75 million per season. Koskinen might be preferable with one year at $4.5 million remaining on his deal, provided Chicago’s on his list of agreeable trade destinations.
That’s assuming, of course, the Blackhawks would buy out that contract. As Leavins observed, they’re shopping for a top-level defenseman. While they’ll have nearly $11 million in long-term injury reserve cap space to draw upon if necessary, they still must manage their dollars carefully.
THE ATHLETIC: Daniel Nugent-Bowman expects the Oilers could reach an agreement on a new contract with Adam Larsson perhaps as soon as next week. He cited Larsson’s agent J.P. Barry saying they’re making progress toward a deal. Talks are expected to resume next week.
A new contract for Larsson means Tyson Barrie’s tenure in Edmonton will end after just one season despite the uncertainty over Klefbom’s status.
Klefbom missed all of last season to a shoulder injury that eventually required surgery. His agent doesn’t expect clarity as to the status of his recovery until the fall. He could be left exposed in the upcoming expansion draft.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers were happy with Barrie’s performance but GM Ken Holland has made re-signing Larsson the priority. Barrie seeks a long-term deal and that’s something the Oilers can’t afford.
Recent speculation suggested the Philadelphia Flyers were closely watching Larsson’s contract negotiations. They’ll have to shift their focus elsewhere if the Oilers get the 29-year-old shutdown defenseman under contract before July 28.
BUSY MONTH AHEAD FOR LEAFS GM DUBAS
TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan expected Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas faces the busiest month for shaping next season’s roster. If Dubas won’t part with an expensive forward like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares or William Nylander, he’ll have to follow the same plan as last offseason to address his roster depth issues.
Koshan expects pending UFA winger Zach Hyman will be too expensive to re-sign unless Dubas can clear some cap space. There’s interest in re-signing defenseman Zach Bogosian and goalie Frederik Andersen. Koshan also advocated bringing back a healthy Nick Foligno for the right price.
The Leafs will lose a player to the Seattle Kraken in the upcoming expansion draft. Center Alex Kerfoot or a defenseman like Travis Dermott or Justin Holl could be joining the Kraken.
Given the Leafs’ limited cap space, Dubas could end up signing some veterans to one-year contracts as he did in last year’s UFA market. He could make a big splash in the trade market, perhaps for a winger like Arizona’s Conor Garland. Koshan doesn’t think it makes sense to peddle blueliner Morgan Rielly a year out from his UFA eligibility.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dubas has been creative over the past couple of years in attempting to address his roster needs with limited cap room. He could, as Koshan suggested, sign some veterans to affordable one-year contracts again. Perhaps he’ll acquire a player on permanent LTIR to get some extra wiggle room for other additions. Maybe he swings a side deal with the Kraken. He could pull off a one-for-one swap of players with comparable contracts.
Whether those moves pan out remains to be seen. They won’t make the Leafs a club that can go deep into the playoffs if the past two offseasons are any indication. As long as Dubas keeps his “Big Four” forwards and doesn’t shop Rielly, the limited cap room will hinder his efforts.