Latest on Auston Matthews, Taylor Hall, Artemi Panarin, Derick Brassard, Brent Seabrook and more in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the Toronto Maple Leafs will meet with Auston Matthews’ representatives regarding a contract extension for the 21-year-old center, who’s slated to become a restricted free agent this summer. While he’s eligible to receive an eight-year extension, that would be too expensive and force the breakup of the roster. Instead, they’re focusing on a five- or six-year deal.
Chris Johnston speculates it could be worth in the range of $11 million while a six-year one creeps closer to $12 million. A five-year contract also buys one of Matthew’s unrestricted free agent years while a six-year one buys two UFA years. Once the Matthews deal is settled, Nick Kypreos said the Leafs will shift their attention to Mitch Marner, who’s also due to become an RFA this summer.
Luke Fox reports Matthews is fine with whatever agreement the two sides reach. “There’s no secret there’s a cap. So, try to find something that works for both sides and obviously helps us out with that whole situation. I’ll leave it to them and just continue to play hockey, and once it’s done, it’s done. That’ll be it,” said Matthews.
TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons believes a simple way for the Leafs to avoid Matthews and Marner receiving offer sheets this summer is to re-sign them before July 1…He also said he’s told the Leafs wouldn’t trade Kasperi Kapanen or Andreas Johnsson for Chicago Blackhawks veteran defenseman Duncan Keith…Simmons said the Leafs will attempt to include blueliner Nikita Zaitsev in every trade talk they have leading up to the trade deadline. He doesn’t believe they should move prospect defenseman Rasmus Sandin but said they’re getting some action on Timothy Liljegren, who looks like a future NHL defenseman, though not a star.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s going to cost a lot of money to re-sign Matthews. The Leafs are simply trying to make it as affordable as possible to free up an extra million or two to put toward other signings this summer. Sounds like something between $11-$12 million annually. Matthews doesn’t appear too concerned over how much he’ll get and for how long. Some thought he’d push for Connor McDavid money ($12.5 million) or more. This will push him close to McDavid.
Trading for Keith would be a great idea if he weren’t 35, signed through 2022-23, and if the Leafs weren’t faced with investing over $20 million on Matthews and Marner this summer. Good luck moving Zaitsev and his $4.5-million annual average value through 2023-24.
The New Jersey Devils aren’t moving Taylor Hall before the trade deadline. (Photo via NHL Images)
DEVILS, HALL, AND BOYLE
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports some teams decided to take stock of players with expiring contracts after it emerged the Columbus Blue Jackets wouldn’t be able to re-sign winger Artemi Panarin during this season. He said there were rumblings the New Jersey Devils might try to move Taylor Hall now as opposed to doing so this summer but Devils general manager Ray Shero said there’s “zero chance” he trades Hall before the trade deadline. Hall is slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2020.
TSN: Frank Seravalli reports there’s increased interest in Devils forward Brian Boyle but the 34-year-old prefers staying put. He has an eight-team no-trade list.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think the Devils are prepared to make Hall the highest-paid player in franchise history this summer. But if they feel he’s hesitant about re-signing, they could try shopping him in the offseason rather than suffer the same fate as the Blue Jackets with Panarin. I can also see them re-signing Boyle to an affordable deal.
BRASSARD AND PANARIN
SPORTSNET: Nick Kypreos believes center Derick Brassard shouldn’t get too comfortable with the Florida Panthers after being dealt by the Pittsburgh Penguins. There’s a feeling he could be moved and there’s speculation the Columbus Blue Jackets might be interested.
Kypreos wonders if that might involve “a bigger picture” with Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky but Elliotte Friedman feels that’s speculation and pursuing those guys would be free-agent moves. He adds there’s a ton of interest in Panarin but teams that are interested don’t expect they’ll be allowed to discuss a contract extension with him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Brassard bundled in a package deal (with at least a good young forward and a first-round pick) for Panarin would certainly be a bold move by the Panthers, but why part with assets for a guy you could sign this summer via free agency? Yes, I know, it would give them time to hammer out an agreement on a new contract, but there’s still the risk he could test the market. You’ve also got to figure the Blue Jackets would want a good young forward as part of the return, too. If Brassard returns to Columbus, it’ll likely be for a draft pick.
BLACKHAWKS ASK SEABROOK TO WAIVE NO-TRADE.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports Chicago Blackhawks management has approached defenseman Brent Seabrook about waiving his no-trade clause. Seabrook has said no to that request but the club will still test the trade market to see if there’s interest in the veteran blueliner.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hands up everyone who wants to take on a fading 33-year-old defenseman signed through 2023-24 with an annual salary-cap hit of $6.875 million? Anyone? Anyone?
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks believes the Rangers should avoid a scenario in which they swap pending UFA center Kevin Hayes for Columbus’ pending UFA winger Artemi Panarin. He feels Hayes will likely be moved by the trade deadline for a stockpile of future assets and not someone who could depart via free agency in July. Brooks speculates the Florida Panthers are the one non-contender with a vested interest in obtaining Panarin and using the remainder of the season to woo him into signing a contract extension.
Brooks also reports the Pittsburgh Penguins have been monitoring Rangers winger Mats Zuccarello, though they’re not overflowing with prospects to exchange for a rental player. He wonders if the Blueshirts might trade Hayes and Zuccarello before the trade deadline and perhaps attempt to bring them back this summer as free agents.
Brooks recently wondered if there might be a market for Rangers blueliner Marc Staal. While teams aren’t beating down the door to inquire about “a rather immobile 32-year-old defenseman” with two full seasons at $5.7 million per season but noted some serious contenders are always in the market for blueline depth. Staal would have to waive his no-trade clause.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t see a Hayes-for-Panarin swap going down. If, as expected, Hayes gets traded it’ll be for young assets that could help the Rangers within the next couple of years. The Penguins could dangle young goalie Tristan Jarry for Zuccarello but I don’t think that’s going to happen. It’s possible Penguins GM Jim Rutherford is done dealing but he could still have once more trick up his sleeve. I also don’t see a market for Staal.
JETS EXPECTED TO BE BUYERS
WINNIPEG SUN: Ken Wiebe reports Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is expected to be a buyer at the trade deadline and will likely target a forward. While a center remains a priority, a high-end winger like Ottawa’s Mark Stone (provided he’s available) could also prove tempting. With their window of opportunity now at its widest before the inevitable salary-cap crunch, Cheveldayoff could look long and hard at his options. Wiebe expects Cheveldayoff will be careful with cost and won’t mortgage the future, though the Jets’ first-round pick in this year’s draft could be in play.
WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: The Jets are actively shopping little-used Nic Petan but are rejecting offers for young forward Jack Roslovic.
SPORTSNET: Nick Kypreos said Hayes is still linked to the Winnipeg Jets
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hayes could be a more realistic option for the Jets than Stone or Matt Duchene, as the Senators will set a high price for either guy. With a growing number of quality players potentially available leading up to the deadline, Cheveldayoff should be able to find a suitable trade target that’s within his price range, especially if he’s willing to part with his first-round pick.
TEAMS SEEKING FIRST-ROUNDERS FOR KEY RENTALS
SPORTSNET: Nick Kypreos reports it’s become a buyer’s market, with the sellers seeking first-round picks. The Los Angeles Kings seek a first-round pick for Tyler Toffoli, as do the Ottawa Senators for Ryan Dzingel, and the Carolina Hurricanes for Micheal Ferland. Kypreos believes the Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames, and Nashville Predators have their first-rounders in play.
SPORTSNET: Nick Kypreos speculates the Nashville Predators could be in the market for one or two forwards with Auston Watson now suspended indefinitely as he receives treatment under the league’s substance abuse program.
NICHOLS ON HOCKEY: TSN’s Darren Dreger appeared on Buffalo’s WGR 550 on Friday and was asked if the Boston Bruins will do anything before the trade deadline. Dreger believes they will try to add a center or a right wing. He suggested Ottawa’s Matt Duchene (if he’s available) or Ryan Dzingel or Los Angeles’ Tyler Toffoli as possible options.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: They’ve also been linked to Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds and Carolina’s Micheal Ferland.
KRONWALL WANTS TO REMAIN A RED WING
SPORTSNET: Nick Kypreos reports Detroit Red Wings veteran defenseman Niklas Kronwall has informed the team he has no interest in being traded. He has a limited no-trade clause but it’s believed GM Ken Holland will respect Kronwall’s wishes unless he gets an offer too good to refuse and could then take it to Kronwall. Kypreos said there’s also talk of a possible contract extension.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think Kronwall will still be a Red Wing after 3 PM ET on Feb. 25.