Have The Toronto Maple Leafs Turned The Corner At Last?
Are the Maple Leafs interested in Flames forward Sam Bennett? Are the Canucks shopping Jake Virtanen and Adam Gaudette? What’s the latest on Senators center Derek Stepan? Find out in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.
LEAFS INTERESTED IN BENNETT?
SPORTSNET: NHL insider Chris Johnston appeared on Hockey Central on Friday where he was asked about the trade status of Sam Bennett. The 24-year-old Calgary Flames forward was a healthy scratch from Thursday’s loss to the Winnipeg Jets, stoking speculation he could be moved soon.
Johnston didn’t feel a trade was imminent but didn’t rule out the possibility. He believes the Toronto Maple Leafs have some level of interest in Bennett but wasn’t sure if they had the right trade piece to tempt the Flames.
TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons believes the Leafs could use a player like Bennett to bring an edge to their third line. He doesn’t expect they could land him in a one-for-one swap of Alex Kerfoot but suggested adding a sweetener could get the deal done.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There was some suggestion Bennett could be considered as having played his final game with the Flames if he was scratched from Saturday’s tilt with the Edmonton Oilers. He was back in the lineup for that contest, scoring his first goal of the season. Perhaps they were showcasing him in that game for a trade or maybe he was scratched to send a message that he needs to pick up his play.
Cap Friendly indicates the Flames don’t have much salary-cap space. Bennett carries an annual average value of $2.55 million and becomes a restricted free agent this summer while Kerfoot is signed through 2022-23 with an AAV of $3.5 million. If the Leafs are interested in Bennett, the sweetener suggested by Simmons should be picking a big chunk of Kerfoot’s cap hit. However, that might not be possible given the Leafs’ cap situation.
CANUCKS FLOATING VIRTANEN & GAUDETTE IN TRADE MARKET
THE PROVINCE: Patrick Johnston reports the struggling Vancouver Canucks have floated the names of forwards Jake Virtanen and Adam Gaudette in the trade market. Given their poor performances, however, there doesn’t seem to be any interest in either player.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That isn’t surprising. Virtanen has potential as a second-line scorer but his inconsistency has damaged whatever trade value he may have had. Gaudette showed some promise last season with 12 goals and 33 points in 59 games but he had a disappointing effort in the 2020 playoffs and hasn’t improved since.
LATEST ON STEPAN
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reported the Ottawa Senators are exploring trade possibilities for Derek Stepan. Friedman feels it’s more to do with family issues than performance. “He’s away from his family and I think they want to get him closer.” The Senators acquired Stepan from the Arizona Coyotes before the season began. He left his family in Arizona when he joined the Senators.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Former Sportsnet insider Nick Kypreos and Ottawa Sun reporter Bruce Garrioch first broke this report last week. They also indicated this was being considered for family reasons. There’s no indication where they could ship Stepan. It’s unlikely he’ll return to the Coyotes as they traded him as a cost-cutting measure.