NHL Free Agents & Trade Candidates – Toronto Maple Leafs
Check out the recent speculation on the Philadelphia Flyers, Vegas Golden Knights, and Toronto Maple Leafs in today’s NHL rumor mill.
DOES GOSTISBEHERE HAVE A FUTURE WITH THE FLYERS?
NBC SPORTS: Examining the Philadelphia Flyers’ long-term needs last week, James O’Brien noted Shayne Gostisbehere surfaced in trade rumors this season. He pointed out the 26-year-old defenseman was hampered by injuries this season. He doesn’t feel they should sell low on a player who can generate offense, is reasonably young, and carries a generally cheap annual average value ($4.5 million) through 2022-23.
That may depend on whether Ghost is traded. After a slow start, Braun has been a big part of their resurgence. https://t.co/o4On6dWWM3
— Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull) April 20, 2020
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Flyers have over $69.5 million invested in 13 players for 2020-21. They have enough to re-sign restricted free agents like Nolan Patrick, Oskar Lindblom, Philippe Myers, and Robert Hagg, and should have sufficient space to re-sign or replace unrestricted free agent goalie Brian Elliott. If they want to add to their lineup, however, they’ll have to make a cost-cutting trade. The preference could be to get a player of decent value for Gostisbehere, but they could sell low and use the cap savings to pursue another player via a separate trade or free agency.
WHICH GOLDEN KNIGHTS UFAS MIGHT DEPART AFTER THIS SEASON?
THE ATHLETIC (SUBSCRIPTION REQUIRED): Jesse Granger recently examined which Vegas Golden Knights’ free agents will stay or go. He believes keeping UFA goalie Robin Lehner will mean moving a big piece of their lineup because they cannot afford to invest $13-$14 million in Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury. Granger predicts UFA forward Ryan Reaves could re-sign for one more year at $1.5 million. The emergence of Nicolas Roy could make Tomas Nosek expendable. It might be time to move on from Deryk Engelland and Jon Merrill.
We have learned through a trusted source that Ryan Reaves and the Golden Knights have been discussing, and may have already signed, a 2-year contract extension. AAV unknown. — SinBin.vegas (@SinBinVegas) April 20, 2020
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unless the Golden Knights pull a swerve and trade Fleury, they’ll bid adieu to Lehner following this season, whenever that might be. If Reaves is discussing a two-year extension, perhaps it’ll be for $1.5 million annually.
LATEST LEAFS SPECULATION.
SPORTSNET: Luke Fox addresses some Toronto Maple Leafs speculation in a recent mailbag segment. He doubts the Leafs can land St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo via free agency. He noted the Leafs prefer dealing for players with term left on their contracts, suggesting Anaheim’s Josh Manson, Buffalo’s Rasmus Ristolainen, and Minnesota’s Matt Dumba as possible trade targets.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Pietrangelo were willing to sign with the Leafs, they cannot afford him. It’s believed it could cost over $9 million annually to sign him. Assuming a flat cap for next season, the Leafs have nearly $77 million invested in 16 players for next season. Unless they shed significant salary, they won’t have sufficient cap space to invest in Pietrangelo.
As for Manson, Ristolainen, and Dumba, the asking price for each will likely be a top-six scorer, preferably a center. That’s what the Ducks, Sabres, and Wild need. And no, I don’t believe Alexander Kerfoot will address that need.
Fox believes Andreas Johnsson could be the player Leafs GM Kyle Dubas would be most comfortable trading, but he doesn’t consider him the one most likely to be moved. He feels Kerfoot or Kasperi Kapanen would be more enticing to GMs with defensemen they’re willing to trade.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Johnsson’s sophomore slump and injured right knee hurt his trade value. It could take parting with Kapanen or Kerfoot to land that top-four blueliner the Leafs desperately need after this season.
Several Eastern Conference clubs could face some serious off-season questions. Check them out in today’s NHL rumor mill.
SPORTSNET: Ryan Dixon raises some burning off-season questions for each of the NHL’s Eastern Conference clubs. Some were speculation involving off-season plans for several teams:
Dixon suggested the Buffalo Sabres should boost their goaltending depth via the unrestricted free agent market.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Assuming the Sabres are looking for an experienced backup for promising Linus Ullmark, options could include Dallas’ Anton Khudobin, Calgary’s Cam Talbot, Boston’s Jaroslav Halak, and the New York Islanders’ Thomas Greiss.
Dixon wondered if the Carolina Hurricanes will go big-game hunting. He’d love to see them sign a UFA goaltender like Robin Lehner or Jacob Markstrom. If someone like Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau were to hit the trade block, acquiring him would be the type of move the Hurricanes could pull off.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $72 million invested in 15 players for 2020-21, including goaltenders Petr Mrazek and James Reimer, the Hurricanes lack sufficient room and dollars to add Lehner or Markstrom. Of course, they could attempt to move Mrazek or Reimer to create room for a UFA goalie signing. Gaudreau isn’t going anywhere this off-season, but yes, if he were available, the Hurricanes have the depth in young roster talent, prospects, and draft picks to pull off such a move. Whether they’d do it, however, is another matter.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have the base for a good-to-great team if they got an injection of pure talent such as Gaudreau or Taylor Hall. Dixon acknowledged they have some in-house business to sort out, such as re-signing Pierre-Luc Dubois and what to do with winger Josh Anderson, who has arbitration rights.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen has made bold moves before, so we shouldn’t dismiss the possibility he’ll do it again. Adding Hall, however, will be too expensive for a club carrying over $68 million tied up in 17 players next season. As I mentioned earlier, Gaudreau’s not going anywhere, but the cost of adding someone like him could be too burdensome to pull off this year.
If the Detroit Red Wings don’t believe winger Anthony Mantha is worth a long-term deal, Dixon suggested shopping him while he has trade value for another piece or two that helps their long-term rebuild.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Mantha has 30-goal ability but his injury history is a red flag. They possess plenty of salary-cap space to re-sign him, so it’ll be interesting to how GM Steve Yzerman handles this.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’ll depend on Panthers owner Vinnie Viola. It’s been suggested his unhappiness with the club’s performance could lead to a cost-cutting shakeup. A bold move would be moving Barkov or Huberdeau, but the latter has a full no-movement clause while the former’s kicks in after this season. Defenseman Aaron Ekblad lacks no-trade protection until 2021-22, but a more likely trade candidate could be Mike Matheson, who surfaced in the rumor mill before the Feb. 24 trade deadline.
Dixon wondered if the Montreal Canadiens might swap a forward, such as pending RFA Max Domi, for a defenseman if the right fit can be found.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I expect GM Marc Bergevin will explore every option. With depth in draft picks and prospects plus plenty of salary-cap space, Bergevin might not have to part with a roster forward to bring in a blueliner. He could instead target cap-strapped clubs in need of shedding salary.
Once the New Jersey Devils sort out who their general manager will be, Dixon proposed shopping winger Kyle Palmieri could fetch a good return. He’s a year away from UFA eligibility.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That decision could tkae place before next season’s trade deadline, whenever that might be.
If Henrik Lundqvist wants to continue playing, Dixon suggested the New York Rangers buy out the final season of his contract and let him test the UFA water.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It wouldn’t surprise me if the Blueshirts go that route. With Lundqvist losing playing time to young goalies Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev, it may be time to part ways with King Henrik.
With the Ottawa Senators carrying seven second-round picks in the next two drafts, Dixon wondered if they might shop some of them for an under-25 player or two in need of a change of scenery.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s a good suggestion, one Senators GM Pierre Dorion could explore when the off-season finally arrives.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: it can’t be ruled out, but it will be a tight squeeze within the Penguins’ limited cap space.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That forward could be Alex Killorn, whose full no-trade clause becomes a 16-team no-trade list following this season.
The Toronto Maple Leafs will have to look outside the organization to boost their blueline. A lack of cap space and depth in the UFA market could force them into the trade market.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: And if they do go that route, a second-tier forward like Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, or Alexander Kerfoot could become a trade candidate.
Dixon mused over the possibility of Braden Holtby returning to the Washington Capitals for another year or two at a salary similar to his current $6.1 million AAV.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holtby has indicated his intent to get the best deal he can as he enters the UFA market for the first time. Assuming he can’t find one this year if the salary cap remains flat, perhaps he and the Capitals might circle back and discuss a short-term deal. Even then, bringing back Holtby would push their cap payroll to over $77 million invested in 17 players, leaving little room under a flat cap to fill the rest of the roster.