NHL Rumor Mill – January 11, 2024

NHL Rumor Mill – January 11, 2024

Check out the latest on the Leafs’ Mitch Marner as well as the Flames’ Jacob Markstrom and Elias Lindholm plus some blueline trade options for the Devils in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.

HOW MUCH COULD MARNER EARN ON HIS NEXT CONTRACT?

SPORTSNET: In the wake of the Toronto Maple Leafs signing William Nylander, Josh Beneteau looked at how much the Leafs might have to pay to re-sign Mitch Marner. The 26-year-old winger becomes eligible for unrestricted free-agent status on July 1, 2025.

Marner’s current average annual value is $10.9 million. Based on his performance, he’s expected to get a raise. If he gets the same cap percentage as Boston’s David Pastrnak (13.47), his new AAV will be $12.392 million.

Toronto Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Marner will probably get that much with the Leafs or another club if he hits the open market. The question is whether the Leafs are willing to pay him that much. It’s bound to generate plenty of speculation over his future once July 1 rolls around as that’s the earliest the Leafs can open contract extension talks.

TIME TO TRADE MARKSTROM?

CALGARY SUN: Kent Wilson suggests the time may be right for the Flames to trade Jacob Markstrom. After struggling last season, the 2022 Vezina Trophy finalist is enjoying a bounce-back performance in 2023-24.

With playoff contenders such as the Toronto Maple Leafs, New Jersey Devils, Colorado Avalanche and Carolina Hurricanes undermined by bottom-of-the-league goaltending, Wilson felt this could be a good opportunity for the Flames to peddle Markstrom. Doing so would enable them to bring up his heir apparent Dustin Wolf on a full-time basis.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given the limited cap room for most of those clubs, moving Markstrom’s $6 million AAV through 2025-26 won’t happen before the trade deadline unless the Flames agree to retain half of it. His full no-movement clause could also complicate things.

Trading Markstrom would be difficult but not impossible during the offseason. The salary cap is expected to jump by $4.2 million, creating room for teams seeking an experienced starter.

WHAT COULD IT COST TO ACQUIRE ELIAS LINDHOLM?

THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Julian McKenzie was asked what a realistic trade return would be for Calgary Flames center Elias Lindholm.

McKenzie speculated the Flames could get a first-round pick and a lesser prospect or a higher-quality prospect and a lower pick. He also thinks that the asking price could change if Lindholm is willing to sign a contract extension with his new club.

As for potential trade partners, McKenzie suggested the Colorado Avalanche, Boston Bruins, Nashville Predators and Detroit Red Wings.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Avalanche have been often linked to Lindholm but cap space could be an issue. The same applies to the Bruins. I think the Predators and Red Wings would be the most keen to have Lindholm sign an extension rather than be a playoff rental.

DEVILS BLUELINE TRADE OPTIONS

NEW JERSEY HOCKEY NOW: James Nichols recently examined some possible options for the Devils to patch up or upgrade their injury-depleted defense corps.

Calgary Flames blueliners Noah Hanifin and Chris Tanev, Anaheim Ducks rearguard Ilya Lyubushkin and Philadelphia Flyers d-man Nick Seeler were his suggested trade options.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hanifin’s the best of the bunch but he’ll also cost the most to acquire. Tanev won’t be as expensive but the asking price could be a second-rounder and a prospect. Lyubushkin and Seeler would be much more affordable options in terms of cap hit and return.










NHL Rumor Mill – January 9, 2024

NHL Rumor Mill – January 9, 2024

The fallout from the Leafs re-signing William Nylander, an update on Oilers goalie Jack Campbell, and the latest on the Senators in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.

FALLOUT FROM THE NYLANDER SIGNING

TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan believes the work has just begun for Maple Leafs general manager Brad Treliving after signing William Nylander yesterday to an eight-year, $92 million contract extension.

On July 1, captain John Tavares and winger Mitch Marner will be eligible to sign contract extensions as they’ll both be in the final season of their current deals. Marner’s next contract will probably cost between $11.5 million annually and $13.25 million.

Treliving could also consider tweaking his roster by the March 8 trade deadline. Bolstering the defense remains a priority. He could also look at adding a depth forward.

TORONTO STAR: Kevin McGran also noted that T.J. Brodie, Tyler Bertuzzi and Max Domi are slated to become unrestricted free agents on July 1. Meanwhile, goaltender Ilya Samsonov continues to work on improving his game with the AHL Marlies.

ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski speculates Nylander’s new contract could come up in contract negotiations between the Vancouver Canucks and Elias Pettersson. The difference, however, is Nylander was slated to become a UFA on July 1 whereas Pettersson is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights.

Florida Panthers forward Sam Reinhart and Pittsburgh Penguins winger Jake Guentzel could also benefit from Nylander’s new deal. They’re a little older but could make the case for seeking over $10 million annually on their new contracts.

Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It will likely cost the Leafs more than Nylander’s $11.5 million and less than Auston Matthew’s $13.25 million AAV to get Marner under contract. He could come in between $12 million and $12.5 million on a long-term deal.

Tavares is playing well but the 33-year-old Leafs captain will have to accept a pay cut from his current $11 million AAV to stay in Toronto. How much of a cut will determine whether he has a future with the Leafs beyond July 1, 2025. It’ll have to go at least below $10 million for sure.

The Leafs can afford to re-sign Brodie, Bertuzzi and Domi but they won’t overpay to do so. It won’t be surprising if at least one of them ends up hitting the open market on July 1.

Pettersson is two years younger than Nylander and keeping pace with the Leafs winger in points. I wouldn’t be shocked if he ended up with a similar contract given his value to the surging Canucks.

Reinhart and Guentzel could get over $10 million annually on their next contracts with the salary cap rising by $4.2 million for 2024-25. Whether they get them from their current clubs remains to be seen.

WILL THE OILERS TRY TO MOVE CAMPBELL?

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun reports Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland intends to see if Jack Campbell can bounce back though there’s no real sign of it yet.

I’ll watch Jack Campbell, I’ll work the phones, I’ll watch our team and ultimately between now and the trade deadline, make some decisions with our staff as to what we think we need to do,” said Holland.

LeBrun speculates the Oilers GM could attempt to add a veteran goalie to be a 1B with Stuart Skinner or a more traditional backup. He thinks a goalie trade is possible but doesn’t see a likely scenario where they can move Campbell’s contract before the trade deadline.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun thinks it could cost the Oilers two first-round picks to convince a club to take on the remaining three years of Campbell’s contract. Unless the Oilers are willing to retain up to half of his $5 million average annual value, I don’t see him going anywhere by deadline day.

LATEST ON THE SENATORS

SPORTSNET: Wayne Scanlan believes roster changes are inevitable for the struggling Ottawa Senators. With their playoff hopes fading away, management must decide who stays and who goes.

Scanlan wonders what effect the years of losing could have on defenseman Thomas Chabot and team captain Brady Tkachuk. He wondered if the new front office is as devout to sticking with the mantra of building with youth as their predecessors.

General manager Steve Staios has publicly said he wants to add a veteran or two. However, there is a theory that he could also attempt to shake things up by moving one or two of the young core players.

THE ATHLETIC: Ian Mendes believes all eyes will be on Senators forwards Vladimir Tarasenko and Dominik Kubalik leading up to the March 8 trade deadline. Both are eligible to become unrestricted free agents on July 1.

Mendes also noted that Thomas Chabot’s no-trade clause kicks in on July 1. While it seems doubtful the Senators would trade their best defenseman, the new regime in charge isn’t beholden to anyone on this roster as they didn’t acquire any of them.

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports Staios is trying to juggle salary-cap space to make room for center Shane Pinto once he’s finished serving his 41-game suspension later this month. He’ll have to demote someone or make a cost-cutting trade.

Garrioch also reports Staios will find it difficult to add one or two veteran players at this time. Teams that have good character players prefer to keep them and those that are available come with a high asking price. A league executive also said those players prefer going to a playoff contender rather than Ottawa.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Garrioch indicated Staios and his front office team aren’t ready to move core players like Chabot, Tkachuk, Tim Stutzle, Josh Norris, Drake Batherson and Jake Sanderson. We won’t see any of those guys being peddled by the trade deadline.

Nevertheless, Scanlan makes a good point about the effect that years of losing could have on some of those players, especially guys like Chabot and Tkachuk who’ve been there the longest. Perhaps one or two of them grow weary of this situation and request a trade in the offseason.

For now, Tarasenko and Kubalik appear to be the only notable Senators certain to be on the move by the deadline. We’ll see if that changes in the coming weeks.










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – June 11, 2023

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – June 11, 2023

Check out the latest on Connor Hellebuyck, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, Brett Pesce, Carter Hart, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Noah Hanifin and many more in the Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Insiders Pierre LeBrun, Eric Duhatschek and Michael Russo reported the latest trade rumors on the following:

Connor Hellebuyck will not sign a contract extension with the Winnipeg Jets. “That ship has sailed. His next contract will be with a new team.”

SPECTORS’ NOTE: Hellebuyck, 30, has a year remaining on his contract with a cap hit of $6.166 million and lacks no-trade protection. The Jets could retain him for more shot at a playoff run but it seems more likely that he’ll be moved, perhaps by the upcoming NHL draft on June 28-29 in Nashville.

Speaking of the Jets, agent Pat Brisson reportedly informed management that his client, Pierre-Luc Dubois, isn’t interested in a contract extension. Brisson is willing to work with management to find a suitable trade partner. The Montreal Canadiens have engaged with the Jets but aren’t likely to overpay in return or contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes last week said that Habs captain Nick Suzuki’s $7.875 million cap hit was not the club’s cap ceiling for adding players via trade or free agency.

There was some speculation linking Dubois to the Boston Bruins. However, Boston Hockey Now’s Jimmy Murphy cited an NHL executive saying the Bruins lack the cap space and the tradeable assets to acquire him.

Toronto Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner (NHL Images).

Brad Treliving, the new general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, prefers to keep the club’s “core four” (Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and captain John Tavares) intact. Signing Matthews to a contract extension this summer remains his priority. He also hasn’t mentioned Marner’s name when talking with other clubs.

Treliving also wants to sign Nylander, whose agent also represents Johnny Gaudreau. Given that history when Treliving was Flames GM last year, he won’t allow Nylander’s situation to play out all year as he did with Gaudreau.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The trade chatter regarding Matthews, Marner and Nylander has cooled significantly in recent weeks. If Treliving plans to move any of those three, he’ll have to do it before July 1. That’s when the no-movement clauses for Matthews and Marner kick in along with Nylander’s 10-team no-trade clause.

The Carolina Hurricanes hope to re-sign Brady Skjei and Brett Pesce to extensions this summer. It’s possible the Hurricanes trade Pesce (who recently changed agents) if his contract demands aren’t what management has in mind.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pesce’s AAV on his current deal is $4.025 million. The 28-year-old is slated to become a UFA next summer. He could seek between $6 million and $6.5 million annually on his next deal.

Flyers GM Daniel Briere is listening to trade offers for goaltender Carter Hart and forwards Travis Konecny and Scott Laughton.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That doesn’t mean those three are certain to be traded. However, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman also reported many teams spoke with Briere at the draft combine in Buffalo last week about Laughton and Hart.

Friedman also mentioned last week that the Flyers are aggressively shopping defenseman Tony DeAngelo.

Briere showed a willingness last week to make bold moves with that three-team deal that sent Ivan Provorov to Columbus. We can’t rule out the possibility that he’ll move at least one of those guys for the right offer, one heavy with draft picks and quality prospects or young players that accelerates his rebuilding program.

The New Jersey Devils traded the rights of pending UFA defenseman Damon Severson last week to the Columbus Blue Jackets, who promptly signed him to an eight-year contract. The Devils could also peddle the rights of UFAs Ryan Graves and Miles Wood.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As with the Severson deal, the asking price will likely be a draft pick.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reported Calgary Flames GM Craig Conroy is fielding offers for Noah Hanifin. The 26-year-old defenseman is earning an AAV of $4.95 million and is slated to become a UFA next July.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flames have shaken up their front office and coaching staff this spring so it’s no surprise the focus is shifting to the roster. It’ll be interesting to see what Conroy has in store this summer. Forwards Elias Lindholm, Mikael Backlund and Tyler Toffoli are also eligible to become UFAs next summer.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Sammi Silber reports the Washington Capitals have let teams know that forwards Evgeny Kuznetsov and Anthony Mantha are on the trade block. Both players are coming off disappointing performances this season. The Capitals hope to shake up their roster and create some salary-cap flexibility.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Moving either guy won’t be easy. Kuznetsov is signed through 2024-25 with an AAV of $7.8 million and a 10-team no-trade clause. Mantha has a year left on his contract and lacks no-trade protection but carries a $5.7 million cap hit.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Nick Horwat recently cited Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman claiming Tristan Jarry is looking for a six-or seven-year contract. The 28-year-old Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender is eligible for UFA status on July 1 after coming off a three-year deal with an AAV of $3.5 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With Hellebucyk, Hart and the Anaheim Ducks’ John Gibson surfacing in the rumor mill of late, the Penguins could pursue one of those as a replacement for Jarry.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 24, 2023

NHL Rumor Mill – May 24, 2023

Will the Leafs keep their “core four” together after all? What roster priority faces new Flames GM Craig Conroy? What’s the latest Capitals speculation? Find out in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.

WILL THE LEAFS KEEP THEIR “CORE FOUR” TOGETHER?

TSN: Chris Johnston reports Toronto Maple Leafs team president Brendan Shanahan told the club’s top players – Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner and William Nylander – that they are not likely to be moved. The club’s vision right now is for those “core four” to return next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Speculation abounded following the Leafs second-round elimination that one of those four would be moved. The consensus was Matthews, who is a year away from unrestricted free agent eligibility, was too valuable to trade and the club would do all it could to re-sign him. Tavares’ no-movement clause meant he wasn’t going anywhere given his stated intent to finish his contract with the Leafs.

Toronto Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner (NHL Images).

That left Marner and Nylander as the most likely trade candidates with pundits debating which one would get dealt. The belief was either guy would fetch a power forward or a No. 1 defenseman.

If Shanahan intends to keep those four, it means another offseason where the Leafs are hampered by limited salary-cap space to augment the depth around those core players. They have $9.1 million invested in 15 players for 2023-24, though they’ll garner $5.625 million in salary-cap relief if required with Jake Muzzin expected to remain on long-term injury reserve next season.

The only other player who would fetch a quality return is Morgan Rielly and he’s far too valuable to their blueline corps. So, if the Leafs keep their “core four” forwards, don’t expect any blockbuster trade or major free-agent signing this summer that pushes the Leafs over the hump next season.

It’ll just be more of the same. They’ll be a terrific regular-season team that struggles in the playoffs.

WHAT ROSTER PRIORITY FACES FLAMES GM CONROY?

CALGARY SUN: Daniel Austin believes addressing Elias Lindholm’s future is among the priorities facing Craig Conroy, who was formally introduced yesterday as the Flames new general manager.

Lindholm is among several Flames (Noah Hanifin, Tyler Toffoli, Mikael Backlund, Nikita Zadorov and Chris Tanev) eligible next summer for unrestricted free-agent status. The 28-year-old center was non-committal about a contract extension during his end-of-season interview but that was before the club fired head coach Darryl Sutter.

Conroy indicated calling Lindholm is among his priorities to determine if he’s changed his mind. He’d love to keep him beyond next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Conroy indicated that it doesn’t make sense for the Flames to enter next season with seven pending UFAs on the roster. He also said that he’d like to add more youth to his roster core “a little bit” but not change “the core pieces”.

Conroy could decide to peddle some of those UFAs if they’re unwilling to sign contract extensions. The Flames could be worth monitoring during the offseason. They don’t want a repeat of last summer when they lost Johnny Gaudreau to free agency for nothing.

LATEST CAPITALS SPECULATION

DAILY FACEOFF: Frank Seravalli reports Anthony Mantha has popped up in a few different trade conversations. The 28-year-old winger is signed through next season with a $5.7 million cap hit and is eligible next summer for UFA status.

Seravalli speculates another club might take a flyer on Mantha. However, his struggles this season mean the Capitals won’t get much in return for him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Capitals might have to retain some of Mantha’s cap hit for next season if they’re keen to move him. I agree with Seravalli that they won’t get much of a return for him.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Sammi Silber suggested the Arizona Coyotes could offer up some interesting trade options for the Capitals. She noted Clayton Keller’s agents meeting with the Coyotes to discuss the club’s future. While Keller didn’t request a trade, she wondered if he’ll be on the move sooner rather than later.

Silber acknowledged bringing in Keller would be a stretch for the Capitals. The Coyotes will set a high asking price. There’s also the cost of taking on his $7.15 million AAV through 2027-28.

Nick Schmaltz could be another option. He carries a $5.85 million cap hit through 2025-26 but there are injury concerns.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I doubt that the Capitals can afford to get in on Keller or Schmaltz if the Coyotes put them on the trade block. They’ve only got $7.3 million in cap space with 17 players under contract for 2023-24. They also lack sufficient depth in draft picks and prospects to win a bidding war.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 23, 2023

NHL Rumor Mill – May 23, 2023

More speculation over Leafs trade and general manager candidates plus the latest on the Blues and Rangers in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.

MORE LEAFS TRADE CANDIDATES SPECULATION

TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons believes the Maple Leafs must re-sign center Auston Matthews. “You can’t win a Stanley Cup without a front-line centre. And you don’t trade away Matthews – or let him walk in free agency – because you can’t replace a player of that calibre.”

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (NHL Images).

Simmons also noted that Matthews agent and good friend Judd Moldaver is close to former Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas but even closer to Dubas’ agent Chris Armstrong. He wondered how much that relationship might affect Matthew’s future with the Leafs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As Simmons also observed, that’s impossible to know right now without a general manager in place. We’ll find out once the calendar flips to June when the Leafs have a new GM and we learn what their vision is for the club in the future.

I concur with Simmons that the Leafs must re-sign Matthews. He’s their franchise player and they need him if they hope to end their long Stanley Cup drought. The only reasons they should trade him are if he asks to be moved or he’s reluctant to sign a long-term extension.

The next Leafs GM has to decide whether to trade Mitch Marner or Michael Nylander if they won’t stick with the core four. Nylander is the more spectacular player who can change a playoff game. Marner is a better all-around player but has not yet become a postseason game-changer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Most Leafs observers share Simmons’ take that the Leafs must re-sign Matthews. They also acknowledge John Tavares won’t be traded because of his no-movement clause. That leaves Marner or Nylander if management wants to shake up the roster.

It could come down to which player draws the most interest and the best offers in the trade market. Each has their strengths and weaknesses but they can also fetch a solid return that provides immediate help for the Leafs.

Simmons’ colleague Terry Koshan believes Nylander is the trade candidate, claiming he “still requires a kick in the pants every so often”. However, he feels his best days are still to come and would bring in a top defenseman.

Koshan considers Marner as “the heartbeat of this team” and thinks he can still help the Leafs win the Stanley Cup, pointing out that Steve Yzerman and Alex Ovechkin did so later in their careers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nylander’s contract could also make him easier to move. He’s more affordable than Matthews and Marner with a cap hit of over $6.9 million for next season. While the other two have no-movement clauses that kick in on July 1, Nylander has a 10-team no-trade clause that goes into effect on the same day.

COULD THE LEAFS TARGET BLUES GM ARMSTRONG?

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun looked at recent conjecture over possible candidates to fill the Leafs’ vacant post of general manager. He claims there have been rumblings linking them to St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong.

LeBrun believes Armstrong had the experience, championship pedigree, confidence and wherewithal to withstand the pressures of the Toronto market. However, he doesn’t believe that the Blues GM has an “out clause” in his contract that runs through 2025-26.

Nevertheless, LeBrun wondered if Blues owner Tom Stillman would be okay with the Leafs approaching Armstrong if that’s what the latter really wanted. “Maybe, maybe not,” he writes. “Pretty hard to know exactly how Stillman would react.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: We can’t rule anything out, but Armstrong is committed to the Blues. He wouldn’t have signed that long-term extension if he wasn’t. Despite the club’s disappointing performance this season, Armstrong has been busy since February laying the groundwork for a quick turnaround on the ice next season.

Speaking of which…

BLUES WILLING TO SHOP FIRST-ROUND PICKS

DAILY FACEOFF: Frank Seravalli reports the St. Louis Blues are willing to move their two late first-round picks to improve in the short term. They acquired those picks from the Dallas Stars and Toronto Maple Leafs.

Seravalli pointed out that Doug Armstrong has done this before. He used first-round picks he acquired by trading away Kevin Shattenkirk and Paul Stastny to bring in Brayden Schenn and Ryan O’Reilly.

It’s believed Armstrong seeks a player or players in their mid-twenties who are under contract.

BACKUP GOALIE OPTIONS FOR THE RANGERS

NEW YORK POST: Mollie Walker looked at some backup goaltending options that make sense for the Rangers.

One is re-signing Jaroslav Halak provided he’s willing to accept a pay cut from the $1.55 million he earned this season. They also have an in-house option in Louis Domingue, who spent this season with their AHL affiliate in Hartford.

Other low-cost options could include Tampa Bay’s Brian Elliott, Detroit’s Alex Nedeljkovic, St. Louis’ Thomas Greiss, Winnipeg’s David Rittich and Vegas’ Jonathan Quick.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 18, 2023

NHL Rumor Mill – May 18, 2023

Check out the latest Leafs speculation involving Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.

TORONTO SUN: Lance Hornby reports uncertainty over the Arizona Coyotes’ future following their failed arena bid should put to rest the rumors suggesting Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews would sign with his hometown club next summer as an unrestricted free agent.

Matthews, 25, has never hinted that he was bent on signing with the Coyotes. Earlier this week, he emphasized his intent to re-sign with the Maple Leafs as soon as possible.

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Me and the crew at The Face Off Hockey Show podcast have regularly joked about Matthews going home to sign with the Coyotes next summer. However, that’s not something I seriously expect to happen. Given the current rebuilding path set by the Coyotes, they probably don’t intend on pursuing Matthews if he hits the open market.

Terry Koshan reported a sports betting site had the Chicago Blackhawks as the favorite to land Matthews if the Leafs were to trade him this summer. The Blackhawks recently won the 2023 NHL Draft Lottery and are expected to select top prospect Connor Bedard with the first-overall pick on June 28.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Don’t waste your money. The Blackhawks have torn their roster down to the studs and are rebuilding with young, affordable talent. At this stage in Matthews’ career, he’s probably not keen to play for a team that could take several years to become a serious playoff contender again.

SPORTSNET: If the Leafs do swing a blockbuster trade this summer involving their core four stars, Luke Fox believes it comes down to William Nylander and/or Mitch Marner. Matthews is their top center while captain John Tavares has a full no-movement clause and intends on finishing his contract with the Leafs.

Nylander and Marner expressed their wish to remain with the Leafs. Nylander is a year away from unrestricted free-agent eligibility and his 10-team no-trade clause begins on July 1.

If the Leafs intend to move one or both it’ll have to be within the next six weeks. Marner’s full no-movement clause in the final two years of his contract kicks in on the same day.

Both players are coming off strong performances this season and would draw plenty of attention in the trade market. What must be considered is swapping one or both for a top-pairing defenseman and/or a different type of top-six forward who can provide immediate help.

Fox looked at several teams for potential options. He suggested Colorado defenseman Samuel Girard, Washington power forward Tom Wilson, Calgary’s Elias Lindholm, Arizona’s Nick Schmaltz, the New York Rangers’ Filip Chytil and K’Andre Miller, Seattle’s Vince Dunn, Philadelphia’s Travis Konency and Cam York, and Anaheim’s Jamie Drysdale as possible options.

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun believes Nylander is a possibility but noted he’s only signed through next season. That creates the complication of an interested club trying to work out a contract extension to get a deal done. That will limit the number of potential trade destinations before his 10-team NTC starts on July 1.

LeBrun believes Marner would be the least complicated to move given the two years left on his contract. He believes the deal would have to fetch the Leafs a top-pairing blueliner.

Putting Marner on the market could make some teams willing to move players we thought were untouchable. LeBrun pointed to the Calgary Flames trading Matthew Tkachuk to the Florida Panthers for Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar as an example.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It could come down to Nylander or Marner but I don’t see both moving unless the returns are substantial. Nylander’s $6.9 million cap hit is more affordable than Marner’s $10.9 million but the latter is a better two-way player.

Fox admitted he was merely spitballing when he listed those potential trade options. Girard, Schmaltz and perhaps Lindholm could be available in this summer’s trade market.

I don’t see the others hitting the trade block. Nevertheless, LeBrun is correct when he suggests all bets are off if the Leafs start sending out trade feelers on Marner.