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.
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.