NHL Rumor Mill – April 15, 2021
Looking ahead at what the offseason could have in store for the Blue Jackets and Leafs in today’s NHL rumor mill.
THE ATHLETIC: Aaron Portzline examined what could in store during the offseason for the Columbus Blue Jackets after being sellers at this year’s NHL trade deadline. General manager Jarmo Kekalainen insists his club isn’t rebuilding but retooling.
Kekalainen faces a busy offseason. Head coach John Tortorella could be on his way out as he’s in the final year of his contract. Goaltenders Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo are slated to become unrestricted free agents next summer and it’s likely one of them will be traded this summer. Winger Patrik Laine is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer. Defenseman Zach Werenski reaches a similar status next summer but could be re-signed to an extension this summer.
Blueliner Seth Jones is a year away from UFA eligibility and can be signed to a contract extension this summer. His willingness to commit long-term to the Jackets will determine if the club is retooling or rebuilding. Kekalainen could move quickly to trade Jones if the rearguard rejects an extension.
With three first-round picks in this year’s draft, the Jackets could try to shop one of them (except their own) to add a roster player.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This could be a summer of significant change for the Jackets. As Portzline suggests, that will be determined by what happens with Jones. His situation will be closely monitored by Jackets followers this summer.
Merzlikins was frequently mentioned as a trade candidate leading up to Monday’s deadline. He has better stats than Korpisalo, potentially making him a more valuable trade chip to add a quality forward if packaged with one of their extra first-round picks.
Laine will seek a big raise over the $6.75 million salary-cap hit of his current contract. His performance this season, however, might not help his case if it goes to arbitration. Werenski, on the other hand, shouldn’t have much difficulty getting a hefty pay hike given his value to the Jackets blueline.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Tortorella. Many observers (including me) feel the Jackets need a change behind the bench but Kekalainen could see it differently.
TORONTO STAR: Kevin McGran recently examined the cost for the Maple Leafs of re-signing pending UFAs Frederik Andersen and Zach Hyman. He anticipates the latter could command something comparable to the $6.5 million AAV that kicks in next season for Montreal’s Brendan Gallagher.
Keeping Andersen and Hyman would mean trading away someone of significance such as Alex Kerfoot and his $3.5 million cap hit. If the Leafs believe Jack Campbell is ready to become a full-time No. 1 goalie they can let Andersen walk and hopefully have enough space to re-sign Hyman and perhaps add a reliable backup.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is probably Andersen’s last season with the Leafs regardless of Campbell’s status. If they have any doubts over Campbell as a starting goalie they’ll keep him as a backup and look to the trade market (maybe Elvis Merzlikins?) or free agency for a suitable starter
As for Hyman, I’ll be very surprised if the Leafs let him walk. He’s developed into an invaluable top-six forward. Unless his salary demands are ridiculous he’ll be re-signed to a long-term deal.