NHL Rumor Mill – June 3, 2023
NHL Rumor Mill – June 3, 2023
Check out the latest on Auston Matthews, Tyler Bertuzzi and Alex Killorn plus updates on the Avalanche and Flames in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
LATEST “32 THOUGHTS” TRADE & FREE-AGENT RUMORS
SPORTSNET: In his latest “32 Thoughts” column, Elliotte Friedman expressed his belief that Auston Matthews will extend with the Toronto Maple Leafs but not at the maximum term of eight seasons. Instead, he thinks the 25-year-old center inks a deal between three and six years in length.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Why wouldn’t Matthews want the maximum term on his next contract? The belief is he’d like to have a crack at free agency while he’s still in his playing prime thus ensuring that he continues to make big money well into his thirties.
The challenge for Leafs general manager Brad Treliving is “trying to get it done before July 1, when his no-trade clause kicks in.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That line has created the assumption among some fans that the Leafs can officially sign Matthews to his extension before free agency begins at noon ET on July 1. To clarify, Matthews still has a year remaining on his current contract. They can discuss an extension with him in the weeks leading up to July 1, 2023, but that date remains the earliest they can sign him to an extension.
Matthews’ no-trade clause (it’s actually a no-movement clause) is an issue if he’s reluctant to sign beyond next season or seeks an extension of less than three years. If so, the Leafs might have to explore the trade market before his movement clause kicks in as that would significantly limit the number of potential trade partners.
Friedman believes Matthews’ next contract could likely be the highest AAV in the league. He wonders what that means for Mitch Marner and William Nylander.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Marner has two years remaining on his contract while Nylander’s expires at the same time as Matthews’. They’ll seek significant raises but they won’t be as expensive as what Matthews will get given his status as a former Hart Trophy and two-time Richard Trophy winner.
It also depends on how the Leafs manage their payrolls in 2024-25 and 2025-26 when the salary cap is expected to jump by as much as $4 million per season.
The Boston Bruins are exploring what it’ll take to re-sign Tyler Bertuzzi. The 28-year-old winger is slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Acquired before the March trade deadline from the Detroit Red Wings, Bertuzzi fit in well with the Bruins and was their leading scorer in their short-lived 2023 postseason.
However, their limited cap space plus the possibility of Bertuzzi receiving a long-term deal on the open market worth around $5.25 million annually has some observers suggesting the Bruins simply can’t afford him.
Friedman believes the Tampa Bay Lightning offered Alex Killorn a long-term contract with a lower average annual value. However, the pending UFA winger is in demand and that could be difficult to do.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Killorn is 33 but he’s coming off a career-best performance (27 goals and 64 points in 82 games) this season. His current average salary is $4.45 million. He’ll have to decide if he wants to stick with the only NHL team he’s ever played with for less money in a city where there’s no state tax or chase bigger bucks elsewhere.
POTENTIAL SECOND-LINE CENTER OPTIONS FOR THE AVALANCHE
THE ATHLETIC: Peter Baugh recently looked at several potential options for the Colorado Avalanche to address their second-line center position. Internal choices would be re-signing pending UFA J.T. Compher, signing RFA Alex Newhook and promoting him into that role or shifting Mikko Rantanen from winger to center.
External options include Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele, Philadelphia’s Kevin Hayes, Arizona’s Nick Schmaltz, Calgary’s Elias Lindholm or Anaheim’s Adam Henrique via the trade market. They could also try to bring back Ryan O’Reilly if he hits the UFA market.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Avalanche will get $7 million in long-term injury reserve cap relief with Gabriel Landeskog out for next season recovering from knee surgery. However, one of those external options will be costly in terms of salaries as well as assets if they go the trade route. Their best option could be one of those internal ones suggested by Baugh.
COULD THE FLAMES TRADE A GOALTENDER?
DAILY FACEOFF: Frank Seravalli noted the Flames have a potential logjam in goal with Jacob Markstrom and Dan Vladar under contract for next season and rising young netminder Dustin Wolf primed to become a full-time NHL player.
McKenna believes Wolf has accomplished all he can at the AHL level as their two-time reigning goalie of the year and AHL MVP. He believes they should shop Vladar and promote Wolf into sharing the duties with Markstrom starting next season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I share McKenna’s opinion as well as his enthusiasm for a Markstrom-Wolf tandem. Having a promising youngster pushing him for the starter’s job could help Markstrom regain the form that made him a Vezina Trophy finalist in 2021-22. If Markstrom continues to struggle, it provides Wolf with the opportunity to seize that role for himself.
Vladar, 25, could prove to be a decent trade chip for the Flames given the lack of quality goaltending depth in this summer’s free-agent market.