NHL Rumor Mill – May 29, 2023
NHL Rumor Mill – May 29, 2023
A look at some recent Leafs speculation plus some free-agent targets for the Capitals in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.
LATEST ON THE LEAFS
ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski recently speculated that NHL clubs could attempt to pull off their version of last summer’s blockbuster trade that brought Matthew Tkachuk to the Florida Panthers.
Wyshynski noted that Kyle Dubas referenced the Tkachuk trade during his final press conference as Toronto Maple Leafs general manager when talking about the possibility of shaking up the Leafs’ “core four” players.
The Leafs could be on the other side of such a deal if they go that route with someone like Auston Matthews, who is a year away from unrestricted free-agent status. Wyshynski believes Matthews wants to stay in Toronto but the ground has shifted under his feet with Dubas’ firing.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Calgary Flames got Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar in exchange for sending Tkachuk to the Panthers. The latter had a career-best performance this season and is a front-runner for the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. Huberdeau and Weegar, meanwhile, struggled with their new club as the Flames missed the playoffs this season.
This trade could still work out for the Flames. Huberdeau and Weegar are both on long-term contracts and their respective performances could improve under a new head coach. Nevertheless, there’s no question the Panthers are the early winners of this trade. It’s possible that Huberdeau and/or Weegar have already played their best hockey and are on the downside of their careers.
Like Tkachuk, Matthews is in his playing prime and will remain an elite player if he ends up with another team. The Leafs, on the other hand, could get a return that looks great on paper but fails to meet expectations.
DAILY FACEOFF: Matt Larkin recently cautioned that the Leafs might not win any trade involving one of their core four of Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner or William Nylander.
Larkin also cited the Tkachuk trade but pointed out that it’s rare that a contending team as the Panthers were last season can blow up their core and stays competitive in the present.
MLIVE.COM: Ansar Khan wondered if Detroit Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman would attempt to bolster his scoring by pursuing one of the Leafs core four.
Khan considers acquiring Matthews to be a pipe dream as he believes the Leafs will do everything they can to re-sign him. He also thinks they would want Wings defenseman Moritz Seider as part of the return.
Tavares has two years left on his contract with an average annual value of $11 million and a no-movement clause. Khan doubts he’d be of interest to a rebuilding club like the Wings.
If the Leafs extend Matthews, Khan wondered if the Leafs would do the same with Marner at a slightly lower number by the time his deal expires in 2025.
Nylander would be the most sensible acquisition for the Wings. If the Leafs make him available, Khan noted the Wings have the 17th overall pick in this year’s draft plus one or two of their second-round picks to offer up as trade bait.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Yzerman is expected to go shopping for scoring punch this summer. He could look into acquiring someone like Nylander if the Leafs decide to part ways with him. If the Leafs stick with those core forwards, Khan believes Yzerman can find plenty of other options in what could be a busy summer trade market.
PROPOSED FREE-AGENT TARGETS FOR THE CAPITALS
THE ATHLETIC: Tarik El-Bashir looked at some possible free-agent targets for the Washington Capitals to bolster their forward lines this summer. He doesn’t expect GM Brian MacLellan to pursue expensive older stars like Patrick Kane, Vladimir Tarasenko or Ryan O’Reilly.
The Capitals have roughly $6.5 million in projected cap space to spend this summer. El-Bashir anticipates they could find a way to shed some salary via a trade, buyout or burying a contract in the minors.
El-Bashir’s proposed targets are (in alphabetical order) Chicago’s Andreas Athanasiou, Vegas’ Ivan Barbashev, Boston’s Tyler Bertuzzi, Toronto’s Michael Bunting, Colorado’s J.T. Compher, Dallas’ Max Domi, the New York Islanders’ Pierre Engvall, and Colorado’s Evan Rodrigues. He also suggested re-signing Connor Brown, who missed this season with a knee injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Athanasiou, Brown, Engvall and Rodrigues could be the most affordable options. There could find plenty of competition for Barbashev, Bertuzzi and Domi as they’ve elevated their free-agent value with their solid performances in this postseason. Bunting and Compher could also prove difficult to land because of their regular-season play.