Welcome to Tuesday’s edition of NHL rumours where we look at potential moves teams may make this off-season. Today we have NHL rumours from the Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres, Chicago Blackhawks and the Calgary Flames.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Rumour: Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun said in a recent article that according to a bevy of sources the Leafs have been extraordinarily active in trade talks involving Patrick Marleau, Kasperi Kapanen and Connor Brown.
Analysis: The Leafs main goal this off-season is to first sign Mitch Marner to a longterm deal before July 1st. Their second goal is to improve the right side of their defence. However, they do not have a whole lot of cap space to work with, hence the trade talks. The Leafs have to move out some money in order to accomplish these tasks. Marleau and Brown have cap hits of a combined $8.35 million in average annual value. Moving both those contracts would open up a lot of extra cap space for the Leafs.
Kapanen, on the other hand, is another story. Kapanen is set to become a restricted free agent at the end of the season and will certainly command a nice raise after just completing his entry-level deal. This may lead him to be sacrificed as well. Kapanen would no doubt be a hot commodity if put on the market. The Leafs could use him to address some of their needs on the right side on the back end. They could also elect to move Andreas Johnsson, who is also a restricted free agent. However, given the lack of depth on the left side up front, Kapanen is the more realistic player to be traded.
NHL Rumours: Buffalo Sabres beat writer Lance Lysowski reported on Twitter that Sabres general manager Jason Botterill said the Sabres will try to add scoring depth in free agents. Botterill goes on to say that he thinks the more realistic way will be to address the need through trades as he has done the previous years.
Botterill said the #Sabres will try to add scoring depth in free agency but acknowledged the trade market is a more “realistic” way to use his remaining cap space, much like he did by adding Skinner and Sheary last summer
— Lance Lysowski (@LLysowski) June 8, 2019
Analysis: After getting Jeff Skinner locked up to a long-term deal worth $72 million over eight years, Botterill is now focusing on adding more depth to his roster to help his team return to the playoffs for the first time since the 2010-11 season. While the Sabres most likely won’t be targeting top free agents, they will look at cheaper scoring options. The Sabres have roughly $20 million left in cap space and have been rumoured to be looking at acquiring Jason Zucker of the Minnesota Wild via trade. Free agent options would include Ryan Dzingel. Dzingel is coming off a career year where he scored 26 goals and 30 assists in 78 games. While he will certainly be getting a raise from his $1.8 million AAV he got over the past two years, he will still be a cheaper depth scoring option the Sabres could pursue. If Gustav Nyquist leaves San Jose, he is another player the Sabres could pursue.
Rumour: General manager Stan Bowman sat down for a thirty-minute interview with the Chicago Tribune over the weekend. He hinted that the Blackhawks could be aggressive this off-season as they look to get back into playoff contention.
Analysis: The Blackhawks have missed the playoffs in back to back seasons after being one of the top teams in the NHL and winning three Stanley Cups since 2010. Now the Blackhawks are looking to get back in contention while they still have Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane in their prime. The Blackhawks have been linked to former Blackhawk Artemi Panarin who is set to become a free agent. However, he will be in on most teams wish lists and will be looking for around $10 million per season. The Blackhawks will surely have conversations with most of the top free agents. However, they will most likely settle for some cheaper options up front. The team could also look for a backup goaltender as it doesn’t look like they will be bringing back Cam Ward.
Analysis: The Flames have a number of free agents to re-sign this summer including Tkachuk, Sam Bennett and David Rittich. With about $14.5 million in cap space, the Flames will be looking to clear some salary. One of the contracts moved could be James Neal. The Flames are rumoured to be shopping the veteran winger who they signed last off-season to a five-year deal worth $5.75 million AAV. Neal did not quite fit in under new head coach Bill Peters‘ system and it may be best for the two sides to part ways. However, with such a large contract and given his age, it is going to be hard to move.
It’s unknown what type of deal Tkachuk will be looking to sign. However, it might be best for the Flames to try to lock him up for the eight-year max. Tkachuk is coming off an excellent season where he scored 34 goals and 77 points in 80 games. It would certainly be a larger contract than if they elected to go shorter term. However, it would cause fewer problems down the road. In three years, the contracts of Mark Giordano and Johnny Gaudreau will end making them unrestricted free agents. A year later, Sean Monahan will be up for a new contract as well. Having Tkachuk’s contract ending around the same time could potentially cause bigger cap issues in the not so distant future. Having Tkachuk locked up long-term would be one less thing the club would need to worry about.
Main Photo: CALGARY, AB – MARCH 10: Calgary Flames Left Wing Matthew Tkachuk (19) kneels to score on Vegas Golden Knights Goalie Malcolm Subban (30) to make it 5-3 for the Calgary Flames during the third period of an NHL game where the Calgary Flames hosted the Vegas Golden Knights on March 10, 2019, at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, AB. (Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)