It’s time for another batch of NHL rumours for your Saturday. Things are heating up, so we’re giving you two sets of rumours on the way to July 1. Teams are trying to nail down coveted free agents and clear out space to make it happen.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Rumour: Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman appeared on Toronto’s FAN 590 and said the Leafs could offer Mitch Marner a two-year, $8 million bridge contract and put off the big decision on scoring a big-time deal.
Marner is a restricted free agent and wants a big-money deal that some think will go over $10 million. However, Friedman said that the salary cap would likely go up and allow more wiggle room for general manager Kyle Dubas.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) June 28, 2019
Analysis: This could be a temporary fix that allows Marner to stay with the Leafs and get the big money deal he wants down the road. Bridge deals are “prove it” deals and Toronto would likely get everything Marner has because he wants that big payday.
Remember, a team that does offer sheet the restricted free agent risks losing four draft picks if Toronto doesn’t match it.
New York Rangers
Analysis: The Rangers have done a great job in adding some young defence in Adam Fox and still have Brady Skjei and others. Trouba will be the cornerstone of that blue line group that’s trying to get back to the post-season.
The Rangers are also in the Artemi Panarin sweepstakes and could look different than the Eastern Conference also-rans that struggled last season. General manager Jeff Gorton may be able to turn the ship around quicker than many thought he would.
Brian Hedger of the Columbus Observer-Dispatch said the Columbus Blue Jackets are in the market for the man that tormented them in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Johansson was used at RW on the third line in the playoffs & on the Bruins' PP.
— Brian Hedger (@BrianHedger) June 28, 2019
Columbus will likely lose Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky and Matt Duchene in free agency, so it will have money to throw at free agents. Johansson may have to make a tough choice about whether he wants money or a title.
Rumour: David Pagnotta of the Fourth Period said that the Montreal Canadiens would buy out defenceman Karl Alzner if they land a big-time defenceman in free agency.
Karl Alzner's future could become a little clearer in the coming days. Sense is if the Canadiens feel they can lure and sign a big price UFA, they'll likely buy out Alzner's contract (trade remains unlikely). If they feel otherwise, they may hold on to him.
— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) June 28, 2019
Jonathan Willis of The Athletic (Subscription required) lists Alzner as a credible buyout candidate. He places Alzner 10th on his list of candidates.
Analysis: Things have not gone well for Alzner in Montreal. He’s become a liability on defence and someone that Habs fans would like to see go. The Canadiens are targeting an upgrade to partner with or take the pressure off of Shea Weber.
However, the buyout would be a headache on the Habs salary cap. His cap hit would be over $4 million in the 2020-21 season. Montreal would probably do better to trade him than buy him out.
TORONTO, ON – FEBRUARY 10: Mitchell Marner #16 and William Nylander #29 of the Toronto Maple Leafs share a light moment during action against the Ottawa Senators in an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on February 10, 2018 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Senators 6-3. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)