Welcome back to your Saturday edition of NHL Rumours from Last Word on Hockey. We’re nearing the end of July and there are still a number of players without a home for next season. As well, many key restricted free agents have yet to come to terms with their respective teams. Teams are near the cap and are still looking to move cap in order to get their stars under contract. Or in some team’s cases, replace what they have already lost. Today we have NHL rumours from the Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres, and Minnesota Wild.
All NHL Rumours come from their original sources and are subject to change.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Marner says he’d skip #Leafs camp without contract. But would he sign an offer sheet?
— Dave McCarthy (@DaveAMcCarthy) July 19, 2019
Analysis: This is a pretty standard response. Players do not want to risk getting hurt while still negotiating a contract with their team. However, the thought of another long negotiation much like they went through with Nylander last season is dreadful for everyone involved. This comment comes just a day after it was rumoured that Brendan Shanahan nixed a possible contract between the Leafs and Marner two weeks ago. Marner has elected to not speak much of the contract negotiations and let his agent do his job.
When you look at the Leafs cap situation, there needs to be moving parts in order for them to even get Marner under contract. The Leafs currently have about $9 million in cap space when you factor in Nathan Horton hitting the LTIR when the season starts. That is still not enough money to get Marner locked up. They also need to be careful how they spend their cap as all their defenceman besides Morgan Rielly are in need of a new contract next season. The Leafs need to focus on moving out a contract or two before locking up Marner. Sitting above the cap is not a situation they want to put themselves in at this point in the game.
NHL Rumours: Buffalo Sabres and Winnipeg Jets
Analysis: The Sabres have been very busy this off-season. They have recently added Colin Miller and Henri Jokiharju to their right side on defence to go along with Brandon Montour, Zach Bogosian and Rasmus Ristolainen. With the depth that they have on the right side, it makes perfect sense for the Sabres to be in talks with the Jets. The Jets recently lost two of their top three right-shot defenders in Jacob Trouba and Tyler Myers. They did pick up Neal Pionk in the Trouba trade, however, he is more of a bottom pairing defenceman.
The Jets currently have almost $23 million in cap space. However, they have key free agents such as Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor and newly acquired Neal Pionk left to sign. These players will obviously eat up a ton of that cap space. As well, it will still leave the Jets five players short from their 23 player roster requirement. If the Jets were to make a trade for Ristolainen, they would certainly be looking to move out some cap as well. Buffalo could use some upgrades up front and Nikolaj Ehlers name has been brought up in rumours over the summer. Is this someone the Sabres could target in return for Ristolainen?
Rumour: Michael Russo of The Athletic (subscription required) was asked about the possibility of the Wild targeting Nikita Gusev from Vegas. Russo explains that while it would make sense for the Wild to target Gusev, they would have to get creative in order to make it work.
Analysis: It’s no secret the Wild need to upgrade their group of forwards as they finished 27th overall in league scoring last season. Signing Mats Zuccarello to a five-year, $30 million dollar contract was a start. Picking up Gusev would certainly help as well. However, with just over $9 million in cap space and having to sign Kevin Fiala and Joel Eriksson Ek to new deals, there is not much cap space left. Vegas also is unable to take on any new contracts, as they are already above the cap.
The Wild would need to get creative in order to make a Gusev deal work for them. Gusev is currently looking for a $4 million contract. This would make the cap situation even tighter for the Wild. If the Wild can manage to make it work and do acquire Gusev, it will certainly make it easier to convince Kirill Kaprizov to make the jump over to North America. Gusev and Kaprisov have played together in Russia in the past and could potentially be a dangerous duo moving forward for the Wild if everything falls into place.