NHL Rumours: Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, and More

NHL Rumours
TORONTO, ON - MARCH 11: Mitchell Marner #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs stretches during warm-up prior to action against the Tampa Bay Lightning in an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on March 11, 2019 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Welcome to another Thursday of NHL Rumours here at Last Word on Hockey. We are only one day out from the start of training camp as teams work around-the-clock to perfect and finalize their roster. While it has been quite an eventful offseason, many big-name restricted free agents are still left unsigned. Today, we’ll look at rumblings involving the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Pittsburgh Penguins, and the Winnipeg Jets.

All NHL Rumours are from their source and are subject to change.

NHL Rumours

Toronto Maple Leafs

Rumour: TSN’s Bob McKenzie tweets that the now much-maligned Mitch Marner has turned down seven and eight-year offers at around an $11 million AAV.

Analysis: After all the discussion over the Marner deal, the ball is squarely in his court now. Toronto general manager Kyle Dubas has shown so far that he is not willing to cave in. The team is fighting at any cost to achieve a fair deal that won’t completely constrain them in terms of the salary cap.

When using CapFriendly’s custom contract comparable tool, the most comparable contract of a winger is that of Nikita Kucherov‘s recent extension (using the eight-year, $11MM AAV as the custom contract). While Marner is certainly one of the best players on the Leafs, maybe even in the league, he hasn’t shown enough to prove that much money. The Leafs are already being generous in their offers, and Dubas is taking a solid stance. If Marner wants to play in the NHL this season (as no team appears to have space or willingness to offer-sheet him at this point), it will be entirely his choice. He’ll have to take the best offer Toronto gives him.

Montreal Canadiens

Rumour: Defenceman Jake Gardiner, now a member of the Carolina Hurricanes, turned down a three-year, $15.75 million contract in July from the Canadiens, per Sportsnet staff.

Analysis: Many were shocked to hear that Gardiner’s new contract with Carolina was the same as the one he signed with Toronto, minus one year of the term. For a player that was expected to net a fair raise on the open market, he didn’t garner a single penny over his previous cap hit. He will, of course, save on taxes by playing in the U.S. instead of Canada.

With new information that Montreal was willing to offer him a raise of over a million dollars a season, it’s understandable why Gardiner chose the market that he did. While playing in Montreal would have certainly afforded him more money, many would say Gardiner has had enough of overly critical fanbases.

For such a talented player, he has been hung out to dry by Toronto fans and media many times. Playing in Montreal wouldn’t have been any better, maybe even worse. Joining a rejuvenated Carolina team allows him to have fun playing the game again, something he certainly may have lost over recent years. It also allows him to take a bit of a step out of the spotlight and join one of the most talented defence corps in the league, something that should bolster his stats.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Rumour: An article posted by NHL.com says that Penguins centre Evgeni Malkin wants to sign for at least three more seasons after his current deal expires.

Analysis: For the “terrible season” Malkin supposedly had last year, he still managed 72 points in 68 games, averaging over a point per game. Malkin has not had a year of below-point-per-game production since 2010-11 when he was injured most of the year and had 37 points in 43 games.

Malkin, at age 33, may not be at the peak of his game, but he is still one of the best players in the league. At his peak, he was generational, only obscured by the talent of Sidney Crosby. Why many fans have been so quick to write off Malkin is a mystery. However, he still has three seasons left on the eight-year, $9.5 million deal he signed in 2013. At the end of that deal, he’ll be 36. If he wants a three-year contract after that, he’ll almost definitely have to take a significant pay cut. Even with all his talent, it’s hard to assume he’ll still be a point-per-game player at that point.

Additionally, given that Pittsburgh doesn’t have the strongest prospect pool (winning back-to-back Stanley Cups will do that to you), they won’t have a swath of young centres waiting to take over at that point. Malkin will still have a place on the team barring any extreme regression, albeit in a reduced role.

Winnipeg Jets

Rumour: TSN.ca staff writes in an article that Jets coach Paul Maurice traveled to Finland to meet with another restricted free agent common in NHL rumours, Patrik Laine.

Analysis: While many coaches do off-season player tours to maintain relationships, this news tidbit carries a tad more weight. Laine’s contract negotiations with the Jets have been very public and very animous, as the two sides still appear nowhere close to a pact.

Many would agree that Laine underperformed this season, but still has the shot and potential to be a superstar in this league. It puts the Jets in a very tight position. They don’t feel comfortable giving Laine big money yet due to his poor and inconsistent performance last season, but Laine feels undervalued because he knows what he can be.

Given the distance in negotiations and hard feelings developing between sides, Maurice offered… a sort of olive branch by traveling to Laine’s home country. It shows that people in the organization still view him as part of the team, even though he doesn’t have a contract. They are intent on getting him back in a Jets uniform as soon as possible. While a player visit isn’t going to sign a contract, it certainly gives the public a different perception of the feelings between the two sides.

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