TSN Hockey Insiders Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger and Pierre LeBrun joined host James Duthie to discuss the latest with the Maple Leafs, why GMs in Western Canada might be busy the next few days and much more.
What are the Leafs up to?
Barring a trade, the Toronto Maple Leafs won’t pick until 53rd in Friday’s NHL Draft. But could they be active in the trade market?
LeBrun: Well they need to create cap space. We know that. And they are in the middle of all kinds of things. One discussion they had recently was with the Carolina Hurricanes. I’m told the Leafs would have moved Connor Brown and Kasperi Kapanen in a deal that would have involved Brett Pesce from the Hurricanes. We’ve talked about him a lot all season long. Carolina wants to keep Brett Pesce right now, they’re trying to sign Justin Faulk to an extension, if they can’t do that maybe they trade Faulk but for now I think Carolina is looking elsewhere. They’re looking at acquiring a top-six forward, maybe that conversation with Toronto resumes.
Dreger: Well according to other team sources the Toronto Maple Leafs have let it be known that they’ve got Kasperi Kapanen and Nazem Kadri in the category of we’re willing to listen. Now, they do need a good defenceman coming back as part of a package that would include Kasperi Kapanen. If it’s Nazem Kadri going out then they’d need a centre coming back so that feels less likely. Connor Brown no question is in play and will likely be traded. Then you look at some of the other elements. Nikita Zaitsev’s name has been out there now for several days. It feels less likely that he’s a top priority in terms of other teams’ interests. And in terms of Toronto’s standpoint, you’ve got the contracts looming of Mitch Marner. The agent for Mitch Marner, Darren Ferris, has not yet met with Kyle Dubas as he’s tied up with general managers’ meetings but that meeting is expected to happen here in Vancouver in the next few days.
Is Marleau’s time in Toronto dwindling down?
With the Leafs facing a cap crunch, what could they do to move on from Patrick Marleau’s contract?
McKenzie: Well there’s so many layers to all of this and it starts with Patrick Marleau. He’s got a full no-move clause. He’s driving the bus in terms of anything that wants to happen and what he wants to have happen is he wants to end up back with the San Jose Sharks. But the only way that might be facilitated would be if Patrick Marleau is traded from the Toronto Maple Leafs to a third team, that third team buys Patrick Marleau out, then he has the ability to sign a one-year, small amount of money – $700,000 or $900,000, something low-level – that the Sharks could take and Patrick Marleau could finish his career as a Shark. But somebody’s got to be willing to do Marleau a favour and that would be the Toronto Maple Leafs. Then somebody’s going to have to be willing to do the Toronto Maple Leafs a favour in terms of acquiring the player, buying him out, and letting Marleau getting to where he needs to get to. And at the end of the day what would be the obligation for Toronto coming back the other way? I mean, if the Arizona Coyotes have been rumoured to be in the middle of this with Toronto, what would they send Toronto’s way and what would it impact on Toronto’s bottom line in terms of the cap hit? There’s no point in getting rid of Patrick Marleau if you’re bringing back a higher cap hit so it’s a really complicated deal. Everybody wants to try and make it happen but I don’t know if they will.
Canadiens looking to add a defenceman?
Habs general manager Marc Bergevin seems to be looking to upgrade his blueline. Who is out there and who is he looking at?
LeBrun: Our understanding is Bergevin has inquired on Shayne Gostisbehere. Now the Flyers have had a number of calls ever since they acquired Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun this week. Suddenly they have all these defencemen and so calls have been ramping up on Gostisbehere. Our understanding is it’s not just Montreal, it’s been other teams as well. And the Flyers are saying 'Hey, we’re happy to keep him by the way, but keep the offers coming.' So we’ll keep an eye and see if the Habs can ramp that up.
Why so much trade talk?
Following the Jacob Trouba deal, Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said it was an “unprecedented” time of conversation between GMs. Why so much?
Dreger: It’s all salary cap related obviously. And it starts with an incredible crop of restricted free agents and the top dollar that those players are going to command. They’re going to drain the system from an organizational perspective. And then on top of that, I’ve had several player agents tell me that there are better than 30 bad contracts in play as everyone tries to shift the deck chairs trying to make room.
Work to do out West
With less than 24 hours to go until the NHL Draft, trade talks is in the air, especially with teams in Western Canada. What’s the latest?
McKenzie: Well I don’t think there’s any question [Edmonton Oilers general manager] Kenny Holland would like to do a lot of different things and general manager Jim Benning in Vancouver would like to get a defenceman. But at the same time, I think the three Western Canadian teams – Vancouver probably to a lesser extent – Edmonton and Calgary are looking at maybe making moves to move some contracts and move some players that maybe don’t fit in their plans anymore. For the Edmonton Oilers, that potentially is Milan Lucic. Now, it’s a tricky situation because he’s got a full no-move clause, so he entirely dictates where he goes and where he doesn’t go. But there has been a lot of Milan Lucic trade talk over the last little while. Down the road in Calgary, James Neal, he didn’t fit real well last year. That may be something that Brad Treliving is looking to make happen sooner rather than later. And there hasn’t been as much talk about Loui Eriksson in Vancouver lately but that’s an interesting situation, the relationship between Travis Green and Loui Eriksson, so all these players are kind of tied into a triangle where at times we’ve heard Lucic-Eriksson trade talk. At times we’ve heard Lucic-Neal trade talk between Calgary and Edmonton, so we’ll see how it all shakes out, but those are some of the things going on here.
What might Edmonton want for Puljujarvi?
It looks like the former No. 4 overall pick’s time in Edmonton could be coming to an end. What might Ken Holland be looking for in a potential trade?
Dreger: Well, the Oilers aren’t too concerned what Jesse Puljujarvi wants. They know what they need in return to move what they consider to be still a decent NHL prospect and you know it depends. Kenny Holland is interested in a hockey deal. Now, teams with some level of interest are suggesting that at minimum, it’s going to take a second-round draft pick so it sounds like the Oilers have at least lobbed that out there as a starting point but we’ll see whether or not that’s going to be enough to get it done.
LeBrun: Also seems like the Oilers would like to beef up their goaltending. We’re told that they talked to Carolina about acquiring the rights for Petr Mrazek who is an unrestricted free agent. Now the answer is no at this point because Carolina is still knee deep in negotiations with Mrazek’s people at Newport. There’s been an offer, there’s been a counter offer and Don Waddell and Newport are going to talk again in the next 48 hours, keep an eye on that. Carolina right now, both of their two goalies are UFAs so they need to find a netminder over the next two weeks.
Could the Canucks make a splash?
The NHL Draft is in Vancouver so there will be extra attention on general manager Jim Benning. Could he make a big move?
Dreger: I don’t think there’s any question about that. Jim Benning hasn’t been shy in talking about the needs and the wants of the Vancouver Canucks. It starts on the blueline so he wants to add an experienced piece and he’s going to do that via trade and we’ve speculated on some potential names that could be thrown out there. Tyson Barrie’s name from the Colorado Avalanche is out there whether he’s a fit or not or he’ll dip into the unrestricted free agent market and that’s where you look at, say, a Tyler Myers who’s currently with the Winnipeg Jets. But keep an eye on that 10th pick overall because Benning has not been afraid to say that he’s willing to move up or down if necessary.
Might Duchene stay put in Columbus?
Matt Duchene currently occupies the No. 2 spot on TSN’s Free Agent Frenzy Board. Is it still a possibility he stays with the Blue Jackets?
LeBrun: The door is not closed there. Columbus remains absolutely in the mix. I’m told they haven’t made an official offer. They’re waiting for the camp led by Pat Brisson to say “Okay, make that offer.” But they are still in there. Pat Brisson on Sunday and Monday will start taking phone calls from teams around the league who have interest in Matt Duchene and then from there they’ll decide whether they do visits or welcome people to the offices in Los Angeles like we had last year with John Tavares.
What are some other rumblings that are out there?
McKenzie: And keep an eye on the New York Rangers as well. They’ve already acquired Jacob Trouba and Chris Kreider’s name is very much out in the trade front, as is Jimmy Vesey. The Rangers are shuffling their deck and trying to make some things happen. And obviously there’s going to be negotiations with Jacob Trouba. There’s lots of speculation that something will get done on a long-term deal. Probably in the seven-year range with an $8 million AAV or thereabouts. Not done by any stretch of the imagination but that seems to be the target number that a lot of people think Trouba’s contract with the Rangers – when it’s done – will come in at.