Dreger: Leafs need to attach a sweetener to move on from Zaitsev
Each day through the opening of NHL free agency on July 1, TSN.ca breaks down the latest news and rumours around the NHL.
Sweeten the Deal?
TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger said Monday he believes the Toronto Maple Leafs will need to include a 'sweetener' to trade away Nikita Zaitsev given the five-year term remaining on his current contract.
Dreger said he believes Zaitsev, who requested a trade from the team last month, most likely would have already been moved if the Maple Leafs could find a deal that did not include an extra asset.
"What are you giving to the team that is taking Nikita Zaitsev? You're giving them something," Dreger said on TSN Radio 1050 Toronto. "Teams are worried about the term of Nikita Zaitsev. If he's the defenceman that he was two years ago, I don't think anyone's worried about it... You can't take that term and have Nikita Zaitsev have another year like he had last year, so you're going to have to sweeten it some degree."
Zaitsev, who carries a $4.5 million cap hit through 2023-24, posted three goals and 14 points in 81 games this season. The 27-year-old inked his seven-year extension with the Maple Leafs in 2017, during his 36-points season as an NHL rookie.
Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas said over the weekend, however, that he does not plan to move Zaitsev unless the team can acquire a defenceman back.
“I don’t think it’s guaranteed at all," Dubas said of trading Zaitsev. "We’ve told them we will try to work with them but if we can’t return a defenceman back and can’t stay equal or improve the team, he will be back with the team."
Dreger wonders if increasing price of unrestricted free agents this summer such as Tyler Myers, who could reportedly receive upwards of $8 million per season, could lead a general manager to opt for Zaitsev instead.
According to CapFriendly, the Maple Leafs have $13 million in cap space after trading a first-round pick to unload Patrick Marleau on to the Carolina Hurricanes, though that number does not include Nathan Horton's $5.3 million cap hit which can be shelved on long-term injured reserve.
In the Market
Craig Morgan of The Athletic reports the Arizona Coyotes are looking to add offence this summer and have met with Joe Pavelski's agent since the unrestricted free agent speaking period opened on Sunday.
The San Jose Sharks captain confirmed Monday he will make visits to other teams and TSN Hockey Insider Pierre LeBrun said sources suggest the visits could be with the Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning.
The 34-year-old, who scored 38 goals and posted 64 points in 75 games this season, has repeatedly stated a desire to stay with the Sharks.
Morgan notes the Coyotes were also interested in centre Kevin Hayes, but would not have been willing to pay him the $7.4 million per season the Philadelphia Flyers handed out. He adds the team could also be priced out on Matt Duchene, Wayne Simmonds, Anders Lee and Ryan Dzingel on July 1.
With that in mind, Morgan writes the Coyotes could elect to trade for offensive help in Phil Kessel from the Pittsburgh Penguins or Minnesota Wild forward Jason Zucker. Morgan adds the Wild are interested in Coyotes centre Christian Dvorak, though the Coyotes are not shopping the 23-year-old at the moment.
“There is still a lot of discussion ongoing and there will be opportunities, but we’ve got to be disciplined and make the right decision,” Coyotes general manager John Chayka said after the draft. “Like I have said all along, this is a calculated approach to one or two moves that will really help us.”
Not Done Yet?
TSN Hockey Insider Pierre LeBrun reported Monday the Carolina Hurricanes trade Calvin de Haan to the Chicago Blackhawks in order to clear cap space, which could pave the way for other moves.
The team now has close to $25 million in cap space, even with the addition of Patrick Marleau at a $6.25 million cap hit over the weekend.
The Hurricanes received goaltender Anton Forsberg and defenceman Gustav Forsling back from the Blackhawks in Monday's trade and Craig Custance of The Athletic reports the expectation is the Hurricanes will lose this season's backup, Curtis McElhinney, to free agency. Custance adds that talks continue between the Hurricanes and starter Petr Mrazek, though the clock is ticking towards July 1.
Carolina currently has four players scheduled to hit restricted free agency in Sebastian Aho, Forsling, Brock McGinn and Clark Bishop.