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Off-Season Watch: Latest on Matthews, Maple Leafs

Auston Matthews Sheldon Keefe Toronto Maple Leafs Auston Matthews Sheldon Keefe - The Canadian Press

Ahead of the NHL Draft on June 28-29 and the opening of free agency on July 1, keeps you up to date with all the latest rumours and speculation from around the NHL beat.

Latest on Matthews, Maple Leafs

Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sun reports Maple Leafs general manager Brad Treliving had a brief meeting with Auston Matthews and his agent, Judd Moldaver, last week, as the two sides "moved towards a new deal."

Treliving said upon being hired that signing Matthews to an extension this summer would be his top priority with the centre one year away from reaching unrestricted free agency.

"We're not talking about a good player," Treliving said. "We're talking about an elite player in the world. Getting to Auston is a priority. But outside of the contract … just getting to build that relationship.

"It's not walking down and trying to arm wrestle about contracts. It's getting down and me getting a chance to meet him. But more importantly, having Auston get a chance to meet me (and) know what we're about."

Hornby writes that Matthews is still expected to sign an extension in Toronto, while a large crop of unrestricted free agents are expected to depart.

He notes that forward Alex Kerfoot and defenceman Justin Holl are both expected to hit the open market on July 1, while Ryan O'Reilly is expected to receive more than the Maple Leafs can offer from a less cash-strapped team.

Hornby adds that the Maple Leafs may be interested in re-signing David Kampf if the team can keep his cap hit low, and could only bring back Michael Bunting if he takes a hometown discount. 

Like Matthews, winger William Nylander is also entering the final year of his deal and Hornby wonders if trading the Swede for Brett Pesce of the Carolina Hurricanes could make sense. Pesce was listed at No. 6 on the first TSN Trade Bait Board of the off-season, with the Hurricanes open to moving him if he doesn't sign an extension this summer. 


Can the Oilers Move Yamamoto?

Kurt Leavins of the Edmonton Journal believes Kailer Yamamoto "is in play this off-season" as the Oilers look to gain cap space.

Yamamoto has been listed as a buyout candidate, but Leavins writes that general manager Ken Holland wants to receive an asset back for the winger. He adds the Oilers will wait until "the last possible second" before going with a buyout, if necessary. The buyout window closes on June 30.

The 24-year-old is entering the final year of his contract carrying a $3.1 million cap hit. Buying out Yamamoto, who had 10 goals and 25 points in 58 games this season, would free $2.66 million in space for the Oilers in 2023-24, while leaving a cap charge of $533,334 for the following year.

ContentId(1.1974243): Is buying out Yamamoto a simple solution to the Oilers' cap crunch?

One player Leavins does not see leaving the Oilers is defenceman Cody Ceci. Leavins expects Ceci to bounce back as a healthy player next season and sees his $3.25 million cap hit as reasonable for a player of his calibre. 

Ceci had one goal and 15 points in 80 games with the Oilers this season, adding one assist in 12 playoff games. He remains signed through the 2024-25 season.

The Market for Karlsson

Erik Karlsson appears to be a lock to win the Norris Trophy, but his future with the San Jose Sharks is less secure.

TSN Hockey Insider Pierre LeBrun reported last week that both sides had agreed to look into trade options for the 33-year-old after his career year, but his contract could prove problematic.

7-Eleven That's Hockey broke down potential suitors for the defenceman, who has four years remaining on his deal at an annual cap hit of $11.5 million. 

ContentId(1.1974241): What will the market be for Karlsson?