NHL Rumours: Toronto Maple Leafs, Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets and San Jose Sharks

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With the Stanley Cup Final over and the St. Louis Blues crowned as the new champions, the off-season is officially underway. And that is the perfect time for NHL rumours to start dropping quickly. We’ve got you covered with just a few that are going around. We’ll take a look at rumours related to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets and San Jose Sharks

NHL Rumours

Toronto Maple Leafs

Rumour: To kick off NHL rumours, we’ll start with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Rumours continue to swirl about the likely departure of Nikita Zaitsev. On Sportsnet 650, David Pagnotta mentioned the Leafs are looking for a bottom pairing defenceman, mid round draft pick and a prospect. 

TSN’s Darren Dreger also mentioned the Edmonton Oilers as a team interested in Zaitsev. The Vancouver Canucks have been in on him as well. 

Analysis: If rumored to be true, Dubas may be a bit over his head in the asking price for Zaitsev. Teams would likely be asking for the Leafs to throw in a sweetener, not the other way around. The Canucks have the cap space to do it, so their interest is not a surprise. The state of their blue-line is also questionable.

The Oilers interest is a bit more complicated to unpack. While the Oilers have the cap space, they don’t exactly have a roster spot available. At the moment, they have eight defencemen signed. At best, the Oilers could waive two of them and bring that down to six. Brandon Manning is likely to be waived and Joel Persson can simply be sent down.

But Zaitsev has five years remaining on a deal that pays him $4.5M per season. The Oilers would be taking a hefty risk bringing on Zaitsev. They could look to trade one of their own defencemen as well. A player like Matt Benning could go the other way. That would give the Leafs a right-handed shot they desperately need. He has one year left with just a $1.9M cap hit.

The Oilers did show interest in Leafs forward Connor Brown at the deadline. It’s a possibility the Leafs could throw him in the deal if the interest is still there. Most importantly, the Leafs cannot afford to retain any salary in a potential Zaitsev trade.

Chicago Blackhawks

Rumour: Continuing our NHL Rumours, we’ll move on to the Chicago Blackhawks. Once a team strapped for cap space, they face the opposite problem this time around. Roster spots are limited for the Hawks. Blackhawks insider and Athletic writer Mark Lazerus discussed who could be traded and when the team may do it. 

Analysis: The Blackhawks look like they could have between $15M and $17M to spend this off-season. Not something the team is used to having. Other than having a top three pick in the draft, Stan Bowman is looking to make a splash in free agency. The team has about 13 forwards potentially locked in for next season. The defence and goaltending is just about set as well.

So Bowman could be looking to get rid of multiple bodies. Teams are allowed to go 10 percent over the cap during the offseason. Out of all of the players the Hawks have to offer, it’s possible they trade away Brandon Saad once again.

Saad was listed 16th on Craig Custance’s Trade Bait Board recently. While the Hawks may not want to trade Saad again, he is their most enticing piece. The return for Saad will be greater than just about any other player they could potentially trade.

Bowman has mentioned he is not afraid to take his time with the roster. While trades are possible, the team could look at in-house moves as well. Whether those moves are made before the upcoming draft, or closer to September, one thing is pretty clear.

The Blackhawks roster as it stands is not the same roster fans will see come opening night. Bowman has made sure to let that be known.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Rumour: Next up on NHL Rumours sends us over to the Columbus Blue Jackets. As we get closer to the free agency period, pending unrestricted free agents will have the opportunity to speak with other teams about potential deals. According to Pierre LeBrun, the Blue Jackets have not granted that to either Sergei Bobrovsky or Artemi Panarin.

Analysis: It has been a longstanding rumor that the Blue Jackets may be losing a lot of high-end talent this off-season. Panarin has just about made it clear that he won’t be back in Columbus. It’s likely Bobrovsky may feel the same way. However, the Blue Jackets do not seem to be ready to give up just yet.

The UFA speaking period opens up in a little over a week. So Columbus will likely be trying to wow their superstars into re-signing with the team. As of right now, they won’t be allowing the two to talk contracts with any other team.

The Blue Jackets went all in this season, deciding to keep Panarin and Bobrovsky. Adding Matt Duchene at the deadline, the team was poised to make a run. That run, unfortunately, ended with a second-round loss. Now they are staring at the possibility of losing all of them for nothing.

It’s possible the Blue Jackets could be looking to do a sign and trade type of deal. However, not letting either player talk contracts puts a pin in that thought for now. If the Blue Jackets are able to pull off a trade, it would be a small win for not reaching their ultimate goal of a Stanley Cup.

If they somehow pull off signing one or even both players, it may be an incredible feat based on where we stand right now.

San Jose Sharks

Rumour: Moving to the West Coast for our last set of NHL Rumours, we stop by the San Jose Sharks. According to Sharks insider Kevin Kurz, the team is prepared to offer Erik Karlsson an eight-year contract in the vicinity of $88 million. The deal would be similar to Drew Doughty‘s with the Los Angeles Kings. The Sharks are the only team who can offer Karlsson the eight-year deal. 

Analysis: It took a while for Karlsson to adjust to his new surroundings in San Jose. Though, between December and January, one could argue he was the team’s best players. A pair of groin injuries hindered Karlsson, most noticeably in the playoffs. The market was high for one of the top defencemen in the league. However, things have significantly cooled down.

That could work in the Sharks favor, though. Being the only team that can offer him an eight-year deal, that may be enticing to Karlsson. Missing 29 games, Karlsson put up 45 points. That was his lowest total since his second year in the league, not counting the 2012-13 lockout season.

When at his best, Karlsson is one of the best in the league. He leads all defencemen in assists and points since he first joined the league in 2009-10. So there is clear incentive for the Sharks to get this deal done. Potentially playing against Karlsson is not a possibility the team wants to endure.

A potential deal could affect what the Sharks do with Joe Pavelski, though. The two sides have talked, but nothing appears imminent. Karlsson is likely to get a raise from the $6.5M he was making per year. If he is to get a contract similar to Doughty, that could close the door on a Pavelski reunion. But right now, it looks like signing Erik Karlsson in the main focus of the Sharks.

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