NHL Rumours: Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers, Montreal Canadiens

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With the craze of the opening day of free agency behind us, there are still plenty of NHL rumours floating around for us to dissect. And some big names still out there as well. Today, we’ll keep our focus on the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal CanadiensEdmonton Oilers, and San Jose Sharks.

NHL Rumours

Toronto Maple Leafs

Rumour: To begin NHL rumours, we have a very familiar name and team to look at. The Maple Leafs are still looking to lock up Mitch Marner. GM Kyle Dubas continued to stress that they will get as creative as possible to lock down a contract. 

Analysis: Over the last week, the team has completely locked up their cap space. The signings of Alexander Kerfoot and Cody Ceci brought Toronto’s cap space down to roughly $3.77 million. While Nathan Horton‘s $5.3 million contract being moved to long-term injured-reserve will certainly make a deal easier for the team, it likely still won’t be enough to sign Marner who is projected to earn at least $9.6 million on his next deal per Evolving Wild.

Yet, Dubas remains hopeful. The general manager said that the Leafs are in daily talks with Marner’s camp, working towards a contract. This persistence has many Leafs fans speculating a looming trade to help clear further cap space. While this potential trade is purely chatter, Dubas’ recent comments make one thing clear for Toronto fans: the team is going to do everything in their power to re-sign Marner.

Offer Sheet Rumour

David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period reports that the chances of Marner receiving an offer sheet seem to be increasing, with at least one team seriously considering presenting Marner with an offer. Of course, Marner would need to agree to sign the offer sheet.

With July 1st bringing the NHL’s first offer sheet in six years, there is now even more reason to believe that an offer sheet could be a real threat going forward. With the Leafs potentially vulnerable due to a lack of cap space, this would bring the situation to a real crossroads, forcing the Leafs to match on the star winger or take draft picks in compensation. Matching would also force the Leafs to trade other players in order to fit back in under the salary cap.

Jake Gardiner

Rumour: Michael Russo of The Athletic reports that the main reason that Jake Gardiner remains an unrestricted free agent is due to concerns around term and his back injury from last season.

Gardiner was widely seen as the best defenceman to hit July 1st as an unrestricted free agent. However, a back injury cost Gardiner 20 games down the stretch last season. Teams looking at Gardiner seem to be concerned with that injury, as Nick Kypreos discussed on Sportsnet Radio.  Gardiner will either need to prove that he is healthy or take a short-term “prove-it” deal in free agency. At this point, it sounds like a good long-term option hasn’t been put on the table.

Montreal Canadiens

Rumour: Next on NHL Rumours, we move to the team who sent the first offer sheet in a long time. The Montreal Canadiens recently signed Ben Chiarot to sure up their defence. However, Sportsnet analyst Eric Engels writes the team should continue to make moves, this time on offence.

Analysis: As of right now, the Canadiens have 24 players signed to their NHL roster. And they have four restricted free agent forwards that won’t break the bank. Those include Artturi Lehkonen, Joel Armia, Michael McCarron and Charles Hudon. The Canadiens have almost $8.5 million in cap space.

This is a team that tried to rein in Matt Duchene and sent a $42.27 million offer to Aho. So money is not a problem for the Canadiens. Shipping Andrew Shaw out to the Chicago Blackhawks was a clear cap-clearing move. Could the Canadiens look towards the trade route? If they do, Kyle Turris is a possibility.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman speculated that the Predators may be looking to clear space after signing Duchene to a seven-year, $56 million contract. Turris is in the second year of a six-year contract that pays him $6 million annually. They may want the Predators to retain a bit of money in a trade or take back another bad contract such as Karl Alzner.

As for free agents, Ryan Dzingel is an intriguing option. He is coming off his best season in the NHL. The fit didn’t seem to be there with the Columbus Blue Jackets, though, as Dzingel had just 12 points in 21 games after the trade from the Ottawa Senators. He won’t be back in Columbus, that much is known.

Edmonton Oilers

Rumour: For our last two NHL Rumours, we’ll be heading out to the West Coast. The Edmonton Oilers have continued to get calls on Jesse Puljujarvi, most recently from the Los Angeles Kings. However, it looks like the Oilers want to include Milan Lucic in any deal. And that could be a no-go for a lot of teams. 

Analysis: Puljujarvi has made it pretty clear that he would like to move on from the Oilers. But Edmonton is making sure they get a fair deal in return. They also seemingly want to get out from under Lucic’s hefty contract. Lucic, an alternate captain for Edmonton, will be entering the fourth year of a seven-year contract next season. This deal pays him $6 million annually, tied for third-highest on the team. He also has a full no-movement clause. Starting in June of 2021, he’ll also have an eight-to-10 team no-trade-clause that will make him even less moveable. In short, the unproductive Lucic has a very unattractive contract.

The Oilers find themselves with a little under $4 million in cap space. Ridding themselves of the Lucic contract would open a lot of opportunities up for the team. But that is certainly a hefty price for any team to take on. Is acquiring Puljujarvi worth it?

Puljujarvi clearly hasn’t been able to make it work in Edmonton. His best season only saw him with 20 points in 65 games in 2017-18. He is only 21 years old, however, and it’s often debated whether he could see a dramatic breakout in the coming years. The fourth overall pick in 2016 is in desperate need of a change of scenery, something that could spark this breakout. He has shown glimpses of potential but Edmonton isn’t the place for him moving forward.

San Jose Sharks

Rumour: Finishing out our NHL Rumours, we move to a team facing a hefty cap crunch. The San Jose Sharks have a bit over $6.3 million in cap space. They also have a significant amount of free agents to worry about. There could be some more trades in the Sharks future.

Analysis: Out of the group of Sharks free agents, some of the biggest include Joe Thornton and Kevin Labanc. Dylan Gambrell is also someone the team may be inclined to sign. That means a few players could be on their way out. Melker Karlsson is the most likely option.

Karlsson is entering the final year of his contract and carries just a $2 million hit against the salary cap. He was comfortably moved throughout the lineup and a prominent figure on the penalty kill. Despite only a career-high of 24 points, Karlsson is a low-risk, high reward option. It shouldn’t take much to pry the forward from the Sharks.

Goaltender Aaron Dell and defenceman Brenden Dillon are other options. Moving on from Dell wouldn’t be hard. The numbers last season were not good and Dell only carries a $1.9 million cap hit. Dealing him for cheap would clear cap space and allow one of their young goaltenders to back up Martin Jones. Dillion, however, is a riskier option as it leaves the Sharks with a huge hole in their defensive core.

The Sharks will have to figure things out and fast. Time could quickly run out on them.

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