Welcome back to NHL Rumours. As the season draws near, everything is only ramping up. This Thursday, we cover everything from veterans looking for new fits to cap-strapped teams trying to stay compliant. Today’s edition looks at the Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, and San Jose Sharks.
All NHL Rumours are from the original source and are subject to change.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Rumor Roundup: What’s the latest on Marner? Where does Gardiner land? And what comes next for Puljujarvi and the Oilers?https://t.co/8wmKbOb2zW
— The Hockey News (@TheHockeyNews) September 4, 2019
Analysis: While many Toronto fans don’t want to admit it, they need Jake Gardiner. With young blue-liner Travis Dermott out to start the season, they have a hole in their lineup. That is, unless, a championship caliber team is comfortable having Ben Harpur as a regular.
While many see Tyson Barrie as an upgrade over Gardiner (which he is), the main criticism of Gardiner is his one-dimensional play. However, analytics show time and time again that Barrie is an even more one-dimensional option than Gardiner. This piece from Ian Tulloch of the Athletic provides some insight. Gardiner would help Toronto have a nearly unbeatable left side with him, Morgan Rielly, and Jake Muzzin, possibly moving Dermott to his off-side. Gardiner is an upgrade over most in Toronto’s lineup, and it would behoove Toronto to explore all possible options to keep Gardiner.
NHL Rumours: Boston Bruins
Rumour: Joe Haggerty of NBC Sports Boston speculates that David Backes is dealing with post-concussion issues or another serious injury, and explores how moving him to LTIR would help the team’s cap situation.
— NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSBoston) September 3, 2019
Analysis: While it’s well-known that Backes has never lived up to the five-year, $30 million contract he signed with Boston in 2016, his play dropped significantly this season. 2017-18 was actually a decent campaign for him, posting 33 points in only 57 games, but he dropped to 20 points this year despite appearing in 70 contests. He was also a healthy scratch multiple times in the Stanley Cup Finals against his former team, which said quite a lot about the Bruins‘ trust in and enthusiasm about Backes.
Boston has close to $7.3 million in cap space. If they can sign their remaining RFAs Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo to under ~$12 million total AAV, the cap relief provided by placing Backes on LTIR would be enough to make Boston cap compliant. The B’s also have other LTIR candidates to start the year in John Moore and Kevan Miller, who are both forecasted as sidelined at the start of the seasons due to nagging injuries.
But Backes, at 35-years-old, has to think about how much more damage he can take. If he truly is dealing with post-concussion symptoms, it might be good for him to spend the season on LTIR to not risk any further head injuries. He only has two years, including this one, remaining on his deal.
Rumour: Josh Yohe of the Athletic reports that Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford is trying to keep his roster intact and sign defenceman Marcus Pettersson, a departure from earlier when Rutherford said he would have to deal someone to sign him.
GMJR has said all summer that he was likely to make a trade to help the Penguins’ salary cap situation. Now? The plan seems to be changing. Here’s what he said: https://t.co/NubKQikc85
— Josh Yohe (@JoshYohe_PGH) September 4, 2019
Analysis: According to CapFriendly, the Penguins are actually already above the upper limit. However, this assumes a roster of 13 forwards and eight defencemen, not including Pettersson. Sending two or three roster players down to the minors would likely give the cap relief necessary to sign Pettersson, however, it would mean that Pittsburgh would only be able to carry one extra player throughout the season. This greatly hamstrings them in terms of injury relief, as they would be too tight against the salary cap to call a player up from their AHL affiliate. The team would also risk losing players like Juuso Riikola or Zach Trotman to waivers.
While it’s understandable that Rutherford doesn’t want to sacrifice a roster forward, it is a position of strength for them. Signing a defenceman who expects to step into your team’s top-four should be of higher priority than retaining a lower-tier forward who can be replaced by someone already in the system.
It will be very interesting to see how GM Rutherford intends to solve this situation.
San Jose Sharks
Rumour: Patrick Marleau reportedly wanted to return to the Sharks, but Elliotte Friedman tweets that the sides have not reached an agreement and Marleau will pursue other opportunities around the NHL.
Checked in today with Pat Brisson, who represents Patrick Marleau. Brisson said the fit is not there at this time between Marleau and the Sharks. The winger very much wants to play, and will pursue other NHL opportunities.
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) September 4, 2019
Analysis: While Marleau wanted to return to his longtime home in San Jose, the cash-strapped Sharks were obviously not able to offer Patrick enough money to keep his services. The Sharks only have slightly over ~$4.5 million in cap space and still have Joe Thornton to hammer out a deal with, so it makes sense that Marleau was not willing to take the low amount of cash the Sharks would’ve been able to give him.
Marleau is still a very dependable player, albeit in decline. He played all 82 games yet again last year and tallied a respectable 37 points, something that should call for a solid chunk of change on a one-year deal. Marleau’s family had moved back to the Bay Area earlier this year, signaling that he would prefer to stay in the Western Conference. One rumoured team was the Edmonton Oilers, a team that could certainly use extra forward depth.
Many Sharks fans hoped he would return, but as of now, it looks like he’s played his last game in a teal jersey. That is unless he decides to make another go of it next season, something that isn’t entirely out of the realm of possibility.