Welcome back to another edition of NHL Rumours from the crew at Last Word on Hockey. It’s the night before free-agent frenzy day and rumours are running rampant. As always, Last Word on Hockey will keep you up to date on the last rumours from around the league. Today’s NHL rumours segment will feature the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs and Pittsburgh Penguins.
All NHL rumours come from their original source and are subject to change.
Rumour: Pierre LeBrun tweeted on Tuesday, July 27th that Phillip Danault‘s agent Don Meehan confirmed to him the Danault will test the free-agent waters.
Veteran agent Don Meehan also confirms same to me, Phil Danault headed to market Wednesday. Which is no surprise, we reported a few weeks ago Habs were comfortable letting Danault see what’s out there. While keeping door open. https://t.co/CAwdBJ1kBC
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) July 27, 2021
Analysis: This should come as no surprise as this is what was expected anyway. The Canadiens had left Danault unprotected in the expansion draft and it had been reported that the Habs were comfortable letting him explore the market while leaving the door open for him to return if he chose to do so. It was leaked last offseason that Danault had rejected a six-year contract worth $5 million per season with the club. While the offer is more than fair, Danault clearly believes he could fetch more in the open market.
Danault struggled during the regular season, producing just five goals and 24 points in 53 games. While he is not known as a scorer, it was a big drop compared to his previous seasons where he scored 47, and 53 points respectively. However, during the Canadiens Stanley Cup run, Danault was outstanding. Shutting down some of the games best players in Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and Mark Stone on route to the team’s first Stanley Cup Final appearance since 1993. It’s Danault’s defensive play that makes him so valuable, and why he is deciding to look to the open market to seek a larger contract.
Recent Signings Suggest Fair Value for Danault
When you look at some of the recent contracts that were signed by players like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Joel Eriksson Ek, the Canadiens offer for Danault seems very reasonable. Both players got eight-year deals, worth just over $5 million per season. Both players are solid defensively, not to the level of Danault, but Nugent-Hopkins is better offensively than Danault and Erikkson Ek just produced his best season to date scoring 19 goals and 30 points. Not a ton of points, however, he’s 24 years old. The argument can be made that he is just breaking out and his goal totals, matched with his defensive play earn him the deal. Because of these contracts, the offer the Canadiens gave Danault seems more than fair, and it’s possible we see Danault circle back to the Canadiens if he doesn’t find more in the open market.
Toronto Maple Leafs
— Leafs Lunch (@LeafsLunch1050) July 27, 2021
Analysis: The original question directed at Dreger involved Arizona Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper. The Leafs, as well as numerous other teams, have shown interest in the veteran netminder. However, cap constraints would limit any move the Maple Leafs would be able to make. In order to bring in a player like Kuemper, the Leafs would need to move out some salary. The two names Dreger had mentioned were Mikheyev and Kerfoot.
The Coyotes are going through a full-on rebuild. They have been taking on a number of dead contracts in order to acquire draft picks. As Dreger mentions, the Coyotes are only looking to pay out about $50 million in salary in the coming year. So they would be looking to acquire young players or players “on the cheap”. Enter Kerfoot and Mikheyev. Kerfoot has two years remaining on his current deal which pays him $3.5 million per season. However, he is only owed $2.7 million in actual salary for the next two seasons. Kerfoot is a versatile player who could slide into Arizona’s middle-six at centre or the wing and provide some depth scoring for the club.
Mikheyev on the other hand brings a cap hit of $1.645 million but is owed $2.19 million in actual salary. The 26-year-old saw his production drop from his first year with the Maple Leafs, scoring just seven goals and 17 points in 54 games. He’s a skilled player who brings a lot of speed and could also provide some depth scoring for a weak Arizona roster.
The Maple Leafs could look to add a pick to the deal and get an excellent goaltender in Darcy Kuemper who would form a strong tandem next to Jack Campbell. Campbell broke out last season but his time as a starter has been short. Hence the need for another quality netminder. Kuemper has been lights out for the Coyotes over the last few seasons and would bring some needed stability in between the pipes for the Leafs. Adding Kuemper would give the Leafs one of the better tandems in the league. While cap needs to move the other way in any deal, there is a deal to be had between to the two clubs.
Analysis: Are we really that surprised? The duo of Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith is questionable at best. And with Jarry not performing the way he did in the 2019-20 season last season, and playing even worse during the postseason, Hextall has seen enough. The careers of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang are winding down. The Penguins organization and their fans certainly don’t want to see their final years go to waste. They want to be competitive and have a legitimate shot at winning another Stanley Cup before the trio retire. In order to do that, they are certainly going to need to upgrade their starting goaltender. Jarry is a fine goaltender capable of playing 30-40 games at a high level. However, he can’t be relied upon to play 55-60 games as well as bring a team deep into the playoffs. So who do the Penguins target?
Return of Fleury?
An interesting name who just entered the conversation is former Penguin Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury was dealt from the Vegas Golden Knights to the Chicago Blackhawks and it came as a shock to the reigning Vezina Trophy winner. Rob Rossi even wrote in a separate article that Fleury does not want to play for Chicago as he does not want to uproot his family and move them to an unfamiliar city. Especially if you consider how close he is to retirement. However, Pittsburgh is certainly a familiar place for Fleury and his family. Fleury and his wife grew up there and were even open to returning last offseason. It would be a fitting end to what has been a glorious and hall of fame-worthy career.
That does it for this edition of NHL Rumours. Be sure to check back for more of the latest rumours from around the league.