Hello and welcome to a Sunday edition of NHL Rumours! NHL free agency is much quieter since the first day, but things are still happening. Teams are still trying to fill roster holes and acquire depth for what should be an intense season in 2021-22. Today’s NHL rumours feature the Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres, and Minnesota Wild.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Rumour: James Mirtle of The Athletic recently dove into whether Toronto could do more at this point in the offseason.
Analysis: It’s fair to call Toronto’s offseason underwhelming. They have let several key contributors from last year walk away and the replacements are largely very boring outside of Petr Mrazek. It was inevitable that a team as close to the cap ceiling as the Leafs would struggle for moves, but it’s still not the most inspired summer thus far.
It is also exceptionally difficult to see them doing anymore than what they have done. Their most recent additions of Nick Ritchie and Ondrej Kase will help fill out the middle of the roster, but both have their problems. Ritchie has been fairly inconsistent despite being a top-10 selection in 2014. Kase has flashed scoring ability, but is apparently made of paper and glass with just 207 games in five seasons. It isn’t as though Toronto has much depth behind them unless they are willing to finally leverage some of their prospect depth. They may be forced to use players like Nicholas Robertson out of necessity.
The Leafs may want to consider trading at least one of the middle-six options for either space or more firepower. That could be someone like Ilya Mikheyev and his cap hit of $1.645 million. The only thing that seems safe to assume is that this is not a championship roster, but the front office has not been shy about making moves regardless of cap difficulty.
Rumour: The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy recently provided Buffalo’s asking price from the Vegas Golden Knights.
I’m hearing the Buffalo ask for Eichel from Vegas is Smith, Peyton Krebs, Nic Hague and a first-rounder.
— Ryan Kennedy (@THNRyanKennedy) July 27, 2021
Analysis: This would be an absolutely massive haul. It would give the Sabres an immediate replacement with experience in the form of Reilly Smith. Smith would also inevitably become a valued trade chip at the 2021-22 trade deadline. A top-six forward like Peyton Krebs, a developing defender in Nicolas Hague, and a third first-round pick would make Buffalo one of the most intriguing rebuilds in the NHL.
However, it would almost certainly require Buffalo to retain a large portion of Eichel’s remaining contract. His cap hit of $10 million through 2025-26 is too much for Vegas to absorb even if Smith’s cap hit of $5 million went the other direction. The Golden Knights’ cap situation also doesn’t drastically improve beyond the coming year unless someone is traded; Smith is the only free agent going into 2022-23 that has a current value greater than $2.5 million. The good thing is that the Sabres can easily absorb some retained salary considering they have roughly just $52.9 million committed right now. Retaining money should also net them a greater trade return. So until that happens, NHL rumours will continue to catch our attention.
This deal feels extreme, but it is almost too good for Vegas to ignore if Eichel’s health issues can be resolved. The Golden Knights feel so close to being the Western Conference favourites, but they just traded their Vezina-calibre goalie for nothing. They also never had a significant amount of money to chase a premium free agent. Trading for Eichel is the easier move they can make to get better right now at the expense of their future. It would immediately make them that much more of a contender.
Rumour: Greg Wyshinski of ESPN recently mentioned how quiet the negotiations are between the Wild and Kirill Kaprizov.
Something that didn't make deadline for this: Sources describe negotiations between @mnwild and RFA star Kirill Kaprizov as "a deafening silence."
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) July 27, 2021
Analysis: It is surprising that this hasn’t gotten done yet. Yes, Kaprizov can go back to the KHL if he is unhappy with an offer, but that would be a shocking turn of events for the Calder winner. Extending Kaprizov should have been the first priority once the team bought out both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.
This deal probably gets done soon, though. The Wild have almost $20 million in cap space with just Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala as key extensions remaining. They also do not have any key free agents after this year aside from restricted free agent Kaapo Kahkonen. They can afford to provide their most important asset with a deal of any length with appropriate annual value.
The length of the deal is the most likely sticking point. Minnesota has long loved extended deals to depress the annual cap hit; one only needs to review recent deals handed out for Joel Eriksson Ek and Jonas Brodin. However, Kaprizov is already 24. He may not want to reside in the Twin Cities for the next eight years. The Wild are very close to being real Stanley Cup contenders. They may need to compromise and give a shorter deal with a higher value if they want this agreement done soon.