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It is officially the dog days of the NHL offseason.
With the expansion and entry drafts complete in addition to free agency, the NHL is at its quietest point of the season. However, there are still some rumors floating around as teams look to re-sign their own restricted free agents and address needs via trade.
With that in mind, let us look into the latest buzz from around the league.
Toronto Shopping for Defense?
Even though the upstart Toronto Maple Leafs were arguably hockey’s biggest surprise last season, it was apparent that a lack of defensive depth did them in during their playoff series loss to the Washington Capitals.
A top-three group of Jake Gardiner, Morgan Rielly and Nikita Zaitsev, all of whom put up at least 27 points last season, is impressive. Yet, the team still lacks any impact defenders beyond that, even after signing Ron Hainsey on July 1. Against teams like Washington that roll four strong lines, that is not going to cut it if the Maple Leafs want to make a serious Stanley Cup run in the near future.
As a result, it comes as no surprise that the organization is being active on the trade market to bolster that defense. According to Howard Berger, a longtime TSN radio personality who now operates the blog Between The Posts, the Maple Leafs are talking to several clubs in hopes of bringing in defense help while shedding salary:
Howard Berger @Berger_BYTES
#Leafs apparently talking trade with Colorado, Calgary and the Rangers. Details sketchy. But, looking to off-load salary for a d-man.
Berger also added that William Nylander, the stud 21-year-old forward who posted 61 points in his first full season last year, is not involved in those talks. The only way he would be moved is for an elite defender like the Los Angeles Kings’ Drew Doughty.
All three of the teams Berger mentioned have desirable defensemen who could easily fetch Toronto’s top prospects like Connor Brown and Kasperi Kapanen, but the salary aspect of Berger’s tweet makes little sense.
Calgary and New York each have less than $10 million in cap space with key restricted free agents to sign. The Rangers need to re-sign Mika Zibanejad, while the Flames need to re-up Sam Bennett. Neither team is in a position to take on additional salary, so there may not be a fit there.
The Colorado Avalanche are a rebuilding team with a top defenseman in Tyson Barrie who could be moved. Barrie would require a hefty price considering he hit at least 38 points in the each of the last four years. He also carries a $5.5 million cap hit over the next three seasons.
With the Avalanche only having just over $12 million in space while seriously lacking on capable defensemen makes it hard to believe they would trade Barrie without receiving a home run youngster like Mitch Marner or Nylander in return. Colorado also still has to re-sign Matt Nieto and Nikita Zadorov, which will eat some space.
If Toronto is so worried about its expenses, then why did it sign a fading 37-year-old in Patrick Marleau for three seasons at a startling $6.25 million hit? A guy in his twilight years coming off of back-to-back seasons of fewer than 50 points is now the Maple Leafs’ highest-paid player.
Either Berger is off-base with Toronto’s intentions, or the Maple Leafs themselves are delusional. This is a tricky rumor to gauge, as the circumstances surrounding it do not present the best optics for the club.
Pastrnak Deal Progressing
David Pastrnak looked like a promising young player who could carve out a role in the Boston Bruins’ top six at some point. He then proceeded to shatter those expectations.
The 21-year-old made the NHL right after being selected No. 25 in the 2014 draft, and he put up 53 points in 107 games over the next two seasons. Last year, Pastrnak exploded for 70 points in 75 games while playing on Boston’s top line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. This earned him a prestigious accolade, per TSN’s Darren Dreger:
Darren Dreger @DarrenDreger
After a 34-goal, 70-pt season David Pastrnak was named the Czech Republic’s best player today. He’s the youngest ever to win the award.
Having improved his stock just about as well as possible in a contract year, Pastrnak is due for a big raise as a current restricted free agent. Comcast SportsNet New England’s Joe Haggerty reported Sunday just what that number may be:
Sources with knowledge of the negotiations said progress was being made on a deal that would pay Pastrnak something just shy, both in term and AAV (average annual value), of the eight year, $49 million contract signed by Brad Marchand last fall.
Haggerty also quoted Boston general manager Don Sweeney as saying that the team and Pastrnak are talking, but there is no timeline for a deal.
The Bruins have just over $12 million in space, so giving Pastrnak the amount that Haggerty is reporting would be a steep commitment. However, this appears to be the right move for both parties.
Boston can lock up one of the budding young offensive stars in hockey for almost the next decade at a rate that is less per season than what Marleau is making over the next three years. Just let the absurdity of that sink in.
For the player, it still allows Pastrnak to be in his prime at 29 years old when he becomes eligible for unrestricted free agency. In case some unforeseen circumstances arise where Pastrnak no longer wants to be in Boston, he can still go elsewhere while being at a productive age.
The Bruins will have Zdeno Chara’s $4 million cap hit come off of the books after this season, so they can still build their team with other players despite adding another potential big salary in Pastrnak. If Haggerty’s reporting is accurate, Pastrnak’s new deal will be a positive one for Boston.
Statistics are courtesy of hockeydb.com. Salary information is courtesy of CapFriendly.com.