As we reported two weeks ago, the Leafs have been quietly exploring the trade market for future moves. At the time, they were looking for an affordable option to add to their top-six later in the season, but they have since expanded their search and have been combing the League for a sturdy defenceman.
Chris Tanev and Nikita Zadorov are two blueliners Treliving is familiar with. The Calgary Flames haven’t put up the “for sale” sign just yet, but if they can’t turn their fortunes around, they’ll take a more serious look at moving out some of their players on expiring deals like Tanev and Zadorov, both of whom have attracted interest from more than just Toronto.
The Leafs, however, lack salary cap space and any major add will take serious vision and potentially a roster player being pushed out. Most of the roster has some form of no-trade protection and that could complicate matters – but that’s why they’re paying Treliving big bucks.
That cap space will get smaller next season, too, if the team steps up and signs William Nylander to an extension.
Nylander is off to a roaring start and that $10 million AAV price tag might be going up if he keeps performing at this level. The Leafs tried to get him locked up under $9 million per year, but that seems out of the realm of possibility now.
Signing Nylander may be a moot point if Keefe can’t get all his troops firing on all cylinders. It is a pivotal season in Toronto and anything less than a Conference Final appearance will be viewed as a failure. As the coach navigates the roster, the GM is exploring the waters. The next two weeks could determine what path they take next.
NEW DEALS FOR MONTOUR, REINHART?
The Florida Panthers and defenceman Brandon Montour appear to be inching towards a long-term contract extension.
Montour has missed the start of the season while recovering from off-season shoulder surgery and is on track to hit the lineup later this month. He is in the final year of a three-year, $10.5 million contract and is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. But don’t count on that happening.
Panthers GM Bill Zito and Montour’s camp are zeroing in on a new deal that could fall in the neighbourhood of $7 million per season over seven or eight years. What assists the Panthers on the AAV is Florida’s status as a ‘no state income tax’ state.
He had one helluva breakout season in 2022-23, picking up 16 goals and 57 assists for 73 points in 80 games, and followed that up with eight goals and 13 points in 21 playoff games. The Panthers are very high on him, and talks have been ongoing since the off-season.
With all signs pointing to the Panthers locking in Montour, contract negotiations have not yet started with forward Sam Reinhart, who is off to a hot start.
Reinhart, also on an expiring three-year contract, has tallied nine goals and 15 points in 12 games so far.
He will command a raise over his current $6.5 million cap hit and according to one team source, the Panthers have expressed a desire to explore an extension and those discussions will get underway later in the season with his camp.
HERE AND THERE
Unless the Ottawa Senators lose 10 straight, they are not expected to replace head coach D.J. Smith, and that decision will come when the team hires a fulltime General Manager. Smith is in the final year of his contract and he’s unlikely to be back next season, but a change mid-season seems premature barring a major freefall.
As I wrote on Oct. 25, Patrick Kane remains on schedule and the timeframe to begin formal talks with NHL clubs started this week. Discussions will carry into next week and he’ll narrow down his options. Some teams may need to clear out cap space, so it may still take a bit of time before he signs on with a team.
Look at Edmonton’s roster. Now look at the man who pieced it all together. I have great respect for Ken Holland, but there are plenty of depth deficiencies that haven’t been properly addressed. Add in Jack Campbell and Darnell Nurse’s contracts and no-movement clauses for their top-six guys. The way the current roster is build, Holland has handcuffed himself and limited his ability to make significant changes. It may take a bold move to snap this team out of its funk, but it is going to take plenty of creativity. The Philadelphia Flyers are willing to listen on goalie Carter Hart, but as of early this week, the Oilers hadn’t reached out since the season’s start. It might be time to pick up the phone.