Inching closer to an off-season that is shaping up to be busy with player movement, our latest Rumour Roundup explores the latest on Zach Hyman, how the Philadelphia Flyers are faring in their bid to pick up Seth Jones, why the Seattle Kraken are already a factor in the trade market, and another big name gets added to the list of off-season trade candidates.
The Maple Leafs will be looking to churn the roster at least a little this off-season, though we now know veterans Wayne Simmonds and Jason Spezza will be back as they signed new contracts.
Most of Toronto's remaining UFAs are depth considerations, such as where Joe Thornton and Nick Foligno go from here. Frederik Andersen will be one to watch -- though Jack Campbell's rise gives them room to perhaps move on to a different tandem option, The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun wrote that the Leafs and Andersen's camp have been in touch about a possible extension.
The most consequential decision will be around Zach Hyman, a top-line forward next to Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, but who also fits with any other line. Hyman is coming off a value contract at $2.25 million and has had back-to-back career-best years by points per game (0.725 and 0.77 in 2019-20 and 2020-21, respectively).
Toronto currently sits with an estimated $10.8 million in cap space, with 10 forwards, five defencemen and one goalie signed. Travis Dermott is an RFA in need of a contract, though he could be a target for expansion Seattle if left unprotected. Alex Kerfoot may be as well, and shedding his $3.5 million cap hit would certainly change Toronto's outlook.
But on the open market, it's estimated that Hyman could get an AAV of at least $5 million, if not more.
Barring a hometown discount or a change in direction of negotiations, Hyman seems in line to be a UFA.
"Sounds like he's testing the market," Elliotte Friedman told the FAN 960's The Big Show. "I heard they were significantly far apart."
There is still time for the situation to change, however. If Hyman were to sign before the expansion draft on July 21 he would need to be protected along with Matthews, Marner, William Nylander and John Tavares, which would mean Toronto could only protect three defencemen. As long as Hyman is without a contract he doesn't need a protection slot and Toronto has room to shield four defencemen. They could still sign him after Seattle picks its team and before the opening of free agency.
But unless the Maple Leafs make a separate trade that moves some money out, it'll be difficult for them to both keep Hyman at a competitive salary and shake up the roster.
HOW SEATTLE IS INFLUENCING THE TRADE MARKET
We know there are tons of big names that could be traded this summer. Evgeny Kuznetsov. Vladimir Tarasenko. Johnny Gaudreau. Jack Eichel. Oliver Ekman-Larrson. And on it goes. So what's holding up the first dominoes from falling?
The newest team in the league may be clogging the market.
"Teams are trying to understand... for example, is your protection list easy or hard?" Friedman asked on The Big Show.
Any trades of note will have expansion draft ramifications. Teams are allowed to protect eight skaters or seven forwards and three defencemen, which already has a bunch of them facing difficult decisions. Minnesota once again is having to make a choice on Matt Dumba, just as they did four years ago when Vegas was picking. St. Louis has to finally trade Vince Dunn, likely lose him to Seattle, or protect him and lose a good forward. The Calgary Flames may be forced to leave captain Mark Giordano unprotected.
Adding a big-name player in a trade would require for them to be protected, so teams are cautious of putting themselves in a tighter spot with Seattle incoming. Some teams may prefer to wait and make their big move after the expansion draft plays out.
However, the teams already in those tight spots are mindful of Seattle possibly taking a player from their roster just to flip him elsewhere. That, in turn, could bring a bit of urgency to find trades themselves.
"I think Minnesota's looking at this with Dumba and if they can't protect him they're saying 'OK we might lose him to Seattle' but if Seattle flips him they're saying 'wouldn't we rather do that and get the assets than Seattle?'"
It may not be quite that easy, though. As Friedman goes on to note, the advantage the Kraken will have is cap space. While a team like Calgary would have to trade Giordano at his full AAV or close to it, Seattle will have more space to retain salaries at least in the short-term, thus increasing the player's value and appeal around the league.
FLYERS 'WORKING HARD' ON SETH JONES TRADE
One rumour not going away is connecting Columbus defenceman Seth Jones to the Philadelphia Flyers.
Ever since reports came out that Jones had let the Blue Jackets know he was uninterested in an extension with the team when his current contract expires next summer, the Flyers have been one of the teams most closely tied to him. After missing the playoffs, GM Chuck Fletcher is believed to want to make a splash and give his team a push in the off-season.
"I do think Philly's going to do something on the blue line," Friedman said. "With Jones I think Philly wants to know there's a commitment from him... They want this to be a meaningful long-term relationship. I think that's part of the issue, but I've heard Philadelphia is working it pretty hard."
Though Jones has one year left before he could be UFA eligible, the Blue Jackets will be looking for a healthy return in a trade. It makes sense why the Flyers would want some assurance that Jones is more open to discussing an extension with them.
Matt Niskanen retired off the Flyers roster after last season and they missed his defensive presence. Though Jones had a down season compared to his career level, he has plenty of potential to bounce back on a better team and will still just be 27 years old at the start of next season.
VLADIMIR TARASENKO ON HIS WAY OUT OF ST. LOUIS?
From 2014-2019, Vladimir Tarasenko had five straight 30-goal seasons, reaching 40 once. When healthy, he's one of the most deadly goal scorers in the league. The problem is that he hasn't been 100 per cent for two years now.
Tarasenko has had three shoulder surgeries and has played just 34 regular season games since October of 2019, scoring just seven times. The 29-year-old still has two years left on a contract paying him $7.5 million against the cap and now, according to Daily Faceoff's Frank Seravalli, the Blues are looking to trade him.
While Tarasenko has a full no-trade clause and thus controls the situation, Seravalli writes "it appears the player has alerted St. Louis to several teams he’d be willing to be dealt."