Two days out from the 2023 NHL Draft and five days away from the beginning of NHL free agency, the league’s rumour mill is spinning with full force.
Movement on the trade market has already begun, as the Los Angeles Kings and Arizona Coyotes linked up on a Sean Durzi deal earlier this week, and Colorado traded for Ryan Johansen. Breaking down the uptick in off-season action on the newest episode of 32 Thoughts: The Podcast, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek discussed why we could see more deals over the coming days.
“The reason there’s a lot of trade talk is people aren’t crazy about the free-agency group, as a whole,” Friedman said on the latest episode of the podcast, which dropped Monday. “I think it’s going to be an active week, because teams see trades as a better way to fill their rosters, rather than free agency.”
That being the case, let’s take a look at the latest news and notes from around the league:
Maple Leafs ‘aggressively pursuing’ Nylander extension
The to-do list for new Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brad Treliving isn’t short. And while there have been reports of Treliving meeting with Auston Matthews to begin negotiations on the centre’s future with the team, it seems the new GM is pushing hard on the club’s other core question mark, too.
“I think (Treliving) has been pretty aggressively pursuing a deal for William Nylander in the last number of days,” Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli said Monday on Sportsnet 590’s The Fan Morning Show. “I’d hesitate to speculate in terms of progress or what that might look like, but I do think the full-court press has been on to try and get an answer.”
The 27-year-old Nylander, who’s coming off two straight years of resetting his career-best marks, culminating in a 40-goal, 87-point effort last season, has one more year on the six-year pact he signed in 2018, which carries a cap hit of just under $7 million.
The question for Nylander’s situation is, what happens if Treliving can’t find clarity with his two marquee talents soon, particularly after what happened in Calgary, where Treliving saw his club’s leading scorer, Johnny Gaudreau, eventually leave town for nothing.
“If they don’t have an indication that Nylander’s going to sign July 1, I’m really curious to see what they’re going to do here,” Friedman said on Monday’s podcast. “Are they really going to go into a position where both Matthews and Nylander aren’t signed by July 1?”
Friedman added that he believes Matthews is likely to re-sign with Toronto on a four- or five-year deal.
Flames chaos: Who’s staying, who’s going?
After an off-season of tumult in 2022, the acquisitions of Jonathan Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar and Nazem Kadri were supposed to calm the chaos in Calgary. Instead, the team heads into 2023’s off-season with even more roster mainstays reportedly considering leaving town.
Speaking on Sportsnet 590 Monday morning, Friedman broke down how he views the Flames’ situation — and the rumours that Maple Leafs GM Treliving could look to bring some of his former players to his new city.
“First of all, I believe (Noah) Hanifin wants to play in the U.S.,” Friedman said. “I think Hanifin would be exactly the guy that Treliving would like to trade for, but I think he wants to play in the States, so that makes that situation automatically more of a challenge. That’s No. 1. No. 2, I’m not convinced yet on (Elias) Lindholm, that he’s 100 per cent gone. I think it’s possible. … I think they’ve made him the offer that he would need, or at least, they know what it’s going to take. It could go either way. I’m not convinced that it’s 100 per cent decided yet.”
As for the rest of the roster, here’s how Friedman sees it shaking out.
“I think Hanifin will go. I read Luke Fox’s piece with (Mikael) Backlund, it sounds to me like he could go. (Tyler) Toffoli I think will go. But you know what, we’ll see what else comes out of this. I know people are coming up with these Nylander-for-Lindholm-and-Hanifin deals — the other thing here for Calgary is, are you going to make that deal? … Is Calgary going to trade for Nylander if they don’t know if they can sign him? It makes absolutely no sense.”
Is DeBrincat off to the Red Wings?
On the heels of their franchise sale getting settled, there’s still plenty up in the air in Ottawa, particularly regarding the trade talks involving star forward Alex DeBrincat.
Discussing DeBrincat’s potential landing spot on the 32 Thoughts podcast, Friedman and Marek pinpointed the Detroit Red Wings as an option for the 25-year-old Farmington Hills, Mich., native — but also noted that Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman’s negotiating style could be an obstacle to a deal with Detroit getting done.
“I think I said at the beginning, when we first talked about it, that I was going with Detroit until I was proven wrong,” Friedman said of DeBrincat’s future. “I think there’s a couple of things here. No. 1, I’ve heard that Steve Yzerman is not crazy about term. Now, he did it for (Dylan) Larkin — (he’s) a centre, he’s an original Red Wings draft pick, that might be a little bit different. … The other thing is, I was talking to someone about the way Yzerman does deals. He’ll grind you and he’ll grind you and he’ll grind you — he’s a grinder. But he gets to a point where he just says, ‘Stop. That’s it. No matter what you do to me, I’m not going any further.’
“When I was listening to that, I was saying, ‘Is that going to be a match? Is that going to be enough for Ottawa? Is that going to be a deal that Ottawa wants to do?’ Another manager told me, you get to that point with Yzerman where he just says, ‘I’ve had enough — you’re either doing the deal or you’re not.’ That puts you in a position where you have to decide.”
There’s no question DeBrincat would be a significant add for the young Red Wings, the Senators winger having twice topped 40 goals through his first six NHL seasons. But for Ottawa, the goal will be to get as much as possible for the restricted free agent, who they gave up a trio of picks to acquire a year ago, when they had high hopes for a long-term deal down the line.
What’s the latest on Dubois to the Kings?
One blockbuster that seems to be in motion would send Winnipeg Jets pivot Pierre-Luc Dubois to the Los Angeles Kings. Recent reports have surfaced regarding negotiations between the two clubs to send the 25-year-old to California, with talks of a long-term deal in L.A. already being discussed, too. Friedman said in Monday’s episode that he heard otherwise on the latter point, but that a deal does seem to be in the works.
“I heard a rumour that (the Kings) had permission to talk to (Dubois) — that was flat-out denied to me,” Friedman said. “I believe that everybody, the Jets, the Kings, his representatives, they’re coming into Nashville on Sunday, we’ll see where this goes. But there’s definitely traction. There’s definitely movement. I think one of the most interesting things here is seeing if Dubois signs an eight-year deal or he signs a one-year deal — to get L.A. through this season of cap gymnastics — and then extends. Sort of like (Jesperi) Kotkaniemi did, or like Mikey Anderson did for the Kings last year.”
Friedman also noted that the Colorado Avalanche might have been involved in talks for Dubois before eventually bringing in Johansen to be their new second-line centre.
“Before Colorado traded for Ryan Johansen, I wonder if Colorado took a run at this. I don’t think it was ever close, I’m not convinced that at the end of the day it was going to work, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Colorado took a run at it,” he said. “But I think at the end of the day, the places that Dubois was willing to go, there just weren’t a lot of options that really worked. L.A. has been aggressive, and I think some people would be surprised if it doesn’t happen. But nothing is done until it’s done.”
Plenty of speculation has swirled regarding who might be heading to Winnipeg from the Kings.
“For the Kings, what are we looking at here? I think we’re all trying to figure that out,” Friedman said. “A lot of people wonder about (Gabe) Vilardi, a lot of people wonder about one of (Alex) Iafallo and (Viktor) Arvidsson to make it work. … I don’t think (Quinton) Byfield’s in this. I know there have been a lot of rumours about Byfield — I don’t think so.
“We’ll see where this goes here, but I think this is working towards something.”
Before the Kings entered the picture, the prevailing thought around Dubois was that he was hoping to find a way to join the Montreal Canadiens. Per The Athletic’s Arpon Basu, the Canadiens are “still open to finding a way to make this work should those talks (with the Kings) go off the rails,” while a source close to Dubois reportedly said it is too soon to rule Montreal out.
Friedman noted in Monday’s interview with Sportsnet 590 that he believes the Jets would like to get the deal done before the NHL Draft on Wednesday, if possible.
Flyers-Blues deal hinging on Krug’s decision
Another multi-piece deal seemingly in the works, but potentially in danger in falling through, is the swap being discussed by the Philadelphia Flyers and St. Louis Blues. Rumours have swirled around a trade sending Kevin Hayes and young Philly defender Travis Sanheim to the Blues for veteran rearguard Torey Krug.
Friedman broke down what he’s heard of the negotiations.
“Kevin Hayes, I think, is going to get traded to St. Louis. However this goes, Hayes, I believe, is going to be a Blue,” he said. “The question is what’s going with him and around him. Travis Sanheim, Philly tried to keep his name pretty quiet, and for a while they did. But his name got out there. He has a clause, a protection, that kicks in July 1. I think there were some teams that kind of kicked tires on him, but then I think St. Louis got really interested. And one of the things I think St. Louis liked is the idea of pairing him with Colton Parayko, that he would be a good partner for him.
“This broke on Saturday. I don’t know when exactly it was, but about 24-48 hours before it broke, I think Torey Krug was asked how he would feel about going to Philadelphia. Now, Torey Krug has a no-trade clause, so he has say. And he’s also on vacation, I believe, so that added another layer to it.”
As it stands, it appears Krug — who has four years left on the seven-year, $45.5-million deal he signed with the Blues in 2020 — does not want to waive his no-trade clause to go to Philly.
“Philadelphia was hoping to convince him. I know there were some reports that Philly was going to flip him — I don’t think that was true, initially,” Friedman continued. “It may have entered the picture, but initially, I think it was Philly’s goal to keep him, that they would need a defenceman who can run their power play. Krug is a pretty respected, hard-playing guy. … The reports were that it was going to be Hayes and Sanheim for Krug and a first-round pick.
“I just don’t think that Torey Krug was ready to say yes. As we tape this on Sunday night, I’ve heard everything from, ‘It’s a hard no’ to ‘Right now, it’s a no.’ As of Sunday night, I don’t think anything had been presented to Krug that’s going to get him to change his mind.”
Friedman added that both clubs continue to chip away at the negotiations, with Flyers front-office members and players trying to convince Krug to come to Philadelphia, and the deal as a whole at risk of falling through if Krug opts to remain in St. Louis.