NHL Rumour Roundup: What does future hold for Briere’s Flyers, Maple Leafs’ Core Four?

NHL insider Elliotte Friedman joins Jeff Marek to discuss what the 3-team trade signifies from a Flyers perspective, and how this shows new GM Danny Briere is jumping all-in with two feet on a rebuild.

The three-team trade on Monday between the Columbus Blue Jackets, Los Angeles Kings and Philadelphia Flyers told us a lot about each club’s priorities this summer and expectations come October.

The Blue Jackets provide incoming bench boss Mike Babcock the kind of hard-nosed rearguard he’s been known to covet in ex-Flyer Ivan Provorov, while the Kings cleared enough cap space to sign ex-Columbus defenceman Vladislav Gavrikov after acquiring him at the deadline.

And while those two squads are making moves more conducive to winning now, the Flyers are nowhere close — and that’s all by design for first-time GM Danny Briere, whose first trade in charge shows he’s building for the future in Philly.

“It’s exactly what he said he was going to do, and he did it,” Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said during the latest 32 Thoughts podcast, released Tuesday afternoon. “Maybe we have an early contender for the Macklin Celebrini pick in next year’s draft, Philly is stating its case for No. 1.”

Briere, who was named GM in Philadelphia nearly a month ago, is clearly embarking on an overhaul, weaponizing his cap space by taking on the contracts of Kings Cal Petersen ($5 million AAV) and Sean Walker ($2.65 million), and recognizing the need for a fresh start sans Provorov while prioritizing draft picks.

One of the big questions in Philadelphia now is whether this overhaul extends to the blue paint.

Friedman and podcast co-host Jeff Marek touched on that and a number of other topics on Tuesday. Here’s a rumour roundup based on those conversations as the off-season begins to heat up.

The summer goalie market is going to be hot. Are Carter Hart trade talks warming up?

It was just a few short years ago that Carter Hart was considered the future of the goaltender position, but recent struggles point perhaps to a fresh start needed on both sides.

At just 24 years old, with an affordable $3.979-million cap hit for 2023-24 after which he remains under team control as an RFA, and with a ceiling as high as his, Hart will be a very intriguing name to watch in what is shaping up to be a really interesting goalie market.

“It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Hart,” said Friedman. “I’m getting some very, very different feedback on what’s going on here. I’ve got some people saying it’s nowhere near close, and I’ve got some people saying they thought it was getting pretty hot. So, what this says to me is that he’s out there, everyone knows he’s available, and people are kind of picking at the Flyers and saying, ‘OK, what are we gonna do here?’ I think there’s gonna be some teams here that we haven’t thought about.”

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Friedman cited the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators as clubs he’s had sources point to.

“I think everybody knows that Danny Briere is open for business,” he said. “What I get a disagreement on is how close any of this is, and that’s going to be the most fascinating thing over the next few days.”

Here’s what Friedman had to say on each of the teams mentioned above during his conversation on the topic:

Montreal Canadiens: “Someone suggested to me Montreal, maybe. They have Jake Allen for another year, Sam Montembeault had a really good season and a really good Worlds, but Hart’s got a high ceiling.”

Toronto Maple Leafs: “I had a few people really point at Toronto. Now, the interesting thing about this is, I always wonder because Treliving’s the GM in Toronto now and he makes a lot of calls. He’s in on everything. And one of the things I kind of remembered was, now that he’s here, we’re gonna hear Toronto being involved in more things simply because I think he is a guy who really looks out there for what’s available. … I’ve had some real mixed messages on this one — I had one denial it wasn’t gonna be Toronto, but I had some other people say, ‘Just keep looking at it.’

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“And the one challenge here is, let’s say it was Toronto: They’d have to do something with Matt Murray. Well, Philly’s off the board now. It would be easy, if they wanted to trade for Carter Hart, say, ‘OK, you take Matt Murray.’ Well, Philly just did that with Cal Peterson. So, if Toronto’s gonna be in this, that means you’re letting go of (Ilya) Samsonov and (Joseph) Woll is your other goalie next year but you have to find something to do with Murray.”

Buffalo Sabres: “Lot of people are talking Buffalo, and I think Buffalo’s just going to be rumoured in every goaltender deal until they come out and either say, ‘We’re making a trade’ or ‘We’re going with what we have.’ I just think that’s the nature of the game.”

Ottawa Senators: “I heard some people talk about Ottawa — that was denied to me.”

Checking in on the off-season goalie carousel

As outlined on the podcast, there’s a long — and potentially growing — list of goalies who could be moved this off-season. Some of the bigger names to watch are Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck, Anaheim’s John Gibson, Philadelphia’s Hart and Pittsburgh’s Tristan Jarry.

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“Everything’s now completely different in Pittsburgh because they’ve got a new boss there, but I heard Jarry, when they were talking during the season, he wanted some term, like five to six years,” Friedman said of the Penguins’ netminder. “I don’t know where that’s going to go.”

Two other names that spark curiosity are Calgary’s Jacob Markstrom and Nasvhille’s Juuse Saros (Friedman and Marek noted both are highly unlikely to be moved):

On Markstrom: “I just wonder, at the very least, if Calgary and Markstrom have a conversation,” said Friedman. “Markstrom has complete control, and I know this is gonna burn up the city of Calgary, but I just don’t think Craig Conroy is doing his job if he doesn’t at least have that conversation.”

On Saros: “Nashville did have some conversations about him at the deadline, I think with the Kings. The way that it’s kind of going there, I think it would take a big offer but I think if something did come, they would at least consider it.”

DeBrincat on the move?

Friedman reported earlier this week that the Ottawa Senators are exploring all options when it comes to winger Alex DeBrincat.

The latest?

“There certainly appears to be a feeling around the league that it’s much more likely DeBrincat’s gonna get traded than not,” Friedman said Tuesday.

DeBrincat, a restricted free agent, is due a new deal after the expiration of the three-year, $19.2-million pact he signed with Chicago in 2019, which saw him count for $6.4-million against the cap. Friedman noted that at the core of DeBrincat’s uncertainty around whether he wants to sign long-term in Ottawa is the club’s in-flux ownership situation.

“He’s not signing — at least for long term — until he understands who the new owner is going to be and what the plan is. And we’re not gonna know that any time soon,” said Friedman.

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So, if the winger does in fact see his signing rights traded, who’s interested? Friedman highlighted two teams: the Detroit Red Wings and St. Louis Blues.

“I had one guy say to me, ‘That’s a Doug Armstrong player. That’s a guy that Doug Armstrong would want,’” he said. “So, those are some of the teams that people are kind of focusing on. Obviously, I think there’s a ton of interest.”

The future of Toronto’s Core Four: Retool, or rebrand?

Even before the firing of Kyle Dubas and hiring of Brad Treliving as his replacement, this was always going to be a pivotal off-season in Toronto. Now, with a new GM in place to navigate the roster decisions, what’s in store for the team’s Core Four?

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One idea, explained Friedman, is centred not so much around breaking up the group but seeking a new identity for the 19 other players around them. Here’s an excerpt of what he said:

“I had a very interesting phone call with someone about all this stuff, about who’s signing for what and everything, and they said to me that they believe one of the things that came out of this season was that Toronto wanted to de-emphasize the Core Four,” explained Friedman.

“Not that the organization feels anything negative towards those players, but I think there was a feeling among just the entire group — other players on the team, some of the coaching staff, the front office of the organization — that there’s too much about them. Too much about the Core Four … they felt it interfered in the growth of the team. And one of the things I heard that was talked about was if you take a look at the third and fourth line over the last few years, there’s been a lot of turnover. And what someone indicated to me was, the feeling was that they haven’t done a good enough job as a group — like, everybody — creating an identity for other players on the roster.

“And I want to stress, I don’t think this is about jealousy. But what I think it is about is if you’re gonna win, you’ve gotta win with 23 — not with four plus 19. I want people to be careful with this, not to use it to rip the four guys because I don’t think it’s that. I think it’s just that they have to get away from that and I believe some of the depth players may have talked about this, is that they feel it gets in the way of forming a team identity. And some of that you’re not gonna get away from because in the media we’re gonna talk about the Core Four, right? So you can’t escape it, but can you do a better job of creating an identity around some of the other players on the roster? And I heard that’s a big thing that they’re gonna try to work on.”

Where does Calgary’s coaching search stand?

The Calgary Flames’ search for their next head coach continues, with four names appearing to top the list of known candidates: Ryan Huska, Mitch Love, Travis Green and Todd Reirden.

Although Huska and Love would be in-house hires, the presence of Green and Reirden on the list point to Conroy perhaps looking back at previous coaching searches and revisiting those candidates.

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“I heard they spoke to Reirden recently, so I just think that that’s kind of the potential group they could be picking from, although I freely admit there could be people there I’m not seeing,” said Friedman.

Islanders dangling extra centres?

In his (long-awaited) post-locker-cleanout media availability, New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello dangled a well-placed comment about his roster currently boasting five centres: Mat Barzal, Casey Cizikas, Bo Horvat, Brock Nelson and Jean-Gabriel Pageau.

In other words, perhaps centreman-needy teams should give him a call.

Friedman, citing a conversation with a source, said the Islanders are believed to be looking for a right defenceman and another forward who can score.

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