NHL Rumors: Canadiens, Maple Leafs, Rangers

In today’s NHL rumors rundown, after a seven-point performance, there is talk about teams that have a shot at Connor Bedard in the NHL Draft Lottery. Carlo Colaiacovo wrote, “NHL tank mode will be officially activated tomorrow after Bedard’s performance tonight.”

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The Toronto Maple Leafs might find that contract negotiations between the team and Auston Matthews take longer than expected, and could the New York Rangers be open to trading Alexis Lafreniere?

Canadiens Should Start Trading Assets if They Want a Shot at Bedard

Questions about what approach teams that will likely be near the bottom of the NHL standings should take are starting to become a topic of conversation. In Montreal, Eric Macramalla of TSN wrote, “If the Canadiens want to have a legitimate shot at Connor Bedard, Hughes needs to start by trading Allen and Edmundson – and then others. Bedard represents a unique opportunity for the Canadiens to turn things around and sustain success over a decade. Oh – and score goals.”

Macramalla’s tweet came after he posted that the Canadiens don’t really have a shot at him. He noted the Chicago Blackhawks, Anaheim Ducks, Columbus Blue Jackets, San Jose Sharks, Arizona Coyotes, and Philadelphia Flyers are the favorites at this point.

Maple Leafs’ Negotiations with Matthews Could Take Some Time

With a down season compared to last year, Nick Kypreos writes that negotiations between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Auston Matthews might not be as easy as everyone is expecting. He writes, ” Matthews will not sign a contract extension on July 1, this being the earliest possible date he can re-up with just a year remaining on his current deal.”

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Kypreos says that clearly, Matthews is not having a season that will replicate another Hart, Lindsay, or Rocket award. He adds:

“If speculation holds true and the Matthews camp asks for as much as $15 million (U.S.) per season, the Leafs won’t easily hand him $120 million over the next eight years. The negotiation days of “we can and we will” are over. I see this bleeding into training camp.”

source – ‘Will the Maple Leafs finally win a playoff round? Nine bold predictions for 2023’ – Nick Kypreos – Toronto Star – 12/29/2022

The scribe says that Matthews’ situation will likely affect William Nylander‘s situation and writes, “I’m predicting he also will not sign by July 1. The longer the Matthews situation lasts, the stronger the trade talks on Nylander will get.” Kypreos also predicts that Michael Bunting will sign a new long-term deal, David Kampf will be traded and GM Kyle Dubas will get an extension for another four years.

Are the Rangers Willing to Trade Alex Lafreniere?

Alexis Lafrenière was demoted to the fourth line and then news surfaced that he was going to be a healthy scratch for the team on Thursday night as the Rangers take on the Tampa Bay Lightning. Some are wondering if the demotion is an attempt by the coach to “wake up” the player or if this is a sign that he could be trade bait heading into the NHL Trade Deadline.

Alexis Lafreniere New York Rangers
Alexis Lafreniere, New York Rangers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Arthur Staple of The Athletic writes:

GM Chris Drury has a team good enough to make the playoffs. He has big contract decisions with K’Andre Miller and Chytil this offseason. There could be a decision on Lafrenière, but if things continue along the current path, it may be a decision of whether or not to keep the former No. 1 pick or trade him for other help rather than trying to decide what kind of contract Lafrenière is worth.

source – ‘Alexis Lafrenière and the Rangers reach a critical point’ – Arthur Staple – The Athletic – 12/29/2022

The concern in New York if the Rangers try to trade the forward is that all other teams have watched Lafreniere’s struggles and with teams hesitant to give up first-round picks in a deep draft, it’s hard to know what he could fetch on the trade market.