NHL Rumors: Zaitsev, Marner, More Leafs and Oilers

In today’s NHL rumor rundown, it appears Nikita Zaitsev has asked the Toronto Maple Leafs to move him, there are talks about Mitch Marner and an offer sheet and in Edmonton, while the Maple Leafs are dealing with offer sheets, the Oilers might have their eyes on a different Toronto forward.

Zaitsev Wants Fresh Start

Reports from multiple sources on Thursday suggest that Nikita Zaitsev has approached the Toronto Maple Leafs and asked them to try and facilitate a trade that would see him leave Toronto. Elliotte Friedman called it the player wanting a “fresh start.”

Bob McKenzie of TSN is reporting that it was Zaitsev who, for personal reasons, asked to be traded. With five years remaining on a contract with an AAV of $4.5 million, it would help the Maple Leafs salary cap troubles if they could move him and they will try, but there could be a challenge in doing so if everyone knows Zaitsev is looking to leave and the Maple Leafs can’t afford to retain salary.

The other issue for Toronto now is that they’ll badly need to add defenders in the offseason with little salary to do so. With Zaitsev leaving and Jake Gardiner likely gone, their blue line needs work.

Zaitsev has a ten-team no-trade clause that kicks in July 1, 2019, so it’s likely he is moved before then.

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Maple Leafs and Marner Talking, Concern Over Offer Sheet?

TSN’s Darren Dreger was on TSN 1050 and said that the Toronto Maple Leafs and Mitch Marner’s camp have held some talks. There’s been nothing official put on the table but Dreger says that he expects an aggressive offer from Dubas before July 1st. The offer could be north of $10.5 or $11 million.

Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews,
Toronto Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes)

Dreger says the aggressive offer might come because there is a feeling Marner wants to get to July 1 and actually interview with teams that would be willing to put in an offer sheet for him.

Clearly, any offer sheet would need to be accepted by Marner, but this feels more like the process an unrestricted free agent might go through. That potential tactic has stirred up a number of opinions.

Scott Wheeler tweeted, “If Mitch Marner thinks he’s worth $11M and is willing to visit with offer sheet options, the Leafs should absolutely play chicken with him and allow that to happen.” Wheeler believes any team taking on Marner in this situation is likely far from winning a Cup.

Others think there’s no way a team goes over the $11 million mark and gives up four first-round picks in this salary cap era. It certainly doesn’t seem beneficial being a team that would be known publicly as willing to do that either.

Some believe that if the choice is taking four first-rounders or paying Marner $11 million, take the first-round picks.

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Oilers Interested in Kapanen?

Kurt Leavins of the Edmonton Journal writes that the Oilers might take a look at Kasperi Kapanen out of Toronto. He notes that with the increased chatter in offer sheets, it could cost the Oilers very little to snag Kapanen if he were interested.

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Kasperi Kapanen
Toronto Maple Leafs forward Kasperi Kapanen (John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Leavins notes a comment made by fellow scribe Jim Matheson when he said:

Kasperi Kapanen scored 20 goals in the final year of his ELC. He would fill a big hole on the Oilers right side. As Matheson points out, if you offer sheet him $4m then “all” it would (in theory) cost you is money and a 2nd round draft pick. I’d pay that. Wouldn’t you? Edmonton’s cap space is only 10% of a problem until October. Lots of ways to skin that particular cat.

source – ‘The Edmonton Oilers’ Darnell Nurse, Dave Tippett and the possibility of an Edmonton offer sheet for a scoring winger: 9 Things’ – Kurt Leavins – Edmonton Journal – 05/26/2019

Leavins also writes that Dylan Cozens remains the player Edmonton wants at number eight in this year’s NHL Entry Draft and that Darnell Nurse is extremely excited to come back this season and is a priority for new GM Ken Holland.