The Toronto Maple Leafs’ efforts to re-sign Mitch Marner continue to dominate the off-season headlines. With seemingly no end in sight in the contract stalemate, Toronto Star pundit Damien Cox suggested it might be best if they traded the 22-year-old winger.
Admitting it’s a “crappy scenario,” Cox felt it was better than jeopardizing the Leafs’ Stanley Cup hopes by having Marner miss part or all of the upcoming season. If a club is willing to part with two quality young players, possibly a top-four defenseman and a 30-goal winger, he felt the Leafs should seriously consider it.
Trading Marner, however, isn’t up for consideration by Leafs GM Kyle Dubas. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports Dubas said it’s not an avenue he’s even remotely exploring. His intent remains getting the youngster under contract. Even if Dubas were receptive to a trade, not many teams can afford Cox’s suggested asking price. With the Marner camp said to be seeking an annual salary comparable to Auston Matthews’ $11.634 million, finding a club with the payroll to absorb that cap hit will be difficult at this time of year.
Meanwhile, former Leaf Jake Gardiner remains unsigned. As the top player still available in the unrestricted free agent market, the 29-year-old defenseman shouldn’t have difficulty landing with another NHL club. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman believes there’s mutual interest between Gardiner and the Leafs. However, Friedman felt the blueliner would hurt his value as he’d likely be reduced to a third-pairing role in Toronto.
Over the summer, Toronto added Tyson Barrie, Cody Ceci, Ben Harpur and Jordan Schmaltz to their defense corps. The Toronto Star’s Mark Zwolinski thinks one of those newcomers would have to be moved to create room for Gardiner. Barrie and Ceci were brought in to replace Ron Hainsey and Nikita Zaitsev on the right side of the Leafs blueline. They’re not going anywhere. Harpur ($725,0000 cap hit) and Schmaltz ($700,000) could be demoted, but that won’t clear sufficient cap room for Gardiner.
If returning to the Leafs isn’t an option for Gardiner, Friedman said he’s heard the Arizona Coyotes, Montreal Canadiens and Winnipeg Jets could be interested. So could the Buffalo Sabres if they trade Rasmus Ristolainen.
WHAT NEXT FOR PULJUJARVI AND THE OILERS?
Jesse Puljujarvi’s decision to play in Finland until the Edmonton Oilers trade him prompted speculation he could be dealt sometime this fall. The 21-year-old winger has an out-clause in his one-year contract with the Finnish League’s Oulun Karpat enabling him to return to the NHL by Dec. 1.
Sportsnet’s Mark Spector reported Oilers GM Ken Holland admitted several clubs expressed some interest in Puljujarvi. If the youngster plays well in Finland, Spector felt Puljujarvi could be traded by mid-November. The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson believes Holland’s asking price remains a good, young prospect and a draft pick. However, the youngster’s poor NHL numbers (37 points in 139 games) could lower his value.
During an appearance last week on NHL Network, Friedman said the Oilers had conversations with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes. He thinks the Hurricanes could offer up a prospect such as Julien Gauthier but not a draft pick. Matheson weighed in by suggesting the Oilers could want a young player such as center Anthony Cirelli, defenseman Mikhail Sergachev or prospect Taylor Raddysh. Considering how much Puljujarvi’s stock has tumbled, prying one of those three from the Lightning sounds like wishful thinking.
Friedman added Puljujarvi attracted little interest from Canadian clubs. It’s believed he prefers playing in an NHL market where the spotlight isn’t as harsh.
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