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Zaitsev, Kadri and Gardiner prominent in chatter

June 15, 2019, 2:09 PM ET [122 Comments]
Mike Augello
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The NHL buyout window began on Saturday with the Philadelphia Flyers putting defenseman Andrew MacDonald on unconditional waivers for the purpose of clearing the final year of his six-year, $30 Million contract. There are expected to be a number of veterans bought out between now and June 30, but the Toronto Maple Leafs will not be one of the teams that exercises that option with any of their players.

Veteran winger Patrick Marleau has another year and a $6.25 Million cap hit for 2019-20, but a buyout of a contract signed after the age of 35 does not allow any relief on the cap, which is why the Leafs will be looking to trade the 39-year-old in the next few weeks.

Where news will likely be made over the next month by GM Kyle Dubas is on the trade market and the chatter regarding a number of Leafs being involved in talks is steadily increasing.

Earlier this week, TSN’s Darren Dreger reported that the Leafs had received some interest from Vancouver and Edmonton on defenseman Nikita Zaitsev. In his “31 Thoughts” column, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports that Toronto’s asking price for the 27-year-old blueliner is another defenseman or an asset that could be swapped to another club for a defenseman.

If the Canucks have interest, the return could be 29-year-old Chris Tanev, who makes $4.45 Million next season and has missed nearly 100 games over the last three seasons with a variety of injuries. The Oilers may be looking to shake up a defense corps that has struggled over recent years. It is unlikely that Dubas would be willing to take back a declining Kris Russell making $4 Million over the next two years, and bringing back the likes of Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse or Adam Larsson would like necessitate a larger deal involving multiple players.

Vancouver GM Jim Benning indicated earlier this month that he is interested in remaking Canucks blueline , which may result in dealing Tanev and not re-signing pending unrestricted free agent Alex Edler, but also pursuing the top three ranked UFA’s of the current class in Erik Karlsson, Tyler Myers and Leafs blueliner Jake Gardiner.

There have been hints that the Leafs are interested in re-signing Gardiner and that the 28-year-old would like to stay in Toronto, but it would likely be at a significant increase from his $4.025 Million salary, and more than the money saved by moving out Zaitsev ($4.5 Million) or the $5 Million AAV of the club’s top defenseman Morgan Rielly.

Spending in the $6 - $6.5 Million range for Gardiner would use up more cap space than Zaitsev and would not result in any tangible improvement of the Leafs blueline.

Friedman also reports that there will be no shortage of suitors if the Leafs decide to deal center Nazem Kadri. The Winnipeg Jets and other Western Canada clubs are said to have interest in the 28-year-old, but the Jets are on his no-trade list.

The Philadelphia Flyers may also be in on Kadri if they are unsuccessful in locking up Kevin Hayes before free agents can talk to other clubs on June 23. If the Leafs are not willing to shop Kadri, they may be open to swapping either William Nylander or Kasperi Kapanen for defensive help.


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