The U.S. July 4 holiday continued the quiet on the NHL free agency front, with very little new movement.
Dave Pagnotta of the Fourth Period was active though, suggesting teams are trying to shift cap space in preparation for more moves, and also this:
Increased chatter at least 1 team is very seriously considering presenting Mitch Marner with an offer sheet. Unclear on timing, IF it happens. Of course, Marner would have to sign, and if he does, Leafs will have a decision to make. Something to watch, as talks with TOR continue.— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) July 4, 2019
- It’s not clear if this is one of the candidates the Islanders had in mind to fill the open center slot next season, but Otto Koivula certainly aims to make his case at camp. [Newsday]
- Dan and Mike checked in with an Islanders Anxiety podcast digesting what the hell happened as free agency opened. [LHH]
- Speaking of which, Justin Bourne has a theory about how the Islanders handled Robin Lehner, which is basically that they overthought it and got too cute. [Athletic]
- Great interview with Lehner discussing his mental health struggles, the rehab process, and the free agency journey — from signing with the Isles right out of rehab, to the rocky exit this week. (FYI, he professes his love for Lou and Barry, and says of the signing process: “Free agency is crazy. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out.”) [Post TSN media]
- Forget seven facts, let’s do 27 facts about Anders Lee. [Isles]
- If you’ve been on holiday: Some Nassau Exec declared July 3 Anders Lee Day on Long Island. [LHH]
- And Long Island Business News says the Governor will be on Long Island Monday to announce a completely new train station at Belmont Park. [LIBN | LHH]
- Andrew Ladd will do his sturgeon charity event for mental health again, and he’s looking forward to making Blake Wheeler touch a fish. [NHLPA]
As to the offer sheet murmurs, you always have to take that “increased chatter” with some guarded skepticism. Mitch Marner’s agent is likely drumming up interest the same way Sebastian Aho’s agent went fishing for an offer sheet.
That said, maybe fun drama looms? Personally, I don’t know how a team makes an offer sheet huge enough for Toronto not to match without also hamstringing its own budget — or at least damaging its own budget while also giving up four first-round picks. But it will be fun to see if a team tries.
The “unclear on timing” — if this is a real possibility at all — could be interesting, as perhaps a team could signal to Marner’s camp an intention to offer sheet, but not to sign it until late in the summer (or training camp?) when Toronto making additional moves would be more difficult.
Or maybe it’s just Montreal, waiting for the Aho offer sheet to officially be matched so they can go trolling again.
More Dubas: "If it happens, it happens. And I think we're in a spot where we protected ourselves to make a very sound decision and not a defensive one. We're totally focused on continuing to work with (Marner's agent Darren Ferris) and with their camp to try to get this done."— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) July 4, 2019
It all feels like idle and hopeful speculation, but that’s what quiet July days are for.
Oh, and sticking with Pagnotta tweets, scuttlebutt on the Vegas Russian RFA that we wrote about (and openly covet), Nikita Gusev:
Hearing trade talks have continued on RFA Nikita Gusev - not sure if anything's imminent. Sense is he's looking for around $4M per year on a deal, which won't jive in Vegas.— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) July 4, 2019
- Down Goes Brown on the 20 stages of watching your team screw up in free agency. You know, bargaining like “the cap will probably go up. There’s a new TV deal coming.”[Athletic]
- The Leafs wasted no time signing their acquisition in the Kadri trade, Alex Kerfoot, to a four-year, $14 million extension. [TSN]
- Behind Kerfoot on the projected depth chart, Jason Spezza said it was hard to turn down a return to Ottawa but felt Toronto was the right move. [TSN]
- The Jets really had a “go for it year,” and now as they are quietly trying to navigate the aftermath, Central Division rivals are making big moves. [Sportsnet]
- One interesting UFA case is Jake Gardiner, who wanted to stay with Toronto but is probably priced out. He can help a team, no doubt. [TSN]