NHL Rumors: Kessel top trade target; Maple Leafs shopping defensemen; and Golden Knights cap situation

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Oct 25, 2021; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Arizona Coyotes right wing Phil Kessel (81) shoots the puck past Florida Panthers goaltender Spencer Knight (30) during the third period at FLA Live Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Now that Jack Eichel is off the trade bait board as the top candidate, who takes his spot?

Is it Vladimir Tarasenko in St. Louis? Some may say ‘absolutely’, but right now the Blues are winning and unlikely to move him. What about Tomas Hertl? San Jose is competitive this season and rumored to be more inclined to extend him than trade him.

So who is the new top trade target?

NHL Rumors: Phil Kessel top Trade Bait target

The Arizona Coyotes have yet to win a game this season. They are a pathetic 0-10-1 after a summer where they unloaded talent like Conor Garland, Christian Dvorak, and captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

Someone please save Phil Kessel from this mess.

Kessel, 34, can still produce and would give any team looking for scoring a boost. Last season, he scored 20 goals and 43 points in 56 games for the Yotes. This season with an abysmal Arizona ensemble, he has four points in 11 games. For his career he has 908 points in 1133 contests.

Kessel will be a UFA this summer and has a cap hit of $6.8M. Someone in need of scoring on the right wing will come knocking soon. I hear there’s a team in NY that might fit the bill.

Maple Leafs shopping defensemen

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Apr 18, 2021; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Travis Dermott (23) skates against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena. Canucks won 3- 2 in Overtime. Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

After the Toronto Maple Leafs announced an eight-year, $60 million extension for defenseman Morgan Rielly, the cap gymnastics began.

A look at the Leafs cap situation for the 2022-23 season indicates that they will have around 58% of their salary cap dedicated to five players.

John Tavares, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and now Rielly will account for $48 million in cap space next season. The Leafs will need to start considering making trades in preparation for next season and reports indicate these two defenders are for sale.

Per Luke Fox of Sportsnet, he relays recent reporting that Travis Dermott or Justin Holl are on the block.

Dermott, 24, has 1 assist in 10 games this season to go with 48 points in his 218 career regular season games. He has one more season at $1.5M on the cap and will be an RFA at the deal’s conclusion.

Holl, 29, has no points in 7 games with a -7 rating this season. He’s registered 41 points in 143 contests and makes $2M AAV for one more season before becoming a UFA.

Golden Knights will need to make moves to fit in Eichel this season

On Thursday morning, Vegas picked up Eichel and his $10 million cap hit. In exchange Buffalo received Alex Tuch, Peyton Krebs, a first and third round picks. Eichel is heading for surgery and will be put on LTIR, but should be back by late February or early March.

When he returns Vegas will be pressed to make a trade for cap reasons to fit Eichel in.

“By our calculation Vegas currently has $5.765M available in their LTI Salary pool,” CapFriendly tweeted. “Tuch being in the trade doesn’t change that amount as he’d come off both the relief and usage amount. Krebs takes away another $863K but that still leaves Vegas shy of the $10M in space they need.”

Vegas is going to need to clear out salary in order to make this work and one player that could be moved is Reilly Smith. The 30 year-old is in the final year of his contract with a $5 million cap hit. He’s a perfect rental.

Other candidates are Jonathan Marchessault and Shea Theodore.