NHL Rumors: What’s next for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Golden Knights, and Minnesota Wild

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The playoff futility continues for the Toronto Maple Leafs and it should come as no surprise that they lead off today’s NHL Rumors.

It’s been 18 years since the Leafs beat the Ottawa Senators in 7 games to win a playoff series. The Stanley Cup drought is also the longest in history at 55 years after hoisting the silver chalice in 1967.

So what’s next for the Maple Leafs whose fans will take very little solace in losing to the 2x defending Stanley Cup Champion, Tampa Bay Lightning.

NHL Rumors: Toronto Maple Leafs

“This one is going to sting for quite a bit,” Mitch Marner said in the wake of their latest first round defeat. “I’m getting sick and tired of dealing with this.”

Earlier in the season, I’ve said that another first round ouster would likely mean the end for GM Kyle Dubas. Should that be the case, any new GM would likely replace Sheldon Keefe as the head coach with someone of their choosing. However, President Brendan Shanahan must also shoulder some of the blame for allowing a top heavy team up front to be built with little on the backline or in goal.

Darren Dreger of TSN took to Twitter immediately following the Leafs loss to say otherwise.

“There will changes to the Maple Leafs roster based on salary cap and free agency, but, I don’t foresee drastic changes or sense that the coach or GM are in trouble,” Dreger wrote. “Toronto made strides this season and faced a great opponent in a entertaining 7 game series.”

Elliotte Friedman was on Hockey Central and echoed similar sentiments.

“I don’t think this team needs massive changes on or off the ice,” he said. “I think there needs to be some tweaks. But if you are looking at this organization and saying ‘we have to fire everybody’ then I think you are making a big mistake.”

While two of hockey’s top insiders make fair points, do the owners of the Maple Leafs fully trust the current regime to make those “tweaks”?

We will find out soon.

NHL Rumors: Vegas Golden Knights

nhl rumors
Dec 12, 2021; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Vegas Golden Knights left wing Max Pacioretty (67) waves toward Minnesota Wild defenseman Dmitry Kulikov (29) as is ushered towards the penalty box during the second period at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Vegas Golden Knights were eliminated from the playoffs weeks ago and both GM Kelly McCrimmon and head coach Peter DeBoer remain at their respective positions.

If Vegas ownership does eventually decide to scapegoat DeBoer for this season, despite the ridiculous amount of injuries he dealt with, McCrimmon needs to be held accountable too. It is his roster that ultimately failed.

What may ultimately play in the decision is the way Marc-Andre Fleury was unceremoniously dealt away in favor of Robin Lehner. Then to have Lehner try to play through injuries only to be upset with criticism and want to shut it down. That situation led to the entire debacle regarding the denial of season-ending surgery just a few days before confirming it.

All that aside, the Knights with very limited cap space and thin prospect pool need to figure out what they will do with their current lineup.

According to Jesse Granger of The Athlethic, he identified five players that could be moved thanks to cap issues. They are as follows:

  • Robin Lehner (G)
  • Alec Martinez (D)
  • Max Pacioretty (F)
  • Nolan Patrick (F)
  • William Karlsson (F)

Truthfully, Patrick seems to be the most likely moved with a coin toss between Pacioretty and Karlsson.

Minnesota Wild and Kevin Fiala

On HNIC’s latest 32 Thoughts segment, Jeff Marek brought up Fiala and tied him to the New Jersey Devils.

“I’m told the New Jersey Devils really do like Kevin Fiala,” Jeff Marek said. “I’m sure they can see him playing with fellow countryman Nico Hischier as well. The Minnesota Wild will be going through a cap crunch next season.”

That cap crunch is due in large part to buying out both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Minnesota will have $12.7 million in dead cap space in 2022-23 and $14.7 million in 2023-24 and 2024-2025. Because of this, the Wild are wide open to an offer sheet for Fiala that they simply can’t match.

So it may behoove GM Bill Guerin to call up Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald and work a deal instead of losing him for draft picks. That’s what happened to the Montreal Canadiens with Jesperi Kotkaniemi and it was one of the reason Marc Bergevin lost his job.