After Toronto and Carolina swapped John Michael-Liles and Tim Gleason, the two teams could be up for more trading to improve their sagging lineups.
The Toronto Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes kicked off 2014 with a trade, as the Leafs shipped little-used defenseman John-Michael Liles and a prospect to the Hurricanes for rugged blueliner Tim Gleason. It could be the first of other moves by both teams this season as they attempt to shake up their rosters.
Trade rumors are swirling around Leafs center Nazem Kadri, whose work ethic was recently criticized by coach Randy Carlyle and GM Dave Nonis. Sportnet's Nick Kypreos joined a rising chorus of pundits claiming the Leafs mentioned Kadri's name in trade discussions.
The Toronto Sun's Mike Zeisberger noted Nonis didn't deny Kadri - or anyone else on the Leafs - could be moved “for the right price” but added a return would have to improve the club. In other words, Nonis won't make a trade just for the sake of doing one. He won't move Kadri simply because he's currently not playing up to expectations. As for Kadri, he shrugged off the speculation as part of playing for the Leafs.
Cap space could also affect Nonis' efforts to attract more talent to the Leafs. The National Post's Bruce Arthur observed the Leafs’ re-signing of Dion Phaneuf to a seven-year, $49-million contract gives them more than $50 million invested in just 13 players. Center Dave Bolland is an unrestricted free agent at season's end while James Reimer, Cody Franson, Jake Gardiner and Peter Holland are among their restricted free agents.
With the salary cap for 2014-15 projected at $71.1 million the Leafs have $21 million in cap space. That's more than enough to re-sign all of their key players, but won't leave room to pursue expensive free agent talent in the off-season.
That left Arthur suggesting Nonis would require a “heist of a trade” as one way to bolster the Leafs' depth. Another option could be trading restricted free agents such as Reimer, Franson or Gardiner, using the cap space which would've been spent re-signing them on talent already under contract.
Nonis could also consider bringing back winger Leo Komarov, who departed for the KHL last summer over a contract dispute. His NHL rights belong to the Leafs until July 1 and he enjoyed playing for them and hopes to return in the off-season.
The Hurricanes, meanwhile, recalled goaltender Anton Khubodin from his conditioning stint in the minors. GM Jim Rutherford told Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News and Observer a trade involving one of his goalies is possible, citing the club's desire to return to a two-goalie system.
Rutherford's choice is between Khudobin and Justin Peters, as he has no intention of moving starter Cam Ward. Peters played well filling in for Ward and Khudobin when both were sidelined by injuries earlier this season.
Trading Khudobin or Peters will have to wait until Ward, who's currently sidelined by a lower-body injury, returns to action.