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In today’s Leafs Links, Darren Dreger and Bob McKenzie give their thoughts on Ken Holland and the Oilers’ interest in Nikita Zaitsev while Elliotte Friedman gives the latest on the Golden Knights’ offseason plans and the possibility of Colin Miller being available.

Elliotte Friedman: Blues’ Stanley Cup victory and offseason rumours (Sportsnet)
On Sportsnet 960, Friedman discussed how close Doug Armstrong and the St. Louis Blues came to blowing up the core earlier in the year when the team was in the basement of the standings.

I think they were pretty close. When Binnington kind of gave them a bit of confidence was when everything changed, but all of this stuff was being talked about. They definitely talked about Pietrangelo with Toronto. They talked about Tarasenko with Carolina. Last year, Parayko’s name was definitely out there. Even some of the depth guys like Pat Maroon, their names were out there. Bouwmeester’s name was out there. A lot of these guys were out there and Binnington gave them some life and I think that’s where everything kind of changed.

On the Golden Knights cap situation and desire to make moves:

I think they’ve looked at Clarkson’s deal which has one more year in it, but you’d really have to throw a sweetener in there to get that to work. I don’t think that’s going to work. One of the teams that could’ve done that was Ottawa, but I’ve heard they’re not interested.

I definitely think Colin Miller is very high on the list to be dealt this offseason. I think there are people who value him better than the Golden Knights did. I think they’ve tried to move Clarkson; I don’t know if they will be successful, but the name we hear the most is Colin Miller.

Dreger on what a realistic return for Zaitsev could be (TSN1050)
Dreger discussed the Oilers’ interest in Zaitsev, possible fits for Patrick Marleau on Leafs Lunch.

On the rumours of the Oilers’ interest in Zaitsev:

We have to qualify this that I am not reporting there is a trade negotiation happening between Ken Holland and Kyle Dubas. I just know that Kenny Holland has got a plan in place — and it is going to take some time — but the word on the street is he is willing to move a defenseman. That is why it would make sense from a Toronto perspective, depending on who that defenseman is. It could be a part of a bigger package.

I am told that when Kenny Holland was the manager of the Detroit Red Wings, Detroit was one of the teams that was in on Nikita Zaitsev before he came to the NHL and obviously signed with the Maple Leafs. I think there are a lot of tire kickers — a lot of teams with interest in Nikita Zaitsev — but to get specific to what Toronto’s return needs to be, they’ve got to get a defenseman. Whether they get that through Zaitisev and something else, or they move Kapanen or somebody else, that is yet to be seen. I still think that we are in the preliminary stages of anything happening with Zaitsev.

Even though it is Zaitsev’s preference to find a fresh start, there has to be something out there that makes sense. The term of the contract is problematic for a lot of teams. What are you getting when you acquire Nikita Zaitsev? He has got to improve his game. If you are making that game, unless there is a sweetener that is a part of it… That’s why I wonder if there could be a bigger package that develops in the next few days here that maybe includes Connor Brown or Kasperi Kapanen or someone like that. If you are moving out a defenseman and you don’t have anything internally that you’re comfortable is ready to step up, then you are going to have to either acquire a player as a UFA or through trade, and trade makes the most sense.

On the latest with the Marner contract talks and Patrick Marleau situation:

There are ongoing discussions with Marner, Ferris and Dubas, but not negotiations. They have done a nice job of keeping it amicable and I don’t think that is going to change. I suspect that is the same with Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson. That is what the manager has to do — keep those lines of communication open.

Things have gone fairly quiet on the Marleau front. Maybe that heats up again on the days leading up to the draft, but there is no real sense of urgency there, and Patrick Marleau holds the cards here. If he is willing to go to Arizona or there is another team in the West that has interest, then that might make it more intriguing, but Kyle Dubas is likely the one who initiated conversations with Arizona and potentially Los Angeles because he is trying to find a fit to give himself some cap relief. But that doesn’t mean Patrick Marleau has to be on board with it.

On whether the Coyotes taking Marleau to buy him out is a possibility:

John Chayka and the Coyotes have made it abundantly clear he is willing to do something like that, whether it’s with Patrick Marleau or with another contract that is problematic for a team. It is that type of creativity that Dubas is going to have to find or he is going to be stuck… There is bonus money attached to that, too, which Toronto would have to absorb. It is going to be interesting to see how much the Leafs are paying players who are not playing for them at the beginning of the season.

McKenzie on Zaitsev and risk of creating a team in a copycat league (TSN1050)
Bob McKenzie discussed whether the Leafs can make deals without knowing the Marner outcome and Oilers’ possible interest in Nikita Zaitsev on TSN Overdrive:

Quite possibly. They’ve got to have a handle on the universe of Marner, even if it’s not a precise number. You’ve got to be a little bit careful because you don’t know where things are going to go with it. You don’t want to be offloading a bunch of guys. But they want to trade Zaitsev and want to trade Marleau, but Marleau is driving the bus on that. I’d suspect he’d probably look favourably if they could find a spot where he and his family want to go to. There is an opportunity there. There is an opportunity on Zaitsev.

I saw Dreger tweeting that after Vancouver had shown some interest in Zaitsev, now Edmonton is showing some interest in Zaitsev. You can kind of see where it’s going. Whether it’s Kapanen or Connor Brown, you know teams like Vancouver and Edmonton are probably — certainly Edmonton, anyway — if they are going to take Zaitsev and his contract, they are probably going to want to get a premium, whether that is Connor Brown or… and I’m not saying those are the talks they’re having — that’s not what I am saying — but those are the types of deals that teams like Edmonton will be looking at if they’re going to take a player like Zaitsev from the Leafs.

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