The Toronto Maple Leafs ended up landing the biggest fish of free agency in John Tavares, but long before the Tavares sweepstakes even began, the team was linked to Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty. Doughty, a Toronto area native, ended up signing an eight-year, $88MM extension early this off-season, ending any thoughts that he might be a free agent in the summer of 2019. So where did the homecoming rumors come from? Doughty has now admitted, via TSN, that he never seriously considered moving on from L.A. Instead, he floated the idea of departing the Kings for the Maple Leafs as a negotiation tactic. Doughty negotiated his latest deal without an agent and, in order to ensure he wasn’t taken advantage of, made sure he had some leverage on his side. The rumors that he might leave if able to test the free agent market surely encouraged the Kings to give him what he wanted on his latest extension, the largest contract for a defenseman in NHL history.
- Another player who has no interest in signing with the Maple Leafs, at least not at their current offer, is restricted free agent forward William Nylander. Toronto and their young forward seem to be at an impasse in contract negotiations and the December 1st deadline, after which Nylander would be prohibited from playing in the NHL this season, is starting to look like a real possibility. Should that come to fruition, Nylander would likely turn to the KHL for his paycheck this season. Nylander’s rights are held by Avangard Omsk, currently led by former NHL head coach Bob Hartley, who recently spoke to TSN about his excitement about the possibility of having Nylander on the roster this season. Avangard already added Cody Franson, Alexei Emelin, David Desharnais, and Kris Versteeg this off-season and could really make waves in the KHL by adding Nylander to the mix. Nylander is currently skating in his native Sweden and could make the short trip over to Russia rather than the trip back across the Atlantic this season, if talks continue to go poorly with the Maple Leafs.
- Staying in the KHL, Chicago Blackhawks prospect Andrei Altybarmakyan is on the move. The 20-year-old winger was traded today, swapped by SKA St. Petersburg to HK Sochi for fellow young forward Ivan Larichev, the league reports. Both Altybarmakyan and Larichev are fringe KHLers with limited experience at the highest level, but Sochi appears to be the long-term winner in this deal, acquiring the 2017 third-round pick. There has been no indication that Altybarmakyan is heading over to North America any time soon and could continue to develop into a bona fide starter for Sochi down the road.