NHL Rumors: Latest Buzz on Vladislav Gavrikov, Maple Leafs and More

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistMarch 26, 2020

Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov plays against the Detroit Red Wings in the second period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Paul Sancya/Associated Press

The exact timing of the NHL's offseason is unknown with the league on hiatus because of the coronavirus pandemic, but there are still a number of rumors circulating regarding potential contract moves.

Here is some of the latest buzz.


Blue Jackets Looking to Keep Key Defenseman Long Term

The Columbus Blue Jackets' strong defensive effort is a primary reason they are in a playoff position despite a number of injuries, and they are reportedly interested in signing one of the players who has helped them to the third-best defensive record (2.61 goals against) in the league this season.

According to Aaron Portzline of The Athletic, the Blue Jackets have started working on a long-term contract extension for defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov.

Columbus selected him in the sixth round of the 2015 NHL draft, but he played in Russia up until last year's Stanley Cup playoffs. With his season finished in Saint Petersburg and the Blue Jackets battling the Boston Bruins in the second round, he joined the team and appeared in Games 5 and 6 of the hard-fought series.

It was quite the pressure-packed debut, and he has appeared in 69 of the Blue Jackets' 70 games this season. That durability has been a welcome development for a team that has been ravaged by injuries to many of its key playmakers, including Seth Jones, Cam Atkinson, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Josh Anderson and Ryan Murray.

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Gavrikov has five goals, 13 assists and a plus-one rating as a stabilizing force on the blue line in the face of so much attrition.

Brian La Rose of Pro Hockey Rumors also pointed out Columbus does not have any of its defensemen signed past the 2021-22 campaign, meaning there is additional motivation for the Metropolitan Division team to secure the 24-year-old's future.


Maple Leafs, Kyle Clifford Looking for Deal

The Toronto Maple Leafs acquired Kyle Clifford from the Los Angeles Kings in February via trade, and they reportedly plan on keeping the left-winger headed toward unrestricted free agency.

Terry Koshan of the Toronto Sun reported "once there's more clarity on when the NHL might resume play, it's expected talks will begin in earnest" between the two sides.

Clifford appeared in 16 games for the Maple Leafs following the trade and put up three points.

He played nine full seasons for the Kings and notched a career-high 21 points last terms. It appeared he was building on his performance with 14 points in 53 games for Los Angeles in 2019-20 until he was moved.

"Kyle has really liked it and enjoyed it so far," Clifford's agent, Todd Reynolds, said. "It's something we would be interested in and it's something that the Leafs are interested in." 

Clifford is 29 and a solid physical presence who can become a secondary scorer and solid source of depth for Toronto should it sign him to a long-term deal.


Panthers Have Their Eyes on a Defenseman

The Florida Panthers may bolster their future blue line in the coming days.

On Wednesday, New England-based hockey insider Mark Divver reported the team could sign University of New Hampshire junior defenseman Max Gildon "as soon as this week."

Gildon, 20, tallied 29 points in 34 games during the 2019-20 campaign and is a physical player who could help to solidify Florida's defense in the coming seasons. The Panthers selected him in the third round of the 2017 draft and are apparently on the verge of signing him to an entry-level deal.

Zach Leach of Pro Hockey Rumors pointed to his "big frame, physical play and ability to play in all situations with his considerable skill and vision," suggesting he could make the NHL relatively soon given Florida's "thin pipeline of defensive talent."

The Panthers are tied for 28th in the league with 3.25 goals against per game this season. Improved play on the blue line would have them in better position than three points out of third place in the Atlantic Division and the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot.

Gildon could provide that in the future.