The off-season is coming to an end as the NHL will slowly start to roll out their media tour. Currently, the NHL media tour is over in Europe. Here in the United States, there are still plenty of players looking for contracts. There are even some free agents who are still undecided about their future. The waiting game continues on the RFA market. Who will be the next domino to fall?
Today we take a look at some NHL Rumours involving the Winnipeg Jets, San Jose Sharks, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Calgary Flames.
All rumours are taken from the original source and are subject to change.
Rumour: Scott Billeck wrote on NHL.com that restricted free agent Kyle Connor hopes to sign a new contract with the Winnipeg Jets prior to the start of training camp.
Analysis: No player likes to go into the start of the season missing time. The worst thing a player can do is not prepare with his teammates. Just look at William Nylander and the Toronto Maple Leafs last season. Nylander never did find his game after his long holdout. The problem with the RFA market is every team is waiting for the other one to make a move first. Connor is one of two RFAs the Jets must sign. The other is Patrik Laine.
The Jets only have eight forwards signed to the roster so there is pressure to sign these guys after the seasons they just had. With $17.6 million in cap space, it will be interesting to see how the Jets handle these players. While nothing is off the table, Connor would rather have a long-term deal than a short bridge deal. But do not rule out anything at this time.
San Jose Sharks
Rumour: There were some headlines made out in San Jose as Christian Ehrhoff posted a photo on Instagram of Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton at the San Jose Sharks practice facility. Kevin Kurz of The Athletic writes that while a contract extension for Thornton is inevitable, a deal for Marleau could be less likely than people think.
Analysis: Just to follow up from our NHL Rumours from Monday about a post by Steve Simmons of Sun Media, the Sharks do not have any gentleman’s agreement in place with Marleau like they do with Thornton. After being bought out by the Carolina Hurricanes via a trade from the Maple Leafs back in June, Marleau made it clear that he would like to return to San Jose. However, the way things ended with Marleau and general manager Doug Wilson, there is a possibility he does not want to bring in an aging veteran. Not to mention the fact that Marleau was influential in John Tavares going to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Thornton, on the other hand, told the media he wants to continue playing hockey. He even said during the team’s break up day that “he is a Shark.” Thorton and Wilson have a handshake agreement in place. Whenever Wilson has a contract for Thornton, he will sign it. Also, Thornton will do whatever to make his general manager’s life a little easier.
The most likely scenario why neither player has not signed yet is the Sharks salary cap problem. Wilson had a busy off-season re-signing defenceman Erik Karlsson to a big deal. He also signed Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc to very team-friendly deals. After all those moves, the Sharks have $4.68 million in cap space this season. It would not be shocking to see Thornton sign during training camp once Wilson reshapes the Sharks roster a little more. As far as Marleau goes, he could be a last resort for the Sharks, especially in a third-line role, considering that Pete DeBoer likes his game.
NHL Rumours: Tampa Bay Lightning
Rumour: Diana C. Nearhos of the Tampa Bay Times writes that Brayden Point and the Tampa Bay Lightning may have agreed on a price range for a new contract, but not a term length.
Analysis: Now that Adam Erne has been traded by the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Detroit Red Wings, the team has one more player left to sign this off-season. That player is Brayden Point. What the Erne trade does is allow the Lightning to use their $9.38 million in cap space to the fullest. Considering the biggest priority of the off-season for general manager Julien BriseBois has been signing Point, this move does not come as a shock. The Lightning needed to do something with 49 players already under contract. With the max being 50, the Lightning needed to make a move.
With Point wanting to stay with the Lightning, could he be the next domino to fall and open the gates for the rest of the RFAs to sign?
Rumour: The Calgary Flames are in the market for a defenceman after Juuso Valimaki tore his ACL. Via TSN, general manager Brad Treliving told the team’s website, “We’re going to be in the market.”
Analysis: With Valimaki being a left-shot defenceman, the Flames have a void to fill. As Treliving put it, the injury to Valimaki is “unfortunate.” The Flames believe they have some young players that can fill that void. But do not forget about unrestricted free-agent defenceman Jake Gardiner. Gardiner is a left-shot defenceman, who could fill a void for the Flames. Despite how the past two seasons ended, Gardiner could play a top-4 role for the Flames on defence. He averages about 21 minutes of ice time and could take the pressure off Travis Hamonic and Noah Hanifin. Not to mention, the Flames could shift T.J. Brodie down in the lineup as well if Gardiner were to sign. Also, Gardiner puts up between 30-50 points a season.
The big concern for the Flames with Gardiner would be his injured back. Would the Flames want to take a risk signing a player with injury history? Or would they rather go with young players who are unproven and are still developing? Treliving will be looking at all his potential options to fill the blueline spot.