With just four weeks until NHL teams start playing pre-season games, the NHL rumours are still a hot topic. Most teams are attempting to get free agents signed and investigating what else they can do to improve their rosters. Last Word on Hockey will keep you up to date on all the happenings in the league. For the Monday version of NHL rumours, we look at the Colorado Avalanche, Buffalo Sabres, and the Montreal Canadiens.
All NHL Rumours come from their original source and are subject to change.
Rumour: Arun Srinivasan of Yahoo Sports Canada fills us in on how Avalanche star winger Mikko Rantanen seems unbothered about his contract status.
Analysis: It’s likely Rantanen isn’t overly concerned that he is not signed yet. He likely realizes there are other star players like Mitch Marner, Matthew Tkachuk, and Brayden Point who are in the same situation. He told Srinivasan, “It’s nice that I’m trusted and the club wants to make a long-term deal. Let’s see what happens… the situation hasn’t bothered me.”
Of course, Rantanen realizes that with his outstanding season where he netted 31 goals along with 56 assists during the 2018-19 season, that he will be signed. However, he just doesn’t know when. Rantanen is an integral member of one of if not the best forward line in the NHL. His line of Nathan MacKinnon and captain Gabriel Landeskog is almost impossible to stop.
While negotiations seem to be in slow gear, there just doesn’t seem any way the Avalanche will lose Rantanen.
Received return text from Rantanen’s agent Mike Liut. He says sides have spoken just three times: Early spring, briefly at June draft and Sakic’s call to Rantanen last week. Clearly, #Avs waiting for comparable RFA dominos to fall. https://t.co/8smEKA3TwK
— Mike Chambers (@MikeChambers) August 16, 2019
We can all hope that the Marner contract hopefully gets done soon. It is affecting the other restricted free agents awaiting contracts to fall into place. As casually as Rantanen displays his indifference, he must be concerned to some degree that his financial future has not been resolved.
One thing is certain, the Avalance have one heck of a player in Rantanen. Now, they must do all that’s necessary to keep him.
NHL Rumours: Buffalo Sabres
Rumour: Mike Harrington who covers the Buffalo Sabres for the Buffalo News reports that the Sabres are currently planning to have veteran defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen on their team for the start of training camp next month.
— Mike Harrington (@ByMHarrington) August 18, 2019
Analysis: That definitely doesn’t coincide with what Ristolainen mentioned last week in Finland. He said it might be better for him to get traded by the Sabres rather than to stay in Buffalo for the seventh season.
Just as the Buffalo general manager said after development camp, Jason Botterill was keeping any conversation he’s had with Ristolainen private. He also said he’s continued to interact with the team’s longest-tenured blueliner.
He told Harrington, “We’re continuing to try to set this team up where we’re putting ‘Risto’ in positions to have success,” Botterill said. “Yeah, he wants to win. We also want to put him in a situation where he plays very well, and that’s what we’ve tried to do with some of the acquisitions, add depth to our defense, add competition to our defense.”
The issue as for most NHL teams is the salary cap. The Sabres are over it by $1 million. While that does not automatically mean they need to move Ristolainen it remains an option. But, he is halfway through his six-year $32.4 million contract and they need to make a decision on him soon.
However, they have three players who may fall into LTIR category. That could release a possible $8.3 million to use to upgrade the team.
The question becomes does Ristolainen want to be part of the team? The Sabres just acquired Colin Miller from the Vegas Golden Knights and Henri Jokiharju from the Chicago Blackhawks. Both right-hand shooting defencemen. Is there room for Ristolainen? Or are his Buffalo days behind him?
Rumour: Brandon Kelly of the Montreal Gazette wondered if the pressure is on Jonathan Drouin. It could be argued that the 24-year-old winger just might be the key to whether or not the Montreal Canadiens thrive or dive down the standings this season.
The pressure is on Jonathan Drouin. It could be argued that the 24-year-old Québécois winger just might be the key to whether or not the Montreal Canadiens thrive or dive down the standings this season. https://t.co/SBikEEoXkP
— Brendan Kelly (@brendanshowbiz) August 18, 2019
Analysis: The Montreal Canadiens fell short by just two points trailing the Columbus Blue Jackets for the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot. It just doesn’t seem right that a team tallies 96 points and is still not in the post-season. Drouin, who was converted to a centre at the start of the season was sent back to the wing when things didn’t work out as expected.
Had Drouin played like the elite forward the Canadiens had hoped he would be, would the team have overtaken that last wild-card position last season? It bears some thought. Drouin was almost non-existent in his last 26 games gathering only one goal and six assists.
Drouin Needs to Step Up
Kelly thinks Drouin has the qualities necessary to make him a star player who can help the team succeed this coming season. He made the point that he may just need to get some better coaching to elevate his game to the next level. Perhaps the stress on him to be the team’s “saviour” affected his play.
Either way, he needs to snap out of it and play up to his abilities. To some degree, young players can give way to the pressure. If he just needs to play his game and rely upon his skills, the rest will fall into place.
Look for Drouin to have a big year. What other choice does he have?