NHL rumours are still swirling as we approach the first puck drop of the regular season. Keep tuning into Last Word on Sports as we bring you the most enticing NHL rumours. Today’s rumours feature the New Jersey Devils, Toronto Maple Leafs, and the New York Rangers.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Analysis: Few players in sports draw as much attention as the Maple Leafs captain. The player chosen is expected to lead a team that hasn’t celebrated a Stanley Cup since 1966-67. The team hasn’t had a designated captain since Dion Phaneuf left the team after the 2015-16 season.
Naming Tavares as the captain is a bit surprising considering the team has superstar Auston Matthews acting as the face of the franchise. The young star has had some offseason trouble which could have helped Tavares’ case. Both are worthy as Matthews is the most productive while Tavares is more experienced and commands almost as much money.
Tavares, despite not being the most famous player on the team, is still an ideal candidate to act as captain. He was acquired to help the team get over the hump and win the Cup. His experience on and off the ice works out well for a team that has moved other veteran presences off the roster over the past several seasons. Watch the dynamic between Tavares and Matthews over the course of the year given the importance attached to the captaincy of a team like Toronto.
New Jersey Devils
Rumour: Bob McKenzie of TSN briefly mentions in a recent podcast episode that Taylor Hall has given his agent the green light to discuss a new contract with the New Jersey Devils.
— TSN 1050 Toronto (@TSN1050Radio) October 1, 2019
Analysis: Signing Hall is the biggest project for Devils’ general manager Ray Shero for the upcoming year. The team has plenty of other restricted and unrestricted free agents on the horizon but none are as famous or important as Hall.
Hall stands to receive a decent raise based on his recent production. He scored 93 points in 76 games in 2017-18 before injuries limited him to just 33 games last year. Hall still managed to post 37 points during that time. His current cap hit is just $6 million, which is significantly below the figure given out to wings like Mikko Rantanen or Matthew Tkachuk.
Hall is older than the players to receive new contracts but is no less important. New Jersey has loaded up for a playoff run with an offseason contract given to Wayne Simmonds. They also made trades for Nikita Gusev of the Vegas Golden Knights and with the Nashville Predators for P.K. Subban. Don’t forget about drafting Jack Hughes either. A playoff birth is likely the biggest obstacle in Hall signing a new deal but telling his agent to start the conversation is a huge first step in that process. Now the team just needs to do its part.
New York Rangers
Rumour: Colin Stephenson of Newsday Sports gives us a peek into the conversation surrounding a potential extension for wing Chris Kreider.
… Gorton on talking extension with Chris Kreider: "No, right now, I haven't talked to Chris or or (agent) Matt Keator lately. You know, we have some conversations over the summer, but right now, we're just to let him play hockey and we'll let those things work themselves out.''
— Colin Stephenson (@ColinSNewsday) September 30, 2019
Analysis: Kreider is just one of New York’s players that will hit unrestricted free agency after 2019-20. The 28-year-old has been a Ranger since he was selected 19th overall in the 2009 NHL Draft. He tied his career-high with 28 goals and reached a new career-high for points with 52 in 79 games.
Kreider has been a productive option for New York over the past several years. He has posted no fewer than 35 points since his debut campaign in 2012-13. He is poised to help the team make a big push alongside newcomers including Artemi Panarin, Jacob Trouba, and Kaapo Kakko. Kreider is a strong option to contribute to the Rangers’ top power-play unit with those players.
However, it is because New York has acquired several new options that Kreider might go elsewhere for 2020-21. It is possible that Panarin and Kakko will take wing spots on the top line as soon as next year and New York has younger options including Pavel Buchnevich, Brendan Lemieux and Vitali Kravtsov looking for playing time. Kreider has plenty of competition to hold off moving forward. He would also command a high cap hit than his current $4.6 million that the team will consider in light of the next cap ceiling when it is announced.
New York Rangers
Rumour: Mike Johnston of Sportsnet gives us a rare two NHL rumours day for the Rangers. This time it focuses on how Vladislav Namestnikov could be a trade chip as the team moves through the season.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) October 1, 2019
Analysis: Namestnikov is going to encounter many of the same obstacles as Kreider when it comes to his future in New York. The Rangers have a farm system with multiple wing prospects. Namestnikov is coming off a poor 2018-19 year where he scored just 11 goals and 31 points in 78 games.
Namestikov has not impressed since coming over via trade from the Tampa Bay Lightning. 35 points in 97 games isn’t exceptional even considering New York’s struggles in the past couple of seasons. The 26-year-old needs a solid year playing largely on the bottom-six if he is going to stay with his current team.
However, the 6’0″ centre could command a decent return if he is traded. He scored 44 points in 62 games with Tampa before the trade. He is also solid with the puck and has a career Relative Corsi of 2.1. There is a lot to like about Namestikov, he just might need a new home to rediscover his production.