NHL Rumours: Toronto Maple Leafs, Los Angeles Kings, Buffalo Sabres

Ilya Kovalchuk
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Welcome back to NHL Rumours from the crew here at Last Word on Hockey. With the season now in full swing, rumours are becoming more plentiful. As long as the rumours are out there, Last Word on Hockey will continue to provide them to the fans along with analysis on each one. Today, we have NHL rumours from the Toronto Maple Leafs, Los Angeles Kings and Buffalo Sabres.

NHL Rumours

Toronto Maple Leafs

Rumour: On TSN’s Insider Trading, Bob McKenzie stated that the Toronto Maple Leafs are not currently in the market for a backup goaltender and will give Kasimir Kaskisuo a fair chance to prove he is an NHL backup.

NHL free agent frenzy

Analysis: The backup goaltender position is becoming more and more valuable each and every season. The Maple Leafs are unfortunately finding that out the hard way. The club has lost every single game in which Michael Hutchinson has started. The lead to the club placing him on waivers after a 5-4 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

However, the issue for the Leafs is that they can not just go out and acquire a backup goaltender for a few reasons. First of all, there is not a whole lot out there on the market as it is. Second, the ones that are, are far too costly for the Leafs. The Leafs are already strapped in terms of cap space. Trying to acquire a goalie like Jake Allen, for example, would be far too expensive for the club. This is why they will look to Kaskisuo to hopefully grab the reigns and give them some quality starts in the near future.

As McKenzie points out, the Leafs have five more back to back situations before the end of December., which if Mike Babcock follows his current philosophy will be five starts for Kaskisuo. This will give the Leafs plenty of time to figure out what they have in Kaskisuo and make a judgement call then.

Los Angeles Kings

Rumour: Elliott Friedman reported via Twitter that the Los Angeles Kings have told Ilya Kovalchuk that he will not be playing for the club for the foreseeable future. He is allowed to practice with the club but will not be participating in any games.

Analysis: This comes as a bit of a surprise. While it has been rumoured that Kovalchuk is in fact on the trade block, it is strange that the club would decide to sit him out moving forward. We see this happen when we’re getting close to the trade deadline when players are almost certain to be moved. So maybe that is the case here. General manager Rob Blake could certainly be deep in trade talks with a number of clubs regarding the Russian winger. They could be protecting him from sustaining an injury and ruining any chance of acquiring assets for him.

Stats wise, Kovalchuk has not been bad this season. He currently has three goals and six assists for nine points in 17 games while averaging a career-low 15:25 of ice time per game. That currently has him sitting in third in team scoring just a point behind Dustin Brown and Drew Doughty. Kovalchuk is certainly still capable of playing in a top-nine role and providing offence, especially on the powerplay. There are a few teams currently in the market for a top-nine forward, including the Buffalo Sabres and Minnesota Wild.

Buffalo Sabres

Rumour: Speaking of the Buffalo Sabres, on TSN’s Insider Trading, Pierre LeBrun mentions what we just ended our Kings’ rumour saying. The Buffalo Sabres are currently in the market for a top-nine forward and would like to add one sooner rather than later.

Analysis: The Sabres are in the market for a top-nine forward after Vladimir Sobotka was injured last weekend. Sobotka took a low hit from Nikita Kucherov, which now seems to be more serious than they had first thought. Hence the need for a forward.

The Sabres currently have around $5.5 million in cap space according to capfriendly.com. This is due to the cap relief they currently have with Zach Bogosian and Matt Hunwick being on LTIR.

So who is out there for the Sabres to target? Well, TSN’s Frank Seravalli recently released his trade bait board and the top name listed is New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider. Kreider has been mentioned in trade rumours all summer and will continue to be until he is most certainly moved at some point this season. He is currently in the final year of his contract which has a cap hit of $4.63 million. The Sabres could currently fit his salary under their salary cap. However, they would most likely look for the Rangers to retain salary. This would give them more wiggle room for if/when Bogosian or Hunwick return.

Kreider is a solid depth forward capable of playing in a team’s top six. Kreider currently has four goals and five assists in 15 games this season. He is a proven 20 goal scorer who is in line for a nice raise at the end of this season. With the Sabres slipping, losing their last five after a spectacular 9-2-1 start, they need to make a move soon. Acquiring a player such as Kreider would certainly improve the Sabre’s chances of turning their season around.

If not Kreider, how about Kovalchuk, who we mentioned could be on the way out in Los Angeles?

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