Tuesday is here, and we’re gearing up for another round of piping hot NHL Rumours from around the NHL. Last Word On Hockey is your one-stop-shop for all of the latest gossip in the league. Today’s whispers surround the Winnipeg Jets, Toronto Maple Leafs, and San Jose Sharks.
Rumour: Murat Ates of the Athletic.com writes that the Jets have several trade candidates for the 2019-20 season.
Analysis: The Jets are having an up and down season. They’re a familiar name around the NHL Rumours circle. They have a solid 14-9-1 record despite scoring less than last season. The initial opinion this season in Winnipeg was that the team was struggling. They’ve had a string of injuries on top of the monumental absence of Dustin Byfuglien. The team’s penalty kill unit sits at 29th in the league.
The Jets have improved as the season has gone on. However, that doesn’t mean their roster won’t look different come playoff time. With the Byfuglien situation still needing to be addressed, and the ever-present threat of a cap crunch, the Jets aren’t lacking in the expendable player’s department.
One name being tossed around is Sami Niku. Niku saw one preseason game with the Jets before being sent back to the AHL. Since his arrival to the Manitoba Moose, he’s collected 12 points in 15 games. At the moment, there’s just no space for him on the Jets bench. His performance at the AHL level is what could spark those trade calls.
Another player that could generate some trade interest is Dmitry Kulikov. He is not the most sought after defenceman, collecting just six points over 57 games last year. His meagre Corsi-for of 51.4% leaves something to be desired. The left-handed defenceman brings a level of physicality to the game, and for a team backed into a corner and looking to add to their defensive line, he could be a cheap rental as he is on the last year of his three-year deal.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Rumour: Kevin McGran of thestar.com writes that the Leafs are still struggling with their goaltending. He mentions that the Pittsburgh Penguins Tristan Jarry could be an affordable option.
Analysis: The Leafs and their goaltending have been a NHL rumours hot topic lately. The team made a statement in their first game since the release of former head coach Mike Babcock, beating the red hot Arizona Coyotes 3-1 once Sheldon Keefe took over the reins.
First Kasimir Kaskisuo was up to bat, but that didn’t last long. Kaskisou was sent back down to the AHL and Michael Hutchinson was brought back up. The biggest struggle the Leafs are up against is the cap ceiling. Jarry could be an easy answer to that.
Both Kaskisou and Hutchinson failed to thrive in the Leafs organization. Toronto has forwards they could spare, and Pittsburgh has the extra net presence. Could the two work out a trade? Jarry’s two-year $13.5 million contract is up at the end of the season. In his six games this season, Jarry posted a .945 save percentage. He is quickly proving himself to be an NHL level goalie, something the Leafs could desperately use at this point.
Jarry’s talent and cheap price seem too good to be true. It’s not crazy to think that if Pittsburgh was willing to let him go, he’d easily be gone by now. While Jarry fits into the empty puzzle piece that the Leafs have, his acquisition may not be the simplest fix for Toronto.
San Jose Sharks
Rumour: Kevin Kurz of the Athletic.com reports the Sharks are looking to add a scoring winger and possibly a netminder.
Analysis: Goaltender Martin Jones is having his fair share of struggles this year. With his save percentage sitting at .889 after 18 games, he hasn’t exactly sold himself as a dependable netminder. If he is still struggling after the holidays, he could find himself on the chopping block.
Reliable net-front presence is hard to come by this year. If Martin can bring his numbers up even a little, the Sharks can shift their focus to a more needed position – a scoring winger. However, with their lack of assets, can the team secure a better option to either position? San Jose needs a back-up goalie and a moderately dependable depth forward who can move up and down in their lineup.
Are either of those positions fillable without any desirable assets? Their 2020 first-round pick belongs to the Ottawa Senators, so that’s out of the question. There are a decent amount of goalies and wingers set to hit free agency at the end of the year, but without any obvious draw, do the Sharks have an icy shot in H-E-double hockey sticks at landing one?
Realistically, there’s a better chance of San Jose landing a depth winger than a quality netminder. The Sharks are obviously looking toward their playoff future, and they need more than an ice cube’s chance in Florida to make it there successfully.