NHL Rumours: Boston Bruins, Columbus Blue Jackets, Vancouver Canucks

NHL rumours

Welcome to Monday’s edition of NHL Rumours. Trade and extension talks continue to swirl as the league approaches its trade deadline. Last Word on Hockey remains committed to bringing you the best analysis of the most current rumours. Today we explore the latest NHL rumours with the Boston Bruins, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Vancouver Canucks.

NHL Rumours

Boston Bruins

Rumour: Fluto Shinzawa of The Athletic explores some of the options in front of Boston when it comes to the eventual 2021 expansion draft for NHL Seattle. In particular, he looks at how Torey Krug could affect Boston’s decisions heading into the 2021 Expansion Draft.

Analysis: The Bruins have quite the situation regarding Krug’s impending free agency. The team will have relatively little cap space to use for its star defenseman after handing out a sizeable extension to forward Charlie Coyle. Krug would be the next big piece to re-sign but Boston has seven other players in need of new deals. That includes solid contributors Matt Grzelcyk and Jaroslav Halak. Something will have to give as Boston approaches the NHL Seattle expansion draft; somebody talented will be lost in the process.

There are two methods for protecting players in the draft. Teams can protect either seven forwards, three defenders and one goalie or eight skaters in general and one goalie. Boston is one of the better teams at succeeding with late picks in the draft so it would be smarter to go with 7-3-1 with Krug, Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo as the protected blueliners. That decision would leave Grzelcyk unprotected but would serve two purposes. First, the team’s outstanding forward depth would be preserved and second, they have several options for the left side of the defence.

Of course, Krug could also find a brand new home this summer and remove himself from the equation entirely. That would mean Boston can save one more of its young defenders and expose someone with less offensive upside. Krug will turn 29 soon and command a significant raise that Boston might not want to provide. Boston is far from the only team that will face tough decisions in expansion but they have one of the best player pools to manage during the process.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Rumour: For our second NHL rumour, The Athletic’s Alison Lukan examines how the Blue Jackets might replace its most productive defender, Zach Werenski.

Analysis: Werenski’s injury hurts an already struggling Columbus squad. The 22-year-old is currently tied with Seth Jones for most points among Blue Jacket blueliners. Werenski has six goals and 16 points in 26 games. This injury certainly derails his progress and forces the team to look for a replacement. They do not have the assets to trade for a top-four defenseman after trading aggressively last season.

However, it might make sense for Columbus to try and pursue some sort of trade to ignite their rebuild. The team does have a few players of note that could fetch decent returns. Goaltender Elvis Merzlikins has struggled but is just 25-years-old and probably capable of playing well if he is moved to a better team. It also might be worth exploring Sonny Milano‘s value considering how little impact he has made in five years. There was also his mildly embarrassing arrest from this past summer. Those never reflect well when free agency looms.

Otherwise, the team will rely on its existing NHL skaters and promotions from AHL Cleveland. This would not be the smartest course of action considering the poor state of the Columbus farm system and the team’s current place in the standings. The Metropolitan Division is very strong at the top this season. There is very little reason for Columbus to not trade someone while Werenski is out and lean into the rebuild.

Vancouver Canucks

Rumour: The third of today’s NHL rumours comes from Sportsnet’s 31 thoughts. Elliotte Friedman indicates the Vancouver will have to consider what to do with Jacob Markstrom as the veteran netminder approaches free agency. 

Analysis: The Canucks are similar to Boston in that they have some interesting decisions to make when it comes to expansion. They don’t have as many high-profile players to protect but they will need to extend several important core players before that time. As usual, extending players costs money which is something Vancouver lacks in large quantities at the moment.

Markstrom is in the final year of his deal that started in 2017-18. He could certainly receive a raise this summer thanks to his current numbers. Markstrom has had a fine year with a .913 save percentage and 2.7 goals-against-average. The Canucks would love to bring him back but Thatcher Demko is the future starter. The team cannot afford to protect Markstrom over Demko or overpay Markstrom when several young stars hit free agency after 2020-21. Either goalie would be an easy selection for Seattle if they are both on the roster at draft time. Markstrom is having a good season but might be a salary casualty this summer.

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