It is time for another Monday edition of NHL rumours. Things will slow down a bit for the winter holidays but the news is still flowing around the league. Today’s rumours from Last Word on Hockey feature the Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Rumour: Vancouver beat writer Ben Kuzma indicates that forward Sven Baertschi seeks a trade after his recent placement on waivers.
Baertschi trade buzz is legit. Here's how winger broached subject with me on Nov. 10: "I want to be on a team that needs you and that’s sort of the mindset that I have. Some additions over the summer didn’t make it easier to come into camp and protect my spot." (1/2) #Canucks
— Ben Kuzma (@benkuzma) December 14, 2019
Analysis: Vancouver is not one of the teams currently listed in the Taylor Hall sweepstakes but that doesn’t mean they can’t make a splash while moving Baertschi. The defence could benefit from an addition but goaltending is also a concern with Thatcher Demko‘s recent concussion.
Goaltending is a more serious concern compared to the blue line. Veteran Jacob Markstrom has the position locked down for now but 20-year-old Michael DiPietro is acting as backup. That is a concern considering Vancouver’s place in the standings; they are fifth in the Pacific Division with the potential to be dangerous if they can get into the playoffs. Trading Baertschi for a more experienced option while Demko recovers could be a smart move. It would allow the team to rest Markstrom more often and let Demko return at his own pace.
One possible destination for Baertschi could be the Detroit Red Wings. Vancouver could acquire one of several backups such as Jimmy Howard or Calvin Pickard that would be more experienced than DiPietro. Baertschi would also have a chance for more playing time, similar to how Robby Fabbri has blossomed since leaving the St. Louis Blues. Baertschi wing has been a solid scoring option when given adequate playing time.
Rumour: Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal clarifies what Edmonton might be offering in the Hall sweepstakes.
Analysis: It certainly makes sense that Edmonton is not willing to part with one of the top prospects on defence if they cannot discuss a contract extension. A good chunk of the Oiler’s current blue line will hit free agency this summer and the unit will need restructuring. Evan Bouchard should make the roster next year and Philip Broberg isn’t far behind.
A return including Jesse Puljujarvi and a potential additional first-round pick feels very reasonable if Hall is only a rental. It is unrealistic for the New Jersey Devils to want top prospects and unconditional picks if Hall leaves his new home in free agency. Puljujarvi would be an immediate top-six option in 2020-21 next to either Jack Hughes or Nico Hischier. An additional pick outside of the lottery is exactly something a rebuilding team wants after selling its more notable asset.
Hall also gives the Oilers a third quality scoring option beyond Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. It wouldn’t make sense to put all three high-skill players on the same line but Edmonton would have one of the more dangerous scoring trios if they reached the playoffs. They could also try to re-sign Hall after the season considering 10 unrestricted free agents come off the books. That is a lot of money to spend on a player of Hall’s calibre.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Analysis: It is easy to see that Toronto has some financial challenges ahead of it this summer. Most of the defence indeed comes off the books but a handful of forwards will need to be traded or receive new deals. Moving Kapanen removes a cap hit over $3 million in advance of what should be a complicated summer.
Kapanen would give another organization a player capable of scoring 40 points in a season. He is on pace to nearly equal last year’s 44-point effort with eight goals and 18 points through 34 games this year. Kapanen has 72 points in 167 NHL games overall. Many teams would benefit from his ability to both score and handle the puck effectively on the wing.
It isn’t as though Toronto doesn’t have options at that spot either. Ilya Mikheyev has as many points as Kapanen with a much lower shooting percentage. Moving him to the top-six seems like a move that would benefit the 25-year-old. The Leafs also have players with NHL experience playing in the AHL right now. Kenny Agostino or Pontus Aberg is easily capable of holding down a role of some sort if Kapanen is moved. The only obstacle is how attached Toronto is its current roster before decisions need to be made.