The NHL Trade Deadline has finally passed. Yet, while the Deadline may have passed, NHL rumours are still running rampant. The Last Word on Hockey team will continue to keep fans updated on these NHL rumours. Today, we’ll cover NHL rumours around the Montreal Canadiens and New Jersey Devils.
Analysis: The Canadiens are seven points out of a playoff spot with 13 games left in the season. There is simply no playoff hopes in sight for Montreal, with their road to the post-season only worsened by three teams ahead of them in the Wild Card race, not to mention the two that currently possess the roles. It’s a disappointing way to finish off a season that many Canadiens fans thought would turn out much different. If it wasn’t for a season-long injury bug, it just might have.
But the fact remains that Montreal disappointed this year, with the standings showing that they’re not playing at a league much higher than the horrendous Buffalo Sabres. A playoff-miss this year will mark the third season in a row that the Canadiens season has been cut short. In the last five seasons, including this one, the Habs have only made the post-season once: where they lost in six games to the New York Rangers.
Despite this lacklustre history, in a very intense Canadian marketplace, ownership has been patient with Bergevin, per Dreger. Dreger said that this was evident during the NHL Trade Deadline. Many expected the Canadiens to sell the lot with the season looking bleak. Instead, heavily-rumoured names like Tomas Tatar and Jeff Petry stuck with the team through the Deadline. Dreger chalks this up to patience from the owners, who are seemingly willing to give Bergevin another summer to right the ship. With that said, though, he’ll certainly have to stay busy. Many have speculated that more potential offer sheets or big-name trades lay in wait for Montreal. Fans can only wait and see, though, as the Canadiens try to claw their way back to late-Spring hockey.
Analysis: It seems at this point in the interview, Bergevin was a bit short-tempered with Friedman, who had been bugging him about which players were involved in trade talks and which were likely to get extensions. The ask of Domi’s looming extension quickly ended that conversation but Bergevin’s blunt answer shows a bit of confidence.
This isn’t a surprise, either. Despite being the son of Toronto Maple Leafs legend (or at least a fan-favourite) Tie Domi, Max has truly grown into his own with Montreal. Domi had a tremendous breakout in his first campaign with Montreal last year. He netted 72 points in 82 games, over half of what he had combined for in the prior three seasons. He was a figurehead of the Canadiens lineup, becoming synonymous with the new-age Habs lineup. His production has dropped off a little this season, with 44 points in 69 games, but his worth to the Montreal lineup can’t be understated.
It’s a contract year for Domi, though. Thankfully, Montreal has plenty of cap to spoil the young forward this summer. The team is expected to have around $20 million in cap space, with only eight NHLers hitting the open market. Among these eight are Dale Weise, Charles Hudon, and Jake Evans; all relatively cheaper buys. This gives the Canadiens ample room to both re-sign Domi and go all-out in free agency or trades, something Bergevin will seemingly have to do.
New Jersey Devils
Rumour: In the latest ’31 Thoughts’, it’s noted that despite his success at the Deadline, the Devils aren’t convinced that interim-general manager Tom Fitzgerald is the right man for the job.
Analysis: The Devils did exactly what they needed to do at the deadline: sold. They traded away Wayne Simmonds, Sami Vatanen, Andy Greene, and Blake Coleman during Deadline-season. It was a huge roster-void, with each player returning either draft picks or prospects. This was exactly what the doctor ordered for the Devils, who have struggled all year long, and for an interim-GM to find so much Deadline success was relatively impressive.
Still, Friedman says the Devils aren’t sure if Fitzgerald is what they’re looking for beyond this season. While he is surely a strong candidate for the long-term job, they’re still interviewing other candidates, including former Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis. Gillis ran Vancouver from 2008 to 2014, where he certainly left his mark. He was the man behind the infamous Mats Sundin, Alexandre Burrows, and Roberto Luongo deals. All three have mixed-thoughts surrounding them, with a strong product coming at a very steep price in every case. Yet, Gillis made one thing clear during his time in Vancouver: he had no fear. He was crass with his decisions, not letting doubt rule his reign.
If the Devils want to risk their future and instead fight to find success as soon as possible, the reactive Gillis could be a great man for the job. If not, Fitzgerald is far the better option. His work during the Deadline was a perfect first step in what should be a short-but-thorough Devils rebuild, centred around young stars like Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt. This summer will truly show the Devils intentions.