NHL Rumours: New Jersey Devils, Columbus Blue Jackets, and NHL Neutral Site Games

NHL Rumours

Hello and welcome to the Thursday morning edition of NHL Rumours. As the world waits for hockey to come back, general managers continue to be hard at work with their off-season goals by getting their teams in order. Just like the NHL general managers, we here at the Last Word on Hockey will continue to bring the best analysis and news regarding the current season. Today’s NHL rumours feature, the New Jersey Devils, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Neutral Site NHL Games.

NHL Rumours

New Jersey Devils

Rumour: Larry Brooks of the New York Post wrote that the New Jersey Devils are making progress on their search for a new general manager. The Devils have interviewed former Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis twice before the NHL went on hiatus.

Analysis: It will be interesting to see how the Devils proceed. They need a sense of direction and that needs to come from ownership. When Ray Shero was fired back in January, Josh Harris cited differences in direction. However, he never mentioned what that direction was. Recall, Shero made moves in the summer bringing him P.K. Subban, Nikita Gusev, and Wayne Simmonds. Shero did trade Taylor Hall in December to the Arizona Coyotes. Ownership might have been unhappy with that. So the team promoted Tom Fitzgerald to the general manager position. He is being helped by Martin Brodeur, who is an advisor for now.

Fitzgerald has made the team better for the future. The returns he got at the trade deadline for players like Andy Greene, Blake Coleman, and Sami Vatanen were outstanding. All of this surely made him the front runner for the job. However, ownership wouldn’t be doing its due diligence if they didn’t interview other people.

If Gillis has been interviewed twice, ownership believes his resume is better than Fitzgerald’s. And if the analytics department is in the ear of the owner, then they would rather have Gillis in charge. Not to mention, the Devils need to get the house in order before next season. The quicker they hire a GM, the quicker a new coach can be named. Again, this comes down to ownership direction and philosophy.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Rumour: Aaron Portzline of The Athletic looks at the chaotic goalie market this off-season and writes this could be the best time for the Columbus Blues Jackets to trade one of their number-one goalies in Elvis Merzlikins or Joonas Korpisalo.

Analysis: The Blue Jackets have been one of the surprise teams in this NHL season. When the season paused, the Blue Jackets were hanging on to one of the final two wild card spots in the Eastern Conference. Nobody expected the Blue Jackets to be in contention this season with the exodus of their players this past off-season. One of those players was Sergei Bobrovsky. Bobrovsky was the reason why Blue Jackets upset the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. While Korpisalo had played in some games during the 2018-19 season, expectations for him were low. However, Korpisalo rose to the occasion and even with all the injuries to the team, Columbus was in playoff contention.

When Korpisalo joined the walking wounded Merzlikins filled in and the Blue Jackets never missed a beat. However, Merzlikins joined the injury list that put the Blue Jackets playoff hopes in jeopardy. As Portzline points out, both goalies stock has never been higher. The Blue Jackets have to decide if they were to put one of their goalies on the market, would teams come calling?

As we saw when the Pittsburgh Penguins made Tristan Jarry available, no team decided to come calling. Could the same thing happen? That would be good for the Blue Jackets, who will have two proven guys on the roster, gives the Blue Jackets a fighting chance next season. But if the team can get assets for either one of them to get better quicker than that is the path they should follow.

Neutral Site NHL Games

Rumour: On the Tuesday Edition of TSN’s Insider Trading, Pierre LeBrun said the NHL is looking into neutral sites similar to what the NBA is doing. These sites will be for the Stanley Cup Playoffs if and when the NHL does return.

Analysis: This makes a ton of sense considering the restrictions the local authorities are putting in place. With the NHL pushing back the player’s self-isolation to April 15th, there is a good chance the NHL goes right into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Right now LeBrun says there are only four neutral sites being looked at, but there can be more depending on the format of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. If playoffs were to remain at 16 teams, then four sites will be all that will be needed. But if the NHL expands to 20 or 24 teams, there is a possibility the NHL will need up to eight neutral sites.

While this far down on the list, this is a plan the NHL most examine. The NHL has stated they want to crown a Stanley Cup Champion this season and this may be the only way to get it done. And there is a good possibility these neutral site games will not have fans in attendance. While that would stink for the players, it is better to keep them safe and limit the number of people interacting with them.

However, all of this depends on if sports can return. All the sports leagues are hoping they can return in the summer, but if they return sooner, then neutral site games are the way to go.

That does it for this edition for NHL Rumours, keep your eyes out for another edition in the coming days.

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