Hello and welcome to the Monday edition of NHL rumours. Things continue to plod along during the current hiatus due to global health concerns but there are still things happening in the hockey world. Last Word on Hockey will continue to bring you the best news and analysis during these uncertain times. Today’s NHL rumours feature the New York Rangers, Florida Panthers and Andy Greene.
New York Rangers
Rumour: Robert Sabo of the New York Post recently had a mailbag where he discussed what could happen with veteran goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
Analysis: Lundqvist is very likely at the end of his tenure with the Rangers. The 37-year-old has seen his numbers decline for three straight seasons. He posted a .905 save percentage and 3.16 goals-against-average. Both of those numbers would be a career-worst for the future Hall of Famer. The Rangers could buy him out and try to retain him on a cheaper salary but it is more likely he either retires or becomes the smaller half of a goalie tandem. Lundqvist could keep playing if he can find a team even if he is close to 40.
Buying out Lundqvist will mean that the Rangers enter 2020-21 with a duo of Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev in their net but there is more work to do. They will have to look ahead to the expansion draft for the incoming Seattle franchise. Teams will only be able to protect one goaltender during the expansion process. They could retain upcoming free agent veteran Jean-Francois Berube and expose him to Seattle or do something similar with another goalie. The team will do everything they can to avoid having to expose one of their promising young goaltenders.
Rumour: George Richards of The Athletic had a mailbag several days ago where he broke down some of the options on the Panthers blueline.
Thanks to everyone for participating in our latest #FlaPanthers Mailbag. Had a lot of interesting questions. Here it is if you missed it: https://t.co/3YUZvCwxgR
— George Richards (@GeorgeRichards) April 1, 2020
Analysis: Florida has two defenders of note that will free agency this summer. Both Mark Pysyk and MacKenzie Weegar hit the open market whenever the league decides the 2019-20 season has concluded. Pysyk and Weegar were both effective defenders for the Panthers this season. They combined for 16 goals and 36 points in 103 games. Those aren’t outstanding scoring numbers but both were physical presences. Pysyk contributed 47 hits while Weegar had 76.
The problem with retaining one or both of the blueliners is that they both demand significant pay raises. The Panthers will have some tough financial decisions this offseason as they decided what to do with forwards like Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov. Neither Pysyk nor Weegar was used much on the power-play and so their importance to the team is diminished; modern NHL teams do not need to pay premium prices for penalty-killing defenders. They might retain Weegar since he is still just 26-years-old but the negotiations could mean both defenders go elsewhere for next year.
If Florida lets both walk away, that will give them approximately $4.3 million in cap space regardless of other moves. That would be enough to put towards re-signing one of the forwards or chasing another defender in free agency. Most of the Panthers’ blue line is set for next season but they might benefit from an experienced bottom-pairing defender.
Rumour: Andrew Gross of Newsday recently indicated that veteran defender Andy Greene intends to play again whenever hockey resumes.
Former #NJDevils captain Andy Greene says he 'definitely' plans on playing next season. But will he play another game for #Isles with NHL season on pause? https://t.co/3srvqHu7PP via @Newsday
— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) April 4, 2020
Analysis: The New York Islanders did not get much out of Greene after they traded the New Jersey Devils David Quenneville and a second-round pick in the 2021 Draft. The 37-year-old Greene played in just 10 games with three assists. He was credited with 19 blocks but he not much of a contributor overall. He carries a cap hit of $5 million after a season in which he scored just two goals and 14 points in 63 games split between New Jersey and the Islanders.
New York could re-sign Greene but they will need to re-sign star Mathew Barzal as well as defenders Ryan Pulock and Devon Toews. The team will save money if they let Thomas Greiss leave but cash could be an issue at some point. However, the salary cap will go up for next year. There might be enough space to squeeze Greene on the roster.
The number of potential takers for Greene might be low if he does reach the open market. Most defensive units do not need someone in his late-30s even if he has Greene’s experience. The Winnipeg Jets might take a look after playing 2019-20 with one of the thinnest blueliners in the league. The Calgary Flames might also consider Greene’s services considering almost every defender will reach free agency this summer. Ageing defenders can still contribute, just look at Zdeno Chara, but it takes a special situation to make it work.