NHL Rumours: Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Blackhawks, Edmonton Oilers

NHL Rumours

Welcome back to Last Word on Hockey’s NHL Rumours series. Each of our rumours pieces collects some of the biggest rumblings from around the league and offers our analysis on each item. As the NHL season inches ever-closer to its possible resumption, teams are still keeping a keen eye on this offseason and beyond. Today, discussions surrounding the future of the Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Blackhawks, and Edmonton Oilers take centre stage.

NHL Rumours

Montreal Canadiens

Rumour: In a recent mailbag piece, The Athletic’s Arpon Basu mentions the possibility of the Habs targeting the Boston Bruins‘ Torey Krug in free agency this summer.

Analysis: You’d be hard-pressed to find a more confusing squad in the NHL than this year’s Montreal Canadiens. After narrowly missing out on a playoff spot last season with a solid 96-point campaign (44-30-8), the Habs end the 2019-20 regular season with a .500 record.

Undoubtedly, the Canadiens’ defensive structure took a large hit this year compared to last. And while some players like Ben Chiarot performed admirably, the left side of Montreal’s defence was not a pretty list. They lack a true number-one presence like the right-sided Shea Weber, or even a player of Jeff Petry‘s calibre. Enter a player who many Habs fans have probably cursed in their sleep: Krug. He’s been a popular name in NHL Rumours.

While not explicitly known for his defensive prowess, Krug is still a capable player in his own end. Where his reward (and money) really comes from is his offensive game, something that’s been a key piece to the Bruins’ success over the years. And while Montreal struggled defensively, they weren’t exactly world-beaters offensively either. Krug’s power-play capabilities would be of immeasurable help to a Montreal team that’s still trying to solidify its identity. He’d also swallow big minutes alongside Weber and allow for players like Chiarot and Victor Mete to flourish against lesser competition.

Chicago Blackhawks

Rumour: In an editorial piece, The Athletic Chicago’s Scott Powers examines how former Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis could fit in with the Blackhawks organization.

Analysis: Once the general manager of the Canucks at the height of their early 2010’s-success, Gillis hasn’t had work in the NHL since his firing at the conclusion of the 2013-14 campaign. He also hadn’t had a job in an NHL front office before being hired as general manager of the Canucks before the 2008-09 season. It was quite an odd NHL tenure for Gillis.

He’s since served on the board of directors for Geneve-Servette HC in the Swiss NLA, but he hasn’t held that role since 2017-18. Gillis is ready to get back into business in the NHL. The 61-year-old Sudbury, ON native may have found a fit with Chicago.

This comes as many have called for the ousting of longtime general manager Stan Bowman as the Blackhawks continue to trend downwards, entering a rebuild. A change of scenery wouldn’t be the worst thing for the Chicago front office. They’re entering a tumultuous period after enjoying sustained success.

Edmonton Oilers

Rumour: In another recent mailbag piece, Sportsnet’s Mark Spector notes that he expects Edmonton to sign Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to a contract extension, but not before the start of the 2020-21 season.

Analysis: Don’t sleep on Nuge.

Despite being picked first overall in 2011, Nugent-Hopkins has struggled to maintain his footing against other players in his draft class. Players like Nikita KucherovMark Scheifele, and Johnny Gaudreau have all enjoyed greater stardom despite being drafted later. It’s caused many to underestimate his importance to the Oilers as a crucial middle-six piece. As Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl took over the spotlight in Northern Alberta, Nugent-Hopkins has only flourished. As he enters his 10th season in the NHL, the now-veteran has enjoyed back-to-back 60+ point seasons. Throw in some time on McDavid’s wing this season, too. You’ve got a complete, versatile veteran who’s going to be worth a lot of money on his next deal.

Edmonton faces a unique opportunity to go deep in the playoffs this year. Nugent-Hopkins’ performance in the qualifying round and playoffs will likely influence the number on his next paycheck. The Oilers want to take all the time they can before making another big investment in a core piece.

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