Hello and welcome to another Monday edition of NHL Rumours. The NHL’s restart is approaching with each passing day. That also means questions surrounding the offseason are as well. We here at Last Word on Hockey will keep you fans informed with the latest news and analysis each day. Today’s NHL Rumours feature the Buffalo Sabres, Boston Bruins, and San Jose Sharks.
Rumour: A recent article from the Buffalo News explores how the recent chaos in the Sabres’ organization could benefit head coach Ralph Krueger.
Analysis: A front office in as much turmoil as Buffalo’s has very few people it can rely upon. The new general manager Kevyn Adams will certainly wield considerable power moving forward but coach Ralph Krueger will as well. The recent shakeup in the hockey operations department means that fewer people have authority over the Sabres’ coach, who is still in his first season with the team.
Krueger’s newfound seniority means he can help sway Adams towards roster moves that the previous general manager, Jason Botterill, would not do. That gives Krueger more opportunities to use the roster in ways he thinks makes more sense. That could include playing Rasmus Ristolainen more alongside Rasmus Dahlin. Krueger could also push for a hard rebuild that ships a productive young player like Sam Reinhart to another team in exchange for future assets.
This also changes what Buffalo will do at the NHL Draft but we don’t know how it will yet. Botterill’s front office drafted more Europeans than North Americans; 10 of the team’s 18 selections since Botterill was named general manager in 2017 came from overseas. That strategy could shift heavily this year considering the depth of Canadian prospects this year. We won’t know the extent of Krueger’s new power until more roster moves are made but it’s likely he will have more authority in building what he thinks is a winning product.
Rumour: NBC Sports’ Joe Haggerty recently described how Jake DeBrusk is in an awkward position this offseason.
Analysis: The Bruins will be in a tricky financial position when the offseason begins. They have just over $63.5 million committed for 2020-21 before agreeing to new deals with current NHL players and pending free agents in the minors. That wouldn’t be as big of an obstacle for the skilled Boston front office but if the salary cap stays flat at $81.5 million, it could mean someone gets pushed out.
The team has six pending free agents on its NHL roster according to CapFriendly. Torey Krug and DeBrusk were the two most productive before the spring hiatus. DeBrusk’s production was slightly down in 2019-20 but he still contributed 19 goals and 35 points in 65 games. The final 12 regular season games probably would have seen him break the 40-point barrier for the third straight year. DeBrusk has very little leverage as a restricted free agent but his production is worthy of a multi-year deal worth anywhere from $5-5.5 million per season.
However, that would impact the team’s ability to re-sign other players both this year and beyond. Stalwart Zdeno Chara is not a major producer at 43-years-old but he doesn’t seem interested in retiring yet and should have a cap hit around his current figure of $2 million in 2020-21. There’s also contracts for important depth players Anders Bjork and Matt Grzelcyk. Deals for those three players could consume another $7-8 million in space. That would leave Boston roughly $10 million for both DeBrusk and Krug. Krug could command that by himself if he wants to capitalize on another excellent season. The Bruins certainly value their defencemen. DeBrusk might turn into a prized trade chip this offseason due to salary constraints.
San Jose Sharks
Rumour: The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz did a piece on Sunday looking at the possibility Brent Burns could be exposed in the upcoming expansion draft for NHL Seattle.
Analysis: Burns would be one of the most high-profile players exposed if San Jose goes in that direction. He is one of the NHL’s most productive blueliners with at least 40 points every year since 2013-14. He is 34-years-old but there is no doubt he can still play at a high level. The problem is that San Jose can’t protect all of its valuable assets.
The Sharks would have to do one of two things to protect Burns. They would either have to protect eight skaters from any position and one goalie or expose Radim Simek. Simek is just 27-years-old, contributed two goals and nine points in 48 games playing mostly third-pair or penalty kill minutes, and signed a four-year extension in March. The Sharks must see something in Simek to offer him that deal. Keeping all four would expose a skilled forward like Evander Kane or Kevin Labanc.
Exposing Burns would clear $8 million in annual cap space if Seattle selected him. That would give the Sharks far more flexibility in rebuilding an aging roster falling behind in the Pacific Division. They already have a perfect powerplay blueliner in the form of Erik Karlsson. Top prospect Ryan Merkley is also getting close to the NHL after scoring 15 goals and 76 points in 60 games for the OHL’s London Knights. Burns is still a good player but exposing him to Seattle would help boost the team’s sagging fortunes.