Welcome back to another edition of Last Word on Hockey’s NHL Rumours series. While 23 of the league’s 31 teams are currently focused on achieving Lord Stanley’s glory, clubs are still looking forward to their futures. With many important events coming up, such as the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, general managers are on high alert around the league. Today’s edition features the Detroit Red Wings, Vancouver Canucks, and Washington Capitals.
Detroit Red Wings
— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) July 23, 2020
Analysis: Nielsen’s acquisition in free agency was one of Ken Holland‘s parting gifts to the squad. After signing a monster deal that saw him earn $5.25 million a season, his offensive totals have nosedived since the start of the deal. He performed admirably in his first season in Detroit. However, his past season was truly one of the worst in recent memory. Nielsen scored only nine points in 60 games and saw his usage drop three minutes a game.
It hasn’t been a good run for Nielsen. However, there’s no way he’s that bad again next year, and new general manager Steve Yzerman spinning Nielsen off for assets may be able to finally begin right the giant wrong that was his original contract.
Rumour: Don Taylor on TSN1040 Vancouver suggests that the Canucks will likely move on from former first-round pick Jake Virtanen this offseason.
“I just get the feeling they’re done with Jake. This is his 1st opportunity to play in a postseason, and this happens. Travis Green has seen Virtanen since 2014, he doesn’t believe in him. He’s seen his act. Are they going to commit to him? No way”@DonTaylor5 @DonnieandTheMoj pic.twitter.com/DJ99yqFPdu
— TSN Radio Vancouver (@TSN1040) July 30, 2020
Analysis: Picked all the way up at sixth overall in 2014, Virtanen has never quite made the impact Vancouver would have hoped for. While he did have a career year this season (18 goals, 36 points), he’s never really been given a chance. He’s sparingly been played among the team’s top-six forwards. He’s been forced into a two-way checking role, something he obviously struggles with.
Whether the onus is on Virtanen or the team developed him poorly, the fit just isn’t there anymore. Vancouver could likely find a player on the open market that’s better suited for scoring or checking, depending on which quality they want. Virtanen has been “jack of all trades, master of none” personified in British Columbia. For that reason, coach Travis Green and his staff want some different toys to play with.
Analysis: While Ovechkin has been a staple among the league’s top players since 2005, this upcoming contract negotiation figures to be interesting. While Ovechkin will be at the top of his game at the end of the 2020-21 campaign, he’ll also be 35 years old. The Capitals won’t want to invest long-term into a player that could only have a few seasons of NHL hockey left. His decline is extremely unpredictable.
Enter the cheat code known as the performance bonus. Washington realistically won’t sign Ovechkin to anything longer than four years on this upcoming deal. However, if he declines sooner than that, Washington could build in a sort of safeguard into the deal. The addition of performance bonuses into the equation allows Washington to keep Ovechkin’s cap hit lower in case decline strikes. However, as long as Ovechkin is still an elite player, he would be eligible for more cash than his cap hit would suggest.
It’s an advantageous situation to both sides, but a complicated one as well.
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