NHL Rumours: Pittsburgh Penguins, Buffalo Sabres, Minnesota Wild

nhl rumours

Welcome back to Last Word on Hockey’s NHL Rumours series. While many teams are still staying in the NHL’s bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton, the teams that are back at home are more concerned with their future. Today, we take a look at the Pittsburgh Penguins, Buffalo Sabres, and Minnesota Wild. Disappointing seasons all around have caused these clubs to take action and change the course of their respective futures. Keep reading to find out more.

NHL Rumours

Pittsburgh Penguins

Rumour: In a mailbag put together by The Athletic’s Josh Yohe, he says that sources close to the team believe that they will not trade Jack Johnson out of town this offseason. Justin Schultz will depart in free agency.

Analysis: There were plenty of things to like about Pittsburgh’s defence this season. With the emergence of both John Marino and Marcus Pettersson as legitimate top-four threats, there’s a lot of hope for the future.

However, their third pairing of Johnson and Schultz ended up costing them their season against the Montreal Canadiens. It was arguably the worst outing we’ve seen by a single line or pairing in this entire postseason. The decision to move on from Schultz and let him depart via free agency is a smart one by the Penguins. What continues to be a mind-boggling factor is the team’s admiration of Johnson.

The red flags were raised immediately when Johnson originally signed his contract. And now, two seasons into his Penguins tenure, he only has 24 points to show for it. Now, of course, points don’t tell the whole story with defencemen. But even casual hockey fans won’t need to rely on advanced analytics to know that Johnson was a liability on the ice for Pittsburgh at all times. While Johnson’s never been a possession darling, his inefficiencies in that regard are only exemplified when his offence dries up.

Paying four million dollars a year to someone who may not even be an NHL-worthy defenceman, and being happy with it, is a serious warning sign that there need to be changes in Pittsburgh’s front office.

Buffalo Sabres

Rumour: Via Sabres commentator Paul Hamilton on Twitter, general manager Kevyn Adams will be extending a qualifying offer to defenceman Brandon Montour.

Analysis: After yet another disappointing Sabres season, it was evident that further changes need to be made to achieve success. One of their more disappointing efforts came from defenceman Brandon Montour. Expected to be an extremely important top-four piece for the team. After netting 35 points last year, his offensive totals dipped to only 18 points this year. His general on-ice play took a dip as well. His possession numbers plummeted from a 54.7 percent Corsi For last year to only 47.1 percent this year. It’s a massive drop that helped illustrate the tale of the tape for Buffalo this year.

However, this could be seen as just a blip on the radar in terms of Montour’s development. He does have a short history of offensive success, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he can regain his hockey touch. Adams is banking on this as the Sabres move forward.

Minnesota Wild

Rumour: In an analysis done by The Athletic’s Michael Russo, he mentions Erik Haula as a possible free-agent addition for the Wild.

Analysis: After spending the first four seasons of his NHL career in a Wild uniform, Haula exploded after leaving the team. Receiving more usage elsewhere, Haula’s offensive totals immediately exploded. In his first year away from the team, Haula totalled 55 points with the Vegas Golden Knights. His last year in Minnesota saw him total 26 points.

While it may be unfair to expect 55 points out of Haula every year, Minnesota could use a dependable top-six player who could get 50-point seasons with increased usage. Now they’ve been able to scout him in the NHL outside the organization, they may get an idea of how to properly utilize his talent.

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