Welcome back to another edition of NHL Rumours from the crew at Last Word on Hockey. The Second Round is underway and is leading to some exciting hockey. However, as teams start to get eliminated from Stanley Cup contention, we are treated with more rumours. Teams will try to figure out what went wrong as they fell short in their chase for Lord Stanley’s Cup. With that, they will try to improve for next season. Today, we will look at NHL rumours from the Montreal Canadiens, St. Louis Blues, and Pittsburgh Penguins.
All NHL rumours come from their original source and are subject to change.
Rumour: The Athletic’s Marc Antoin Godin tweeted that Canadiens forward Phillip Danault was frustrated with his defensive role during the Canadiens First Round matchup against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Danault: “J’ai vu mon rôle changer en playoffs mais avec ce que j’ai prouvé, mon rôle ne devrait pas changer à Montréal.”
— Marc Antoine Godin (@MAGodin) August 25, 2020
Analysis: The translation of the tweet is that Danault saw his role change, but with what Danault has proven, his role should not change with the Canadiens. This is somewhat true. Danault has proven the ability to play a top-six role and has been a part of one of the most productive lines in the NHL between Tomas Tatar and Brendan Gallagher. He was also someone who most felt was snubbed as a Selke nominee. He possesses a solid two-way game and is often compared to a younger Patrice Bergeron.
However, the truth is the Canadiens already have the future set at centre with Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Both players emerged during the Stanley Cup Playoffs having an outstanding run. When young players manage to shine on the big stage like that, you know you have something special. While Danault is still very valuable to the Habs lineup, he doesn’t have as much upside as the two youngsters. He is better served as a third-line shutdown centre for the Canadiens moving forward. Maybe not as early as next year, but in the not so distant future.
Danault is entering the final year of his contract. Given the way he has played, he is set to get a decent raise. Danault mentioned that his role with the team will influence his decision to stay with the team or not. This statement would pretty much put the writing on the wall. Long-term, the Canadiens one-two punch in the top-six will be Suzuki and Kotkaniemi. That’s inevitable. However, Danault sees himself as a top-six centre. Understandably so. Unfortunately, that role won’t be around for him with the Canadiens. So, as terrible it is to lose a player of Danault’s stature, it may be time for the Canadiens to look at potentially moving him if he is serious about the comments he made.
Rumour: In an interview with The Athletic, Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford states that he has received a lot of interest in both Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry and he believes they are going to have to move one of them.
The Penguins have received interest from other teams in goalies Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry, and general manager Jim Rutherford said he expects to trade one of them before next season, according to a report.https://t.co/CMGrwMrliq
— NHL.com (@NHLdotcom) August 24, 2020
Analysis: This has been a story all season long. Jarry outplayed Murray during the regular season this year. However, it was Murray who got the call during the play-in series. It seemed to be the wrong choice, as the Canadiens defeated the Penguins in four games and Jarry ended up taking over the crease in Game 4. With both goaltenders set to become restricted free agents in the offseason and both will require raises, the Penguins will have no other choice but to move one. As it stands, the Penguins only have around $9.1 million in cap space according to Capfriendly.com. Using the bulk of it to sign both goaltenders would be a huge mistake for the Penguins given how their 2019-20 season ended.
The other thing to note is the upcoming expansion draft. The Penguins fell victim to this in 2017 losing Marc-Andre Fleury to the expansion draft. Surely they don’t want to go through the same thing again and lose another goaltending asset for nothing.
As it stands, it seems as though Jarry would have the upper hand. He had an outstanding season posting a record of 20-12-1 in 33 appearances last season while recording a goals-against-average of 2.43 and a save percentage of .921 while gathering three shutouts. Add that to the fact they used him in the elimination game against the Habs, therefore he should come a little cheaper given the short resume he has. It also doesn’t hurt that he is a year younger. If we were going to put our money on which goaltender leaves, we would bet on Murray.
St. Louis Blues
Rumour: In a season wrap up interview with reporters over Zoom, Alex Pietrangelo stated he hopes to remain a Blue, however, understands it’s a business and may have to move on.
Alex Pietrangelo comments on his desire to remain with the Blues, the upcoming decisions he will have to make and just how long he expects the Blues to be Cup contenders. https://t.co/aKcNXe9z2f #stlblues pic.twitter.com/ubZOBNUnqW
— St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) August 25, 2020
Analysis: These comments have to bring a sigh of relief for Blues’ fans. If Pietrangelo gets his way, he will be locking up long-term with the Blues. He mentions that he grew up in St. Louis and it’s the only place he knows professionally, however, the business side of things could push him out of town.
As it stands, the Blues currently only have around $2 million in cap space entering the offseason. With two key free agents to sign in Pietrangelo and Vince Dunn, the Blues need to move out a ton of cap in order to get the job done. Unfortunately for the Blues, it doesn’t seem as though they’ll be able to retain Dunn, as surely, they would elect to keep Pietrangelo over him. Pietrangelo is the club’s captain and a massive part of the organization. Losing a player of his stature at a time when the roster is built to win now would set them back way too much.
So, how do the Blues manage to keep Pietrangelo? They need to get creative and need to find a way to move out some bigger contracts. Two names that come to mind are Alex Steen and Tyler Bozak. Both players have cap hits of $5 million or more. Considering the Blues need to shed a lot of salary, at least one of these players needs to move. The kicker is Steen holds a full no-trade clause, while Bozak has a modified no-trade clause that allows him to submit a 10-team no-trade list. It complicates things for the Blues even further, however, it’s something they need to accomplish to keep their best defender in town.
That does it for today’s NHL Rumours segment. Be sure to check back daily for more of the latest rumours around the league.