Hello and welcome to an extra special afternoon edition of NHL rumours! The speculation is flying as we approach one of the most interesting offseasons in league history. Last Word on Hockey remains committed to following the rumours and bringing you the best each and every day. Today’s nhl rumours feature the Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks, and Colorado Avalanche.
— WGR 550 (@WGR550) September 10, 2020
Analysis: It’s not hard to see why Calgary might be interested in Ekman-Larsson. They have just four defenders who played in 2019-20 who do need a new contract. Those four are Mark Giordano, Noah Hanifin, Rasmus Andersson, and Alexander Yelesin. Juuso Valimaki is also under contract but only appeared in NHL games in 2018-19. They could re-sign some of their pending free agent defenders but there is a clear need for someone of Ekman-Larsson’s calibre.
The Flames could afford Ekman-Larsson’s salary if they decided to add the veteran blueliner. Calgary has roughly $59.4 million currently committed to its NHL roster before it hands out any new deals. Ekman-Larsson’s cap hit is $8.25 million. Trading for that contract would leave Calgary around $13.8 million, which is enough to sign, at least restricted free agents Andrew Mangiapane, Mark Jankowski and Oliver Kylington. Signing those three would put Calgary’s salary commitments around $73.3 million. That figure is enough to sign at least one more free agent skater and a goaltender to play alongside David Rittich.
The only problem is that Arizona will want significant assets in return for Ekman-Larsson. The Coyotes might demand Valimaki in return as the team’s best defensive prospect. It would certainly be some combination of prospects and draft picks in exchange for Arizona’s veteran defender. Ekman-Larsson had a down 2019-20 but this is a defender who has scored at least 39 points since 2013-14. That sort of production isn’t’ cheap even if he getting older on an expensive contract. Arizona wants to shed salary for 2020-21 so this deal makes a lot of sense for both sides.
Rumour: Darren Dreger on TSN Radio Vancouver revealed some possible contract details for goaltender Jacob Markstrom.
"I think we can speculate that it's probably going to start with a six, or $6 million in average annual salary… "@DarrenDreger on what a new contract for Jacob Markstrom could look like.
— TSN Radio Vancouver (@TSN1040) September 8, 2020
Analysis: An annual cap hit of $6 million would be a significant increase for the 30-year-old. Markstrom’s cap hit in 2019-20 was $3.67 million but he earned it this season. He posted a career-best .918 save percentage along with a solid 2.75 goals-against-average. Markstrom was also among the league-leaders in goals-saved-above-average. There is even reason to believe Markstrom will receive a big extension after a quality campaign.
However, Vancouver might not have the cap space to retain Markstrom’s services. Adding $6 million in salary would mean the Canucks have just over $67 million committed to 2020-21. That is before the team signs productive depth like Jake Virtanen and Adam Gaudette to new deals. Vancouver is primed for regular Stanley Cup contention with its current roster but it can’t sink too much of that into goaltending. There is too much randomness in goalie production to neglect safer investment on forwards and defenders.
Markstrom would be an outstanding signing for a team on the open market if he doesn’t reach a deal with Vancouver. The Chicago Blackhawks would be a strong option after their finish in the NHL’s postseason bubble. The Blackhawks need to decide if 35-year-old Corey Crawford is the solution for next year or if a younger option is better. The Detroit Red Wings are another such team that Markstrom would help as it rebuilds. He won’t be cheap for any team but he would be a foundational piece for a team trying to return to contention.
Rumour: The final NHL rumour for today is also from Friedmann’s comments on WGR 550. He also indicated that the Avalanche could be “all in” next season on a short-term star.
Analysis: The Avalanche are on the cusp of being one of the NHL’s truly dominant teams. A rash of injuries and bad luck doomed the team against the Dallas Stars but many of the pieces are still in place. It has several of the league’s best players and a scary blueline packed with talent. It’s not hard to imagine the Avs competing for multiple Stanley Cups in the next seasons.
But Colorado could certainly use more. It’s defence struggle to support the goaltenders at times. The offence also stagnated occasionally with almost a half-dozen roster additions since the end of 2018-19. It could use at least one big impact player for next season to make a run past the Conference Semifinals. Taylor Hall is a popular target but someone like Torey Krug or Alex Pietrangelo makes sense too. Adding a top defender boosts the power play even more and would be critical in supporting the goaltending. The team will certainly have the cap space with almost $23 million available for extensions and free agents.
Unfortunately, there are obstacles to big, long-term deals this offseason. The salary cap might not rise quickly enough to justify a massive deal to someone like Pietrangelo or Krug. Colorado also has to balance a win-now mentality against future contract decisions. Gabriel Landeskog and Cale Makar are free agents after 2020-21. Star Nathan MacKinnon will need a new deal after 2022-23, if not earlier. Adding a big contract will make extending any of them more difficult. Winning one championship is great but the team would prefer sustainable success build from within.