NHL Rumours: New York Rangers, Winnipeg Jets, NHL

NHL Rumours

Hello and welcome to another Monday edition of NHL Rumours. The Conference Finals are getting closer to their end and then the Stanley Cup Final will commence. Teams who are not still playing are busy readying their plans for the offseason. Keep checking in with Last Word on Hockey for the latest news as it happens. Today’s NHL rumours feature the New York Rangers, Winnipeg Jets, and the NHL itself.

NHL Rumours

New York Rangers

Rumour: Larry Brooks of the  New York Post indicated that the Rangers are seeking to trade defender Anthony DeAngelo in the offseason.

Analysis: It is not surprising that DeAngelo is on the block. The Rangers are packed with quality options on the blue line. They already have Jacob Trouba and Adam Fox as foundational pieces with top prospect K’Andre Miller on the way. DeAngelo is something of a luxury considering the team would rather use the money for his new contract to acquire a bigger impact piece on the free-agent market. DeAngelo’s public spats with fans and enthusiasm for “politically incorrect” podcasting certainly don’t help the team’s public image either.

DeAngelo will be a quality option for whichever team decides to acquire his services. The former first-round selection from the 2014 Draft set new career-highs with 15 goals and 53 points in 68 games. DeAngelo was also the team’s primary power-play defender with a team-leading 3:04 per game. He was sheltered heavily with 56.3 percent of his starts coming in the offensive zone but he still produced like a true number-one defender.

Evolving Hockey’s projections currently have DeAngelo’s next contract in the neighbourhood of five years with an annual cap hit of $5.70 million if he stays in New York. The cap hit jumps slightly to $5.78 million if he signs with a different team. He could make significantly more money in his next contract but restricted free agency eliminates what negotiating power he would have otherwise. DeAngelo’s public missteps might make trading him slightly more difficult but his talent is undeniable. New York is simply confident in its situation without him if they can find an amenable trading partner.

Winnipeg Jets

Rumour: The Winnipeg Sun’s Scott Billeck recently dove into the complexity of potentially trading star forward Patrik Laine.

Analysis: Trading Laine would be a bold move for a Winnipeg franchise that has some good pieces but a severe lack of depth. The team’s bottom-six is below average and the defence features a collection of unexciting players. The Jets are also weak down the middle of the ice. Mark Scheifele is fantastic but the other centre options are lacking. Blake Wheeler is ageing and might need to switch to the wing. Andrew Copp and Jack Roslovic are fine two-way players but lack the playmaking ability the Jets need for its second line. The team’s strength is its wing depth so it’s natural they would consider moving one for help elsewhere.

Laine’s value might never be higher than it is right now. He is coming off a third campaign with at least 60 points. He has also never scored fewer than 28 goals. Laine has simply done everything asked of the second pick in the 2016 Draft. The only reason he won’t make record amounts of money starting in 2020-21 is restricted free agency. However, he should still get a significant raise and cost Winnipeg or another team more than the $6.75 million he did in 2019-20. But that shouldn’t scare teams for next year.

There are very few teams with both the assets and future cap space necessary to acquire and keep someone of Laine’s calibre. One team that makes a lot of sense is the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs could try to entice Winnipeg with several players in exchange for a top-tier wing. Two or three of Colorado’s top prospects might be just what the Jets need to break through a competitive Central Division before expansion happens.

NHL

Rumour: The final NHL rumour for today is from Sportsnet. It details how the NHL will look to the United States’ National Football league as a model for how to handle the 2020-21 regular season. 

Analysis: The NHL certainly has a challenge on its hands for the next season. Differences in policy have created two very different realities. On the one hand, you have the successful hockey bubble and Canada’s efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19. On the other, there is the United States’ mostly failed attempts to keep people healthy. Only with significant institutional oversight has professional football been able to resume on time with no major issues to this point.

But the Canadian government is not likely to be enthusiastic about its teams travelling back and forth from the U.S. without more information. The NFL just started this past week so there is little to no data about how it will handle positive cases but that could change quickly. Canada and the NHL need to observe how football handles the health of players. It also needs to see if a small percentage of fans allowed to attend affects things, if at all.

Even if the NFL is successful in its health and safety protocol, there are major differences in the two leagues to consider. Hockey teams travel more often than football teams with obviously far more games. Hockey arenas are also much smaller in terms of seats. Finally, fans can also sit much closer to the action despite the existence of the glass barriers. The NHL certainly knows all of these things. Balancing its own situation with that of a recently started sport will take serious conversations with owners and government officials. It will be a fascinating subplot on top of the draft and free agency.

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