As the NHL’s free-agent frenzy is quickly approaching, Last Word on Hockey’s NHL Rumours series continues on in full force. Due to the realities of a flat salary cap and a pandemic-laced world, many teams are in a rush to assess their financial situations along with figuring out an offseason plan. Today breaks down the rumoured offseason strategies of both the Chicago Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks. NHL Rumours also takes a peek at the future of maligned defenceman Dustin Byfuglien.
Rumour: The Blackhawks will look internally for roster turnover this offseason, refraining from making huge free agent signings or trades per The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus.
Analysis: As it appears, the youth revolution will take another step forward for the Hawks this year.
And in all honesty, it’s not the worst idea. Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome, Alexander Nylander, Adam Boqvist, Lucas Carlsson, Pius Suter, and Nicolas Beaudin are all youngsters that should be able to take steps forward next season and beyond. With a team as well-funded as Chicago, cheap youth gives the Hawks a necessary competitive advantage as management envisions a return to postseason contention.
However, it’s also necessary considering the amount of salary cap that will need to be devoted to pending free agents. The Blackhawks need goaltending in the worst way, and that will come at the price of retaining Corey Crawford. Other youngsters like Strome need new deals too. This means general manager Stan Bowman will be a very busy boy this offseason.
San Jose Sharks
Rumour: While most teams are setting internal caps this offseason, the Sharks plan on spending to the limit via SJHockeyNow’s Sheng Peng.
Wilson confirms that #SJSharks will spend to the cap next year
— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) September 22, 2020
Analysis: No one really knew what to make of the Sharks last season. Most could argue that a poor season from Erik Karlsson and injuries to both Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture caused the Sharks to finish lower than most expected. General manager Doug Wilson is banking on this, as he evidently still believes the Sharks have the core to contend.
It’s not necessarily a pipe dream. Priority number one is obviously a goalie to supplement Martin Jones, an achievable goal given the plethora of goalies available this summer. There’s still a considerable amount of cash left to sink into depth scoring and depth defenders, and suddenly, things don’t look so terrible.
Whether this is advisable or not is a different dilemma. The Sharks don’t exactly have the strongest prospect pool, with only Ryan Merkley offering himself as a clear future impact player. The Sharks would only be harming themselves longer term by going for another run.
Rumour: Per Andy Strickland, former Winnipeg Jets d-man Dustin Byfuglien won’t be returning to the NHL next season.
Several teams have inquired but told very doubtful Dustin Byfuglien returns to play in 20-21 #NHL
— Andy Strickland (@andystrickland) September 23, 2020
Analysis: If it’s the real end for Big Buff now, what an interesting career it’s been.
The winger-turned-hulking defenceman has amassed 525 points in 869 games. That is an incredible total for a defenceman who’s not half bad in his own end. His potential departure from the league certainly wasn’t performance-related. He posted 31 points in 42 games in his last NHL season (2018-19). He’s had five 50-point seasons, so plenty of teams will, unfortunately, be missing out on his services next year.
An ankle injury and subsequent souring of the relationship between him and the Jets caused him to sit out the entire 2019-20 season. Whether Byfuglien will ever play another NHL game is still unclear. But if he does, he should still make a solid impact on any lineup.
Embed from Getty Images