We’re in a holding pattern as we await the return of hockey. However, there are still plenty of NHL rumours to sort out as we wonder what’s going on. The buzz won’t stop as we try to find a possible starting date. Today’s NHL rumours focus on that start date, the Calgary Flames and the Buffalo Sabres.
All NHL rumours come from the original source and are subject to change.
Rumour: Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and David Amber broke down the possibilities for the start date of the 2020-21 season.
"They still target January 1st, but there's no guarantees." @FriedgeHNIC joined @DavidAmber to discuss some takeaways from today's NHL GM call, including the targeted start date for next season and potential changes to the Draft Lottery. #NHLonSNhttps://t.co/BDFn5ATYBa
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) October 24, 2020
Analysis: The league is still facing an uncertain start to the season with the current COVID-19 pandemic still raging. There are still spikes in North American and especially in the United States. NHL officials are still hopeful for a Jan. 1 start date, but that’s still unknown due to so many factors.
The league is monitoring the situation at the United States and Canadian border, which is currently closed to at least Nov. 21. News of the NBA targeting a start date of Dec. 22 could also put pressure on the NHL to at least get the ball rolling. There are several plans in the works, including the “Canadian Division” that would keep those teams from crossing into the states. Canada is starting to do rapid COVID tests at the airport so that could allow teams to travel internationally.
The league also talked about wanting to do something special to mark the start of the season. Friedman mentioned there was talk of having an event at Lake Louise, Alberta. However, that was nixed due to Canadian regulations.
Rumour: Scott Cruickshank of The Athletic Calgary delved into how the Flames might move goalie David Rittich.
— Scott Cruickshank (@ByCruickshank) October 22, 2020
Analysis: Rittich rescued the Flames in consecutive seasons when Mike Smith struggled in 2018-19 and when Cam Talbot struggled last season. However, Rittich eventually lost his job and wasn’t a factor in the postseason.
The Czech goalie was upset about the decision to add Jacob Markstrom according to Flames goalie coach Jordan Sigalet. Markstrom is a workhorse goalie in the word of Calgary general manager Brad Treliving and he’ll take the bulk of games. This leaves Rittich wondering what his future will be. The 28-year-old netminder carries a cap hit of $2.75 million and his contract expires after the coming season.
Calgary does have veteran Louis Domingue and he’s a cheap option at $700,000 and the Flames have just over $1 million in cap space. Dealing Rittich would buy some salary wiggle room or give the Flames something in return in case they want to go all in. However, Rittich is a good insurance policy in case Markstrom does get injured.
Rumour: Lance Lysowski of The Buffalo News said negotiations between the Sabres and Casey Mittelstadt are in negotiation talks on a new deal.
The Sabres are still in talks with restricted free agent center Casey Mittelstadt. Both sides are expected to resume negotiations later this week.
Last night was the "deadline" for RFAs to accept QOs, but it can be extended on case-by-case basis.
— Lance Lysowski (@LLysowski) October 19, 2020
Analysis: The much-maligned centre really shouldn’t have that much leverage in negotiations with new general manager Kevyn Adams. Mittelstadt has struggled to gain a foothold in the Sabres’ lineup after being slotted as the No. 2 centre. His play got him sent down to AHL Rochester to see if his confidence returned.
He’ll likely sign a deal in the same vein of Tage Thompson, who is also struggling. The Sabres also have goalie Linus Ullmark is in arbitration. Ullmark submitted a figure of $4.1 million while Buffalo countered with $1.8 million according to Friedman.
Defenceman Lawrence Pilut didn’t file for arbitration, but the Sabres hold his rights until the age of 27. Pilut is currently playing in the KHL and Adams is monitoring his progress with Traktor Chelyabinsk. He has a goal and nine points in 19 games so far this season.