Hello and welcome to a regular Monday edition of NHL Rumours! Things are a little slow on the free-agent market right now. Teams are busy trying to determine how much space they have left and what the next season will even look like. Last Word on Hockey will keep you informed of all the latest news and analysis each day. Today’s NHL rumours feature the Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, and the Winnipeg Jets.
Analysis: It would be very interesting to watch the Canucks try and fit another player onto a packed roster. They can technically sign 10 more players, but their NHL roster is at 23/23 per CapFriendly. They will have to move someone to the lower levels if Vatanen is indeed a target.
Vatanen would be an interesting fit for the team’s blueline. He was very good on the powerplay in 2019-20, but his even-strength abilities are mediocre at best. The Canucks have two very good blueliners already in the forms of Quinn Hughes and Nate Schmidt. The best Vatanen could hope for is time on the second powerplay unit and maybe the offensive counterpart to Jordie Benn or Tyler Myers.
It’s unclear why Vancouver would be so interested in a defender who is average on defence and is hurt often. They aren’t in any dire position as far as blueline offence is concerned with Hughes and Schmidt as capable top options. The primary concern would be that the potential combination of young defenders isn’t up to the challenge. The team has a handful of options including Olli Juolevi, but none of them have extensive NHL experience. Vatanen would certainly be a more experienced choice if they can fit a potential contract on the books.
Rumour: The same Sportsnet article also indicates that Travis Hamonic could return to Calgary as the team might need a little bit more depth on the blueline.
Analysis: This might make sense to some people, but Calgary should be just fine without Hamonic. The veteran defender scored just three goals and 12 points in 50 games with a Corsi For of 48.9 percent. His total game fell off at the worst time considering it was the final year of his contract. It is hard to imagine him approaching another contract that pays as much as his previous cap hit of $3.86 million.
The Flames should have a solid blue line without the 30-year-old Hamonic. Mark Giordano remains effective in his late-30s. Noah Hanifin still has plenty of potential to reach new highs at just 23-years-old and 389 NHL games. Then you have intriguing young defender Juuso Valimaki, who currently has two goals and 11 points in 12 games in Finland. That trio should be great when you consider there are several more physical skaters to support them. Signing Hamonic would prevent some of the younger, more promising defencemen from getting the experience they need.
The only argument in Hamonic’s favour is that he is a right-handed shot. The only other right-handed defenders certain to start the coming year are Rasmus Andersson and Chris Tanev. Hamonic would add a third one to the roster and give the team three left-handed/right-handed combinations. That still might not be enough, though as Alexander Petrovic is on the roster as a depth option with over 250 games and 630 hits. Calgary also has just $1.01 million, so some roster shuffling would be necessary to fit Hamonic on the roster if he wants a salary close to what he made before.
Analysis: Paul Stastny certainly helps the Jets in the short-term. The veteran centre is coming off a slightly down year with the Vegas Golden Knights, but he still managed to produce 17 goals and 38 points in 71 games. He will have wing support just as good, if not much better than what he had in Vegas.
The problem is that he is 34 and shouldn’t take priority over re-signing Laine after the 2020-21 season. The 22-year-old is simply one of the league’s most dynamic scorers with four consecutive seasons of at least 50 points. The Jets will have a tight salary situation going into 2021-22, but that shouldn’t result in trading away one of the team’s best assets. It would fetch a massive return at the expense of current winning potential. Trading Laine could result in the team losing two NHL-calibre assets if Stastny fails to secure a contract after the next season.
Laine is just an awkward situation for Winnipeg. The Jets have a poor farm system with very little forward depth. They could flip Laine for assets and find a new linemate for Stastny and Nikolaj Ehlers. They signed Jansen Harkins, who might be an acceptable two-way wing next to those two. Trading Laine would also ensure the team doesn’t need to spend roughly $8-10 million for the next several seasons. It just drops the team’s ceiling for 2020-21 in a very real way.
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