Welcome back to another edition of NHL Rumours from the crew at Last Word on Hockey. The signing period has died down as most players have found a new home. However, teams are still looking to improve their teams as well as find ways to be compliant with the salary cap for the upcoming season. As we await the news of when the 2020-21 season will get underway, Last Word on Hockey will continue to keep you up to date on the latest rumours from around the NHL. Today, we will focus on rumours from the Montreal Canadiens, Vancouver Canucks as well as the most recent news on how the next season will look from the NHL.
All NHL rumours come from their original source and are subject to change.
Rumour: We’ll start off our NHL Rumours segment with the Montreal Canadiens. In a recent mailbag segment for The Athletic, Arpon Basu was asked about the Tomas Tatar situation. Is Marc Bergevin looking to sign him or trade him?
Analysis: I think this is something on everyone’s mind. As Arpon explains is his answer, Tatar has done nothing but exceed expectations since arriving in Montreal. He has been the club’s leading scorer over the last two seasons, scoring 47 goals and 119 points in 148 games. However, that’s also why this situation is tricky. Bergevin went on a shopping spree this offseason, bringing in Jake Allen, Joel Edmundson, Josh Anderson and Tyler Toffoli. All of which are locked up for the foreseeable future. Add in the new contracts they need to hand out to Nick Suzuki, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Alexander Romanov and Phillip Danault and with Brendan Gallagher and Jeff Petry‘s new contracts kicking in after this season, cap space is extremely tight.
As it stands, the Canadiens have about $16 million in cap space heading into the 2021-22 season. That’s not going to take long to spend with the expiring contracts of Danault, Kotkaniemi, Victor Mete, Artturi Lehkonen and Joel Armia. Not to mention Tatar. So something will have to give.
Would Tatar Take a Pay Cut?
If the Canadiens want to get Tatar signed, he will have to take a pay cut. This will be a tough ask after leading the team in scoring over the past two seasons. If Tatar’s scoring pace continues, which all signs point to that holding true as he is part of one of the most productive lines in hockey, then the chances of Tatar taking a pay cut are slim. Especially with the upcoming Seattle expansion draft, Tatar can look to get paid.
The question will be, does Tatar believes in what the Canadiens have built? He certainly seems to enjoy playing there and the chemistry between him, Gallagher and Danault is undeniable. Is it enough to make him want to re-sign at a reduced cost? That remains to be seen. However, the only way I can see Marc Bergevin actually moving Tatar is if the Canadiens struggle this year and are out of the playoffs. Bergevin would most likely use Tatar as his own rental and let him walk in free agency before dealing him when they’re in the playoffs. Which as much as it hurts to lose a player of his stature for nothing, would be the right move.
Rumour: Sticking with The Athletic, a recent article by Thomas Drance and Rick Dhaliwal looked at the Canucks salary cap situation as well as how the Canucks may improve their forward group.
Analysis: As it stands, the Canucks are currently over the cap limit according to capfriendly.com. However, that is with 15 forwards on the roster. They could demote a player or two and go with a 21 man roster and be cap compliant. However, that doesn’t give them a whole lot of space to work with, in the end. The big question that is pointed out in the article is Micheal Ferland. Ferland has had concussion issues. If he’s deemed unfit to play and hits the LTIR, that would give the Canucks some much-needed space and allow them to have their 23 man roster and not make additional moves.
However, the Canucks would surely like to improve their top six. The club lost Tyler Toffoli in free agency after he signed a four year deal with the Canadiens. As it stands, Jake Virtanen would most likely slot into the top six. However, he is more suited for the third line. Despite his uptick in production. So they would certainly like to improve in this area.
Mikael Granlund Could be the Answer the Canucks are Looking for
If the Canucks can manage to get the space, one name that would certainly interest them is Mikael Granlund. Granlund production dipped after being dealt to the Predators, making his stock not overly high at the moment. This could benefit the Canucks greatly. Taking a chance on Granlund could pay huge dividends and he is an excellent player. His production was more-so based on a bad fit than the overall skill of the player. Granlund posted back to back 20 goal, 60 point campaigns with the Wild and had 49 points in 63 games before being shipped to the Predators where it all fell apart.
The Canucks could look at signing Granlund to a cap-friendly deal and could end up being the steal of the offseason. He would bring versatility to the Canucks line up as he is capable of playing all three forwards position and bodes an excellent two-way game. The fact he is still on the market is rather surprising, however, could be excellent news for the Canucks and their fans.
Latest On the 2020-21 NHL Season
Rumour: In an article for Sportsnet, Elliotte Friedman gave readers a heads up on what he is hearing regarding the 2020-21 season.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) November 11, 2020
Analysis: With the NBA already setting in stone that they will return to action on December 22nd, fans are now hoping the NHL will manage to do the same and soon finalize a start date for the new season. We’ve heard many times the suggested start date of January 1st, but the key points from this article are when the season could end, the number of games that will be played and whether or not there will be hubs.
The NHL has stated they hope to have the Stanley Cup awarded no later than July 15th. This is not surprising as the league would certainly like to get back on track for the 2021-22 season and start at the regular start date of early October. Any later would most likely push that back. We all want normalcy in our lives again.
As for the number of games, Friedman says he is hearing anywhere from 56 to 72 games. So let’s go ahead and assume it will fall somewhere in the mid-60s, shall we? The NHL will want to leave some wiggle room in case of cancellations. As we’re seeing in the NFL, players could catch the COVID-19 virus and games could get suspended. So they want to leave themselves some room at the end of the season as insurance to fit those games in.
Hubs on the table?
Hubs will be the most concerning thing. It appears to be a possibility, however, I do not believe hubs will be a thing. Mostly because the players spoke of how gruelling it was to be without their families during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This would be even worse over the course of the season, plus playoffs. I for one, can’t see the players agreeing to that. Players and owners will want the players playing in their own buildings in their own hometowns, for many different reasons. So expect that to get hammered out. The hub worked extremely well for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, however, it’s not a long term solution. Whether or not there will be fans is another issue. However, it seems more and more likely that fans will be in attendance, with restrictions obviously. Don’t expect a sold-out arena. Not at the beginning anyway.
At the end of the day, we all want hockey. So any news about the return of the season is good news. With meetings scheduled for Thursday, November 12th, we should see some more concrete facts regarding the upcoming season in the coming days. Until then, hold fast hockey fans.