Hello and welcome to a regular Monday edition of NHL rumours! The offseason is a bit slow right now, but teams continue to work on plans. Many have switched their focus from roster construction to simply trying to get on the ice for the 2020-21 campaign. Last Word on Hockey will continue to cover the newest news each and every day. Today’s NHL rumours feature the Columbus Blue Jackets, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Brandon Saad.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Rumour: Brian Hedger of the Columbus Dispatch recently speculated how Columbus might spend its time in the next few weeks.
Analysis: Columbus remains a popular speculative landing spot for the premier unsigned free agents. They have to re-sign star Pierre-Luc Dubois, but they should have at least $1-2 million in remaining cap space if they can keep the contract somewhat under control. That much should be more than capable of bringing in the right piece on a short-term deal.
The bigger question is who might that be? The Blue Jackets don’t really need any more centres after acquiring Max Domi and signing Mikko Koivu. They also don’t need to worry about defence or goaltending with deep options available at both spots. That leaves just wing as one potential weak spot. The team might stand to add one more option for the middle-six in case someone like Nick Foligno or Riley Nash fails to produce.
The best wing left is easily Mike Hoffman. The 30-year-old doesn’t do much besides score, but he’s very good at that. He has produced at least 20 goals and 48 points in each of the last six seasons. Hoffman is also capable of staying healthy, with at least 74 games in each of those same years. Columbus has plenty of two-way players that can both score and hit. Hoffman adds an extra dimension to an already-competitive roster. A short-term deal to prove he’s worth one more big contract before retirement seems perfect for both him and the Jackets.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Analysis: It’s fascinating that New Jersey has apparently revealed its explicit interests in a player 27-years-old or younger with a manageable contract. That description includes just two experienced players on the current Tampa roster, Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point. Obviously, that could extend for Anthony Cirelli, Erik Cernak and Mikhail Sergachev, but those three are still unsigned. It is borderline impossible to imagine the Lightning parting with any of those five core players.
They would much rather move on from someone like Tyler Johnson or another veteran, but the players are right to exercise their no-trade clauses if they want to. They are under no obligation to make life easy for Tampa Bay’s front office. That sort of power could force the team to move an expiring contract with a sweetener thrown in. The Lightning farm system has diminished in recent years, but there is still an interesting prospect or two such as Taylor Raddysh.
Do not expect Kucherov or any of the central core to move. However, it is very easy to imagine Alex Killorn heading somewhere else for next year. The 31-year-old has only partial no-trade protection and a very manageable cap hit of $4.45 million through 2022-23. He had an excellent 26-goal, 49-point 2019-20 and would be an outstanding addition to many teams including New Jersey, even if Tampa has to include a sweetener of some sort.
Analysis: There is no question that Saad looks like an outstanding addition for the Avs. He is just 28-years-old and just scored more than 20 goals despite being on a bad Chicago Blackhawks team. Colorado is absolutely stacked, which gives a player like Saad much more room to excel than he might have had otherwise. It’s not hard to imagine a 50-point season as he posted from 2014-15 through 2016-17.
However, don’t expect a big extension from Colorado. This is a team with three major pending free agents after 2020-21. Gabriel Landeskog, Philipp Grubauer, and Cale Makar will all reach the open market. Each is vital to the Avalanche’s current plans for sustained success. Those are not the only players in-need of contracts, but they are the most visible. Saad does not hold the same value as a wing-only skater as a future defensive star, a two-way franchise icon, and a veteran goaltender. It would also force the team to expose another young player to the expansion draft.
But let’s consider a Saad extension anyway. Keeping the experienced scorer would mean the team goes very young on its bottom-six; Matt Calvert and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare might not return anyway and surely wouldn’t if Saad did. Replacing them would mean promotions for several skaters including Shane Bowers and Martin Kaut. Saad would get protected in the expansion draft and likely result in either Devon Toews or Samuel Girard going to the Seattle Kraken. It might keep the top-six intact for a longer period of time, but it would cause some awkward decisions further down on the depth chart.
That does it for the Monday edition of NHL Rumours keep your eyes posted for a new edition on Tuesday.
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