Welcome to a double dose of NHL Rumours here on a Wednesday. Things are quite slow on the free-agent market but that will not stop the team here at Last Word on Hockey from bringing you the latest NHL Rumours. NHL teams continue to take a wait and see approach for next season. With the finances all up in limbo at the moment, teams want to focus on their restricted free-agents rather than spend money on players that are still on the market. In this edition of NHL Rumours, we feature the Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, and New York Rangers.
Rumour: Amalie Benjamin of NHL.com writes that Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney says that everything remains “status quo” between the team and Zdeno Chara in terms of a contract extension.
Analysis: As with the prior year, Zdeno Chara is an unrestricted free agent. And just like a captain would do he is putting the team first. Chara wants the Bruins to focus on signing the players they need to sign first. Then once that is accomplished, then he will take his money and come back for another season. Just like he stated during the season-ending press conference, Chara wants to play for only the Bruins or he will retire. Now there are definitely some teams that can use his services no doubt, but the 42-year old Chara knows Boston the best. And why leave a place you are so comfortable.
Sweeney and Chara have been in constant communication since the season ended. However, as any free agent would do, he has to keep his options open. However, the Bruins is the only place Chara wants to play. And the fact that he is physically strong enough to play this upcoming season is a good sign for the Bruins. However, his role will not be the same as it used to be. The Bruins cannot have a 42-year old Chara on their top defensive pairing. And that is something Chara has to accept. But then again who knows when the NHL will come back and will that factor into whether or not Chara hangs up his skates or comes back for another season. For now, things are on track for Chara and Bruins to sign at least a one-year extension.
Rumour: Joe Lane of NHL.com writes that Montreal Canadiens head coach Claude Julien, despite having a medical scare in August wants to coach as long as possible.
Analysis: As many of us know Claude Julien had to leave the playoff bubble during the Canadiens first-round series against the Philadelphia Flyers. Julien had a heart procedure done and in speaking with Lane, he said he is feeling 100 percent. In his absence, assistant coach Kirk Muller took over. The Canadiens put up a valiant effort with Muller as the interim head coach taking the Flyers to six games. However, for the Canadiens, it will be good for them to have Julien back behind the bench. Nothing against Muller, he did a fantastic job, but he is more suited to be an assistant than a head coach. As for Julien him feeling 100 percent and ready to coach even longer is a good sign not only for him but for the Canadiens.
Julien is currently in the middle of a five-year contract with Montreal. His contract runs through the 2021-22 season. He signed it eight days after he got fired as the head coach of the Bruins. The Canadiens are much improved from the team that got into the 24-team expanded playoffs last season. The additions of Tyler Toffoli, Josh Anderson, Jake Allen, and Joel Edmundson make the Canadiens a tougher team this year. Not to mention the strides the young players like Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi have made. Claude Julien knows this is one of the more talented teams he has ever coached. He has the type of players on the team that can play his system well. Maybe the Canadiens will reward with a contract extension.
New York Rangers
Rumour: Rick Carpiniello of The Athletic did a three-part mailbag series answering fans’ questions on the New York Rangers. In the latest mailbag, he answered several questions regarding how the Rangers will fill holes in their lineup.
Analysis: The Rangers, like most good teams, are cap-strapped. With a flat salary cap for the foreseeable future unless something changes, economically, the Rangers as Carpinello writes really can’t address many needs this season. The Rangers have so much dead cap space with Kevin Shattenkirk, Henrik Lundqvist, Dan Girardi, Brad Richards and Ryan Spooner still on the books. It will be a tough ask for general manager Jeff Gorton and President John Davidson to address the needs of the Rangers. Both know the Rangers still have weaknesses, but it is tough considering the environment the teams are in.
In order to do fill their needs, they may have to part with assets like K’Andre Miller, something the Rangers do not want to do. So that leaves another player or two open to a trade. Now the Rangers could package a player or two they just got into something more. But a flat salary cap will be a factor in any maneuvers the front office does. The good thing is next season the Rangers will have more cap space to work with. However, that still comes with a flat cap. However, the good thing is the Rangers know about their weaknesses. They will try to address them with prospects until the salary cap goes or up a trade comes along they like.
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