Hello and welcome to a special afternoon edition of NHL rumours! The season is just over three weeks away and the news is coming faster. Last Word on Hockey will bring you the best news and analysis every day. Today’s NHL rumours feature the Anaheim Ducks, Columbus Blue Jackets, and St. Louis Blues.
Rumour: Nick Alberga of FAN590 and Sportsnet indicates that Ryan Miller is prepared to re-sign with the Ducks soon.
At this point, barring something unforeseen, it sure sounds likely that veteran goalie Ryan Miller will be re-signing with the #LetsGoDucks.
— Nick Alberga (@thegoldenmuzzy) December 22, 2020
Analysis: It makes sense that the Ducks would want to return their veteran backup. They could have used Anthony Stolarz as the primary backup, but that would have left them with only two goaltenders over the age of 22 along with John Gibson. Bringing Miller back adds an extra layer of insurance.
Miller certainly seems capable of grinding out one more year despite being 40-years-old. He appeared in 23 games last year and posted a respectable .907 save percentage and 3.10 goals-against-average. Those are not stellar numbers, but Anaheim really only needs a backup to be average behind someone as talented as Gibson. It’s not a huge ask for Miller to start 10-15 games in 2020-21 when the regular season will be fewer than 60 games.
Anaheim will still need to trim some space if and when Miller returns to the Ducks. They are roughly $900,000 over the cap as of right now. The team might be able to juggle salaries internally, but it’s also possible that someone is shipped out in the coming weeks before the season begins as a salary dump.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Rumour: Aaron Portzline of The Athletic is reportedly indicating that the Blue Jackets will be involved with teams currently over the salary cap.
Portzline: "Kekäläinen will try to involve himself in trade talks with the handful of NHL franchises (Tampa Bay, Vegas, the New York Islanders) who need to get under the league’s salary cap or some others who simply want to cut payroll." #CBJ
— CBJ Coverage (@CBJcoverage) December 21, 2020
Analysis: The current league financial situation is perfect for an opportunistic team such as Columbus. General manager Jarmo Kakalainen has done a fantastic job navigating a brutal Metropolitan Division in recent seasons thanks to savvy trades and smart roster construction. It makes perfect sense that he would try and improve the team by trading with teams who are in trouble with the salary cap.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have arguably the most talent to try and pry away, but an injury to Nikita Kucherov could help them get under the cap ceiling via the long-term injured reserve. However, there are still a handful of teams who still need to clear space including the talented Vegas Golden Knights. It’s not hard to see the Blue Jackets targeting someone like Zach Whitecloud or Tomas Nosek as a way to add depth and grit.
Columbus will certainly be a player in the market regardless of their partner or partners. They have over $9 million in cap space at this time. That kind of flexibility is something many teams would envy in a world where COVID seriously impacted team finances and flattened the salary cap. It’s only a matter of time before the Jackets engage with the right team and make a brilliant move.
St. Louis Blues
Rumour: The final NHL rumour today comes from ESPN 102.5 FM. They indicate via Elliotte Friedman that the Blues might be interested in Mike Hoffman before the season begins.
Friedman adds that the #Preds are not current contenders for free agent Mike Hoffman, and that the Blues may be the most interested in Hoffman as Alex Steen's injury frees up cap space in STL.
— ESPN 102.5 The Game 😷 (@1025TheGame) December 21, 2020
Analysis: There is little argument that Hoffman is the best free-agent left on the market. The 31-year-old might not do much besides score, but he excels at that regardless of his other skills. His 29 goals and 59 points in 69 games for the Florida Panthers gave him a fifth consecutive season with at least 50 points.
It seems like that scoring touch would work well in St. Louis in 2020-21. They have a gap on their top-six without Vladimir Tarasenko, who remains out indefinitely with lingering shoulder trouble. It’s unclear when the dynamic Russian will return, so adding a scorer like Hoffman is important. It keeps the Blues that much more competitive in a realigned division by limiting the drop off they might have experienced without Tarasenko. It’s not as though he is critical to St. Louis’ success, but every little bit helps in a strange, shortened season.
Keep in mind that signing Hoffman is not all the Blues need to manage. They still have to re-sign Vince Dunn, one of their best young defenders. That is one huge limiting factor in how much the team can offer Hoffman while they are still over the salary cap. Then there is how much Hoffman will want. The Blues didn’t make a run at Mikael Granlund thanks to his reported asking price of $3.75 million. They might pass on Hoffman if his number is in similar territory per Andy Strickland of Fox Sports Midwest. It’s not impossible for St. Louis to retain Dunn and integrate Hoffman, but the money is a big challenge for the moment.
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