Hello and welcome to a regular Monday edition of NHL rumours! The season is barely two weeks away and teams are busy preparing. That means filling out rosters and finalizing training camp rosters. Check in with Last Word on Hockey everyday for the latest news and best analysis. Today’s NHL rumours feature the Boston Bruins, Edmonton Oilers, and an update on the 2020-21 season.
Rumour: SeriusXM’s David Pagnotta has indicated that the Bruins have some interest in defender Ben Hutton.
Boston is among the teams with interest in UFA LD Ben Hutton, who also drew interest from Edmonton (Oilers signed Slater Koekkoek yesterday).
— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) December 27, 2020
Analysis: The Bruins do still have one possible gap on their blueline going into the year. They would go into the 2020-21 season with one of the youngest defensive groups if they made no additions at this time. Their current depth chart per CapFriendly has four of their six regular defenders at 25-years-old or younger. A short season with fewer games means relying on young skaters and is a riskier proposition.
That means an experienced option like Hutton could play a sizeable role. He isn’t a dynamic scorer after posting four goals and 16 points in 65 games for the Los Angeles Kings in 2019-20. However, he did have an excellent 55.5 Corsi For despite 53.1 percent of his zone starts coming in the defensive zone. Hutton would allow the defenders like Matt Grzelcyk and Charlie McAvoy more freedom to direct offence now that Torey Krug is gone via free agency.
Hutton’s previous cap hit was just $1.5 million, so Boston does have the cap space with almost $2.3 million in available money. The primary obstacle is the potential return of Zdeno Chara, who has not yet decided what his future holds. Chara would take priority over Hutton given the former’s significance in Boston history. Either would be an experienced and cheap member of the penalty-killing unit.
Rumour: Frank Seravalli by way of Tyler Yaremchuk revealed that the Oilers have reached out to defenceman Travis Hamonic.
— Tyler Yaremchuk (@tyleryaremchuk) December 24, 2020
Analysis: Edmonton is looking for every possible edge in a year where they will play all Canadian teams in the temporary North Division. They will be without Oscar Klefbom for the year and while they did sign Slater Koekkoek, Hamonic has over 600 NHL games and would add a veteran voice to an intriguing group of defenders.
The Oilers would not be looking at Hamonic for offence given his 2019-20 totals of three goals and 12 points in 50 games, but they would benefit from his toughness in killing penalties. His 3:06 per game led the Calgary Flames last year. His Corsi For dropped below 50 percent last season, but his 110 blocks were second on the team. Edmonton already has fine scoring defenders, but are somewhat lacking experience and grit capable of top-four minutes.
Edmonton doesn’t have cap space right now and Hamonic did have a cap hit of $3.86 million last year. Players don’t often like taking significant pay cuts, but the season has almost begun and Edmonton has a good team with a role for Hamonic. That creates an obvious possible relationship if the Oilers can get under the cap of $81.5 million.
2020-21 NHL Season
Rumour: The final NHL rumour for today comes from Darren Dreger. He recently provided the information that no players have currently opted out of the season to this point.
My understanding is, no NHL players from last season have opted out of the 2020-2021 season.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) December 27, 2020
Analysis: It is encouraging that no notable players have opted out. It shows that the league and union have instilled faith in the players to the degree that their health will be adequately addressed as the COVID vaccine becomes widely available. Having a reasonable financial agreement and a vaccine on the horizon is a huge boost to many skaters’ outlook for the coming year.
However, that doesn’t mean opt-outs can’t occur between now and when the season begins on January 13th. There is not a confirmed timeline for the league’s personnel to receive vaccinations. A significant delay in that process, combined with present underlying health conditions, could mean someone decides to sit out the shortened season. Free agents might also decide to avoid the season if their contract desires are not met. There are still moving parts with health and finances, but this is great news at this point.