Hello and welcome to a Sunday edition of NHL Rumours! The season has begun and there is plenty happening around the NHL. Teams are still tweaking rosters. The league also continues to monitor everyone’s health in the midst of a global pandemic. Keep checking in with us at Last Word on Hockey for the latest news. Today’s NHL Rumours feature the Colorado Avalanche, Chicago Blackhawks, and Pittsburgh Penguins.
Rumour: Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman indicated that Colorado might look to move a defender in his recent 31 Thoughts article.
Analysis: Nobody should or will feel sorry that Colorado has almost too many good, young defenders. Cale Makar leads the way, but Conor Timmins is carving out a role this year and star prospect Bowen Byram is not far behind. Someone will be lost in the expansion draft, but that is temporary relief. Justin Barron and Drew Helleson have also been drafted in recent years. One or both could fight for a roster spot as soon as 2021-22.
In light of that logjam, it’s not outrageous that the Avs would try to flip a defender for additional strength elsewhere. The “obvious” option would be Ian Cole, but he’ll be a free agent after this year anyway. The team also values his experience and willingness to play in tough defensive situations. He is especially valuable with Erik Johnson currently unable to participate in team activities. The Avalanche don’t want to sacrifice too much in the pursuit of a young, puck-moving blueline.
Who leaves is the question if it isn’t Cole. The most likely choices after him are probably Dennis Gilbert or Kyle Burroughs. Gilbert joined the organization in the Brandon Saad trade and projects as a big, physical defender who can help kill penalties. Burroughs came in the Devon Toews transaction and has the same likely future, but has not debuted at the NHL level yet. One or both could be used to acquire another goaltender, which might be the weakest position in the organization’s farm system. There is plenty of blueline flexibility over the long-term for such moves.
Rumour: The same 31 Thoughts piece noted that the new contract for Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton is timed to end at the same time as many of Chicago’s existing stars.
Analysis: Chicago has already made moves in recent months that indicate a rebuild of some sort. They traded Saad to Colorado and have moved on from both goaltenders used in 2019-20. There is talent left on the roster, but much of the previous championship core is ageing out of being useful.
That core includes two of the most important players in franchise history. Both Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith will reach free agency after the 2022-23 season. Keith is 37-years-old and is in pretty serious decline. His production is not worth the $5.5 million annual cap hit and he might just retire after the current deal.
Kane is harder to evaluate. His offence is still quite good, but his defence is absolutely atrocious. His one-dimensional effort will make it difficult to justify a raise for his next deal. He’ll be 35 or 36-years-old and coming off of an average cap hit of $10.5 million. The team might make the bold decision to let him move on depending on how the next three seasons progress.
Chicago certainly has some of the pieces to replace their current core. Kirby Dach should be an outstanding top centre when he returns from a wrist injury. They also have talented young blueliners in the form of Ian Mitchell and Adam Boqvist. They should have enough seasoning to handle major roles when it’s time to move on from Kane and company. The team will also be evaluating Colliton’s relationship with the young pieces to see if he’s right for another extension before 2023-24.
Analysis: Adding a player of Roslovic’s calibre feels like a classic Pittsburgh move. They have made numerous acquisitions in the Sidney Crosby era to prolong their championship window. That has included trading for players like Kasperi Kapanen and signing Mark Jankowski. Roslovic is very much the same type of depth player Pittsburgh likes to target.
Roslovic has been buried with the Winnipeg Jets, but he has some fine stats for a bottom-six skater. He scored a career-high 12 goals and 29 points in 71 games last year and saw his scoring rate jump to .41 points per game. His possession stats improved last year as well to the tune of a 51.6 percent Corsi For. Adding Roslovic adds a 23-year-old with mild upside to a roster that can still compete for a Stanley Cup.
The Winnipeg Jets could also use such a trade as an opportunity to add a defender they desperately need. Pittsburgh doesn’t have great defensive prospects, but they have plenty of bodies to dangle in front of Winnipeg at the same time. They could offer someone like Marcus Pettersson who is only 24-years-old and has a very manageable contract through 2024-25. Both teams would need to manage their cap situations, but there is an obvious opportunity here for both organizations.
That’s it for NHL rumours this time, be sure to look for another edition soon.