NHL Rumours: Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers

NHL Rumours

Hello and welcome to a Sunday edition of NHL rumours! The season is just over one week old and plenty has been happening. Teams are adjusting to injuries and illnesses as best they can while getting very familiar with their divisional opponents. Last Word on Hockey is your best source for hockey, so check in with us frequently for news and analysis. Today’s NHL rumours feature the Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Montreal Canadiens.

NHL Rumours

Montreal Canadiens

Rumour: Sportsnet’s Saturday Headlines segment reveals that the Canadiens are pondering how to manage the logjam in front of Victor Mete.

Analysis: Montreal is an embarrassment of riches at the moment. They have no losses in regulation and their lineup is producing at a high level. Every skater who played up to Saturday night had at least one point. They are so deep that the promising young Mete hasn’t even skated in a game despite a solid 2019-20 campaign with four goals and 11 points in 51 games.

The question is how to manage that situation. Mete would have no chance of passing through waivers if Montreal were to try that strategy. The Habs might be forced to trade Mete or someone else just to give the 22-year-old playing time. It doesn’t seem like the Canadiens will just make him a healthy scratch an entire season. It’s just not clear who is the odd man out.

If Montreal does trade Mete, plenty of teams should be interested. The Buffalo Sabres could be one such team given that almost the entire blueline could hit free agency after this season; only Rasmus Ristolainen and Colin Miller have deals beyond 2020-21 and Ristolainen has been a trade rumour himself at times. Acquiring Mete would give Buffalo a solid young defender who could also potentially take over as the anchor for the second power-play units. This will be a fascinating situation as the season approaches the April trade deadline.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Rumour: The next NHL rumour for today also comes from Headlines. It indicates that the Leafs are interested in acquiring a forward due to multiple injuries.

Analysis: It makes perfect sense that Toronto wants reinforcements of some sort. Losing Nicholas Robertson and Joe Thornton long-term so early into the season isn’t ideal. They have plenty of options on the taxi squad, but the Leafs aren’t shy about wanting the best possible product for a Stanley Cup run. Nothing can be left to chance with Montreal surging early and the short season adding more randomness than usual.

The question is who is interested in selling a forward at this point. No contender is going to want to part with a top-nine contributor without extracting a heavy return from Toronto. Any such trade may include someone still in his prime like Alexander Kerfoot or someone right on the edge of being NHL-ready like Joey Anderson. A trade partner might also try to gouge the Leafs for a young defender. That is an area where Toronto is especially deep with Mikko Lehtonen or Timothy Liljegren.

It’s hard to know exactly who might be selling talent this year, but you can’t rule out the Ottawa Senators. Toronto’s provincial rival made some acquisitions during the offseason as it continues to rebuild. One of those veterans could find their way to the more successful franchise if the Sens are aggressive sellers once more this year. A wing like Evgenii Dadonov might fit perfectly in Toronto’s offensive scheme if they can fit him under the salary cap for this year. The Leafs don’t have to make a move right now, but another injury to the forwards might force an aggressive stance before the deadline.

Edmonton Oilers

Rumour: The last 31 Thoughts piece from Elliotte Friedman indicated that news about a Ryan Nugent-Hopkins extension has been quiet since the year has started. 

Analysis: It’s impossible to imagine Edmonton letting one of its best forwards walk for no return in free agency. Both parties are probably just waiting on further clarity regarding the salary cap and overall league finances. They have less than $60 million committed for 2021-22 right now, but Nugent-Hopkins is far from the only player who needs a new contract after this season.

However, the 27-year-old is the most important. He is the organization’s most consistent threat after stars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Nugent-Hopkins is currently tied for second on the team in scoring with two goals and five points through six games. His ability to complement the team’s titans while also playing multiple positions is central to Edmonton’s success. The challenge has been building around that trio, not replacing one of the three.

That challenge is why the Oilers and Nugent-Hopkins are taking things slowly. His current cap hit is $6 million and that should increase going into 2021-22. The team also has to consider how much Kailer Yamamoto, Tyson Barrie, and Adam Larsson are worth too. Each plays an important role at this point in the year. The last piece of the puzzle will be goaltending. They have to decide if Mike Smith is worth another deal at what will be his age-39 season. There are enough factors at-play that waiting with Nugent-Hopkins makes sense.

Check back tomorrow for another edition of NHL Rumours!