Welcome back to the Tuesday edition of NHL Rumours! The hockey world was shocked by a blockbuster trade involving two of the top picks from the 2016 NHL Draft. Teams continue to tweak their roster as it is a sprint to the end of the season. Which means the rumours will be coming in hot and heavy. The crew at Last Word on Hockey has you covered with the best analysis. In today’s edition of NHL Rumours looks at the New Jersey Devils, Winnipeg Jets, and Toronto Maple Leafs.
New Jersey Devils
Rumour: In the latest New Jersey Devils mailbag, Corey Masisak of The Athletic writes about the future of Travis Zajac with the team and how if he wants to play a few more seasons it makes sense to come back to the Devils.
Analysis: Travis Zajac is such a very interesting case for the Devils. It feels over the past couple of years, he is leaning towards being a lifer. What that means is staying with one team for the entirety of his career. Current Islanders and then Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello drafted Zajac. He has been a solid centre for the Devils since entering the league. He takes a lot of the more crucial defensive zone draws and can play with anyone on the team. Look what he did last year with Nikita Gusev and Blake Coleman. This year he has started with Miles Wood and Jesper Boqvist and the line produced. As it stands now he is the second line centre line second until Nico Hischier gets back.
Zajac is in the final year of his contract that carries a salary-cap hit of $5.750 million. The Devils will have cap space to work with, but what do the Devils see Zajac has. Because they have a lot of talented prospects that play the position in their system. However, if management feels they are not ready, they will bring Zajac back. This is if he wants to play. And if that is the case and he wants to play, most likely he is nothing more than a third or fourth-line centre. He is also good on the penalty kill for the Devils. In fact, he is the Devil’s best penalty killer. Having Zajac around will be good for the young guys and teach the art of taking face a skill necessary to win in the league. If anything the Devils keep him at this price or a little less. Especially with a flat cap.
Rumour: During a post-trade press conference with the Winnipeg media, newly acquired centre Pierre-Luc Dubois says he could see himself staying in Winnipeg long-term because it already feels like home, but is more concentrated on the starting season with his new team.
— Ken Wiebe (@WiebesWorld) January 24, 2021
Analysis: It is no surprise that Dubois is already being asked about staying in Winnipeg. He feels a big need for the Jets down the middle. When he slots into the lineup he will be the second-line centre behind Mark Scheifele. And his addition gives the Jets great depth down the middle. The question will be with Dubois does he feel it is a big enough stage. Of course, playing in Canada is huge. And considering his dad works for the AHL affiliate, there is no reason to think the Jets will do everything in their power to sign him. Plus nobody knows what the future of Paul Stastny in Winnipeg will be. Will he be back and does he want to come back playing as the third line centre.
Right now, Dubois has this year and next left on his deal at a salary-cap hit of $5 million. If he can produce the way everyone thinks he can, he is in for a significant raise. You know he will want somewhere in the $8-$10 million range for his next deal over six or seven years. The big thing is for the Jets keeping a guy like that solves one of their big problems. But before contract negotiations even start, Dubois has to step on the ice first. It will be quite some time before he suits up for the Jets. He has to go through the 14-day quarantine before stepping on to the ice. The one thing is for sure Dubois is excited to join the Jets organization and is ready to help them.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Analysis: As Seigel writes, with Joe Thornton and Nick Robertson out of the lineup, the depth at forward is being tested. The only way to fix the imbalance is to trade from a loaded back-end. This means someone like Travis Dermott is on the way out. When Dermott is in the lineup he only averages about 11 minutes of ice time with no power play or penalty kill time. Newcomer Mikko Lehtonen or Rasmus Sandin could do the same thing if Dermott were to get traded. However, Dermott is in an interesting position because the Maple Leafs are one injury away on defence from needing him to go into their top four. Not to mention he could get exposed in the upcoming expansion draft.
In 164 games with the Maple Leafs, Dermont has 41 points (nine goals and 32 assists). He is a locker room favourite amongst his teammates. But he hasn’t been able to get steady minutes with the organization. If the team does trade Dermott and there is any injury on defence, they are going to wish they had him. But on the other hand, they can use him to give them more depth on offence, because Wayne Simmonds and Jason Spezza can’t be expected to do increase their workload. The big issue for Kyle Dubas is quarantine and cap space. If the Maple Leafs do acquire a forward, they may not have that player right away. However, all options are on the table for a team that is expected to do make the playoffs this season.
That does it for this edition of NHL Rumours. Stay tuned for another edition this week.
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