NHL Rumours: Pittsburgh Penguins, Montreal Canadiens, Calgary Flames

NHL Rumours

Hello and welcome to a Sunday edition of NHL Rumours! It’s hard to believe that the year is already over 1/10 complete. Teams are busy managing injuries, suspensions, and what happens on the ice itself. Last Word on Hockey is your best place for news and analysis, so check with us often. Today’s NHL rumours feature the Pittsburgh Penguins, Montreal Canadiens, and Calgary Flames.

NHL Rumours

Pittsburgh Penguins

Rumour: A recent piece from The Athletic’s Rob Rossi mentions that Pittsburgh’s new general manager will prioritize a contract extension for Evgeni Malkin.

Analysis: Pittsburgh has treated its stars well over the years and Malkin is no exception. The 34-year-old has signed three contracts with the Penguins with a higher cap hit each time and rewarded the team in turn. He has 417 goals and 1079 points in 915 regular-season contests. He is already in the top tier of all-time Pittsburgh greats and could challenge for the top spot if he can crank out a few more healthy seasons with point-per-game rates.

However, there are plenty of financial unknowns in the NHL world and that won’t change this summer. Malkin should receive a raise yet again and that would likely push his cap hit above $10 million per year. That will be a lot of money for someone entering their age-36 season. The team has very little money committed beyond 2021-22, but it’s impossible to know how the cap ceiling will change. There will also be pieces added between now and then that will eat into that flexibility.

The good thing is that the Pens do not have many priority extensions beyond Malkin. Kris Letang and Bryan Rust are the only major players hitting unrestricted free agency at the same time as Malkin. The team may not need a 35-year-old Letang back if their young defenders blossom as hoped. Rust also should command too much money despite his chemistry with the team’s stars. Not having too many major needs at the same time as Malkin is great when considering how best to build around the final years of the Malkin/Sidney Crosby era.

Montreal Canadiens

Rumour: Salim Nadim Valji of TSN indicates that Victor Mete has requested a trade away from Montreal. 

Analysis: It wasn’t that long ago that there was talk swirling around the possibility of a Mete trade. The Canadiens have scratched the 22-year-old in every game due to their enviable depth on the blueline. This is just one year after Mete scored four goals and 11 points in 51 games. Things were pointing in a positive direction for the former fourth-round pick as a possible breakout defender in 2020-21.

There is certainly value in Mete’s future, but a high degree of uncertainty as well. He doesn’t have a shiny draft pedigree and is listed at just 5’9″, 183-pounds. The key thing to keep in mind is that he is still extremely young and has been getting better every season. Mete’s Corsi For has gone from 50.1 percent in 49 games as a rookie to 51.4 in 2018-19 to 52.7 percent last year. The last two years are impressive when you also realize over 51 percent of his starts have come in the defensive zone. There’s a lot to like in Mete’s future.

Montreal should have no trouble finding a trade partner. One possible option should be the Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres have almost their entire blueline hitting free agency after this year and Mete could certainly take over a top-four role. Even teams like the Colorado Avalanche, who have relatively little cap space at the moment, will try to move enough money around if they have the energy.

Calgary Flames

Rumour: Elliotte Friedman, by way of Sportsnet’s Eric Francis, revealed on Saturday’s Headlines segment that Sam Bennett has requested a trade out of Calgary.

Analysis: Sam Bennett should not be happy with his situation. The former fourth-overall selection from 2014 has seen his ice time drop from a high of 15:09 in 2015-16 to just 12:31 last year. He was averaging 13:09 this year through Calgary’s first six games. This is despite respectable possession numbers above 50 percent for the past several seasons. Yes, he has not scored at a rate you might expect for a top pick, but the Flames are marginalizing a player with only 370 NHL games.

Bennett seems like a very unlucky player at this stage of his career. His expected goals per 60 minutes have exceeded the actual goals per 60 in each of the past four full seasons according to Evolving Hockey. There is evidence to suggest that he needs a change of scenery and better linemates with more ice time. Bennett has is plenty of time to reignite his career as he’s just 24-years-old with a cap hit of only $2.55 million.

It will be interesting to see who reaches out about Bennett’s services. There aren’t many contending teams lacking a top-six centre, which would be his preferred role. The best fit may be the Columbus Blue Jackets. The team has some very good wings, but their centre depth is extremely weak. Calgary may not want to trade someone under its control, but they may want a potential headache gone. Such situations can turn toxic quickly.

That does it for the Sunday edition of NHL rumours, look for another edition to kick off the work week.

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