NHL Rumours: Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, NHL Media Rights

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Hello and welcome to a Sunday edition of NHL Rumours! The season is in full swing and that means activity is high. Teams are constantly adjusting for injuries and the wear that comes with a short season. Last Word on Hockey is committed to bringing you the news as it happens and the best analysis. Today’s NHL rumours feature the Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, and the state of the NHL’s media rights.

NHL Rumours

Toronto Maple Leafs

Rumour:  Luke Fox of Sportsnet explored the rumour that the Leafs might have an interest in Calgary Flames forward Sam Bennett

NHL free agent frenzy

Analysis: Bennett is a popular name in the NHL rumours mill. The Flames are falling behind in the North Division. The 24-year-old has just one assist in nine games. Bennett likely has a new home before the April trade deadline, but general manager Brad Treliving must get a satisfying return if he wants to keep his job.

Toronto is certainly one team that could take a chance on the struggling forward. He is a local product from Holland Landing and a former fourth overall selection. The Leafs could also use another forward considering that both Joe Thornton and Nicholas Robertson are still out. Bennett would offer a level of insurance while also having upside. The team could make him a regular on either the second or third line over someone like Wayne Simmonds or Jimmy Vesey, who are better-suited as bottom-six forecheckers.

Then there is the question of how to fit Bennett in under the salary cap. It’s not impossible to get under the cap ceiling after adding Bennett’s hit of $2.55 million, but it would be challenging. It might be smart to ask if Calgary is willing to take defenceman Zach Bogosian. That would be in addition to either a prospect or draft pick. Moving Bogosian’s $1 million salary would offset Bennett and allow the Leafs to promote a young defender of their own. Toronto would be smart to flex their roster a bit to keep maintain their slim division lead.

Ottawa Senators

Rumour: Elliotte Friedman reported that the Sens could be looking to move a blueliner given their depth at the position during the Saturday Headlines.

Analysis: Everything should be on the table as Ottawa continues its rebuild. They have a -24 goal differential through 11 games. That is the worst in the league while also having the second-lowest salary commitments at roughly $71.27 million. Their defence is already very bad, so there’s little reason to hold onto anyone not considered part of the next core.

That is really anyone outside of  Thomas Chabot and Erik Brannstrom on the current roster. Those are the only two defenders with either a contract past 2023-24, under the age of 25, or both. Everyone else should be considered expendable in the pursuit of more young talent. Most of the blue line isn’t valuable, but a contender might still have interest in one of their other skaters. It’s also interesting that Ottawa has four right-handed defencemen. Having that opposite handedness for that right side is something many teams love to see.

With that in mind, the Sens should see what either Nikita Zaitsev or Erik Gudbranson is worth. Both are heavy, forechecking defenders suitable for penalty-killing roles. Moving one of them would create an opportunity to promote Lassi Thomson and see where he is at in his development as a former first-round selection from 2019. Ottawa has very little to lose by pushing their prospects aggressively in a short year. It will give them far more clarity into what they need for 2021-22.

NHL Media Rights

Rumour: The Athletic recently had a media mailbag where the topic of the NHL’s media coverage after NBCSN shuts down was briefly detailed.

Analysis: It’s anyone’s guess what will happen now that the NHL is dropping NBCSN. It will be great in the long term, but the immediate future is uncertain. The only certain thing is the league will receive a significant financial boost in its new deal considering the sport’s growing popularity.

NBC should be a huge part of that as a national network that does not require a cable subscription. The channel and league have been partners for years and there isn’t an obvious reason for that relationship to end. The NBC umbrella has several channels such as Peacock which could be leveraged to broaden the sport’s footprint in the United States.

Other networks will want in on the action as well. The other main sports broadcast groups include Fox, ESPN, ABC and CBS. ESPN has the deepest pockets as a Disney property, but that group requires a cable or ESPN+ subscription and has plenty of content already. Fox has far more regional networks across the U.S and would have more opportunities to cover a winter sport. Either way, hockey is poised for a serious financial windfall in the next few years with new TV deals.

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