Welcome back to another edition of NHL Rumours from the crew at Last Word on Hockey. We’re approaching the 20 game mark for some teams and a lot of teams are already accepting their fate on the season. With that, comes a ton of rumours from around the league. Today, we will look at rumours from the Nashville Predators, Toronto Maple Leafs and Vancouver Canucks.
All NHL rumours come from their original source and are subject to change.
Rumour: In the latest edition of 31 Thoughts, Elliotte Friedman wonders if the Predators will become sellers prior to the trade deadline.
Analysis: The Predators currently sit seventh in the Central Division, eight points back from the final playoff spot in the division. They also have the sixth most goals scored against them with 52 goals in just 15 games. They also sport a -16 goal differential. In a shortened season, with how poorly they are playing and the restrictions due to quarantine, it might be too late for the team to acquire some help to turn the season around.
As Friedman mentions, the club has some intriguing pieces. Mikael Granlund and Erik Haula are on one-year deals and had a ton of interest in the offseason, making them prime rental candidates. However, the more surprising name that Friedman mentions is Matt Duchene.
Duchene signed a seven-year, $56 million deal with the Predators just a season ago. And he was a hot commodity as there was a bidding war for his service between the Predators and the Montreal Canadiens. Duchene ultimately chose Nashville and signed a lucrative deal with the club, so why they would be trying to move him so soon is mindblowing. He hasn’t quite earned his paycheck, scoring 13 goals and 42 points in 66 games last season, and just three goals and eight points in 15 games this season. However, he is still a skilled player. With that contract and the flat cap world we are now living in, it may be impossible to move the Duchene contract. If general manager David Poile’s thoughts on his team have really changed that much in just one season, then maybe some bigger internal issues the team has to look at.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Rumour: Speaking of Granlund, Friedman mentions he believes the Leafs are interested in acquiring the forward.
Analysis: Friedman had mentioned last week in his 31 Thoughts segment that the Leafs are looking to add to their top six. There is still one spot in the top six that is truly up for grabs. Since the Jimmy Vesey experiment quickly flopped, the club went out and acquired Alex Galchenyuk from the Carolina Hurricanes. Is that the answer? We’ll soon find out. Galchenyuk has outstanding offensive abilities and is a former 30 goal scorer. However, his play has regressed drastically since his days in Montreal so expecting him to turn back time to get back to the scoring ways he did with the Canadiens is not a realistic approach.
Granlund, however, is very intriguing. Granlund is on a one-year deal worth $3.75 million. And if it’s true that the Predators are thinking about being sellers this season, he is certainly a player who will be on the move. Granlund has proven over the years that he is a more consistent top-six player than a player like Galchenyuk. He produced multiple 60 points seasons with the Minnesota Wild before being dealt to the Predators and just hasn’t seemed to be the right fit for the Preds. However, he decided to ink the one-year deal with the club for this season and has been better than the previous year, scoring three goals and seven-point in 12 games.
For the Leafs, cap space will certainly be an issue. They don’t really have any contracts that they could move out in order to save some space to acquire Granlund. The Leafs would need the Predators to retain, plus take on a smaller contract such as Jimmy Vesey or Pierre Engvall to make any deal work for the forward. If the Leafs are able to grab Granlund, it would drastically improve an already outstanding offence. With the versatility Granlund brings as well, this would be a move that would push the Leafs even further to Stanley Cup contention.
Rumour: On TSN’s Insider Trading, Darren Dreger mentions that there has been interest from teams in forward Jake Virtanen.
INSIDER TRADING: #TSNHockey Insiders discuss…
— TSN Hockey (@TSNHockey) February 16, 2021
Analysis: Virtanen’s name has been popping up in the rumour mill for quite some time. He hasn’t lived up to the hype of being the sixth overall selection in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. And after a career year that saw him score 18 goals and 36 points in 69 games, he has just one goal in 14 games this season. It’s safe to say Virtanen’s time in Vancouver is coming to an end.
However, as one door shuts, another opens. Virtanen plays with a lot of grit and is still just 24-years-old. He still has time to turn the corner and revamp his career. With the size and physical edge he brings, Virtanen would certainly be a player who teams will be keeping an eye on.
While there will be quite a few teams on the list for Virtanen, keep an eye on the Leafs here as well. Virtanen is signed through the 2021-22 season at a cap hit of just $2.5 million. Cheaper than the Granlund deal, however, doesn’t bring the same upside. However, he does bring the physicality the Leafs are also looking to add to their lineup. And chances are it wouldn’t cost the Leafs as much to acquire the struggling forward. Virtanen also wouldn’t require to quarantine meaning the Leafs could get him into their lineup instantly.
That does it for today’s NHL rumours. Be sure to check back tomorrow for the latest rumours from around the league.