Welcome to the weekend, hockey fans. Last Word on Hockey returns to bring you the latest slate of NHL rumours from around the league. Some teams are now past the quarter mark of this abbreviated 2020-21 campaign, meaning that decisions have to be made quickly. Today features the Vancouver Canucks, Buffalo Sabres, and Anaheim Ducks.
Rumour: In a 2021 trade rumours piece put together by The Athletic, Vancouver beat writer Harman Dayal signals that the end of Jake Virtanen in a Canucks jersey could come via a buyout.
Analysis: Some were shocked when Virtanen was re-signed last offseason by the Canucks. The former sixth overall pick has never hit expectations. But despite a career-high 36 points last season, the word around the watering hole was that their patience was wearing thin with the 24-year-old forward. Yet general manager Jim Benning and crew opted to hold onto Virtanen while his value was at an all-time high. That’s now proven to be a glaring oversight. Virtanen’s ridiculously slow start to this year (one point in 15 games) has predictably tanked his trade value.
Buying out a contract with such a low cap hit ($2.55 million) is uncommon but not unheard of. Per CapFriendly.com’s buyout calculator, though, Virtanen’s contract comes with a very low-impact buyout. Assuming Virtanen is bought out when the buyout window opens after this offseason, he would only be $50,000 worth of dead cap next season, saving the Canucks $2.5 million in space on the last year of his deal. They would have to swallow a nominal $500,000 penalty in 2022-23 but considering that’s less than the league’s minimum cap hit, it might be the right choice mathematically for the Canucks to replace him with someone who can produce at a higher rate.
Rumour: The latest episode of TSN’s Insider Trading segment reveals that there’s mutual interest in a contract extension between Taylor Hall and the Buffalo Sabres.
INSIDER TRADING: #TSNHockey Insiders discuss…
– Mutual desire from Hall, Sabres to explore extension
– Getzlaf’s future in Anaheim
– Uncertainty growing for #Beijing2022?
– Stan Bowman for 🇺🇸 Olympic GM?
— TSN Hockey (@TSNHockey) February 18, 2021
Analysis: Things haven’t exactly gotten off to a terrible start for Hall in Buffalo. He does have nine points through 13 games, but only one of those is a goal. But after a start that saw the Sabres look competitive, they’ve now dropped four straight contests and sit last in the NHL’s MassMutual East Division. With an entire team that’s struggling to score, Sabres brass sees Hall as a crucial instrument of success long-term in order to build a competitive team.
But, frankly, without any guarantee of success in Buffalo, this report is rather shocking, to say the least. A player like Hall, who made such a splash last offseason about wanting to win, is a dynamic talent. With his desire expressed very clearly, many had him linked to more competitive teams such as the Colorado Avalanche. When he agreed to a one-year “show-me” deal with Buffalo, many thought that it was more of a gamble for Hall than the Sabres. There needed to be success this season for Hall to stick around. With a 4-7-2 record on the year, Taylor Hall must be seeing something in Buffalo that the rest of us don’t.
Rumour: Also mentioned in TSN’s latest Insider Trading is the future of Ryan Getzlaf; as the Ducks aren’t interested in trading their captain, who’s also a pending unrestricted free agent.
Analysis: Neither the Ducks nor Getzlaf have had much offensive success this season. The Ducks’ rate of 1.88 goals for per game is one of the lowest in the league, and Getzlaf only has six points (one goal) in 15 contests. Yet the 35-year-old captain is still a responsible defensive force and reliable in the faceoff dot, winning 52.9 percent of his draws this season.
While it certainly is tough to part with someone who’s been as important to the franchise as Getzlaf, one has to wonder if Ducks management is letting nostalgia get in the way of success. Getzlaf would be an overtly capable upgrade to most contending teams’ bottom-six forward group. Anaheim could certainly recoup a high draft pick for him at the deadline as the team begins to build around future cornerstone Trevor Zegras.
The old guard is on the way out, and John Gibson’s prime years are now. The Ducks may need to say goodbye to an old friend in order to have a more abbreviated rebuild. However, that seems unlikely to manifest.
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