We’re into the second of week of March and we have plenty of NHL rumours to go around. Some hard decisions need to be made about the fate of players and coaches. The fate of the winner of the North Division may also need to be decided. Today’s NHL rumours will focus on the Buffalo Sabres, Anaheim Ducks and the North Division.
All NHL rumours come from the original source and are subject to change.
Rumour: Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said the team is “open for business” in Saturday’s Hockey Night in Canada Headlines segment.
Headlines: BUF "wide open"/vaccinations/Tom Wilson/Olympics/Draft
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) March 7, 2021
Analysis: Buffalo general manager Kevyn Adams is taking calls on everyone and two of the main names are Sam Reinhart and Eric Staal. Only Taylor Hall and Jeff Skinner have no-movement clauses. This opens up a world of possibilities to Adams to try and acquire future assets like draft picks. Staal would be a good rental because he becomes an unrestricted free agent in the off-season. Reinhart becomes a restricted free agent, but will be looking for a raise from his $5.2 million salary.
Our Sunday edition of NHL rumours talked about how Jack Eichel hasn’t asked for a trade, but teams will ask about the Sabres captain. Eichel and Reihart have a solid chemistry together, but Adams knows he can get some major pieces if he moves one or both of those players.
Skinner finally scored his first goal of the season on Sunday against the New York Islanders. However, Skinner’s contract and no-trade clause will make him impossible to move. Buffalo has options moving forward if they want to do yet another teardown of its roster.
Rumour: The Athletic’s Eric Stephens latest mailbag looked at if general manger Bryan Murray and head coach Dallas Eakins are on the hot seat.
— Eric Stephens (@icemancometh) March 7, 2021
Analysis: The Ducks continue to be in the wilderness after spending the part of the 2010’s as a contender. It’s hard to know what Ducks’ owners Henry and Susan Samueli are thinking because they are rarely in front of the camera. The ownership group was hoping for a quick fix, but that seems impossible with this group.
There are talented youngsters like Trevor Zegras waiting for a larger role with the team. However, there are still a lot of aging veterans on the club. Will the owners allow Murray to do a true rebuild that is desperately needed or will someone else be given that task? Anaheim will likely be going on its third season without reaching the Stanley Cup playoffs.
It’s rare that a coach stays around when a general manager is fired. Eakins will likely be fired first unless he and Murray are both sent packing. Eakins may only stay if Murray steps down first like predecessor Brian Burke did. This season may be a wash with no fans in attendance thanks to California’s COVID restrictions. However, waning interest due to losing could force a change.
Rumour: The Athletic’s and TSN’s Pierre LeBrun speculated that the North Division may relocate to Buffalo for the Stanley Cup semifinals.
The Leafs play out of Buffalo? The Jets play out of Minnesota? The NHL’s Canadian division winner could relocate to the U.S. for semifinals, Stanley Cup final. My weekend piece: https://t.co/Ndqdru4sE3
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) March 5, 2021
Analysis: It would depend on the geography of which team wins the all-Canadian division. However, it could mean that Buffalo finally sees playoff hockey for the first time in years. The idea is in the preliminary stages and stems from players like Pierre-Luc Dubois having to sit out 14 days before he could play for the Winnipeg Jets after his trade from the Columbus Blue Jackets.
League officials will try their best to get special exemptions, but that depends on how things look in June. The vaccine rollout in the United States is faster than what’s going on in Canada. Having to quarantine for 14 days would kill any momentum for a series and be a logistical nightmare. Teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs would likely relocate to Buffalo and the Jets to the Twin Cities in Minnesota.
Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league is looking at all possibilities at this point and haven’t ruled anything out. It would be unfortunate for a Canadian team to make the last four, but have to pull up stakes and play away from its home fans that deep in the post-season.