Hello and welcome to NHL rumours! The deadline is just weeks away and teams are trade whispers are flying around the internet. We don’t know how active trading considering how little teams are able to spend, but that doesn’t stop people from speculating on what might happen. Last Word on Hockey is your best place for news and analysis, so check for updates often. Today’s NHL rumours feature the San Jose Sharks, Washington Capitals, and the North Division.
San Jose Sharks
Rumour: Kevin Kurz of The Athletic recently dove into who, if anyone, the Sharks might be able to sell this year.
Analysis: San Jose has one of the worst rosters in terms of contracts in the entire league. It’s extremely top-heavy with multiple extended contracts for an ageing defensive group. That leaves very little tradeable value on a team that desperately needs to rebuild.
With that in mind, there is still a small handful of players that might find new homes in the next weeks. Most of those are pending free agents like Matthew Nieto or Devan Dubnyk. Both are useful pieces in the right situations. Nieto was a productive fourth-line and penalty-killing option in his first stint with San Jose and the Colorado Avalanche. Many teams could use his experience and intelligence as a defensive forward. Dubnyk is capable of being a fine backup despite struggling in recent years. However, some of those struggles can be attributed to being used heavily during his years with the Minnesota Wild.
The Sharks could and should make every effort to trade these two reasonable players. Dubnyk could find new life with the Avs considering their lack of an experienced backup while Nieto might fit with several borderline teams. San Jose has very little incentive to hang onto their free agents so it’s just a matter of when to start selling, not if.
Rumour: Pierre LeBrun recently posted some trade fits that he thinks make perfect sense as the deadline nears.
Analysis: There are some interesting potential trades out there, but David Rittich to Washington stands out for several reasons. First, they need another veteran option with neither Vitek Vanecek nor Ilya Samsonov really seizing the starting gig. Second, Rittich is a free agent who should fetch something reasonable for the Calgary Flames.
It’s not hard to see this as a logical fit. Washington’s goaltending trio of Vanecek, Samsonov and Craig Anderson has a combined .903 save percentage and 2.85 goals-against-average. Rittich’s 2020-21 isn’t markedly better at .904 and 2.93, but Calgary hasn’t exactly excelled in front of him. He’s still 28-years-old as well. Washington’s goalies are either very inexperienced or close to retirement. Adding a goalie of Rittich’s calibre might be enough to push Washington to the top of their division.
The Flames would need to retain some of Rittich’s cap hit, but that should be a significant barrier. He will reach the open market after this season and retaining money would help Calgary bring back a good return. They could ask for a draft pick outside of the first round and/or a prospect. The Caps don’t have a deep pool, but there are still some players to flip. Pheonix Copley is an older goalie they don’t particularly need while Brett Leason could be an option on the wing in Calgary. Consider this a definite possibility in the next few weeks.
Rumour: Sportsnet’s regular Saturday night Headlines segment revealed that some Canadian franchises wish for the North Division to exist beyond 2020-21.
Analysis: It’s not hard to imagine how lucrative an all-Canada division might be when fans eventually return to arenas. The prospect of constant battles between majors organizations in Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton could produce huge amounts of revenue after a year with almost none.
However, the league probably wouldn’t allow a division with just seven teams when scheduling reverts to pre-bubble form. There will be 32 teams in 2021-22, which would possibly mean four divisions of eight teams. One team from the United States would have to join the Canadians in this potential scenario.
The obvious answer to that question is the Seattle Kraken. They will have no existing rivals beyond those that exist for the players they selected in expansion. There is also a natural geographic neighbour with the Vancouver Canucks that could serve as an initial opponent for Seattle fans to hate. Of course, the Buffalo Sabres are near Toronto and the Detroit Red Wings aren’t far from Canada either, but they are much closer to several franchises compared to Seattle. It’s much easier to insert a new franchise than to take one away from its traditional division. There will be some realignment, of course. It’s just a matter of what will make the most money and avoid the most amount of travel.
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