NHL Rumours: Washington Capitals, Winnipeg Jets, Montreal Canadiens

NHL Rumours

Hello and welcome to a regular Sunday edition of your favourite NHL rumours! We are just over two weeks away from the deadline. Activity has already begun, but it is sure to increase in frequency and size as the cutoff for trades approaches. We here at Last Word on Hockey will continue to serve you with the best news and analysis every day. Today’s NHL rumours feature the Washington Capitals, Winnipeg Jets, and Montreal Canadiens.

NHL Rumours

Washington Capitals

Rumour: Tarik El-Bashir recently examined what Washington may do to improve a goaltending unit that has been uneven for parts of this season.

Analysis: It’s true that Washington has struggled at times in their net. The duo of Ilya Samsonov and rookie Vitek Vanecek has been good enough to keep the Caps in first place in the East Division, but it’s not an experienced duo that can guarantee comfort in the postseason. Goaltending isn’t the only concern on the roster, but it might be the most visible.

If they do decide to add another body, the best option feels like David Rittich of the Calgary Flames. The Canadian franchise is not good this year and it seems highly unlikely that Rittich will return for 2021-22. The 28-year-old has taken a backseat to Jacob Markstrom this year, but he’s been a fine backup with a .908 save percentage and 2.86 goals-against-average. Both of these numbers are roughly in-line with his career averages. It seems likely for him to be at least that good behind Washington’s defence. He likely won’t cost much in terms of trade value and his cap hit is only $2.75 million. It’s not an insurmountable amount of money to manage despite the Capitals’ lack of space.

The hardest part of this potential trade would be moving a goalie to clear a roster spot. Vanecek would probably get claimed if he was placed on waivers and Samsonov is playing too well to be sent to the AHL; He done well in several recent contests and remains the team’s future at the position. The only thing that is clear is that every season shuts the team’s championship window with its current core just a little bit more.

Winnipeg Jets

Rumour: The Athletic’s Murat Ates reviewed the possibility that Alex Goligoski could be the ideal defensive fit for Winnipeg.

Analysis: Winnipeg is very good this year, but that has very little to do with their defencemen. It’s certainly a solid group, but nobody will confuse it for one of the best bluelines in the NHL. Goligoski is a known commodity that can still help shut opponents down even as nears his 36th birthday in July. He remains a fine defender at his current age despite a sharp decline in offensive production.

Their are two things that make Goligoski an attractive fit with the Jets. First, he won’t command nearly as large of a return as some of the more premium defenders on the trade market. It will be significantly cheaper for Winnipeg to trade for Goligoski compared to Mattias Ekholm or David Savard. Second, the Arizona Coyotes defender is flexible enough to play on both the right and left sides of the ice, which frees the team’s better offensive blueliners to play their natural positions throughout the depth chart.

The only real concern with Goligoski might be the cap hit in the final year of his current contract. It’s $5.475 million, which could put Winnipeg in a bind. The most likely trade scenario involves Arizona retaining salary in exchange for either a pick in the 2021 Draft or someone at the bottom of the depth chart. The Coyotes may not sell as they are close to a playoff birth, but Goligoski’s fate with the team will be a storyline as April 12th nears.

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Montreal Canadiens

Rumour: Saturday night’s regular Headlines segment indicated that the Canadiens may try to clear some money off its book after the recent Cole Caufield signing.

Analysis: While it is incredibly exciting for Habs fans to finally see Caufield in a professional uniform soon, it’s not ideal for the team’s front office. They were already very close to the cap ceiling and this contract puts them even closer to being non-compliant. It shouldn’t be surprising that the team might want to move some money out with several big free-agent decisions looming for 2021-22 and beyond.

Don’t expect a star to be traded, but there are several who could have a new home soon. Victor Mete is one such option and has even requested a trade in the past given the team’s defensive depth. He would fetch a sizeable return given his age and ceiling as a solid defender. The same could be possible for Jesperi Kotkaniemi or Jake Evans. Both of these two are still young and cheap while still having upside. Neither has leverage in contract negotiations when they reach the end of their current contracts either. Montreal is deep enough that they could trade one of two of their numerous prospects. Doing so would give them salary relief for this year and the offseason while also returning draft picks.

The Canadiens have hoarded draft picks in recent years; they had 10 picks in 2019 and 11 in 2018. Moving a prospect for another selection or two in this year’s draft, even without as much scouting data, would be very in-line with what this front office likes to do. They have clearly embraced the strategy of more picks being better than fewer. Such a strategy enables them to move someone to make way for a prospect of Caufield’s calibre.

That’s it for today’s version of NHL Rumours. Be sure to look for our next editon.

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