Hello and welcome to a Wednesday edition of NHL rumours! The deadline is past, but there is plenty for teams to ponder. Organizations are busy preparing for the postseason or considering how they might approach the offseason and the critical addition of the Seattle Kraken. Today’s NHL rumours feature the Nashville Predators, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Edmonton Oilers.
Rumour: Adam Vingan and Ryan Clark of The Athletic recently broke down how Nashville might approach the expansion draft.
Analysis: Several players should be worried about their continued tenure in Nashville. Neither Ryan Johansen nor Matt Duchene has done much to warrant protection from Seattle this summer. Of those two, the Preds should absolutely incentivize the Kraken to absorb his large contract and cap hit. He has been nothing but underwhelming since 2018-19.
This is because he does not fit the Nashville scheme and neither party will adapt; they will not adjust the offense or roster to accentuate his skills and he won’t magically turn into a grinder. It’s a relationship that doesn’t seem capable of working as the former star ages into his 30s. Fans might want to see Johansen gone, but Johansen is younger and just as reliable from a production standpoint.
The problem is that while Seattle does have to meet a minimum cap in its first year, they don’t need a contract as large as Duchene’s. That could mean trading someone to the Kraken as an incentive. It’s hard to imagine the team parting with Calle Jarnkrok or Luke Kunin, but Colton Sissons might work. He is a versatile centre who can provide bottom-six value and does well on face-offs. It’s safe to assume Nashville will dangle at least one notable name this offseason as they determine the proper next steps toward contention.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Rumour: Aaron Porzline of the Athletic also recently dove into what Columbus might do after trading several key players.
Analysis: Columbus does not have a bad roster by any means. They have an intriguing young core and some strong veteran presence in the locker room at almost every position. They also have at least two goaltenders worthy of starting most nights. It’s not hard to imagine a return to contention with a strong draft featuring three first-round picks and some injured players returning to a healthy status.
That means there should be no reason to rebuild. Very few of the team’s current or future core is scheduled to hit free agency. There will be concerns surrounding Patrik Laine‘s future, but there will be plenty of money available to keep him if some other players are allowed to walk away. Seth Jones is also a key factor, but any hand-wringing before the end of 2021-22 feels unnecessary until other dominos fall regarding player personnel and the coaching staff.
If the team opts to try a reload, both of their extra first-round picks could be on the table. Neither the pick acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs or Tampa Bay Lightning will be in the lottery, but they are still in the first round. Those could be extremely valuable to teams who are engaging in true rebuilds. The Jackets have not been shy about trying to compete despite their smaller market and there’s no reason to blow things up now.
Rumour: This week’s 31 Thoughts from Sportsnet indicated that the Oilers wanted Patrik Nemeth before the deadline.
Analysis: It’s hard to know why the Detroit Red Wings sent Nemeth to the Colorado Avalanche if Edmonton was interested. The Oilers could have sent the exact same fourth-round pick in the 2021 Draft. They also have decent odds of winning the Stanley Cup based purely on their star duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Perhaps Nemeth preferred to go back to the Avs, but he had no leverage to force such a move.
The Oilers could have used him far more than Colorado given the differences in blueline depth. Nemeth would have been an ideal addition to the defensive unit. His possession stats were some of the best despite 58.7 percent of zone starts coming on defence. Nemeth would easily have been one of the more reliable skaters when the Oilers were forced to play in a tough situation.
The good thing is that even if the team missed out on Nemeth, Dmitry Kulikov is a great alternative. He has even better possession stats despite a slightly higher percentage of starts coming on defence. The fact that they found a suitable alternative after missing out on their top target speaks volumes about how smartly Edmonton approached this particular deadline. It wasn’t a huge flurry of moves, but the Oilers didn’t get radically overshadowed either. This wouldn’t have changed with Nemeth over Kulikov.
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