NHL Rumours: Winnipeg Jets, Toronto Maple Leafs, and St. Louis Blues

NHL Rumours
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Welcome to another Tuesday edition of NHL Rumours! The regular season is winding down as the push to the playoffs is on. With the calendar flipping to May, we are inching closer to the draft lottery, and the expansion draft. Not to mention free agency. Some teams are riding high heading into the end of the season, while others are on the losing end of things. There is still lots of news out there and the Last Word on Hockey crew has got you covered. In today’s edition of NHL Rumours, we look at the Winnipeg Jets, Toronto Maple Leafs and St. Louis Blues.

NHL Rumours

Winnipeg Jets

Rumour: Murat Ates of The Athletic in his most recent mailbag speculates on the future of Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice.

NHL free agent frenzy

Analysis: Look it is no secret that when a team like the Jets loses six games in a row there is a target on the head coach. Clearly, there is something that is not working with the system in place right now. But over those six games, it’s not like they have played badly except for being dominated by the Edmonton Oilers.  In the other games, they were not able to finish games when holding the lead. That does fall on the head coach. Even though Maurice may be one of the more underrated coaches in the league, he does have a habit of not changing things up. During this losing streak, he has rolled out the same lineup. Not willing to change could cost him his job.

However, the owner and general manager along with the players like Maurice as the head coach. He does demand a lot from his players especially his top players. One thing that could save Maurice from the chopping block this season, is the fact the Jets have yet to be at full strength this season. Winnipeg always seems to have injuries at the worst time. Look at Nikolaj Ehlers. He was on a tear before he got hurt and will miss the rest of the regular season. Not to mention one of their top defenceman Nathan Beaulieu is out until next season. And while the team may be underperforming they are still a lock to make the playoffs. And as the writer says is there a better option out there to replace Maurice?

Toronto Maple Leafs

Rumour: James Mirtle of The Athletic is in his most recent mailbag writes that he could see Joe Thornton coming back to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Analysis: If there is any player out there that can still play and be effective it is Joe Thornton. Thornton has been what the Maple Leafs desperately needed. The veteran presence in the locker room and on the ice has helped the young players grow on the team. And while he is close to retiring, Thornton is looking for that all-elusive Stanley Cup. At times this season, Thornton has shown he can skate with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, but where he has been most effective has been with Jason Spezza and Adam Brooks. Thornton is no spring chicken, but he is showing those intangibles that you need as the Maple Leafs head into the playoffs.

And while there may be some better options out there on the free-agent market, the Maple Leafs will be up against the salary cap next season especially if Zach Hyman and Frederik Andersen both stay. And where are you going to find depth forwards this cheap that want to play in Toronto? Nowhere. If the Maple Leafs don’t get the job done this season, don’t be surprised to see both Thornton and Spezza back next season. It just makes too much sense not to bring them back especially at the salaries they are being paid.

St. Louis Blues

Rumour: Jeremy Rutherford and Shayna Goldman of The Athletic speculate on what St. Louis Blues forward Jaden Schwartz‘s next contract will be. 

Analysis: Just like last season, this summer is not an ideal time to be a free agent in the NHL. Whether it be a forward or defenceman. Teams will be dealing with a flat salary cap of $81.5 million again this season even with the influx of money, but that won’t happen until next season. So lots of free agents may not get the money they expect again this season. Many will be forced to take shorter-term deals. And for a player like Jaden Schwartz who is coming off a five-year deal that carried an annual average value of $5.35 million, he might be getting much more on the open market or with the Blues. St. Louis already has $63.4 million committed to 15 players for next season. And considering Schwartz’s production this season, he could fall just shy of that dollar figure on his next contract.

Head coach Craig Berube likes the player and believes he fits well within the system. Not to mention general manager Doug Armstrong has an interest in re-signing him. But the numbers are just not there. Schwartz has four goals in 28 games this season including two in his last 21 games. But like most players on the Blues, he is very streaky. Even with the struggles, Schwartz is a guy who wants to play in St. Louis. And if it was not for his production in the playoffs, the Blues do not win a Stanley Cup in 2019. It will be interesting how this plays out. But given the market and climate, if anything, Schwartz signs a short-term deal and maybe gets another deal once the cap rises again.

That does it for this edition of NHL Rumours! Stay tuned for another edition coming this week.

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