Hello and welcome to a Thursday edition of NHL rumours! The postseason is approaching quite rapidly at this point. That means some teams are preparing for the playoffs, but some are studying their rosters for next year. News is sure to come soon, so check with us frequently for the latest happenings from around the hockey world. Today’s NHL rumours feature the Los Angeles Kings, Buffalo Sabres, and Columbus Blue Jackets.
Los Angeles Kings
Rumour: The Athletic’s Lisa Dillman recently had a mailbag in which she fielded a question regarding the team’s first-round pick in the 2021 Draft.
Analysis: There is certainly some merit to the idea that LA should trade a pick for a young defender. The team has plenty of young firepower in its system, but much of it is limited to the forward lines. The Pacific Division could be wide open behind the Vegas Golden Knights in 2021-22 and the Kings are on the rise. It only makes sense for them to try an aggressive move such as this.
The problem is, that there are relatively few teams that have good, young defenders to trade, even for a lottery pick. Even ones that do, like the Colorado Avalanche or Carolina Hurricanes, may be hesitant to send someone away with the expansion draft looming. Now, we should be fair and note that if the Kings have a pick near the very top of the board, someone might entertain such a trade. We just can’t assume that will actually happen.
However, let us entertain this possibility and consider who might be a viable target. He isn’t necessarily young, but Esa Lindell could be an intriguing option. The 26-year-old currently has five goals and 16 points in 56 games along with solid possession and physical numbers. The interesting part of Lindell is the fact that his current contract runs through 2024-25 with an annual cap hit of just $5.8 million. That stable cap hit is something that front offices such as LA’s would love as it builds a sustainable roster.
Analysis: Trading Eichel isn’t the obvious solution, but Sabres’ fans really shouldn’t get attached to the dynamic star. He has a no-movement clause that will go into effect starting in 2022-23. That means he will have vastly more control over his future than he does now, which is essentially none.
There will be no shortage of interested parties should Buffalo seek to trade the disgruntled franchise icon. The New York Rangers, Kings, and Minnesota Wild would all love to have him. However, the most interesting fit might be the Anaheim Ducks. Anaheim could use a new top centre for next year to accelerate their rebuild and Eichel fits that bill perfectly.
The reason the Ducks seem so perfect for Eichel is that they will have both cap space this offseason and players to send back in return. Buffalo could acquire a replacement centre with upside like Isac Lundestrom or Sam Steel in exchange for shipping Eichel to California. Eichel would slot in on the top line next to someone like Max Comtois and provide elite scoring ability for a team on the rise after years of below-average play.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Rumour: Insider Trading also explored the possibility that Seth Jones could be on the move.
Analysis: Jones should go absolutely nowhere. The team is about to enter a new era without John Tortorella, but Columbus has plenty of talent and does not need to execute a rebuild right now. The 26-year-old defender is far too valuable to move with so much possibility going into 2021-22.
If he stays, the Jackets could have a very dangerous team featuring Jones, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Jack Roslovic, and Patrik Laine if he is re-signed. It’s also worth noting that while the Metropolitan Division is still very strong, it is not overpowering. A lot could shift depending on who is lost in the Seattle expansion draft. It could be a very winnable division if Columbus maintains its core and makes smart offseason moves.
The Blue Jackets may be just as competitive even if they trade Jones. They have three picks in the first round of the upcoming draft. They also some interesting young defenders to take Jones’ place. That includes Andrew Peeke, another right-handed defender. Peeks is not Jones, but the blueline isn’t exactly bereft of talent if the front office decides to shuffle the blueline in an extreme way.