Hello and welcome to a Sunday edition of NHL rumours! The first round of the playoffs is moving along and teams are preparing for what comes next. Last Word on Hockey will bring you the best news and analysis, so check in with us often. Today’s NHL rumours feature the Buffalo Sabres and two about the Vancouver Canucks,
Rumour: Pierre LeBrun recently revealed that the Sabres are interested in several former NHL coaches including Rick Tocchet.
Rick Tocchet and Bruce Boudreau are among several candidates the Sabres have lined up for interviews. My sense is that GM Kevyn Adams wants to talk to quite a few coaches, including from the college ranks. Not in a rush. Don Granato also in the mix.@TSNHockey @TheAthletic
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) May 21, 2021
Analysis: While there is an argument that Buffalo should look outside the traditional NHL ranks for its next head coach, it is reasonable they would also look at experienced options as well. Rick Tocchet and Bruce Boudreau are the exact sorts of people that the Sabres should explore as well.
Of the veteran choices, it would be hard to argue with Boudreau. While he is 66 years old, he is one of the most successful coaches not currently employed. He is 22nd in coaching wins with 567, but much higher among coaches who are active or have coached within the past several years. Boudreau’s experience could be just what the franchise needs to break out of its current slump.
Whoever does take the Sabres job will have a hefty amount of pressure. The team has talent, but a bloated and mismanaged roster that needs a firm presence and consistent philosophy. Boudreau is the exact sort of person who might be able to maximize players like Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel while also standing up to meddlesome ownership. Leading Buffalo won’t be easy, but management is right to explore every option for its next coach.
Rumour: Thomas Drance of The Athletic recently indicated that the Canucks will explore buyouts this summer.
Jim Benning specifically says the club will “explore buyouts” as part of the club’s efforts to better support their core pieces. That’s pointed. #Canucks
— Thomas Drance (@ThomasDrance) May 21, 2021
Analysis: Vancouver’s roster is in an awkward position. It has a great core including Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes, but there are several supporting players who count far too much towards the cap ceiling. The team needs to restructure its salary situation quickly before the young stars get too expensive.
Any buyouts should absolutely include Antoine Roussel. The 31-year-old forward was average in 2018-19, but he has declined significantly since that season. The team also can’t justify $3 million going to a bottom-six agitator at this point in their competitive window. A similar thing can be said regarding Loui Eriksson or Jay Beagle.
Injuries certainly forced role players into larger roles than usual in 2020-21, but that should resolve for next year. A year of healthy recovery coupled with trimming some roster fat could allow the team to flourish. The core is strong and there is definite promise in the farm system whenever Vasily Podkolzin can leave Russia. The Vancouver front office needs to be aggressive this offseason if it wants to hit its ceiling.
Rumour: Elliotte Friedman during Saturday Headlines indicated that J.T. Miller does not want to leave Vancouver.
Headlines: JT Miller/Kadri/Tavares/Coaches speaking out/AHL playoff play-in? (Note: if Kadri does appeal, it is to Commissioner first and then potentially a neutral arbitrator.)https://t.co/iS4SDiTvKv
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) May 23, 2021
Analysis: It is good that Miller does not want to be traded and the team would be wrong to trade him away. The 28-year-old skater is coming off another very productive season with 15 goals and 46 points in 53 games. 2020-21 marks the fifth consecutive year where Miller has scored at a rate of .52 points or better. That is a fantastic rate for someone who costs just $5.25 million through 2022-23.
The team also has no obvious replacement if Miller is traded for anything that isn’t an NHL-ready forward. The farm system is somewhat lacking in terms of young forward depth and a handful of existing players could leave via free agency. Raises for Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes will eat large chunks of cap space will almost guarantee that someone is not re-signed this offseason.
However, that is where the organization should focus on buying excess players out over trading a player in his prime like Miller. The next version of Vancouver’s division could be wide open depending on realignment and who is lost to Seattle in the expansion draft. Keeping Miller is an easy way for the team to compete at a higher level after the league landscape alters this summer.
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