NHL Rumours: Edmonton Oilers, Washington Capitals, Columbus Blue Jackets

NHL Rumours
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Hello and welcome to a Thursday edition of NHL Rumours! Offseason rumblings are getting louder as teams are eliminated from the postseason. Things will only get busier between now and the start of free agency. Today’s NHL rumours feature the Edmonton Oilers, Washington Capitals, and Columbus Blue Jackets.

NHL Rumours

Edmonton Oilers

Rumour: Elliotte Friedman recently revealed that Oilers management wants to re-sign Mike Smith.

Analysis: It is true that Mike Smith had a resurgent season, but he is also 38 years old. The odds of him maintaining even average production only decrease at this point in his career. This is a player who is only one year removed from posting atrocious numbers and looking ready to retire.

It certainly doesn’t make sense to retain Smith unless he is willing to take the absolute minimum to stick around. That is because the team has two other veterans with Mikko Koskinen and Alex Stalock. That isn’t a world-beating duo, but both are already under contract through next year. There is very little reason to drop one of them in favour of Smith.

The money that could go to Smith should be spent on keeping some of Edmonton’s existing depth. That includes Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and maybe even Tyson Barrie. The team has a good chunk of money coming off its books, but most of that should be spent improving the forward depth, not re-signing an ageing goaltender in the twilight of his career.

Washington Capitals

Rumour: Stephen Whyno of the Associated Press recently captured thoughts from Alex Ovechkin regarding his future in Washington.

Analysis: This has been an ongoing narrative in 2020-21, but there is no reason to expect Washington to move on from the franchise star. Ovechkin has done everything for the organization since he was selected first overall in 2004. Retaining his services for the last years of his career should be the top priority.

While it is true that Washington has relatively little cap space projected for 2021-22, that shouldn’t prevent them from bringing back Ovechkin. A more likely scenario is finding a trade partner for Evgeny Kuznetsov, who played in just 41 games and seems like a frustrating individual for the organization. Moving Kuznetsov and promoting a promising youngster like Connor McMichael would be significantly cheaper in the long term

Ovechkin still has a very real chance to break Wayne Gretzky‘s hold on the career goals leaderboard. The Great One is 164 goals ahead of the burly Russian, but Ovechkin has never scored fewer than 33 times in any season prior to the shortened 2020-21. Four or five years with that same goal rate is exactly enough to truly challenge the record. That is true regardless of where he suits up next year, but it will almost assuredly be in Washington.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Rumour: Aaron Portzline recently confirmed a report that Rick Tocchet will interview for the Blue Jackets coaching vacancy.

Analysis: There are always concerns when a team disappoints as much as Columbus did this year. However, it seems like much of that was due to former coach John Tortorella’s style on top of seriously bad luck. The team traded a star for another star who then spent time on the injured list and sold at the deadline. That is a hard situation for any coach.

Similar things can be said about Arizona. The Coyotes had a solid roster, but the front office had a horrible offseason, the team was penalized for violating rules, and some key players were hurt. They managed to battle until almost the very end for a postseason birth despite all of that. Tocchet deserved a lot of credit for making Arizona as competitive as it was.

If Tocchet is the hire, he inherits a roster in the midst of some restructuring but has upside. The combination of Cam Atkinson, Seth Jones, and Jack Roslovic is a strong core. The organization also intriguing young players Alexandre Texier ready to take on larger roles next year. A younger coach like Tocchet coupled with general manager Jarmo Kakalainen’s aggression looks like a strong combination on paper.

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