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NHL Rumours: Boston Bruins, Columbus Blue Jackets and Postseason Travel

NHL Rumours

Hello and welcome to a Sunday edition of NHL Rumours! The second round has begun and there is much happening around the league. Teams are either competing for their futures, planning for the summer, or both. That means plenty to check on over the next several months with us here at Last Word on Hockey. Today’s NHL rumours feature Boston Bruins, Columbus Blues Jackets, and postseason travel.

NHL Rumours

Boston Bruins

Rumour: recently reported that forward Taylor Hall wants to stay with the Boston Bruins multiple seasons.

Analysis: There is no obvious reason why Boston and Hall can’t maintain their relationship beyond 2020-21. They have lacked consistent secondary scoring for several seasons and Hall fits that need perfectly. They also do not have a large number of key pending free agents to clutter contract negotiations.

It is clear that Hall found some new life after he joined them following a trade from the Buffalo Sabres. The 29-year-old skater scored eight goals and 14 points in 16 games with the Bruins after scoring just two and 19 in 37 as a Sabre. The .88 points per game with Boston represents the highest scoring rate that Hall has posted since way back in 2013-14 with the Edmonton Oilers. It’s good enough to extend, but not so much that it should prevent Boston from doing other things in the offseason.

The good thing is that the organization has very few priority free agents otherwise. Both Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak are due for new contracts and that is about it outside of Hall. There isn’t a clear need for David Krejci to return as he nears age 36 and the rest are largely restricted free agents with low negotiating leverage. Expect a multi-year deal to happen at some point not long after Boston’s season eventually ends.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Rumour: Sportsnet is also reporting that Seth Jones will not re-sign with the Columbus Blue Jackets and wants to test free agency after 2021-22.

Analysis: This is big. Jones is easily Columbus’ most important defender and losing him will not be good. He is the only known quantity among the organization’s right-handed blueliners which makes him very difficult to replace.

It’s not hard to see why Jones would want to test the open market though. His 50 goals and 223 points in 381 games with the Jackets will make him very attractive to multiple teams. His success will also likely result in a significant raise from his current cap hit of $5.4 million. There will be no shortage of suitors for a 40-50 point, right-shot defender who has also received Norris votes in four out of eight professional seasons and an all-star nod.

This desire will almost guarantee that Jones is a trade chip no later than the 2020-21 deadline and that will be a serious bidding war. We have no way to predict who will need Jones services by that point, but numerous teams may get an early jump on the negotiation this summer. That could include teams with weak bluelines like the Winnipeg Jets, or teams eager to take the next step like the Philadelphia Flyers. Jones’ future will be a very loud narrative until he eventually finds a new home. The problem is teams may also low-ball the Jackets if Jones refuses to negotiate an extension after a trade.

Postseason Travel

Rumour: Darren Dreger is reporting that a travel exemption will likely be issued for the North Division champion and their US opponent to play in both nations.

Analysis: This is a key next step in the league’s postseason plans. A lack of a travel exemption would have made competition between Canadian and U.S. teams much more difficult in the postseason due to Canada’s more restrictive rules around entering the country during the pandemic. That looks as though it will be resolved by the time the two nations actually battle in 2020-21.

However, it is unclear if the exemption will apply to fans of the respective teams. U.S. fans may still have trouble entering Canada to watch games there. Canadian fans may also experience difficulty watching a team in the United States and then return home. The exemption may ultimately extend to vaccinated fans in either nation having little to no difficulty in travel, but that is unclear at this point. A lack of a consistent or reliable method to prove vaccination for U.S. residents is something the country is managing piecemeal and we can’t predict how much if at all, the Canadian government will consider that. Fan attendance at these games is vital to revenue, but health and safety are still the biggest priorities. More news will have to come on this in the next week or two as the second round gets underway.

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