Welcome to the weekend. There’s no better way to kick off your Saturday than some NHL Rumours with Last Word on Hockey. There’s more than enough to go around as an abbreviated offseason approaches. With a flat cap and some drama surrounding big names, the hands of many teams will be forced as trades are made. Last year’s musical chairs session is bound to continue as teams explore shaking up rosters that haven’t quite worked. Today, it’s the Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres, and Philadelphia Flyers taking centre stage.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Rumour: During an interview with Sportsnet’s 590 The FAN, Elliotte Friedman mentions that Toronto and general manager Kyle Dubas could revisit moves this offseason that were previously unfeasible.
Analysis: The names were plentiful during the regular season. Rickard Rakell, Mikael Granlund, Kyle Palmieri, and many others were all linked to the Leafs at some point in NHL rumours as they looked for help in their middle-six forward group. A tight cap situation during the season made mundane moves impossible, however. Their big deadline acquisition in Nick Foligno needed additional salary retention in the form of the San Jose Sharks brokering the deal.
These are all names Toronto could circle back on in the coming months. With many forward slots being vacated by free-agent veterans and a potential expansion draft selection, Dubas should have a considerable amount of flexibility this offseason to build the team he wants. There are holes throughout the forward lineup, and Dubas will likely be signing one if not two of these names. Skill and prowess in transition will likely be the priority this offseason. Sentimentality and grit appeared not to be the answer in Leafs Nation.
Rumour: Also via Elliotte Friedman, this time on his 31 Thoughts podcast, he suggests that patience is running thin between Buffalo and Jack Eichel and that a deal may be imminent.
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) June 4, 2021
Analysis: Turmoil isn’t a word new to Buffalo. However, the Sabres are at a boiling point here in their relationship with their captain and former second-overall pick. As the controversy over Eichel’s options to repair a herniated disk in his neck brews, the bond between him and the organization has suffered immensely. As Friedman reports, the potential end of the Eichel era becomes a larger possibility on the daily.
It’s an incredibly tough situation for the Sabres. The team loses leverage with each leaked detail. The silver lining in this situation is the absence of any form of trade protection in Eichel’s contract. It helps them avoid the Taylor Hall conundrum, and at least they won’t be forced to take a lesser return for Eichel in that manner. It’s very rare in this league nowadays that we see a player of Eichel’s calibre and importance switch teams, let alone via trade. The Erik Karlsson-type deal only happens once every two or three seasons, at best.
But indeed, a herculean package might still be needed. The market need for Eichel, luckily enough for Buffalo, is high enough that multiple teams could get into a bidding war, wiping out their previously lost leverage. Many on-the-bubble teams have a natural need for an elite, dynamic top-six centre. The price for his services will be high.
Seth Jones will likely be traded. PHI needs a top-pair RHD. So is he a fit? That question has predictably turned into a stats vs. eyes debate.
— Charlie O’Connor (@charlieo_conn) June 3, 2021
Analysis: Columbus came very close to joining Buffalo on the “what the hell are we doing here?” wagon this season. An abysmal 2021 sent shockwaves through the organization, as young stars were swapped and benched and injuries ravaged the team.
Another former core player who likely won’t be returning is Jones, who’s already informed Columbus that he won’t be re-signing at the end of his contract next offseason. Columbus will likely try to move the defenceman this offseason to accelerate their roster re-tool with additional cap space in hand.
The Flyers have a need too, but Jones may not be the right fit. While they have a natural fit for a prominent right-shot defenceman, the organization has shown a tendency to misevaluate and misuse players at that position. Ivan Provorov stands out as an example of name recognition without the macro- and micro-stats to back up his stardom. Jones operates in a similar vein.
A deal would likely still make sense for Columbus, though. Armed with cap space, they could either attempt to gain help at the centre position either within the trade with Philly or in free agency. David Krejci presents a short-term solution, while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins could end up being a longer-term piece in Ohio.
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