Welcome back to another edition of NHL Rumours from Last Word On Hockey. While the battle is still on for some teams for the Stanley Cup this season, teams on the outside are looking ahead to next season. This has rumours swirling around the NHL. With the pending expansion draft as well as NHL Entry Draft and free agent, rumours are going to be coming in hot in the coming weeks. Today, we will focus on NHL rumours involving the Winnipeg Jets, St. Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings.
All NHL rumours come from their original source and are subject to change.
Rumour: In a collaborative article with Emily Kaplan, ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski states that the Jets key to the offseason is fixing the defence.
Analysis: While this seems pretty obvious, Wyshynski lays out an interesting point. Wyshynski states that the Jets will protect Josh Morrissey, Dylan DeMelo and Neal Pionk from the upcoming expansion draft. That leaves rookie defenceman Logan Stanley exposed. The 23-year-old Stanley worked his way into the lineup this season, playing in 37 games registering one goal and four points. He had an even better postseason, scoring two goals and adding an assist in eight games. One of those goals being a beautiful shot that beat Carey Price over the shoulder.
It’s a tough situation for the Jets to be in to leave a 23-year-old defender exposed, especially one who possesses the size that Stanley does. Stanley is 6-foot-7, 228lbs and is just breaking into the league. While he doesn’t have a ton of offence in his game, he can be a solid stay-at-home defender. Losing him in the expansion draft, when the team has such a need on defence should not be an option. They got to find a way to convince Seattle to take someone else. If not, they’ll have to find a replacement.
The Jets do have young blue-chip prospects on the way up, like Dylan Samberg and Ville Heinola, however, it’s unsure if either of them is actually ready to make the jump to the NHL. So it’s something the Jets really have to figure out, and they don’t have a whole lot of time to do so with the expansion draft coming up so fast. They got tough decisions in front of them. The biggest one being the future of Logan Stanley.
St. Louis Blues
Analysis: Vince Dunn has found his name in the rumour mill for the last couple of seasons. Friedman states that the Blues were looking at dealing him earlier in the season and the ask at the time was a first-round pick. However, obviously, no one took the bait. So here we are again. Will the Blues lower their ask? Dunn had a solid 2020-21 campaign putting up 20 points in just 43 games. Just three points shy of his 2019-20 total in 28 fewer games. However, Dunn’s season was cut short due to an injury that kept him out for the playoffs as well.
Dunn is an outstanding talent. He possesses a strong two-way game, with strong puck-moving abilities and is an excellent skater. He has the ability to quarterback the powerplay as well, making him even more valuable. Dunn is also not afraid to mix it up, having a couple of fighting majors under his belt as he tends to play a bit more of an aggressive style of play.
It’s hard to imagine wanting to move Dunn when he provides so much upside, however, with the expansion draft looming, the Blues don’t have much of a choice. Teams can only protect three defencemen. Unless, of course, they go the eight-player of any position route. However, that’s very unlikely. Looking at the Blues roster, one would expect them to protect Justin Faulk, Torey Krug and Colton Parayko. This leaves Dunn on the outside looking in. Losing the 24-year-old for nothing is definitely not a road general manager Doug Armstrong is will to travel. So he has to do his due diligence and shop around.
Chances are we will see Dunn playing for a different team this year, as Armstrong will surely have a ton of suitors calling for his services. The question is, where will he end up?
Los Angeles Kings
Rumour: In a tweet from TSN’s Darren Dreger, he mentions that the Los Angeles Kings will be looking to acquire two, top-six forwards either via trade or free agency this offseason.
With expansion draft looming, there’s more trade discussion developing around the NHL. The LA Kings could be a big player this offseason. The Kings are hoping to acquire two top 6 forwards through trade or free agency.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) June 8, 2021
Analysis: Huge rumour out of L.A. as they’re trying to accelerate the rebuild process. However, if there is any team that has the parts to acquire two, top-six forwards it’s L.A. They have a ton of cap space, so money won’t be an issue. Playing in California is of course a huge selling point as well. But even if they elect to go the trade route, they have a loaded prospect pool that they can use to get a deal done.
So who do they target? Alex Ovechkin and Gabriel Landeskog are two of the top free-agent forwards this summer, however, we don’t expect them to be going anywhere. Both are expected to lock back up with their respective clubs. However, two names that are interesting are Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall. Nugent-Hopkins is finishing the last year of his contract which paid him $6 million per season. He will surely command around the same if not more on his next deal.
Nuge scored 16 goals and 35 points in 52 games this season. While that’s not overly impressive, he is still an important player who contributes on both special teams and has the versatility to play centre or the wing. He’s proven to be able to be a 20 goal scorer over his career while playing a responsible defensive game, which coaches love. With the Oilers strapped for cash, Nuge might price himself out of Edmonton.
Then there is a Taylor Hall. Hall got off to a slow start in Buffalo, however, produced at almost a point per game pace in Boston. He found new life and was excited to play for the Bruins and not have to be the focal point of the offence. This has him looking to lock up in Boston, however, if he hits free agency, expect the Kings to take a look at him.
In terms of trades, look no further than Jack Eichel. Eichel is almost surely going to be moved out of Buffalo in the offseason. Teams are going to have to pay a premium for Eichel and a lot of teams just don’t have the parts. However, the Kings do. The Kings have one of if not the best prospect pool in the entire league. With prospects like Quinton Byfield, Alex Turcotte and Arthur Kaliyev to name a few, the Kings could put together a solid package to entice the Sabes to trade them, Eichel.
Eichel has been producing at almost a point-per-game pace since entering the league. This is quite impressive considering he’s played for some poor Buffalo teams. A change of scenery would certainly spark the young centre. Eichel is one of the most gifted centremen in the entire league, and while the cost would be extremely high, it would be worth it to acquire such an outstanding player. And it seems like general manager Rob Blake is willing to pay it.