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NHL Rumours: Buffalo Sabres, Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota Wild

NHL Rumours

Hello and welcome to perhaps the final Sunday edition of NHL rumours before the offseason officially begins! The Stanley Cup matchup is so very close to ending and that means rumours about trades and signings are nearly about to explode. That also means many more reasons to check-in for the latest hockey news here at Last Word on Hockey. Today’s NHL rumours feature the Buffalo Sabres, Colorado Avalanche, and Minnesota Wild.

NHL Rumours

Buffalo Sabres

Rumour: The Buffalo News’ Lance Lysowski recently reported that the Sabres are very enamoured with draft prospect William Eklund.

Analysis:  There is no obvious reason why Buffalo shouldn’t target a second first-round pick in order to select Eklund. They have a lack of elite talent in their system and can use every opportunity to acquire more. It won’t be enough to select Owen Power first overall and call it a successful draft.

Our own internal report on Eklund is fairly bullish on his professional prospects. He is a smart offensive player with very good skating ability. He’s 5’10”, 172-pound frame might not impose its will on opponents that often, but many modern players excel despite their modest physical builds. Eklund seems like an ideal top-line skater whenever he hits the Sabres’ NHL roster, even if it takes one or two seasons of seasoning after his time in Sweden.

Buffalo certainly has the capital to acquire a second pick in the lottery portion of the draft. Both Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel would fetch hefty returns if they move this summer. Do not be surprised if the Sabres’ front office makes an aggressive play to start rebuilding through the draft once the expansion is complete.

Colorado Avalanche

Rumour: Pierre Lebrun recently dove into the likelihood that someone presents an offer sheet to defender Cale Makar.

Analysis: Avs fans can remain calm regarding Makar’s future in Colorado. The possibility of an offer sheet exists, but there are so many factors that make them rare. First, the player has to agree to it. Second, a team has to give up multiple unprotected first-round selections; that can be very risky if things do not go as planned. Third, there is nothing stopping the team that needs to match from trying to stick it to the team offering. General Managers do not like antagonizing each other even when it might help their own team.

The picks combined with cost are the most likely reasons nobody will offer sheet Makar. Colorado’s current projected cap space of $25.49 million makes it possible to match anything someone could offer. LeBrun notes that a team would have to make an offer in the range of $11-12 million per year and give up four unprotected first-round picks if Makar signed and the Avs let him leave. It would be outrageous to think a front office is that bold with the flat cap. And while some might assume Colorado can’t match an offer of that size and keep both Gabriel Landeskog and Philipp Grubauer, the question would be why not? It’s not obvious that the duo would consume the remaining $12-ish million together. Both have the option of taking a discount to support the championship effort.

Colorado will have considered all of this. They can drop some of their excess bodies from the middle of the roster and replenish with some very solid prospects. It is also worth noting that other young stars haven’t received offer sheets in recent years. Can we really predict Makar will?

Minnesota Wild

Rumour: Michael Russo of The Athletic recently revealed that Minnesota has engaged both Kirill Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala regarding extensions.

Analysis: Fiala and Kaprizov are priorities 1 and 1A now that Joel Eriksson Ek is signed to a new deal. They are two of the team’s current young core that has fans in the Twin Cities salivating over what could happen in the next few years. It seems highly likely both stay in Minnesota given that the team has almost $17 million in space.

The key is Kaprizov. The Russian skater met or exceeded almost every expectation in 2020-21 en route to a Calder Trophy victory. He noticeably faded in the postseason, but that is a valuable experience for someone in the middle of his prime. The problem is that while Kaprizov has relatively little leverage in negotiations, he can bolt back to his home country if Minnesota fails to satisfy either the length of the next deal or the amount of money. That fact alone might push his cap hit into the range of $6-7 million for the same number of years or higher for a shorter term.

It isn’t as though Fiala will be cheap either. His most recent cap hit was $3 million. He posted a combined 43 goals and 94 points in 114 games at that cost. It’s enough production to think he’ll at least mean Eriksson Ek’s cap hit of $5.25 million considering the Swede’s production is far more modest than Fiala’s. Fiala also can’t threaten to leave the country as easily if he is not satisfied with the offer. The good thing is that the team will lose a defender and clear up a significant chunk of money. That cash will go a long way to keeping the key Wild happy for the foreseeable future.

That does it for NHL Rumours stay tuned for another edition on Monday.

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