After a rousing Game 4 last night between the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning, the hockey season has been extended until at least Wednesday. Despite the continuing Stanley Cup Final, however, the offseason is rapidly approaching and NHL rumours are plentiful. There’s a flat salary cap further complicating an already compressed free agent season. Mixed with expansion, there’s a rush of whisperings nearly every day. Today’s edition of our NHL Rumours series focuses on the Edmonton Oilers, Nashville Predators, and Columbus Blue Jackets.
Rumour: In a piece earlier this week from The Athletic’s Daniel Nugent-Bowman, he notes that defenceman Tyson Barrie likely won’t be back in an Oilers uniform next season.
Analysis: It was quite the controversial season for the Victoria, B.C.-born defenceman. Barrie notably became the first NHL points, leader, among defencemen to not even receive a vote for that year’s Norris Trophy. It’s still worth noting that it was an incredible bounce-back season for Barrie on the scoresheet, whose 48 points in 56 games greatly outpace his 2019-20 totals with the Toronto Maple Leafs (39 points in 70 games). Yet, the Oilers are a team that’s more interested in becoming more defensively responsible this offseason. Edmonton realizes that an unsustainably high amount of secondary assists likely inflated Barrie’s numbers. They don’t want to invest long-term on a player who just likely had a career year.
It’s why both Barrie and the team feel that separation is better at this point. Barrie feels he can get better value on the open market, which he very likely can. The Oilers, who’ve also been linked to acquiring Chicago Blackhawks stalwart Duncan Keith, are also running out of room on defence. There are younger players such as Caleb Jones and Evan Bouchard who’ve rightfully challenged for more playing time. And there’s always the uncertainty of an Oscar Klefbom return looming large. General manager Ken Holland feels his cap space can be better used elsewhere. He’ll make an effort to alter the team’s makeup.
— ESPN 102.5 The Game (@1025TheGame) July 1, 2021
Analysis: The Predators have found themselves in headlines recently, especially after an unforeseen trade that sent fan-favourite Viktor Arvidsson to the Los Angeles Kings. Some view it as the start of a true rebuild for Nashville. Others view it as the Preds trying to better position themselves for the upcoming expansion draft. Poile didn’t say that here. However, he does comment that he’d like to make a deal to ensure that Seattle takes a specific player off their roster.
It’s likely a ploy to entice the Kraken and general manager Ron Francis. They’ll want them to take on the contract of either Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene. Both have failed to perform up to the expectations dictated by their salary. That’s especially true for Duchene. The centre tallied just 13 points in 34 games this season despite carrying an $8 million cap hit. His defensive game has been acceptable, to say the least. Yet you need more scoring punch for that type of money. As Nashville potentially looks to clean house and clear the books, Seattle could end up with a big-name, big-money talent that’s hungry to prove themselves in a new home.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Rumour: In an effort to add some veteran leadership to the coaching staff, longtime coach Jacques Martin could be brought on as an adviser, The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline reports.
Analysis: Columbus currently enters the season without a single person in the organization with NHL head-coaching experience. It’s certainly a massive turnaround from the team formerly coached by John Tortorella. He’s one of the most controversial, but also highly-regarded names in the game. So, the 68-year-old Martin enters the conversation. After 16 seasons as a head coach in the league, and more as an assistant, Martin is understandably stepping back from active coaching roles.
After a successful one-year stint as an assistant with the New York Rangers in 2020-21, Martin displayed the kind of subtle impact he can have on a team with inexperienced personnel. Fighting hard for a playoff spot, New York likely would’ve gotten there with a slightly upgraded roster. Dealing with a core in Columbus that’s experienced playoff appearances before, Martin could help unite a group of players and staff that’s in disillusion and disrepair. There’s no denying that last season was a rather large bump in the road for the organization. Columbus hopes to identify weaknesses, inexperience now being one of them, to get back on track.
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