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NHL Rumours: Montreal Canadiens, Philadelphia Flyers, Edmonton Oilers

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Welcome to Friday. Last Word on Hockey’s NHL Rumours series is only getting started, as tonight’s 2021 NHL Entry Draft will likely make way for more trades and chaos. Teams have a better idea of their 2021-22 makeup after the completion of the Seattle Expansion Draft this week. It means that salary cap and roster space are clearing up in order for teams to make some big-name acquisitions. Today’s edition focuses on a pair of Canadian teams in the Montreal Canadiens and Edmonton Oilers, as well as the Philadelphia Flyers.

NHL Rumours

Montreal Canadiens

Rumour: Per TSN’s Pierre LeBrun on Insider Trading, the Canadiens have interest in pending unrestricted free agent defenceman David Savard.

Analysis: Coming off this morning’s news that captain Shea Weber will miss the entirety of 2021-22, there’s a fresh hole on the right side of Montreal’s defence. They’re reportedly looking into Savard to help fill that hole by committee. Fresh off defeating the Habs in the 2021 Stanley Cup Final, Savard’s gotten up there in age. Durability is beginning to surface as a concern as well, but he’s still one of the league’s most effective defensive defencemen. However, his drop-off in offensive impact likely means he’s taking a pay cut on his $4.3 million cap hit. But it may not be by much. There’s a huge market for the gritty defender, who can still average close to 20 minutes a night in a second-pairing role.

With Weber’s contract likely being slotted on LTIR, Montreal will have a solid chunk of cap room to work with. If they can’t land the only big fish defender left in free agency, Dougie Hamilton, they’ll need to attack Weber’s departure as a group. Savard’s addition to the blueline would likely be in a second- or third-pairing role, with Jeff Petry and possibly Alexander Romanov slotting ahead of him on the depth chart. Regardless, his leadership and strong defensive impact could help steady a blueline that’ll be missing its leader for the foreseeable future.

Philadelphia Flyers

Rumour: Despite a lack of cap space, the Philadelphia Flyers could make a move or two to help make a run at defenceman Dougie Hamilton in free agency, TSN’s Darren Dreger reports.

Analysis: Newsflash: top-pairing-calibre right-shot defenders are hard to come by.

It’s also not easy to turn a bad defence into a good one, especially in such a short timeframe. But Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher may be on the path to doing just that. Philadelphia’s defence already looks in much better shape for 2021-22 after last weekend’s Ryan Ellis acquisition. With a wealth of big-money talent on the wings, Philadelphia could be looking to deal from a position of strength to improve a crucial position of weakness.

It’s no secret that James van Riemsdyk, Jakub Voracek, and Travis Konecny are the top three names to watch in trade discussions for the Flyers. The team has a bit more wiggle room after finally dealing maligned defenceman Shayne Gostisbehere to Arizona yesterday after years of being mentioned in NHL rumours, but it’s highly unlikely that the front office is done making moves to clear space. Hamilton likely commands $8 million on his next deal. If the Flyers want to fill out the rest of their roster too, they need to make another trade. When or if that deal will come is anybody’s guess, but it could pave the way to a pivotal acquisition. Looking at a top-four on defence of Ellis, Hamilton, Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim should be a scary sight for opponents.

Edmonton Oilers

Rumour: TSN’s Darren Dreger also reports that the Oilers have ‘kicked tires’ on Buffalo Sabres defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen.

Analysis: Edmonton Oilers fans aren’t happy with how general manager Ken Holland has handled the team’s back end this offseason, and they could potentially be in for more disappointment. The Sabres have been trying to deal Ristolainen in NHL rumours for years with their strongest efforts coming this offseason. He’s been one of the most polarizing players on the team for a while now.

Ristolainen’s defensive woes have been well-documented since arriving in the league, but even the offensive production that still made him a valued asset has suffered greatly in recent seasons. The four-time 40-point scorer had just 14 this season, albeit in a shortened season. Still, his offensive impacts have dropped sharply in recent seasons, making any potential acquisition at his $5.4 million cap hit a dicy one.

With Edmonton’s big expenditure on Duncan Keith already, however, it’s impossible to believe that Edmonton would acquire him at his full cap hit. The Sabres would almost definitely be willing to retain salary if the right deal’s brought to them. It’s still tough to stomach the idea of giving up assets to bring in two of the worst defensive defencemen in the league in the same offseason, though. It would likely result in another disastrous season for the Oilers, who’ve yet to gift Connor McDavid the courtesy of a competent supporting cast.

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