With the 2021-22 season slowly approaching, passionate hockey fans are excited to see their favourite teams hit the ice. However, there are still plenty of NHL rumours to discuss, so let’s get right into it. Today’s NHL Rumours feature the New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators, and Pittsburgh Penguins.
New York Rangers
Rumour: According to Mollie Walker of the New York Post, the New York Rangers and RFA defenceman Libor Hajek are close to reaching an agreement for a new contract ahead of training camp.
Analysis: There have been ongoing conversations about a new contract between Hajek’s camp and Rangers GM Chris Drury. Everyone expects the two sides to agree on a deal sooner rather than later. Hajek, a second-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning, came to the Rangers in a trade involving J.T. Miller. 2021-22 will be Hajek’s fourth season in the Rangers organization. In the 2020-21 season, he had four points in 44 contests. Hajek played on the third pairing this season and got lots of opportunities to play because of the situation with Tony DeAngelo and an injury to Jack Johnson.
Hajek isn’t the most productive player. He has horrendous underlying analytics as well, which is great for the Rangers’ cap space. They currently have around $8.8 million to work with. There should be no problem if they sign Hajek to a one-year deal. However, with big names such as Mika Zibanejad, Adam Fox and Ryan Strome becoming free agents next season, it might be tough to keep them if Hajek is signed to a multi-year contract. To add to this, Hajek might not even make the opening night roster. With newly acquired defencemen like Patrik Nemeth and Jarred Tinordi, Hajek has to outplay them to make the team. If the Rangers aren’t confident that he won’t make the opening night roster, then a two-way deal is very likely. Keep an eye out for Hajek’s contract details and more NHL Rumours just like this!
Rumour: According to Bruce Garrioch’s article, Ottawa Senators head coach DJ Smith, GM Pierre Dorion and owner Eugene Melnyk will sit together and decide on a captain. This should happen by the end of the training camp. The obvious candidates to become captain are forward Brady Tkachuk and Thomas Chabot.
Analysis: Brady Tkachuk’s contract details will be the determining factor of the outcome of who will be named captain of the Ottawa Senators. He is currently an RFA and is weeks away from missing out on training camp due to negotiations. Melnyk stated in this interview that Tkachuk is an integral part of the Senators and wants him to sign a long-term extension with the team. However, he would be unwilling to give the “C” to a player on a bridge deal. This makes the situation interesting for Tkachuk. If he signs a long-term deal, he will earn the captaincy. If not, then it is very likely that Chabot will be the captain, as he is signed for seven more years.
This notion of awarding the captaincy based on contract gives the Senators some leverage. If Tkachuk is inclined to be the leader of this up-and-coming team, then signing a long-term deal with Ottawa is best. Otherwise, this tactic will not faze him and his contract negotiations. Based on discussions with management, Tkachuk seems right at home in Ottawa and has a great relationship with Smith. They want him locked up to a long-term extension and be the face of the franchise.
The recent signing of Hurricanes forward Andrei Svechnikov should serve as a comparable for Tkachuk’s contract. DJ Smith points out that many champion teams have a captain serving in the role for over three years. Hopefully, for the sake of Senators fans, Tkachuk signs a long-term contract and gets the “C” as a reward for his commitment to the team. As training camp comes close, NHL rumours surrounding the Senators should start to heat up.
Rumour: Dan Kingerski of Pittsburgh Hockey Now looks at the centres Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Ron Hextall should go after with uncertainty surrounding the injuries to Evgeni Malkin.
Analysis: There is no question that for over 15 years, Malkin provided the team with many great performances. He and Sidney Crosby made up one of the best one-two punches down the middle in the NHL. With Malkin out, there is a hole in the middle of the second line. Keep in mind that Malkin and Jeff Carter will be UFAs at the end of this season. Carter played well for the Penguins but is not the ideal candidate to play behind Crosby due to his age. Some of the potential options the Penguins can use to fill the void include Tomas Hertl, Max Domi, Joe Pavelski and Victor Rask. The goal is to keep the Penguins competitive for a playoff berth.
Tomas Hertl is the most ambitious centre to acquire of the four. He is arguably the best and most expensive option. If the Penguins are going to trade for Hertl they will need to give up something similar to what Vincent Trocheck got as they have very similar production. Last season, Hertl had 43 points in 50 games, and Trocheck had 43 points in 47 games. Trocheck was traded for Erik Haula, Lucas Wallmark, Eetu Luostarinen and Chase Priskie. If the Penguins look to acquire Hertl based on this trade, they can offer Brock McGinn, Teddy Blueger, Jonathan Gruden and Nathan Légaré. However, Trocheck had two years left on his contract when the trade occurred, whereas Hertl has one. The Penguins’ offer may be of a slightly lower value as a result.
If the Penguins do not want to give up as much they could go after players like Max Domi, Joe Pavelski, and Victor Rask. Each has there own risks and rewards that come with them. But the second-line centre position is an area the Penguins need to address.
Be sure to keep an eye out and check back tomorrow for another edition of NHL Rumours!
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