Welcome back to another edition of NHL Rumours from the crew at Last Word on Hockey. Teams are gearing up for the start of training camp to make the final decisions on their opening night rosters. Some teams still have some stars unsigned which is becoming more and more concerning as we inch closer to the start of the season. In today’s NHL Rumours segment, we focus on rumours involving the Vancouver Canucks, Carolina Hurricanes and the most recent news on former Winnipeg Jet Sami Niku.
All NHL rumours come from their original source and are subject to change.
— Sekeres and Price (@sekeresandprice) September 18, 2021
Analysis: This is a tough situation for the Vancouver Canucks. Though Dreger states, he doesn’t get the feeling either player is frustrated. Both Pettersson and Hughes are the two best players on the Canucks roster. So they will be signed, that’s not even a question. However, the term and dollar value is. According to capfriendly.com, the Canucks have about $10.6 million in cap space as it stands. That number will be a little higher once players are sent to the AHL as they shorten their roster prior to the start of the regular season.
However, Dreger also mentions that the comparable for Pettersson is Kirill Kaprizov. Kaprizov just signed a five-year deal with the Minnesota Wild worth $9 million per season. If that’s the same contract Pettersson signs then it doesn’t leave a whole lot of cash left for Hughes. Hughes would likely sign a bridge deal at a cheaper dollar amount. Possibly in the four to six million dollar range. This would still leave the Canucks strapped for cash which means they would still need to do some juggling with their roster before opening night. However, whatever moves they make is worth it to make sure they get their two best players under contract.
Rumour: On the same podcast, Dreger spoke about the next contract for newly acquired Jesperi Kotkaniemi.
Analysis: Dreger mentions that he wouldn’t be surprised if there is already a contract agreement being talked about that would come in around $4 million per season. That dollar value is certainly more reasonable for Kotkaniemi as he is clearly overpaid at this given time. However, we have to remember Kotkaniemi is just 21 years old with over 200 games of NHL experience already in his young career. The potential is still through the roof for this kid. It’s very possible Kotkaniemi does develop into a top-six centre. Then we can all congratulate the Hurricanes on a job well done.
The confusing part about this whole thing though is that the Hurricanes didn’t exactly need Kotkaniemi. They are deep at the centre position and general manager Don Waddel mentioned Kotkaniemi would be starting the season on the wing for the Hurricanes. So one would think if you wanted a winger, why not offer sheet Brady Tkachuk? Of course, Montreal is a much more vulnerable team than Ottawa. But the offer sheet seemed more about revenge than anything else. Regardless, they got their player. And if they can lock him up at $4 million per season, the deal will be a lot easier to swallow, than the current $6.1 million he is getting paid this season.
Rumour: According to Chris Johnston, defenceman Sami Niku is looking for a fresh start with an NHL team after having his contract mutually terminated with the Winnipeg Jets.
Sami Niku is hoping for a fresh start with another NHL team after having his #NHLJets contract mutually terminated. Europe isn’t his focus at the moment.
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) September 20, 2021
Analysis: Johnston states that Niku is focused on remaining in the NHL and not making the move back to Europe. Niku showed some promise early on in his career. He was named defenceman of the year in the AHL in his rookie season scoring 16 goals and 54 points in 76 games. However, his play didn’t translate at the NHL level. In 54 career games, he has registered just two goals and 10 points. For a player whose game revolves around his offensive play and puck-moving ability rather than his play on the defensive end, the point totals are a little lacklustre.
We have to remember though, Niku is just 24 years old. There is still time for him to develop into a top-six defender. A fresh start could be exactly what the doctor ordered for Niku. It would be surprising if we didn’t see a club sign him before the start of the regular season.