With training camps starting, it puts more pressure on general managers with business still to accomplish. Pierre Dorion still has to sign Brady Tkachuk and rumour has it that Ken Holland is looking for a goalie. He may have trouble sourcing one, especially since there are rumblings that the taxi squad could return just for goalies, making it all the more difficult to pry one from another club. With that said, let’s dive into another edition of NHL rumours!
Rumour: Darren Dreger of TSN said on Insider Trading, “It feels like it’s (the Tkachuk negotiations) broken down now to structure and protection. Those are likely the main hurdles. But you have to wonder if shorter-term becomes an option if negotiations drag closer to opening night.
Analysis: It’s no surprise that negotiations have hit a snag because of the structure of the contract, or in other words, bonus money. Ottawa doesn’t hand out bonus money. However, about 1/3 of Brady’s brother Matthew Tkachuk‘s current contact is signing bonus money, so it’s fair to assume that Brady wants a similar type of reward included in his contract. After all, it’s even more important now because the high escrow over the next few years would lead to players wanting back-ended bonus money to avoid as many high escrow payments as possible. To make a contract work, I think Ottawa will have to give in a little. But they can’t give in too much if they don’t want to set a precedent of what Joshua Norris and Tim Stützle can ask for in the future.
The trade flexibility issue can sound alarms for Senators fans. They’re accustomed to losing prominent players, and the Senators battling for more flexibility in this situation can be concerning. However, I don’t think it’s time to get worried. The two sides could be arguing over a full no-movement clause or a modified no-trade clause. Management has to prepare for any possibility, and having some flexibility in moving a player over none is always preferable. Even when they have no desire to move the player.
Analysis: With the unfortunate news that Alex Stalock might not play this season due to a possible heart condition, the Oilers could be in the market for a third-string goaltender. They aren’t desperate because Stuart Skinner had a strong season in the AHL last year with a .914 save percentage. He could fit that role. However, if Edmonton wants to go in another direction, the Florida Panthers have a crowded crease in the AHL with Chris Gibson and Samuel Montembeault. Maybe one of them can head to Edmonton. Elsewhere, long-time Calgary Flames prospect Jon Gillies is also a free agent.
How about NHL talent? Could the Oilers find an NHL goalie to go along with Smith outside of Mikko Koskinen? With Elvis Merzlikins signed long-term, the future of Joonas Korpisalo with the Columbus Blue Jackets is uncertain. Meanwhile, with only one year left on his deal, Malcolm Subban is the odd one out in the Chicago Blackhawks‘ crease with Marc-Andre Fleury‘s arrival. One of those players could be an Oiler by the end of the season.
Goalie Taxi Squad
Rumour: Frank Seravalli with Daily Faceoff reports that the NHL received feedback from general managers that they’re worried about the availability of a third goaltender if one of their top two goalies were to get sick or hurt. NHL Deputy Commissioner said creating a goalie taxi squad is a possibility.
Analysis: With Covid still a risk and injuries always taking place, it makes sense that general managers would support a goalie taxi squad. While the stories of a 42-year-old Zamboni driver or a 36-year-old accountant helping their team win games as an emergency backup are lovely, they’re not ideal in a league where every point matters.
I don’t think all the teams are ready for a goalie taxi squad. This will mean that they need to designate a goalie to travel with the NHL team and probably not play. This is not ideal for young developing goalies and not perfect when a team has planned for two goalies in the AHL, not three. The waivers issue is also a big problem. Last year, players and goalies had to go on waivers to join the taxi squad. Many goalies were claimed in the process. Teams claimed Anton Forsberg three times last season. With roster constriction and waiver issues facing more than a few teams, I wonder if the taxi squad will be mandatory?
That does it for another edition. Watch out for those NHL rumours on the Last Word on Hockey!