NHL Rumours: Montreal Canadiens, Calgary Flames, St. Louis Blues

NHL Rumours
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Welcome back to another edition of NHL Rumours from the crew at Last Word On Hockey. The Conference Finals are about to get underway and with more teams eliminated from the Stanley Cup Finals, rumours are starting to become even more plentiful in the NHL. Today’s NHL Rumours segment focuses on rumours surrounding the Montreal Canadiens, Calgary Flames and St. Louis Blues.

All NHL rumours come from their original source and are subject to change.

NHL Rumours

Montreal Canadiens

Rumour: In an article for Montrealhockeynow.com, Jimmy Murphy quotes a source around the league who mentioned that Christian Dvorak‘s name has been swirling in trade rumours.

Analysis: Murphy doesn’t mention who the source was in the article. Nor does the person say the Canadiens are shopping him. However, he does say that his name is out there and that teams are thinking about inquiring. Dvorak was the Canadiens’ big off-season move before the 2021-22 season. After losing Jesperi Kotkaniemi to an offer sheet from the Carolina Hurricanes as well as Phillip Danault walking in free agency, then GM Marc Bergevin decided he needed to make a move to shore up his centre ice position. The Canadiens decided to move the first-round pick they received as compensation for Kotkaniemi to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for Dvorak.

Dvorak got off to a slow start for the Canadiens this season. He scored seven goals and 16 points in 34 games under then-coach Dominique Ducharme. After returning from injury and under new head coach Martin St. Louis, Dvorak flourished. Dvorak scored four goals and 17 points in the remaining 22 games of the season. Totalling the best offensive season of his career in terms of points per game.

Despite his efforts, the Canadiens have a choice to make. Cap space is limited in Montreal. With the Habs winning the right to draft Shane Wright first overall in the upcoming NHL Draft, Dvorak will also be pushed down the lineup in the near future. If not next season. Being just 26 years old and coming off a strong finish, his trade value couldn’t be higher. With the right offer, Hughes may elect to move the young pivot.

Hanging on to Dvorak Might be the Better Option

On the flip side of the coin, Dvorak proved to be a very useful player for the Canadiens. Especially after his return from injury. And at such a low cap hit of $4.45 million for a two-way centreman, it might be the best option to hang onto Dvorak. Not to mention, it allows the Canadiens to not rush Wright to the NHL. He can develop for another season, while Dvorak holds onto the second line centre role for the upcoming season. Even if Wright were to make the roster, his minutes could be sheltered if the Habs were to hang on to Dvorak.

Hughes certainly doesn’t need to rush this decision. Dvorak is locked up for another three years at a modest $4.45 million per season. Not a bad number, especially considering his age, his two-way ability and the way he performed offensively under Martin St. Louis. Hughes will certainly weigh out the pros and cons of each scenario and make the best decision for the Canadiens moving forward.

Does he make the trade when the player’s trade value is likely at its peak? Does he wait until mid-season and let Dvorak try to bolster his value even further? Or does he keep the two-way centre, as they are so tough to come by? Allowing him and Nick Suzuki to shelter the minutes of Shane Wright or give Wright more time to develop before jumping to the NHL? Time will tell. But this promises to be a very busy and interesting offseason for the new Canadiens general manager.

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Calgary Flames

Rumour: In the most recent 32 Thoughts podcast, Elliotte Friedman speaks about the future of Matthew Tkachuk with the Flames.

Analysis: Friedman states that the Flames are going to waste no time trying to hammer out a contract with Tkachuk. And rightfully so. Tkachuk is coming off a career year where he set new career highs in goals (42) and points (104). He finished second in scoring on the Flames roster just behind Johnny Gaudreau who is also a free agent this offseason.

As per capfriendly.com, the Flames have roughly $27 million in cap space to work with. Evolving-hockey.com has projected that Tkachuk’s contract will likely end up around $11.2 million per season. That projection might look high, but if you compare it to other free agents who have signed longer-term, specifically in Canada, it makes sense. Mitch Marner is locked up for almost $11 million per season but has yet to put up a 40-goal and 100-point season. He is also a year older than Tkachuk. The same can be said about John Tavares, who also signed for $11 million and has never scored 90 points in a season.

While it’s not all about points, Tkachuk also brings the intangibles that general managers salivate over. Tkachuk is an effective player even when he’s not scoring. So he has certainly earned a nice payday.

Trades Coming in Calgary

The Flames are likely looking at spending over $20 million to keep Tkachuk and Gaudreau in the fold. That means in order to keep players like Andrew Mangiapane and Oliver Kylington, they’re going to need to make some moves. Decisions will need to be made on the futures of Mikael Backlund, Milan Lucic and Sean Monahan, who all have significant cap hits. With limited cap space, the Flames need to make sure they look after their top players first and figure out the rest later.

St. Louis Blues

Rumour: In an article for stltoday.com, Ben Frederickson states that there have been whispers that Vladimir Tarasenko wants to remain with the Blues despite his trade request last summer.

Analysis: What a turn of events. From asking for a trade, to being exposed in the expansion draft, to producing the best offensive season of his career. Tarasenko was an absolute beast for the Blues this season scoring 34 goals and 82 points in 75 games. He followed this up with six goals and nine points in 12 playoff games. Absolutely outstanding season for the Russian forward.

This puts general manager Doug Armstrong in a difficult position. Armstrong couldn’t move Tarasenko last off-season, however, his new career-high in points should silence any doubters that his best years are behind him, despite coming off multiple shoulder injuries. The issue here is the Blues have a ton of high-end free agency coming up after next season along with Tarasenko. That list includes Jordan Kyrou, Robert Thomas, Ivan Barbashev and Ryan O’Reilly. Those four players along with Tarasenko are going to eat a ton of cap space, so the Blues will certainly be looking for cap space if they do intend on bringing all these players back.

Armstrong needs to think long and hard about what to do here. With so many quality free agents, you have to assume someone is going to end up leaving via trade or free agency. Do you make another run at the Stanley Cup with Tarasenko and risk losing him to free agency if you can’t come to terms with the forward. Or do you trade him now while his value should be at the highest and the player is now in his thirties? It’s a tough spot for Armstrong to be in. But, it’s certainly a position most general managers would tell you they’d like to be in.

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