The excitement for this off-season has continued building as more-and-more teams fall out of playoff contention. It will truly be a summer of change, as a lot of teams face very difficult decisions. Combined with a great group of soon-to-be free agents, there could be a lot of moves to be made once the Stanley Cup Playoffs come to an end. With such an exciting summer looming, there seems to be an infinite amount of NHL rumours. Today we’ll look at the latest NHL rumours involving the New York Rangers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Colorado Avalanche, and Edmonton Oilers.
New York Rangers and Columbus Blue Jackets
Rumour: We start out with a bit modest compared to the rest of the NHL rumours. The Columbus Dispatch reported on Sunday that the Blue Jackets president of hockey operations, John Davidson, will be leaving the team for the same role with the New York Rangers.
Analysis: This rumour has been surrounded by speculation for a little over a month now but it seems to finally be coming together. It was reported to The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun, through a third-party source, that the Rangers asked the Blue Jackets to speak with Davidson on Wednesday, May 8th. Now, the Dispatch says that “it is more of an assumption than speculation at this point… Nothing has been announced by either team, but the writing appears to be on the wall.”
The move would make sense for Davidson. While the Rangers could offer the 66-year-old more money than the Blue Jackets, they also much more sentiment. Davidson played in eight seasons with the Rangers between 1975 and 1983. A return to the city he spent so much time in as a player would surprise no one.
This rumour spreads despite neither team coming public with any sort of updates. In fact, Columbus owner John P. McConnell adamantly denied any rumours in late April. He continually told The Dispatch that the Rangers had not reached out to speak with Davidson and that a move wasn’t going to happen. Clearly, a lot has changed in two weeks. Now, the move seems inevitable.
Rumour: The headline of the NHL rumours, the Columbus Blue Jackets face a very tough summer, with multiple stars hitting free agency, and will need to make a decision on who to let go, to help alleviate salary-cap tension. Elliotte Friedmann wrote in his 31 Thoughts column that this will likely be Matt Duchene.
Analysis: The Blue Jackets reeled in Duchene during a very exciting trade deadline. They pulled him away from the Ottawa Senators, along with Julius Bergman. In exchange, the Senators acquired one first-round draft pick in 2019, a conditional first-round pick in 2020, Vitaly Abramov, and Jonathan Davidsson.
Duchene was a crucial part of the Blue Jackets late-season rally and post-season excitement. However, there was never a feeling that he’d stay with the team for long. He just finished the last year of a five-year, $30 million contract. After a great 2018-19 season, where he tallied 70 points in 73 games, there’s a strong sense that the center is worthy of a raise. The Blue Jackets face a summer that sees Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky, and Ryan Dzingel all also headed to free agency and will have to find out how to use the cap space that
There are a lot of spots where the journeyman Duchene could land but Sportsnet highlights the Nashville Predators and Montreal Canadiens as the leaders-of-the-pack. The Predators seem willing to make moves to help them bring in Duchene despite financial strain. Meanwhile, the Canadiens have simply stayed interested in the center. Montreal was rumoured to be a front-runner for Duchene around the trade deadline. They lost out to the Blue Jackets then but will get another shot to acquire him this summer.
Rumour: On Wednesday, May 9, TSN’s Darren Dreger spoke on TSN690’s Morning Show. There, he reported on the Predators yearning to bring in Duchene, even discussing possible moves that’ll need to be made. Among those moves, he mentions that the rumours around P.K. Subban could have some backing to them.
Analysis: Dreger actually mentioned both Subban and Kyle Turris as possible options for the Predators cap-dump. He makes sure to specify that both are just speculation and all depends on Duchene’s interest in coming to Nashville.
Dealing away Subban would be fairly interesting, to say the least. He just completed the fifth season of an eight-year deal with a yearly cap hit of $9 million, so ridding of him takes a lot of weight off of the Predators salary cap. However, that number is also very steep and a big reason as to why trade talks could see the Predators offered diminished returns on Subban. Dreger reports that if the Predators want to deal Subban, they might need to retain a bit of that salary.
Subban is one of the team’s top defensemen, and arguably number one. Nashville’s defence has an admirable amount of depth, with three players scoring over 40 points this season. Subban wasn’t one of these three, simply because injury held him out of 19 games this year. Still, parting ways with Subban might not strain the team too much, especially if it means bringing in talent like Duchene to bolster the offence.
The same goes for Turris who has five years left on a $6 million-a-year contract. Turris tallied 23 points in 55 games this year, a fairly disappointing stat line. Duchene would be a very notable upgrade. Yet, the Predators might need to move a bit more than just Turris around to assure bringing in Duchene.
A trade may help the Predators feel comfortable in signing Duchene for next season but after that may be a bit stressful. The team has multiple notable players hitting free agency in the next few summers, including team-captain Roman Josi who will deserve a very hefty raise. The aforementioned trades are pure speculation but could prove to help the team in the long run.
Rumour: With Cale Makar exploding onto the scene, Sportsnet’s 31 Thoughts also looks at one of the most reoccurring NHL rumours: a Tyson Barrie trade. Both Makar and Barrie are star-calibre right-handed defensemen which could clog up the Avalanche system quite a bit.
Analysis: Barrie, who will be a free agent for the 2020 summer, isn’t new to trade talks. For years he has been the topic of discussion in Colorado. He’s an all-star defenseman that doesn’t get talked about enough. There’s no doubt that there would be tons of interest if he is indeed available. Last year, he recorded 59 points in 78 games, his third NHL season of over 50 points.
Makar was absolutely dominant in the NHL playoffs for what it’s worth. The rookie hadn’t played in a single NHL regular season game before he joined the Avalanche for their exciting playoff push. Still, he managed six points in 10 games before the team was eliminated by the San Jose Sharks. This great play in the most stressful time of the year has set expectations very high for next year. Makar brought in numerous NCAA awards this past season before joining the Avalanche, including the Hobey Baker Award.
The Avalanche also have players like Conor Timmins and Nicolas Meloche, two other promising right-handed defensemen, to add to the backlog in Barrie’s position. Barrie could very easily become the odd-man-out, although no immediate decisions should be made. The Avalanche don’t seem to mind this either. While they aren’t strangers to overpricing players on their trade block, a good deal could help them bulk up an offence that needed a bit more depth. In their words, if Barrie is to leave Colorado, it will need to be through a “hockey trade”. This insinuates that they won’t take any shortcuts for the quarterback of their power-play. If you want him, you need to pay the hefty price.
The biggest issue here is Barrie’s contract status. He is set to be an unrestricted free agent on July 1st, 2020. If the Avalanche don’t think they can sign him, it might make sense to get ahead of that log-jam by moving him now and getting assets in return.
Rumour: The Score reported that newly hired Edmonton Oilers general manager, Ken Holland told TSN1260 that he is likely to find a backup goalie for next year in free agency. He said, “I’d like a goalie who could play 30-to-35 games and they challenge and push each other… I will talk to teams, but right now we likely will find one in free agency.”
Analysis: This would be great news for Oilers fans if the team wasn’t in such dire straights for money. They only have about $12 million in cap space for next year. They have eight free agents in their NHL system, including four restricted-free agents like Jujhar Khaira and Jesse Puljujarvi. This means they will be well out of the race for star free agents like Sergei Bobrovsky and Robin Lehner.
So what is left for the Oilers? Well, playoff performers like Petr Mrazek and Mike Smith are healthy candidates. While they haven’t provided anything near a spark for their teams during the last few regular seasons, they both had strong a post-season. Sergei Varlamov and Ryan Miller are also likely options, also fitting in the mould that Holland set in the aforementioned quote. All four options would be fairly inexpensive and could perform well alongside current Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen.