The July 1 opening to free agency has passed. With it came a handful of jaw-dropping deals that should provide a major shake-up. While stars like Artemi Panarin and Matt Duchene may be off the market, there are still plenty of headlines-to-be. While the league waits for these headlines to surface, there are still plenty of NHL rumours. Today we’ll cover NHL rumours relating to the Montreal Canadiens, Carolina Hurricanes, and Colorado Avalanche.
Rumour: Joe Smith of the Athletic says he doesn’t expect the Montreal Canadiens to extend an offer sheet to the Tampa Bay Lightning‘s Brayden Point. He cites multiple unnamed NHL executives who agree with him.
Analysis: This is a surprise to some but Smith’s article poses a good argument. He says that offer sheets are only extended in one of two cases. Either the team extending the offer knows the other can’t match it or the player adamantly wants a change of scenery. It seems the former was true in the Canadiens offer-sheeting of Sebastian Aho. Montreal front-loaded the offer with hefty signing bonuses. This was likely in an attempt to overwhelm the Carolina Hurricanes.
Now that Aho is staying in Carolina, many Montreal fans look to other RFAs for the team to offer sheet. Smith says that extending an offer sheet to Point would be seemingly pointless. Point and his agent have both repeated multiple times that Point has every intention of re-signing. The Lightning also, obviously, want him back. With J.T. Miller‘s hefty contract being dumped on the Vancouver Canucks and Ryan McDonagh headed to long-term injury reserve, Tampa shouldn’t have any issues in signing Point. This makes any offer-sheeting ideas naive.
Rumour: While they aren’t likely to extend any offer sheets, Montreal still has holes to fill. Eric Engels of Sportsnet recently appeared on Sportsnet Central where he speculated that the team could pursue a signing of UFA Jake Gardiner or potentially trading for Kyle Turris of the Nashville Predators.
Analysis: In their pursuit of players like Aho and Point, Montreal has made it clear that they are in hot pursuit of a centre. This isn’t much of a surprise. The centre core has been improved greatly in the last 12 months, with Max Domi putting up over 70 points, Philip Danault anchoring a line, and Jesperi Kotkaniemi having a fine rookie season. Nick Suzuki and Ryan Poehling are also knocking on the NHL door. That said, one can not have too much depth down the middle and acquiring another top-six centreman would considerably help any roster, including the Canadiens.
Turris is a great target for this role. Despite an injury-riddled year, he scored 23 points in 55 games. This was a decrease in production for Turris, who scored at least 50 points in all but one season between 2013 and 2018. It’s clear that, if given the right role, Turris can undoubtedly bolster a lineup. He recently became very expendable in Nashville, though. The team’s signing of Matt Duchene bumps Turris out of the lineup as Duchene will likely become the team’s new second-line centre. This, combined with the cap-dump that a Turris trade would bring, could make Nashville very content with a deal.
There’s a very similar situation going on with Montreal’s defence. While their right-side is host to stars like Shea Weber and Jeff Petry, the left-handed defensemen are a muddled group. Last season, the four defensemen listed as left-defence combined for a bleak 44 points. Adding a strong ‘lefty’ could be crucial to a playoff push in Montreal. Luckily, Gardiner is still available on the open market. The former Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman is a strong puck mover. He has scored 43, 52, and 30 points in the last three seasons respectfully. His 30 points last season came in only 62 games, a 40-point pace. Gardiner would be an amazing addition to a Canadiens defence that desperately needs a left-handed shot.
Rumour: Moving away from Montreal, the Hurricanes are optimistic that Justin Williams will return for next season, per Tom Gulitti of NHL.com. Gulitti reports that the decision is between returning to Carolina or retiring.
Analysis: Carolina signed Williams on July 1, 2017. After only one season with the team, rookie head coach Rod Brind’Amour announced that Williams would become the 16th captain in the team’s history.
With the newfound captaincy, Williams was the clear leader in Carolina. The grizzled veteran manned a very young Hurricanes team. Despite an admittedly bleak roster, Williams managed to lead the team to the third round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. While they were swept by the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Final, there was still something special about the Hurricanes run. The “Bunch of Jerks”, as dubbed by Don Cherry, banded together to create a season that won’t be forgotten anytime soon. At the front of it all was Williams, who scored 23 goals and 53 points in 82 regular-season games. He also tacked on seven points in 15 post-season games.
Rumour: Continuing the NHL rumours, Ryan Clark of The Athletic noted that the Avalanche and UFA Micheal Ferland may be close to a deal. Clark claims that the two parties are experiencing some “hurdles”, like the longevity of the deal.
Keep an eye on Micheal Ferland as it relates to the #Avs.
There are "hurdles" as it stands with the most notable aspect being term, a source has told The Athletic.
— Ryan S. Clark (@ryan_s_clark) July 1, 2019
Analysis: Colorado continues its very active summer. With this deal, they’ll continue the process of completely rebuilding their offence. Outside of the team’s top-line of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, and Mikko Rantanen, there was a lot to be desired from the offence. This is especially true now that 49-point-scorer Carl Soderberg and 42-point-scorer Alexander Kerfoot have been traded.
The Avalanche are now seeking players like Joonas Donskoi and Andre Burakovsky to make a difference among their middle-six. Ferland fits perfectly in this mix of players. He had another breakout season with Carolina last year. In 71 games, the 27-year-old winger scored even 40 points. This was his second-straight season of scoring 40 points. While this makes him worthy of a pretty pay-check this summer, it also makes him a very attractive option for teams seeking second-line wingers. Ferland does, however, bring a bit of baggage with him. He struggled considerably with concussion-related issues last season, something that could manifest as his career continues. Colorado doesn’t seem to mind this, though. They are apparently very close to adding Ferland to an already strong lineup.