Welcome to Last Word on Hockey‘s daily dose of NHL rumours. We continue to dig up the best bits of potential news for you during the late summer portion of 2019 NHL Free Agency. There are talks swirling about contract extensions prior to training camp as well as thoughts on future CBA topics. Today’s NHL rumours feature rumblings surrounding the Pittsburgh Penguins, Winnipeg Jets, and Minnesota Wild.
Rumour: Jonathan Bombulie of Trib Live recently pondered over Justin Schultz‘s future with the Penguins. With the team currently even with the cap limit, the long-standing rumours of a trade involving Schultz may finally come true.
Analysis: The Penguins are, again, facing serious cap-related issues. They don’t have a dollar in cap space left to spend, yet still, need to re-sign promising defenceman Marcus Pettersson to a modestly priced extension. While he won’t demand much in the way of cap space, Pettersson did net a respectable 25 points in 84 games last year despite only playing roughly 16:41 a game. 19 of these points were netted in the 57 games Pettersson played in after being dealt to the Penguins.
Even with Pettersson inking a new deal, the Penguins won’t evade cap issues for long. Next summer they have a monstrous 18 players that are set to become free agents between their major and minor league systems. Among this list of 18 players are names like Alex Galchenyuk, Matt Murray, and Tristan Jarry. All three players will deserve a significant raise, with the former two eating up a healthy amount of cap space.
This, ultimately, means moves are needed. While the Penguins roster is clearly still able to compete for a playoff berth, it’s riddled with terrible contracts. Erik Gudbranson settles in as a $4 million cap hit for the next two seasons. Meanwhile, Jack Johnson makes $3.25 million and the newly-inked Brandon Tanev makes $3.5 million. For a team in such dire straits, these contracts will be disastrous.
One of many steps to fixing these issues seems to be dealing away Schultz. He is facing a contract-year on his $5 million deal next season. This means dealing him away would give Pittsburgh ample cap space to finish this summer with. Bombulie also notes that it is simply Jim Rutherford‘s habit to trade away players facing contract-years.
This was made evident by the trading of both Carl Hagelin and Derick Brassard last year. Bombulin speculates that Schultz could be the next addition to this list. This is despite Schultz spending four years with Pittsburgh, recording 101 points in 188 games with the team.
NHL Rumours: Winnipeg Jets
Rumour: TSN looks at the current situation with Kyle Connor‘s contract talks before training camp.
— TSN Hockey (@TSNHockey) August 14, 2019
Analysis: Winnipeg has just over $17 million free in cap space for a couple of remaining restricted free agents including their young winger. Connor had an excellent 2018-19 with 32 goals and 66 points in 82 games. He then had five points in six post-season games.
There is a chance the deal for Connor takes longer than necessary as we approach training camp and the team decides how much of their cap space to divide between Connor and another young star in Patrik Laine. Both stars demand significant pay-days but dividing between them has clearly posed a challenge, as contract talks extend into late August.
Connor is, however, much more likely to receive the contract he wants. While both players are crucial for Winnipeg’s success, Connor is the only one in active talks with the Jets front office. We covered yesterday that Laine has remained stubborn with contract talks. This could mean that Connor receives a more ideal contract, a reward for his patience and dedication to the team with the continued contract talks.
Rumour: The Athletic’s Michael Russo has a report that Penguins assistant GM Bill Guerin is beginning to distinguish himself as a front runner for the Wild’s open general manager position.
ICYMI, details on his latest interview and the status of other candidates:https://t.co/7UsPBcKz80
— The Athletic (@TheAthleticMIN) August 17, 2019
The Minnesota Wild are hastily looking to hire a new general manager, after booting Paul Fenton out of the role earlier this summer. Among their first few candidates for the role was Bill Guerin. Guerin would be a fine hire, as he has spent much of the last decade helping keep Pittsburgh among the league’s best.
Of course, Guerin has some competition for the job. This includes former Philadelphia Flyers GM Ron Hextall. Guerin does, however, have an existing relationship with current Wild advisor Mike Modano which could surely help his cause. Minnesota’s front office situation is definitely one to watch as we approach training camp.
The two rumoured front-runners for the new position, Guerin and Hextall, have very different styles of running a team. Hextall managed to build up one of the best prospect pools in the league during his time in Philadelphia. While the team did fire him, his impact will be felt for quite a while through players like Morgan Frost, Isaac Ratcliffe, Matthew Strome, and many, many more future stars.
Meanwhile, Guerin has been apart of a recent Penguins dynasty. He was promoted from a development coach to assistant general manager in 2014. Since then, the Penguins have won the Stanley Cup twice. They’ve also made the playoffs every year.
This means that the Wild have a hefty decision to make. Hextall would bring in a terrific ability to field new, young talent. Meanwhile, Guerin has shown the ability to simply keep a team red-hot. Clearly, the Wild are leaning towards one direction, as they granted Guerin a second interview.