NHL Rumours: Toronto Maple Leafs, Philadelphia Flyers and More

Mike Babcock, the headliner of today's NHL rumours, walks towards the exit after the Toronto Maple Leafs lost in Game Seven.
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 23: Head Coach Mike Babcock of the Toronto Maple Leafs exits the ice after the Maple Leafs lost 5-1 to the Boston Bruins in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden on April 23, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Thursday’s round of NHL Rumours takes a predominantly Canadian twist, as teams north of the border try to wrap up situations with disgruntled young players and fragile front offices. Last Word on Hockey is here to bring the latest on these rumblings, as we delve into what the Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers, and Philadelphia Flyers and the 2019 RFA class are working on as the offseason nears its close.NHL Rumours

Toronto Maple Leafs

Rumour: Writing for NBC Sports’ Pro Hockey Talk, Scott Billeck muses on how much longer Leafs coach Mike Babcock‘s job might last.

Analysis: Mike Babcock has seen the team make bounds of progress in his tenure. How much of that is due to his coaching? With a young core of Auston MatthewsMitch MarnerWilliam Nylander, and Morgan Rielly (among many others), many expected Toronto to turn into the borderline powerhouse team they are now.

Not only does good coaching rely on improvement, but it also relies on being able to adapt and learn from your mistakes. Babcock has proven he can coach this team to successful regular seasons. He hasn’t proven that he is flexible enough to work around repeating obstacles that may come up — the most obvious obstacle being the Boston Bruins and the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Babcock has a stellar track record. However, it was obvious during last year’s playoffs that his coaching style is becoming antiquated. The amount of minutes he dispatched to Ron Hainsey is a prime example of that. The breaking point is here for Babcock. Toronto’s brass has to have proof, preferably with a playoff series win, that the right fit is Babcock. Otherwise, the Leafs will be forced to look elsewhere, and rightfully so.

Edmonton Oilers

Rumour: Ryan Rishaug of TSN tweets that the Oilers‘ asking price for maligned forward Jesse Puljujarvi is either a top-nine forward with term left on his deal or a prospect with top-nine potential and a draft pick in the first two rounds.

Analysis: After watching Puljujarvi sign a deal with Karpat of Finland, it appears as though the horrors of Edmonton’s poor asset management have struck again. With notable picks no longer with the team, like Nail YakupovErik GustafssonTyler Pitlick, and Taylor HallOilers fans are groaning at the thought of the same situation manifesting itself over again.

While arguably a fair return for what Puljujarvi has been able to show so far at the highest level, it’s a loss for the Oilers considering their original investment. Picking him at fourth overall in 2016 ahead of stars like Matthew TkachukClayton KellerMikhail Sergachev and even Charlie McAvoy, Edmonton has turned a potential top-line forward into a, quite frankly, forgettable depth piece as of now. Puljujarvi still has the potential to turn into a top-six forward in this league but not under Edmonton’s current system. In order for Puljujarvi to continue his NHL career, the Oilers will have to swallow the best return they’ll get for him. If Edmonton elects not to trade him, Puljujarvi must either return to the Oilers or wait out multiple seasons playing in Europe until he hits unrestricted free agent status, neither of which he’d be happy about.

Philadelphia Flyers

Rumour: According to beat writer Sam Carchidi, the Flyers have moved on from their pursuit of Russian grinder Anton Burdasov after previously being the favorite to land him.

Analysis: The impressive KHL forward Burdasov is back in NHL rumours. While many hockey fans, even the more passionate ones, have never heard Burdasov’s name, the player is not the most unsettling part of this news.

The departure from a player like Burdasov shows that the Flyers are beginning to move on from their past. The identity has been with the team since its inception: the Broad Street Bullies. Burdasov had 114 penalty minutes last year in only 50 KHL games, and he brought a strong, physical presence. While the Flyers would normally salivate over this type of player, they’ve opted for a more youthful, speed-based core. Philly is making the decision to keep up with the rest of the league as it travels towards a faster, more skill-based game. They’re making a tough choice to leave behind some of their signature grit and snarl. However, they’re giving themselves a better chance to win by allowing the right type of players to have room in their lineup.

The 2019 RFA Class

Rumour: In an article published by TSN.ca staff, Winnipeg Jets coach Paul Maurice says that once the first couple RFAs are signed, the rest should follow ‘en masse.’

Analysis: While it is unsettling for both teams and players to have such large names like Brayden PointMikko Rantanen, and Marner unsigned as we approach September, and despite a lack of NHL rumours about their deals, the situation is not as dire as it seems.

It seems like the first player to settle on a pact will set the precedent and value for everybody else. Since the league is approaching some unseen territory in terms of contract value and the pure skill of young players, there are very few solid comparables for these RFAs. They will either look to cash in big now over a long-term deal or take less money on a shorter deal in order to maximize their profits in their prime. When the first player decides on one of those courses, the rest may veer towards the same path.

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