NHL Rumours: Pittsburgh Penguins, Colorado Avalanche, Winnipeg Jets

NHL Rumours
DETROIT, MICHIGAN - APRIL 02: Bryan Rust #17 of the Pittsburgh Penguins battles for the puck with Filip Hronek #17 of the Detroit Red Wings during the third period at Little Caesars Arena on April 02, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. Detroit won the game 4-1. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Welcome to another Thursday’s worth of NHL Rumours here at Last Word on Hockey. Preseason is underway and teams are beginning to shave down their training camp rosters to finalize their rosters. However, a few large names are still absent from camp, whether it be due to contract disputes or other reasons. Today, we look at rumblings surrounding the Pittsburgh Penguins, Colorado Avalanche, and Winnipeg Jets.

All NHL Rumours are taken from their source and are subject to change.

NHL Rumours

Pittsburgh Penguins

Rumour: Penguins forward Bryan Rust is struggling to find a solid spot in the lineup at camp and could be a trade chip, according to The Athletic’s Josh Yohe

Analysis: For as many people that say the Penguins are not the contender they once used to be, having a player like Rust forced out of the top-nine is a sign of luxury. With players like Dominik KahunAlex Galchenyuk, and Patric Hornqvist filling up the depth chart on the wings, Rust finds himself in an interesting position. Rust put up 35 points in 72 games last season, certainly production worth more than a fourth-line role. However, it seems that coach Mike Sullivan is intent on trying other options on the wings in the top-nine.

Pittsburgh certainly has the offensive depth to cover the potential loss of Rust, and the salary cap flexibility would be nice to have as well. While Rust’s cap hit of $3.5 million is appropriate for his production, it’s a lot to pay for a player in a fourth-line role. Rust could very easily hit 35-40 points again this year, and another team could certainly benefit from his services. Pittsburgh would be provided with cap relief and a spot for a young player, and another team would be provided with a serviceable middle-six forward. While Rust has done great things in Pittsburgh, his phasing out seems quite natural.

Colorado Avalanche

Rumour: Via a radio clip from Sportsnet 650, agent Mike Liut says that restricted free agent forward Mikko Rantanen is not close to a contract with the Avalanche.

Analysis: Colorado general manager Joe Sakic should be happy his team has upwards of $15.5 million in cap space right now.

Even as most RFAs are beginning to come off the board and join their teams in training camp, Rantanen is still across the pond training with SC Bern. Liut has stated that he sees Mitch Marner‘s new deal as the closest comparable for Rantanen, which would make Rantanen the only player on the team making over $6.5 million a season. Marner’s cap hit is $10.893 million.

Paying your best player in Nathan MacKinnon more than $4 million less than the highest-paid player on your team isn’t ideal, and Sakic is well aware of that. Colorado certainly has the cap room to sign Rantanen, but it’s becoming more a matter of principle at this point. It will be interesting to see who can force the other’s hand.

Additionally, given Colorado’s cap room, they would be able to handle a pro-rated cap hit this year if the negotiations were to drag out into the season.

Winnipeg Jets

Rumour One

Rumour 1: Per Bob McKenzie, the Jets’ Dustin Byfuglien is considering retirement. Byfuglien has been on personal leave since the start of training camp and no reason has been given.

Analysis: While nothing is set in stone, it’s not exactly a surprise that Byfuglien is considering retirement. While still productive, he’s only played 42 games last year and 69 the year before due to injury. After 14 strong years in the NHL, Byfuglien has won a Stanley Cup and achieved much success. However, he is still the Jets undisputed number one defenceman. His departure would leave an even bigger hole due to the off-season departures of Tyler MyersJacob Trouba, and Ben Chiarot.

There is no timetable for his decision or return, putting the Jets in an awfully tough place to start the season. Without Byfuglien, there’s a reason to believe that Winnipeg will struggle to even make the playoffs after being in the Western Conference Final just two seasons ago. Byfuglien’s decision will, either way, have an enormous impact on this team.

Rumour Two

Rumour 2: Pending Byfuglien’s decision, according to Pierre LeBrun, the Jets may look at acquiring either Justin Faulk or Rasmus Ristolainen.

Analysis: The Jets still see themselves as a playoff team with Cup aspirations, so news like this in response to Byfuglien’s possible absence is no surprise. Faulk and Ristolainen are two high-end names that have been in NHL rumours for years now, and Winnipeg could certainly make a move to acquire them out of a position of necessity.

Faulk and Ristolainen are both right-side defencemen who could step directly into Byfuglien’s role and provide instant offence from the blue-line. Both play a similar style to ‘Big Buff,’ but lack his signature physicality. However, in a league that’s moving towards goal-scoring and skill, that may not be an issue for Winnipeg. Faulk or Ristolainen are solid bets for 40 points in a top-four role, as both Carolina and Buffalo look to deal from points of strength. The fit is there, and if Winnipeg can make a deal work, they certainly will.

 

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