Training camps are coming to an end and teams are finalizing their rosters for the start of the NHL season. Though for many teams, plenty of questions still remain. These questions have sparked a swarm of NHL rumours, as front offices around the league rush to perfect their lineups before the start of the year. Today, the Last Word on Hockey team will look at NHL rumours surrounding the Buffalo Sabres, Colorado Avalanche, and Carolina Hurricanes.
Rumour: He declined to comment but many believe that Rasmus Ristolainen has requested a trade out of Buffalo. Elliotte Friedman and the team at Sportsnet mentioned in their 31 Thoughts article that teams around the league are treating the situation as such.
Analysis: Many Buffalo fans will find it very difficult to believe that Ristolainen wants out of the city. For good reason, too. Since joining the league during the 2013-14 season, Ristolainen has been the cover-boy in Buffalo. Ristolainen boasts a very one-sided style of play, with tremendous offencive ability backed by terrible defencive ability. But he has still lead the Sabres in ice time in each of the last four seasons. In return, he’s provided the Sabres with 170 points in that four-year span, a course of 312 games. This is admirable production from a defenceman.
With recent NHL rumours surrounding Ristolainen, many thought the team was simply trying to sell-high on this strong production. Teams around the league are surely aware of Ristolainen’s discrepancies in his own end but it’s hard to decline a defenceman capable of netting at least 40 points every year. Now, it seems that the Sabres weren’t the ones manning these trade talks. Instead, for some reason, Ristolainen is looking for a way out.
The 2019-20 Sabres are looking much stronger than in previous years, and many defencemen, like Brandon Montour, are going down with an injury. It feels as though Ristolainen could see an even bigger boost in ice time, and production, in the coming season. Clearly, he must feel different. As the season nears, and the Sabres continue their hunt for a capable second-line centre, fans can expect the NHL rumours around Ristolainen to continue heating up.
Rumour: The Athletic’s Ryan Clark mentioned in a recent article that the Avalanche hope to re-sign star winger Mikko Rantanen to an eight-year contract, with a cap hit of, at most,(get ready for this) $8.75 million.
— Ryan S. Clark (@ryan_s_clark) September 20, 2019
Analysis: With this offer on the table, there’s no guessing why contract talks between Colorado and Rantanen remain far-off. For many unsigned free-agents, the term has been a considerable issue. That is, clearly, the glaring issue with this deal. Rantanen is one of the most successful in this year’s group of stubborn restricted free agents. He scored 87 points in 74 games last season. This ranks Rantanen as the second-highest scoring free agent, only five points behind Brayden Point who played five more games.
Rantanen formed an astonishing duo with Colorado assistant-captain, Nathan MacKinnon. The two combined for 186 points and drove the Avalanche to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second time in the last five years. This summer, the Avalanche made a host of moves, clearly looking to take advantage of the dynamic duo leading their pack. Yet, with such a lackluster offer and contract talks distant, the likelihood of them starting the year with said duo seems to be dwindling.
It seems strange that the Avalanche have such a modest offer on the table. They appear to be very inflexible, looking to satisfy all of their wishes instead of meeting Rantanen in the middle. With $15 million in cap space, the reasoning behind this is anyone’s guess. Mike Liut, Rantanen’s agent, chimed in on the contract talks. He mentioned that Mitch Marner‘s recent signing is a clear comparable for Rantanen. Marner signed a six-year deal, with a cap hit just under $10.9 million.
Last year, Marner recorded seven points more than Rantanen, although Rantanen’s point-per-game total was higher, as Marner played in eight more games. If the Avalanche star-winger is going to agree to a long-term deal, it will have to come close to the massive paycheck that Marner just received.
Rumour: Again in their 31 Thoughts article, the Sportsnet crew mentions that Justin Faulk‘s agent, Brian Bartlett, reported that trade talks between Carolina and the Anaheim Ducks aren’t yet dead. A deal to swap Faulk with Ondrej Kase was rumoured recently.
Analysis: Justin Faulk is one of many very talented defencemen on the Hurricanes roster. The team currently boasts nine NHL-capable defencemen, with many prospects close behind. This has created a tremendous backlog in the team’s system. To solve this, the Hurricanes have been reportedly shopping around their assistant-captain Faulk.
Faulk would undeniably garner plenty of value. Despite playing modest ice time last year, he tallied 35 points in 82 games. This is a strong total but a far cry from the 49 points he scored in 2014-15. Combined with a great defencive ability, Faulk’s value is undeniable. With the blue-line being very cluttered in Carolina, it seems that they’re also looking to sell-high on a promising defenceman.
Trade talks between Anaheim and Carolina were fast-and-furious last week but died down quickly. It seemed like the Hurricanes were going to simply digress to keeping Faulk. Faulk’s agent seems to disagree with that sentiment. He said that talks of a contract extension continue with both the Hurricanes and Ducks, as the said extension was the clear restraint in the trade proposal. While Bartlett continued the idea of a potential trade happening, he also noted that Faulk does not want a trade. “[Faulk] does not want to be traded. He’s like any other player in the league right now, focusing on his team.”