The NHL season is underway and there have been plenty of surprises thus far. This has sparked plenty of NHL rumours, adding to the excitement of the early-season. As long as NHL rumours remain around, Last Word on Hockey will look to keep fans up to date. Today, we’ll cover rumours surrounding the Pittsburgh Penguins, Edmonton Oilers, and Vegas Golden Knights.
Analysis: Crosby underwent surgery for a sports hernia that had reportedly plagued the him since the start of the season. He is now expected to miss at least six weeks. This is a huge blow to the Penguins. Crosby is a generational talent and hasn’t slowed down at all this year. He has netted 17 points in 17 games. The team has used him as their crutch. Crosby’s returned the favor by propelling Pittsburgh to second in the Atlantic Division.
Without Crosby in the lineup, there are tremendous holes to fill. Evgeni Malkin will primarily be relied on to fill these shoes. This year, Malkin has netted seven points in seven games, missing plenty of time with an injury of his own. He will be fully expected to continue his point-per-game pace now that he is back.
After averaging 16:32 in ice time through the start of the year, Malkin played in 21 minutes in Friday night’s loss to the New Jersey Devils. Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust, Malkin’s linemates, were the only other forwards to appear in over 18 minutes. Jared McCann appeared in 17, the only other forward to play more than 15 minutes.
While this may be a strange, very top-heavy way to go about things, it’s the fix that the Penguins are going with. Their offence failed to dig themselves out of the two-goal deficit that New Jersey put them in on Friday, a seemingly clear warning sign that the offence will miss Crosby more than some think. Nonetheless, they will remain separated from a trade market that features tremendous talents like Taylor Hall and Tyler Toffoli.
Rumour: The Oilers are, yet again, appearing in recent NHL rumours. Jonathan Willis of The Athletic notes in his latest piece that the Oilers are in desperate need of a forward or at least strong forward prospects. If they want to fix this issue, they’ll need to trade one of their left-handed defencemen. The two options Willis highlights were Darnell Nurse and Caleb Jones.
Analysis: As Willis mentions, Peter Chiarelli left a true mess behind him after his dishonourable discharge last season. The Oilers are a barren bunch. They’ve been held up by the already-historical duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. While the acquiring of James Neal added another weapon to this duo’s arsenal, they still have to do seemingly all of the work for the team. Despite playing in 21 games so far, only six Oilers have scored over 10 points. This includes the three aforementioned players.
The depth in Edmonton is truly bleak. Players like Kailer Yamamoto may provide relief in years to come but there’s no quick fix for the immediate future. McDavid and Draisaitl simply can’t continue carrying the workload they have.
Many fans will object to dealing away Nurse or Jones but there is simply no other way to reel in reliable, sustainable forward depth. With players like Evan Bouchard and Philip Kemp knocking on the NHL door, a defensive-trade seems to be much more palatable for Edmonton.
When taking youth and potential into account, it seems like Jones could be the lucky one to stay. He has 10 points in 13 AHL games so far this year. Nurse, on the other hand, has struggled in Edmonton. He could reel in an admirable return if dealt to the right team. The Winnipeg Jets, for example, are in desperate need of help on defence and could benefit greatly from a defensively-sound player like Nurse.
Vegas Golden Knights
Rumour: Jesse Granger argues that Vegas has a severe lack of scoring coming from their defence. He offers two options for addressing this issue: call-up Dylan Coghlan or make a trade.
Analysis: Granger makes his entire point apparent when he lists the career-highs of each Vegas defenceman, excluding the rookies. Not a single player had ever scored 40 points. The highest-scoring defenceman was Shea Theodore, who netted 37 points last season. The lowest-scorer was Jonathon Merrill, who has never scored more than 15 points but is still averaging over 20 minutes of ice time a game.
For a team with Stanley Cup aspirations, this unproductive of a defence simply won’t cut it. The reigning-champion St. Louis Blues made this readily apparent last year. Even their third-pairing left-defenceman, Vince Dunn, netted a beyond admirable 35 points over the course of the year. The Blues defence was a crucial part of their Stanley Cup run. Vegas’ defence needs to similarly find their groove if they want to live up to their expectations.
Luckily, Coghlan could surprisingly be the answer. He’s done a great job of improving his game since he first jumped onto the scene in the 2016-17 season. This year, Coghlan has already netted seven points through 15 games. This includes four goals, the second-most of any AHL defenceman. If Vegas is looking for an offensive prowess on the blue-line, Coghlan seems like the perfect fit. If they wish to look elsewhere, their strong prospect-pool would be plenty to acquire any potential high-scoring defenceman.