Welcome back to another edition of NHL Rumours from the crew at Last Word on Hockey. We’re at the quarter season mark and teams are starting to decide whether changes need to be made in order to improve their playoff chances or to better themselves for future seasons. Today we have NHL rumours from the Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames.
All NHL rumours are taken from their original sources and are subject to change.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Rumour: On TSN’s Insider Trading, Bob McKenzie spoke about the Leafs struggles and Mike Babcock’s future. McKenzie states that while he does not believe it is the plan for the Leafs to make a coaching change in season, he also believes that the Leafs can’t go through many more games like the 6-1 thumping at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday. McKenzie believes this western road trip is crucial for the Leafs to show that the players are not going to roll over and die.
Analysis: Since their first-round exit in last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, there has been speculation about Mike Babcock’s future. Since taking over as the Leafs bench boss, the Leafs have failed to win a playoff series, despite the elite talent on the roster. Babcock has been criticized for having an old school mentality and failing to play his best players in key situations. Most notably for playing Zach Hyman, who was playing with a torn ACL, just 30 seconds less than Auston Matthews in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
Fast forward to the present and the Leafs are dealing with a lot of the same struggles they dealt with to end the 2018-19 season. With a record of 9-10-4, the Leafs are just not living up to the hype. After what was considered an excellent off-season by Kyle Dubas bringing in Tyson Barrie and Alexander Kerfoot, the team just cannot find chemistry. Whether that has to do with poor coaching or the group just not meshing, something has to give.
Many wonder if Babcock has lost the room, which would be disastrous for his future with the club. After holding a players-only meeting prior to their contest against the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday night, they responded flat. Coming to life late in the game but it just wasn’t enough. If the Leafs do not turn things around fast, we could be seeing some drastic changes moving forward, starting with Mike Babcock.
Rumour: Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal states that the Oilers search for an offensive third-line centre is on-going. He states that the Oilers are looking at Jean-Gabriel Pageau from the Ottawa Senators and wondering what it would cost. He also mentions that there have been conversations with the New York Rangers regarding a Lias Andersson/Jesse Puljujarvi swap.
For now, the search for No. 3 offensive C is still ongoing for Ken Holland too. And yes, like everybody else in the league, they’re wondering about Ottawa’s speedy UFA J.G. Pageau and what it would take to get him.
— Jim Matheson (@NHLbyMatty) November 17, 2019
Pageau has been lights out for the Senators this season. The speedy centre has scored 12 goals and added four assists for 16 points in 21 games. The issues the Oilers are having is that after their top five forwards playing in the top six, there is a massive drop off in terms of production. The sixth leading scoring in terms of forwards in Alex Chiasson with a measly five points in 18 games. The Oilers are going to need better production than that from their bottom six if they want to keep pace in the Western Conference.
The question is, what would it cost to acquire Pageau? Well, if history tells us anything, the conversation starts with a first-round pick and a prospect. The Senators are in the middle of a massive rebuild and will certainly be trying to acquire as many assets as possible for their expiring players. However, the Oilers will have a ton of competition for Pageau’s services. This could drive the price tag up even more as there will be a bidding war for the Senators centre. With Pageau set to become a free agent at season’s end and a nice raise coming his way, we will most likely be seeing Pageau changes addresses in the near future.
While there’s been talk of a Jesse Puljujarvi–Lias Andersson possible Edm/NYR trade scenario, the scouting book on the Swedish first-rounder Andersson is he’s a bottom six NHLer who doesn’t have a lot of pace to his game
— Jim Matheson (@NHLbyMatty) November 17, 2019
Puljujarvi has been the subject of trade rumours since the off-season. However, he has recently stated he is planning to finish this season in Finland. This makes it tough for teams to want to pursue the Finnish forward who has an NHL-opt out clause in his contract up until December 1st.
Puljujarvi has stated his desire for a fresh start with a new team. The same could be coming for Rangers forward Lias Andersson. Andersson has fallen out of favour of head coach David Quinn after recording just one assist in 17 games while playing on the club’s fourth line. Andersson was recently sent down to the AHL in hopes that he can turn his game around much like forward Filip Chytil has done.
So could an Andersson for Puljujarvi trade work? It would make sense for both parties. The Oilers are currently in the market for a third-line centre. The Rangers could certainly use a player like Puljujarvi in their lineup. The Rangers are in the bottom half of the league in scoring so picking up a player of Puljujarvi’s stature would certainly help moving forward. Would Puljujarvi change his mind about staying in Finland if he was, in fact, traded to New York?
Rumour: The last of our NHL rumours comes from Darren Dreger on Insider Trading. He spoke about the possibility of the club moving Travis Hamonic. This, of course, would depend on where the club sits in the standings in the new year.
Analysis: Travis Hamonic is set to become an unrestricted free agent at seasons end. This is why the Flames have such a tough decision on their hands. Hamonic is an important piece of the team’s defence core. It would be a massive loss if they were to move on from him. If the Flames don’t turn it around, well, of course, it would make sense for the team to move him to gain some assets instead of risking losing him for nothing in the off-season. However, if they can manage to turn things around, the Flames would most likely elect to use them as their own rental as such to try to go on a deep playoff run.
Hamonic originally made it clear he wanted to play in Western Canada when he was looking to get traded from the Islanders. So there is a chance Hamonic would re-sign with the Flames anyway. However, cap struggles could potentially nix any deal between the two parties. This will be an interesting situation to follow as the season continues.
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