NHL Rumours: Washington Capitals, Edmonton Oilers, Minnesota Wild

NHL Rumours
DALLAS, TEXAS - OCTOBER 29: (L-R) Ryan Suter #20 of the Minnesota Wild celebrates his goal with Jason Zucker #16, Jared Spurgeon #46, Mikko Koivu #9, and Zach Parise #11 of the Minnesota Wild against the Dallas Stars in the second period at American Airlines Center on October 29, 2019 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Hello and welcome back to NHL Rumours. The weekend always produces news and this past one was no exception. Continue to check in with Last Word on Hockey as we break down all the news and talk swirling around the league. Today features rumours from the Washington Capitals, Edmonton Oilers, and Minnesota Wild.

NHL Rumours

Washington Capitals

Rumour: Sportsnet’s Saturday Headlines has revealed that the Capitals and star Nicklas Backstrom have begun talks for a new deal.

Analysis: The Washington Capitals would love to keep Backstrom as a career Capital. Backstrom is off to a slightly slower start but is still having a great season. He has four goals and 18 points in 23 games. Backstrom’s slower pace is due to his lower shooting percentage; he is at 7.4 percent in 2019-20 compared to a career average of 12.0%. That should normalize at some point.

The one thing that Washington will need to consider is just how much of a raise Backstrom should receive this summer. His current cap hit is $6.7 million. That figure is sure to increase but Backstrom is starting to enter the territory where age catches up to skaters. Washington has to consider deals for Braden Holtby and Radko Gudas this summer as well. None of that even considers what could be another big payday for superstar Alex Ovechkin after the 2020-21 season. It is a good sign talks are moving now but watch this closely as Washington has a lot of big deals on its books already.

Edmonton Oilers

Rumour: Jonathan Willis of The Athletic Edmonton breaks down more possibilities for estranged Oilers forward Jesse Puljujarvi

Analysis: The Puljujarvi saga shows no sign of ending soon. The unhappy Finn continues to ignore Edmonton’s strong season while dominating with Karpat. There is no reason to believe Puljujarvi will return to North America despite having a chance to contribute to a very good year. The team remains optimistic that a good season will convince Puljujarvi to return for 2020-21 but it’s just as likely he is traded for pieces that will help beyond this year.

Interested teams will no doubt argue his overseas production is due to competition and not the player’s improvement. Edmonton would argue the opposite. There is little to suggest that Puljujarvi will be a big success given a list of comparable players listed in Willis’ piece. That said, there are certainly teams that could benefit from a 6’4″ forward with his overall skillset. The Colorado Avalanche are still missing several wings and multiple teams have the space to sign Puljujarvi to a new deal.

Edmonton needs help in several areas but is unlikely to get exactly what they want with no leverage on Puljujarvi or other teams. Their wing depth is concerning and will only get more so as eight forwards reach free agency after this season. They are also relying heavily on a patchwork defence that has only two consistent options over the age of 24. Any return including a wing and/or a defender of reasonable skill is what Edmonton should seek for someone of Puljujarvi’s potential.

Minnesota Wild

Rumour: The last of today’s NHL rumours indicates the Wild are looking to make moves at some point.

Analysis: Things are still not great in the land of 10,000 lakes. Minnesota remains last in the Central Division. They would have the fourth-best odds for the first overall pick in the 2020 Draft as of Sunday evening. Their poor play coupled with an unappealing set of contracts means there is very little reason to play for this year. Selling seems far more likely as the trade deadline approaches.

The question then becomes who to sell. Jason Zucker would easily be one of the most attractive trade chips. He is in the middle of his prime at 27-years-old with eight goals and 16 points in 2019-20. Zucker also has a very reasonable cap hit of $5.5 million for three more years after the current season. Jonas Brodin is another strong option given his solid career on Minnesota’s blue line. Otherwise, Minnesota has very few players hitting free agency after this year. Only four skaters will need new contracts after 2019-20. That helps Minnesota as they can pitch teams on players being able to contribute longer as opposed to being rentals.

The Wild sadly do not have many assets beyond Zucker and Brodin. Most of their biggest contracts are for players age 32 years or older. Teams are more and more unwilling to part with either prospects or picks for such players. Beyond the veterans and Minnesota’s few prime assets, there is very little left to sell as part of a rebuild. It is difficult to envision what GM Bill Guerin will do but watch Minnesota closely for the next few months for signs of activity.

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