It is Monday yet again and that means more NHL Rumours. December is underway which puts us that much closer to winter and the trade deadline. Keep checking in with Last Word on Hockey for the newest news and analysis regarding the NHL. Today’s NHL rumours feature the Edmonton Oilers, New Jersey Devils, and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Analysis: A deal with the Devils would be an ideal way to ship the unhappy Jesse Puljujarvi out of Edmonton. That would turn an asset that refuses to play as an Oiler into one of the NHL’s best wings. There is still plenty of upside in Puljujarvi’s game when you consider his pedigree and current domination in Finland’s Liiga. This would also reunite Hall with the team that originally drafted him.
A draft pick or two would certainly be part of New Jersey’s asking price but Edmonton could also send back one or two more players to make things work. The Oilers could dangle wing Kailer Yamamoto as another forward inclusion or one of several defensive players. The defence is something New Jersey could desperately stand to improve. Edmonton is having a strong year from much of its defence and could attempt to move one or two blueliners. William Lagesson makes sense in that context as he is getting buried under some of the team’s other young defenders but Kris Russell or Brandon Manning are two others Edmonton could attempt to ship out.
The reason the Oilers could try to move a veteran in addition to youngster’s is money. Edmonton would have a difficult cap situation to re-sign Hall if they did absolutely nothing else. Moving the remainder of Russell’s $4 million salary-cap hit would be an excellent way to make room for Hall. Edmonton would still need to include a pick but there are several ways they could try to reacquire their former top pick.
New Jersey Devils
Rumour: Sportsnet’s Nick Alberga briefly touches on the fallout from a potential Hall trade and what it would signal for some of New Jersey’s other upcoming free agents.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) December 1, 2019
Analysis:Hall is far from the only player that could get shipped out in the event the team starts to tear down. Five other Devils are scheduled to reach unrestricted free agency after this season. Any number of them could be wearing a different sweater by season’s end.
Wayne Simmonds is certainly an obvious choice in this scenario. The 31-year-old is having an unlucky season where very little seems to have gone right. His shot percentage is just 6.9 which is just under half of his career average of 12.9 percent. There is enough of a production dip across the board to indicate New Jersey is not an ideal fit for the veteran. Simmonds has four goals and 11 points in 25 games. A move to a team with a high offensive ceiling would be great for Simmonds.
Sami Vatanen is another such option if the team focuses on moving only it’s pending free agents. The 28-year-old has had some injuries in his career but has scored at least 24 points in four of his eight seasons. His most productive year was 2015-16. That year saw Vatanen score nine goals and 38 points in 71 games with the Anaheim Ducks. A new environment and some luck regarding his health could get the former fourth round pick back to where he once was.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Rumour: In the final of today’s NHL rumours, James Mirtle of The Athletic Canada reveals his belief in a Q&A that the Maple Leafs will rebuild the blue line from scratch this summer.
Analysis: Toronto’s defensive picture is fascinating. Five of their six blueliners will hit free agency after the season is over. Only Morgan Rielly has a deal beyond 2019-20. That makes for some interesting decisions regarding how to rebuild such a group.
22-year-old Travis Dermott is an easy re-sign as he won’t cost a lot of money in restricted free agency. Justin Holl should return as well with some of the team’s best possession metrics. The other three spots are much trickier if the team moves on from Cody Ceci, Jake Muzzin, and Tyson Barrie simultaneously.
If that happens, expect major roles for Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren. They are Toronto’s two most interesting and productive defensemen at the AHL level. They each have two goals and at least 10 points for the Marlies so far. Watch for them to receive a call-up in case of injury.
However, there is an alternative to a complete rebuild and that is to bring back Muzzin and/or Barrie. Muzzin is one of the few Maple Leafs who consistently hits or blocks shots which is the sort of grit Toronto currently lacks. Barrie has been a big disappointment since coming over via trade with the Colorado Avalanche but has found a new gear under new coach Sheldon Keefe; he has three goals in five games since the coaching switch. The Leafs have major cap issues but there are workarounds. They can let Ceci walk and trade one or two of their marginal forward options. Expect some heavy shuffling on the Toronto blue line between now and next year.
DETROIT, MICHIGAN – OCTOBER 12: Jake Muzzin #8 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates his third period goal with Tyson Barrie #94 while playing the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena on October 12, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. Toronto won the game 5-2. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)