Welcome back to another edition of NHL Rumours from the Last Word on Hockey crew. We’re closing in on the NHL roster freeze which lasts from December 20th to the 27th. Teams are evaluating their position and debating whether they will become buyers or sellers leading up to the second half of the season. Today, we have NHL rumours from the Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Islanders and the Vegas Golden Knights.
All NHL rumours come from their original source and are subject to change.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Rumour: In the most recent edition of 31 Thoughts, Elliott Friedman mentions that he is not convinced that the Leafs are going to look for a new back up goaltender. He also mentions that although they’re not shopping Kasperi Kapanen, they found out that he would be rather easy to move if they decided to go that route.
Regarding Back-Up Goaltenders
It is a bit surprising that Friedman does not believe the Leafs will make a move for a backup goaltender. Current Leafs back up Michael Hutchinson has just not got the job done for the Leafs this season. He has yet to secure a win for his club, posting a record of 0-5-1. He also has a horrendous goals-against average of 4.55 and a save percentage of .876. This is just not good enough for a team that is supposed to be a cup contender. As we saw last season, starting goaltender Frederik Andersen was overworked last season and just did not have enough in the tank come playoff time. The Leafs were hoping that “Hutch” would be able to lighten the load for Andersen this season, but so far the Leafs just can not trust him.
The main issue, however, is that there are not any goaltenders on the market that interest the Maple Leafs. Tristan Jarry of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who the Leafs were rumoured to have an interest in, is now looking like a possible starter as they figure out exactly what their plan is moving forward with Matt Murray. They also have Casey DeSmith in the system, however, if they choose to move on from Murray, a tandem of Jarry and DeSmith would be solid moving forward. Making them essentially unavailable at the moment.
This is the case with other teams around the league, including the New York Rangers. Teams are wanting to hold onto their goaltending depth which in turn leads to a weak market for the Leafs. The Leafs will have to hold on to Hutchinson and hope he can turn his season around.
The fact that teams are calling on Kapanen should come as no surprise. Kapanen is an extremely gifted skater capable of scoring 20 goals and plays a solid two-way game. He also holds a team-friendly cap hit at $3.2 million per season. However, with the Leafs depth at the forward position to go along and the need for defence, the Leafs may be enticed to entertain offers for Kapanen. No player is untouchable, especially not a depth player like Kapanen. They may not want to move him, however, if the right deal comes along and it helps them address a bigger need, they may not be able to turn it away.
New York Islanders
Rumour: Sticking with 31 Thoughts, Friedman mentions that the New York Islanders are in the market for a goal scorer.
Analysis: The Islanders are currently enjoying an excellent season. They sit second in the Metropolitan Division, just seven points behind the Washington Capitals, however, they have three games in hand. However, despite being so successful, the club sits in 24th in league scoring. This won’t be good enough if they want to be a legitimate contender. So who could Lou Lamerello target to help provide offence?
Two names that jump out are Chris Kreider of the New York Rangers and Tyler Toffoli of the Los Angeles Kings. Both these players are unrestricted free agents at the end of the season and have both proven the ability to be 20 plus goal scorers over the years. Both of these players should be able to be acquired without having to sell the farm as well.
The Rangers and the Kings are trending in the same direction. They will be looking to move out both players as rentals at the deadline to get some younger players or picks in return. The Islanders are in possession of all their picks in the upcoming draft. They also have highly skilled but disgruntled prospect Joshua Ho-Sang who is looking for a change of scenery. The Islanders should have no trouble acquiring some goal-scoring help given the assets they have in their system.
Vegas Golden Knights
Rumour: In a recent article for The Athletic, Jesse Granger looks at potential defence targets for the Golden Knights. He mentions that Vegas has heavily scouted the Buffalo Sabres this season and list Marco Scandella as a potential target.
Analysis: Scandella’s name has been linked in NHL rumours basically since the beginning of the season. Buffalo has a ton of depth on the point and have been actively shopping them for some scoring help. Hence why Vegas has been scouting them so much.
Scandella is a player who does not stand out in any particular area, however, he does everything well. He plays a solid all-around game and works hard in all three zones. He is a gifted skater and possesses strong puck-moving abilities. Scandella would most certainly be able to slot into the Golden Knights top four. He would also come a lot cheaper than someone like Shayne Gostisbehere or Erik Gustafsson, both of who were also mentioned by Granger.
While Buffalo has been looking for scoring help, Scandella most likely won’t fetch anything of the magnitude of what they’re searching for. It would more likely be a mid-round pick and/or a B level prospect.
Embed from Getty Images