Welcome to Friday’s edition of NHL Rumours. Trade and extension talks continue to swirl as the league approaches its trade deadline. Last Word on Hockey remains committed to bringing you the best analysis of the most current rumours. Today we explore the latest NHL rumours with the Vancouver Canucks, Buffalo Sabres, and Chicago Blackhawks.
Rumour: Sportsnet’s Iain MacIntyre reported that Vancouver’s General Manager Jim Benning mentioned he would like to find another top-six winger. Also, the Canucks are starting to work on a contract to re-sign goalie Jacob Markstrom.
Canucks GM Jim Benning confirms he’d like to add another top-six winger and hopes to start negotiations on a contract that will keep starting goalie Jacob Markstrom in Vancouver. With Thatcher Demko.
Story up soon on https://t.co/IQBE8Sg8er.
— Iain MacIntyre (@imacSportsnet) December 11, 2019
Analysis: The Canucks have been a great story this year. People weren’t quite sure what to make of them. It was clear they got better, but how much? The big question was always going to be was it enough to get out of the basement? Well, the incredible play from the likes of Quinn Hughes and new addition J.T. Miller has made that answer pretty clear. Add in things like another year of Elias Pettersson and some great goaltending and you have a team that looks to stay in the playoff hunt all year long. Vancouver has been very solid but like most teams, they feel they could use another punch upfront.
The team is still young and will likely not want to part with any of their young core assets. However, what else will they be willing to move? It may be hard to get in on someone like Taylor Hall because they don’t have this year’s first-round pick. Their recent slide of games has come from a lack of goal-scoring. Giving them another weapon upfront would make this a very dangerous team.
It is possible they look at a cheaper option like Tyler Toffoli. He may not cost as much but could be an effective player down the stretch. A player of that nature that can slide into your top-six may be more Vancouver’s fit. They still have a bit of growing to do before they are considered true cup contenders. However, they are getting there and with the talent they have could make some noise in the playoffs for sure. Look for this team to busy in NHL Rumours.
As for Jacob Markstrom, an extension could be very interesting. He is already 29-years-old and playing the best hockey of his career. However, extending goalies long-term is always risky. It’s even riskier when they have their goalie of the future in Thatcher Demko in the NHL. Michael DiPietro also has a lot of promise going forward.
There is nothing wrong with keeping Markstrom for a few years, however, it has to be just that. The Canucks need to avoid a long-term deal here. Due to age and other options trying to limit it to just a shorter term may be smarter. It also may be possible they are comfortable with extending him knowing they could expose him in the Seattle Expansion draft if they absolutely have to. For the time being, he and Demko can split starts as Demko finds his footing as a regular NHL goalie.
The terms will be something interesting to keep an eye on. Vancouver has lots of money out already and they will have some big deals to sign in future years. Markstrom likely won’t be commanding a massive salary, but it will almost be certain that it is more than the 3.6 million he makes now. Keep an eye on this going forward.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) December 12, 2019
Analysis: Bogosian has recently been healthy scratched and Buffalo has such a crowded blueline a move was almost inevitable. Names like Marco Scandella and Colin Miller have also been tossed out there. But it looks like Bogosian is taking matters into his own hands. He is in the final year of a pricey contract he isn’t worth anymore. He is still an NHL defenceman of some kind but likely a third pair guy. There’s no doubt he will want more of a chance to play and earn himself another contract.
The 29-year-old has a $5.1 million cap hit and in a world where cap space is tight, that may be hard to move. Buffalo may have to hope a bottom feeder team with space will take him. Maybe a team like the Detroit Red Wings, who have been a disaster of late, will be interested? Even then, would Buffalo have to take someone back? Maybe a player like Darren Helm comes back to make it worth it for Detroit. Another underachiever but someone who has an extra year left. Another option may be to try and package him and someone like the struggling Casey Mittelstadt for someone like Andreas Athanasiou who is on an expiring deal. Use that as your trade for the deadline push. However, even that deal may need something more.
One thing is for sure, Buffalo will likely have to get creative if they wish to move Bogosian this season.
Rumour: The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus talked about how Chicago likely can’t “blow it up” because their core contracts are largely unmovable. However, he did mention he can very easily see the Hawks moving on from Corey Crawford and Erik Gustafsson if they decide to become sellers this year. Both are Unrestricted Free Agents next summer.
Analysis: Crawford is in the final year of a deal that pays him $6 million so it seems reasonable to say the Hawks would likely have to retain some of that cap hit if he was moved. Crawford has dealt with major injury issues over the past few seasons but has been relatively healthy this year. He has a .909 save percentage and has been fairly reliable. However, his future doesn’t appear to be in Chicago due to the amazing play of Robin Lehner. It makes total sense for the Hawks to try and re-sign Lehner, who is almost seven years younger.
So, this leaves Crawford as the odd man out. This Hawks team has some pieces but not enough to be a playoff team, let alone a serious Cup threat. They’re stuck in no man’s land which is a dangerous place to be in the NHL. Not bad enough for a high pick but not good enough for a playoff berth. Last year they got lucky and jumped way up in the lottery to select Kirby Dach. They likely shouldn’t expect that luck again. So, selling pieces like Crawford would be smart. Try to recoup assets to give yourself a better chance of getting a star.
The goalie market usually isn’t strong around the deadline so he may not fetch much. But a team like the Florida Panthers, or even Toronto Maple Leafs will be looking for a backup if they can make the price fit. Crawford may not be the guy for either of them, but he could be an option.
As for Gustafsson, the 27-year-old defenceman is a UFA at the end of the year that the Hawks just likely can’t keep. Even without Crawford’s six million dollars, they will need to give a raise to Lehner, as well as Dylan Strome. Alex DeBrincat‘s new deal kicks in which takes up a massive amount of the cap space from Lehner right there. There should absolutely be a market for Gustafsson. He is a very offensively-minded left-handed defenceman that teams will come begging for come deadline time.
With so many potential playoff teams it may be a market that has many more buyers than sellers, especially for defence. Look for Chicago to take advantage of this as they continue to try and retool on the fly and get a little younger.
That’s all for NHL Rumours! Tune in again tomorrow!