The NHL season is underway and there have been plenty of surprises thus far. This has sparked plenty of NHL rumours, adding to the excitement of the early-season. As long as NHL rumours remain around, Last Word on Hockey will look to keep fans up to date. Today, we’ll cover rumours surrounding the New Jersey Devils, San Jose Sharks, and Carolina Hurricanes.
New Jersey Devils
Rumour: There’s no doubting what the first on our NHL rumours list will be. The hockey world blew up on Friday night, as many different writers noted that trade talks surrounding Taylor Hall, who was held out of play in Friday’s game, have progressed. Among these writers was The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun.
I’m told Taylor Hall has not been dealt at this point, however, there is some traction in trade talks the Devils are having with teams and so the risk is not worth playing him play at the moment. Stay tuned. https://t.co/i3273tPiDX
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) December 14, 2019
Analysis: There’s no more beating around the bush in New Jersey. The Devils held Hall out of the game against the Colorado Avalanche on Friday night, writing it off as simply “precautionary reasons”. Yet, that doesn’t do a very good job of diverting attention. There is only one reason the struggling team would hold their best player out of play; they clearly want to keep him healthy for a looming trade deal.
There hasn’t been much clarification in where Hall could end up despite the hectic news. The Arizona Coyotes seemed to be the most consistent member of the NHL rumours that surfaced Friday night, although teams like the Avalanche, St. Louis Blues, and New York Islanders were also wildly mentioned.
A deal to Arizona would make perfect sense though. The Coyotes boast the clear-cut best goaltending in the league right now. The unsuspecting duo of Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta have tallied the best combined save percentage in the league and are both among the hottest players to start the season. The rest of the Coyotes lineup has been average at best, though. This is especially true with their offence, despite their acquisition of Phil Kessel over the summer. Bringing in Hall could provide enough of a spark to boost the Coyotes into playoff contention, allowing the team to take full advantage of their red-hot goaltending.
San Jose Sharks
Rumour: Sonny Sachdeva, of Sportsnet, evaluated what San Jose’s next steps should be after their firing of head coach Pete DeBoer. Among his speculation, Sachdeva mentions that Martin Jones may have a very short leash moving forward.
Analysis: Jones has never found his consistency in the NHL, despite having the past seven years to search. He’s shown flashes of brilliance but ultimately always disappoints. This pattern has been on full display this season, as the struggles with the 18 Sharks in front of Jones has shined a spotlight on him.
Jones started the year very poorly. In his first 10 games, played between October 2 and November 1, he set a record of only 2-7-1. In these, he set a 3.50 goals-against-average and .887 save percentage. While these stats also reflect the woes of the rest of the lineup, Jones’ play only served to emphasize things.
His November was much, much different, though. He was drastically more successful, setting a 10-1-0 record between November 5 and November 30. His stats, a .905 save percentage and 2.63 goals-against-average, were far less impressive but were relatively promising considering his poor October.
But not all that glitters is gold. Jones has started his December with a terrible 0-5-0 record. He has averaged an impressively bad four goals-against despite facing a mere 23.2 shots-per-game in those games. This gives him a terrible save percentage of only .853, the third-lowest of any goalie with three-or-more games played this month. What makes it worse is that the next goalie with at least five games played in December, Frederik Andersen, has a much more admirable .905 save percentage, emphasizing how bad Jones’ .853 really is.
This is also a testament to the truly drastic goaltending issues in San Jose, as backup Aaron Dell has a similarly terrible stat-line, with a .893 save percentage and 3.32 goals-against-average. If the Sharks wish to compete in the near future, which their firing of DeBoer notes their intention of, dealing away Jones in exchange for a much better starter is going to be at the top of their priority list.
Analysis: Carolina has seemed to be weirdly obsessive with their defence in recent months. Despite boasting massively underrated names like Brett Pesce and Jaccob Slavin, the Hurricanes added Joel Edmundson and Jake Gardiner to their core this off-season. Neither has made much of an impact so far but Slavin and Dougie Hamilton have both had tremendous starts to their year. Particularly Hamilton, who ranks third on the team with 30 points in 32 games.
The pursuit of Honka shows the Hurricanes are not pleased. This is despite having bigger fish to fry, with a rumoured need for a top-six forward looming over them for months. Still, bringing in Honka may be beneficial. As aforementioned, Edmundson and Gardiner haven’t managed much despite high expectations coming in. They’ve tallied eight and nine points respectfully, both in 32 games. This is especially disappointing coming from Gardiner: a consistent 30-to-50-point-scorer throughout his career. He’s only on pace for 23 this season, if all goes well.
Honka could’ve been the fix. He has struggled to start his NHL career. He has a mere 13 points through his first 87 games, but still has plenty of potential. This potential was the reasoning behind his 14th overall selection in the 2014 NHL Draft and hasn’t been overlooked just yet. A deal to a new team, like Carolina, could’ve done wonders in bringing that potential to light.
With that said, Honka hasn’t dazzled in Finland’s top league this year. He only has eight points in 20 games, fairly low compared to his team’s other defencemen. This includes Honka’s brother and Hurricanes draft pick, Anttoni Honka. This poor play could drastically bring down his value come next summer, when he’ll surely appear back in the NHL rumours mill. With the Hurricanes desperate need for defencemen and Julius’ brother Anttoni already in Carolina’s organization, the team may take another shot at pulling Honka away from Dallas.