Welcome back to Tuesday’s NHL rumours. Taylor Hall has officially been traded, so now the rumours begin to shift towards other teams. Today’s rumours take a look at the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, and Ilya Kovalchuk.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Rumour: Luke Fox reported in a recent article that the Maple Leafs are one of the teams interested in top KHL goaltender Timur Bilyalov. Bilyalov’s contract with the Ak Bars Kazan expires April 30th. He has posted a .957 save percentage through 16 games this season.
Analysis: The Maple Leafs have been known for their scouting of free agents across the ocean recently. With players like Nikita Zaitsev, Calle Rosen, Andreas Borgman, Ilya Mikheyev, Igor Ozhiganov, and Par Lindholm all having been brought over in similar fashion this is not out of character.
Frederik Andersen‘s contract expires at the end of next season, and he’ll be almost 32 when he needs a new deal. The Leafs will have a tough decision to make. With his performance, he will most likely command a large contract. Giving term to an ageing goaltender never seems to be a good idea. With how inconsistent goalies are, they may need to move on. The Leafs do have Joseph Woll and Ian Scott as goaltending prospects, but nothing is ever guaranteed, especially with goalies.
While the two goalies look good, they are still a while from being NHL starters if they reach that potential. Adding Bilyalov could provide a steady backup goalie for next season. He could also become the starting goalie after that if all goes well. It would give them more options moving forward at a minimum.
Rumour: With Kovalchuk’s contract officially being terminated by the LA Kings, Pierre LeBrun talks about his possibilities now that he is an unrestricted free agent. Some GMs have allegedly said that they think he is done in the NHL. However, others think he can still provide a niche role moving forward. LeBrun suggests the Hurricanes as a potential fit.
Analysis: Kovalchuk didn’t fit in too well with the LA Kings. He came to LA to be a part of a contending team. However, the Kings took a nosedive as soon as he arrived. While it was all unfortunate timing for Kovalchuk, his age and the large contract he had made it an issue for a rebuilding Kings team.
He may not be what he used to be, but it appears some teams think he can still fill a role at a lower price. The Hurricanes being an option seems to make sense. With the connection with Kovalchuk and Don Waddell from Atlanta, and the Hurricanes looking to add to their top nine, it seems like a fit.
Kovalchuk has struggled mightily this season in both the zones. He hasn’t produced much on the power-play, just one goal in 17 games. He will need to be severely sheltered and put in a role to succeed to be an effective player. LeBrun also suggests that the Hurricanes may want to keep a roster spot available for Justin Williams if he decides to return at some point for one more playoff run, so that could affect what the Hurricanes decide.
Kovalchuk also has a contract tabled from Avangard Omsk in the KHL should he decide not to return to the NHL. However, it seems Kovalchuk would prefer to take another NHL contract if one is presented to him.
Rumour: In Eric Engels article on Sportsnet, the Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said that he will make a move if he feels it betters the team but isn’t willing to mortgage the future to make an overpriced deadline acquisition.
Marc Bergevin is more concerned with integrating the players the @CanadiensMTL have recently drafted than he is with trading them away for immediate help.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) December 17, 2019
Analysis: The Canadiens are currently third in the Atlantic. They are currently performing better than most had projected, but are in a very tight race for the playoffs. Only one point ahead of the 6th place team in the division, there is a lot that can happen in such a tight race.
The Habs finished bottom five just two seasons ago, so Marc Bergevin isn’t letting this run get their sights shifted from retooling for the future. Teams often get hot during a rebuild or retool and they sacrifice some of the assets they acquired to go on an ill-advised playoff run. It does not seem like Bergevin is going to fall into that trap. If he sees something that could better his team he will make a move. However, he won’t be acquiring some of the big-name rentals this deadline.
That’s it for today’s NHL Rumours! Join us again tomorrow to keep up with the latest in the NHL!
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