The NHL season is midway through and things are heating up. This has sparked plenty of NHL rumours, adding to the excitement of the mid-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 Pittsburgh Penguins, Edmonton Oilers, and San Jose Sharks.
Analysis: TSN’s article details the supposed fact that Pittsburgh had a multi-year contract extension in place for Pettersson this summer but wasn’t able to ink it as a result of their limited cap space. Instead, they had signed him to a modest one-year deal with a cap hit of roughly $874,000.
Of course, Pettersson is worth much more than this measly price tag. He has done a terrific job of living up to expectations since being traded to Pittsburgh last season. In 57 games with the team last year, he tallied a strong 19 points. This year, he has done even better. So far, Pettersson has 13 points in 36 games. This puts him on pace for roughly 30, a very admirable tally for the inexperienced 23-year-old. He has reeled in these stats despite playing roughly 19 minutes, on average. This average-time-on-ice is fifth among all defencemen to dress for Pittsburgh this season but despite it, Pettersson ranks third among the group in scoring and second in assists.
Rutherford mentioned that, thanks to the trade that sent away Erik Gudbranson, the Penguins now have the cap space to give Pettersson the deal he deserves. With a long-term deal reportedly being unofficially agreed to this summer, it’s very likely that Pittsburgh will agree to a Pettersson extension relatively quickly once talks start on January 1st. They’re projected to have roughly $22 million in cap space next summer, with 12 NHL players entering free agency. A Pettersson extension could take up as little as $2 million, or as much as $4 million, of that $22 million cap space.
Rumour: In his latest piece, Travis Yost draws a parallel between two red-hot players in Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Zack Kassian. Yost notes that both players could be exciting trade pieces come this year’s Trade Deadline.
Analysis: By now, everyone has heard the repeated NHL rumours that the Ottawa Senators forward Pageau is on the trade block. After a glistening first-half to the season, that saw Pageau net 28 points in 38 games, Ottawa hopes to sell high on the forward. Who hasn’t made many appearances in the NHL rumours mill is Kassian. With him boasting similar stats, though, Edmonton could easily try to sell-high like Ottawa.
Many simply write off his strong play as a product of playing alongside Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. When one digs deeper, though, it becomes readily apparent that the 2019-20 season has been a career-year for Kassian. In only 37 games this year, he has already tied his 2018-19 scoring total of 26 points and is only three points shy of his 29-point career-high. His Corsi-For percentage is higher than it’s been in five years and he’s shooting at a career-high 20.3 percent success rate.
While being around historically incredible players like McDavid and Draisaitl does fuel this strong play, Kassian is clearly coming into his own this year. Edmonton has placed plenty more faith in the winger. His breakout has been welcome news for a team that has struggled with their consistency this year. Yet, issues still remain. In his latest piece, Mark Spector details the fact that the walls are falling down in Edmonton. The team has looked unorganized and disinterested; feelings that accumulated in their recent loss to the Calgary Flames.
As a result of the Oilers crumbling, they’ve also fallen out of favour for the playoffs. They currently hold the second Wild Card in the Western Conference but the Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, and Vancouver Canucks are breathing down their necks. All three teams are within one win of overtaking Edmonton. It may be time for new general manager Ken Holland to pull the trigger on a ground-shaking trade. There is no time like the present, either, with the dramatics surrounding the Oilers. Dealing away Kassian could go a long way in providing a much-needed shakeup in Edmonton and likely a very attractive return.
San Jose Sharks
Rumour: In an article from earlier in the week, Kevin Kurz mentions that the Sharks continued struggles, even after firing head coach Peter DeBoer, could spell bad news for general manager Doug Wilson.
Analysis: To be crass, the San Jose Sharks suck. They have completely lost the groove that carried them to the Western Conference Final last season and are now sitting at dead-last in the Western Conference. Seemingly every woe in the Sharks roster has come to surface this year. Their offence has struggled to score and ranks 25th in the league in goals-for, while their defence has struggled to keep pucks out and ranks second in most-goals-allowed so far.
Both goaltenders have been truly terrible, with Martin Jones and Aaron Dell both sporting goals-against-averages above three (3.29 and 3.15 respectfully) and save percentages below .905 (.888 and .900). They’ve been liabilities for a large portion of the year, with starter Jones setting a record of 0-6-0 through the month of December alone. On a team that has looked completely out of sorts, Jones and Dell are leading the charge.
To try and bandage this downfall, DeBoer was relieved of his duties in early December. As it turns out, though, firing a world-class coach like DeBoer hasn’t helped fix San Jose’s issues. The Sharks have gone 1-5-0, with all of their issues seemingly getting worse, since DeBoer’s dismissal. What was supposed to be a bandage has now become an anti-coagulant, with the Sharks bleeding only worsening.
With the decision to fire DeBoer quickly biting him in the butt, and his refusal to make a notable trade despite the team’s struggles, the Sharks could very easily move on from GM Wilson. This is likely tied to their decision to completely rebuild or not among many things. If they decide to sell at this year’s Trade Deadline and rebuild this summer, when 11 NHL contracts come off the books, bringing in a new general manager could give a fresh look to the franchise. This would be similar to what the Oilers and Detroit Red Wings did this past summer. With their current bottom-feeder status and no hope in sight, this hypothetical could quickly become a reality.