Welcome back to NHL Rumours, brought to you daily by the Last Word on Hockey team. Every NHL Rumours article provides a snapshot of the rumour and then dives into a more detailed analysis of it. 2020 has already been action-packed as we just get started. However, today we focus on the future. We’ll look at NHL Rumours from the Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres, and Carolina Hurricanes.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Rumour: We start NHL Rumours off with a rumour from Toronto where Elliotte Friedman was on Sportsnet 590 and mentioned that the asking price for prospect Jeremy Bracco is high. However, he could also be a piece in an even bigger deal.
Elliotte Friedman on SN590 earlier today: Asking price for Bracco is high, other teams have asked about Bracco in the past. After he reported Bracco’s availability, some people are wondering if the Leafs want to use Bracco as a piece in a bigger deal.
— J (@Account4hockey) December 30, 2019
Analysis: The Leafs are in the middle of a fight for a playoff spot in the East. Their spot is highly contested, however, they have been on fire since Sheldon Keefe took over. They have been near unstoppable and are truly starting to feel like a playoff team. However, when it comes to additions, their asset pool is shrinking. They used their last year’s first-round pick and some prospects to acquire Jake Muzzin. This summer, they traded this season’s first-round pick to ditch Patrick Marleau.
The Leafs are a team that will be near the cap for the foreseeable future. So, they need to be careful when moving prospects as they will need cheap players moving forward. Unless it’s a very big piece you would assume that defencemen Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren are untouchable. However, upfront they have Bracco. Bracco is a very skilled player who had the second-most points in the AHL for the 2019 calendar year. The issue is his path to the NHL is blocked by the copious amount of skilled wingers the Leafs already have. Names like Kasperi Kapanen, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and Andreas Johansson make up the top-six. Guys like Ilya Mikheyev, Pierre Engvall, Alexander Kerfoot, and co make up the bottom-six. Mason Marchment and Adam Brooks are other names the Leafs have called up.
This log jam means that Bracco may be an expendable piece. If the Leafs were to move him, it would be reasonable that it would be for a solid defenceman at the deadline. Perhaps they look to repeat the Muzzin deal with a player like that? Bracco and more could help secure a player for more than one season.
Rumour: The Buffalo Sabres made a pair of trades on Thursday night. However, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger, they may not be done just yet. More moves could be in store.
Sounds like Buffalo is still on the hunt and willing to move other pieces. Could be it for today, but expect more to come.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) January 2, 2020
Analysis: The Sabres were very busy Thursday. Trading Marco Scandella to the Montreal Canadiens for a fourth-round pick and then immediately using that pick to acquire Michael Frolik from the Calgary Flames. The Buffalo blueline is still crowded though and they could still use more forwards. They currently have seven NHL defencemen on their roster and they also have Lawrence Pilut in the AHL. The team has struggled to find help for Jack Eichel. Eichel has been amazing this year, making his case for a Hart Trophy.
The Sabres added depth this summer by trading for Jimmy Vesey and adding names like Marcus Johansson. However, it still hasn’t been enough. Buffalo had a hot start but it has cooled off since. Now, they are in a battle for just making the playoffs. A trade that could move out a defenceman for a forward may help this.
The other option is Evan Rodrigues. He made it known that he wanted a trade this past week and Buffalo may try to see if there are any suitors. Rodrigues has solid underlying numbers in his past few seasons, especially defensively. However, he has yet to find the back of the net this year as he has just three assists in 24 games. The Sabres need offence and he is not providing it. They have a few options to try and make a move. One thing is for sure, they will be a common name on NHL Rumours.
Rumour: Finally, we have Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman on 31 Thoughts mentioning that Justin Williams news may be coming by the end of the week. On NHL Morning Skate he then mentioned that he believes a deal between Carolina and Williams is done and that it should be expected to be announced soon.
Analysis: This is great news for the Carolina Hurricanes as they get their leader back. Williams helped lead the Canes to an Eastern Conference final last season. This year, Carolina has been solid again but the Metro division has been so tight. They currently sit in a wild card spot but are a few points out of a divisional spot as well as a few points away from being out of the playoffs. Getting Williams back for leadership is big enough, his on-ice impact even bigger.
Williams is 38 but is still extremely effective. Last season he had 53 points in 82 games played. This year, he has had half the season to rest up and will be even fresher come the end of the year. It may take him a little bit to get into game shape and fully get back into the swing of things, however, there is no doubt this will be a success in the long-term of this season. Getting Williams back can also be a self-rental for Carolina which would save them some assets come deadline time. Look for Carolina to gear up for a playoff run again this year.