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 Nashville Predators, Montreal Canadiens, and Pittsburgh Penguins.
Rumour: Predators general manager, David Poile, appeared on Nashville’s ‘George Plaster Show’ to note that he doesn’t expect the team to be “big buyers” moving forward, regardless of if they do or don’t make playoffs.
David Poile, general manager of the @PredsNHL, joined @ThePlasterShow talking coaching change, the team and more with @georgeplastertn on https://t.co/MskrrN84t6. https://t.co/8KaTLjLBaA
— WNSR – Nashville Sports Radio (@NashSportsRadio) January 9, 2020
Analysis: This doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Despite their slow-moving play, the Predators seemingly have all of the pieces there. Their top-six is comprised of six beyond-capable forwards who have simply underperformed this year, save for Filip Forsberg. The team also boasts terrific defence, with Roman Josi currently sitting at a team-leading 46 points and Ryan Ellis with 28 of his own, and strong-yet-struggling goaltending. The key to a Nashville rebound doesn’t seem to be a big trade. Instead, it’s simply finding a way to rejuvenate the terrific skill their lineup boasts.
It’s important to note, though, that Poile’s track record on radio shows has been inconsistent lately. Days before his firing of head coach Peter Laviolette, Poile appeared on Midday 180 to mention that he was, “not contemplating any coaching changes”. He then proceeded to release Laviolette and associate coach Kevin McCarthy. So while this appearance seems to be Poile putting faith in his current lineup, it may need to be taken with a grain of salt.
Rumour: Elliotte Friedman appeared on Sportsnet 590 where he mentioned that he entirely expects a change to come to Montreal. He specified that he wasn’t sure whether that would be in the form of a big trade or coaching change, though.
"I see a team that something's coming. I don't know if it's the coach, I don't know if it's a big trade…I just get the sense that's a team that's just drowning right now…"@FriedgeHNIC on the #Habs @ScottyMacThinks @SmrtAsh @mikezigomanis.
— Sportsnet 590 The FAN (@FAN590) January 10, 2020
Analysis: The Montreal Canadiens are not in a good spot. As Friedman mentions, they’re simply drowning right now under the weight of injuries to five key players. In their last 10 games, they’ve gone an abysmal 1-8-1 and been outscored a combined 36 to 29. This has dropped them to sixth in the Atlantic Division, two points behind the equally-struggling Buffalo Sabres. It’s also placed them nine points out of a Wild Card position, with four teams above them.
With such a dramatic drop in the standings, and their playoff hopes dwindling, the Canadiens seemingly have to do something drastic. Eric Engels explained in recent NHL rumours that this could come in the form of a trade, with Tomas Tatar being a likely candidate to be moved. Tatar has fetched high prices in deals before and has scored 38 points in 45 games this year. For teams with closer playoff hopes than Montreal, Tatar would be an emphatic game-changing pickup. He’s a potent top-six option that could boost any offence. He also has an extremely modest $4.8 million cap hit until the end of next season.
Rumour: There has been another step in the slow-but-steady process of learning the Penguins’ aspirations as the Trade Deadline nears. In their most recent Insider Trading, the TSN crew noted that Pittsburgh is looking for a rental deal, as well as continuing to shop around Alex Galchenyuk.
Analysis: The Penguins are in the same spot as Montreal, although they’ve found a way to keep their heads above water. The Penguins are experiencing five injuries of their own, including both Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel being injured. The latter is out long-term, leaving a significant void in the Penguins offence. To address this, the Penguins have appeared in multiple NHL rumours with a desire for a top-six forward. Now, per Insider Trading, it seems that they don’t want to commit to anyone for more than the remainder of the year.
Instead, they’ll likely look to upgrade from Galchenyuk for their playoff push this year. Yet, this may not be the best idea. Galchenyuk has significantly struggled this year, with only 14 points through 35 games. This is a large disappointment, especially considering Galchenyuk was acquired by Pittsburgh in a deal that sent Phil Kessel to the Arizona Coyotes. Since this deal, Galchenyuk’s value has taken a significant hit. While some teams may be blindsided to the true dramatics of his struggles, the Penguins aren’t likely to get a favourable return without also adding a sweetener.