Another day, another Last Word on Hockey article covering your latest NHL Rumours. Every day, our team breaks down a selection of the latest rumblings from around the National Hockey League. As the trade deadline draws nearer, teams begin to turn their eyes to more specific targets in preparation for this season and next. Today, we’ll look at NHL Rumours from the Montreal Canadiens, Buffalo Sabres, and Chicago Blackhawks.
Rumour: We start NHL Rumours with Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and 31 Thoughts, where he talks about the Montreal Canadiens. Friedman mentions that they will start to look at what to do in the upcoming weeks, however, if Jeff Petry was to move, he could possibly fetch what Jake Muzzin did last season.
Analysis: This is a big deal for Montreal as this could really help their long-term outlook. The Habs are unfortunately stuck between two cores right now. They have lots of young promising pieces like Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Cole Caufield, and Ryan Poehling which makes for a bright future. But Carey Price and Shea Weber are by far their biggest ticket players and both are in their 30’s right now. It’s left the team in a space to decide whether to go for it or retool.
Losing a very underrated defenceman in Jeff Petry would be tough. On the other hand, the Habs could really use the assets. Muzzin fetched a first-round pick, prospect Carl Grundstrom, and Jr Prospect Sean Durzi. Grundstrom looks close to NHL ready but may not be an impact player. Durzi is a longshot. However, the key is the first-round draft pick. By all accounts, this is a loaded draft class and Montreal already has three picks in the top two rounds. Adding another one could be monumental for the team going forward. Bergevin will have some interesting decisions to make going forward. However, it would be hard to turn down a package like that.
Rumour: We continue with Elliotte Friedman as this time he was on WGR 550 Radio talking about the Buffalo Sabres. He mentioned there is no immediate movement, however, they have been working on finding Evan Rodrigues a new home as well as talking about Zach Bogosian.
Friedman – Not hearing anything on the #Sabres front. I think Botterill has really worked on a trade of Evan Rodrigues. He’s a good player, but his salary cap number hurts. He’s worked on moving Zach Bogosian too. The league is capped out, which makes it tough to move guys.
— WGR 550 (@WGR550) January 16, 2020
Analysis: Friedman mentioned in his hit that the lack of cap space from so many teams has made it hard for lots of player movement. The Sabres have been on a bit of a freefall lately. To start the year, they were in a playoff spot for most of it. But now they have fallen back to fifth in their division and five points back of a playoff spot. They have had multiple issues but one of the biggest ones has been secondary scoring. Jack Eichel has been left on an island trying to do it all himself and there’s only so far one man can take you.
Rodrigues is a player who has struggled in a limited role this season. This likely makes his list for potential suiters smaller than he would have hoped. Combine this with the fact that Buffalo will want an asset back and likely don’t plan to give him away and you have a tough spot for a player. The Sabres won’t fleece anyone in this deal but getting some kind of asset back will be key.
As for Bogosian, the Sabres blue line is still a crowded one. It shouldn’t be a surprise they are talking to teams. As the deadline approaches their future may become more clear. If they look out of it come deadline time they may be a team that sells off whatever expiring assets they can. Even though that’s likely not what their fans want to hear. The Sabres will be an interesting team to keep an eye on as the season rolls on.
Corey Crawford said he plans to sign another contract when his current one ends this summer (aka not retiring), that he hasn’t talked to Stan Bowman yet, and he seemed largely uninterested in signing into a backup role (in Chicago or otherwise).
— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) January 14, 2020
Analysis: There’s a lot to unpack here, but let’s start with the fact that Crawford does indeed want to return. That’s a good sign from a health standpoint as that was his biggest issue lately. Crawford was one of the more underrated goalies in the league, but very serious injuries like Vertigo kept him out of the net. If he’s feeling good enough to continue there won’t be too many people disappointed about that. The 35-year-old has a .908 save-percentage both this season and last currently. While he is on a poor Chicago team that is still not starter numbers. His partner Robin Lehner currently has a .923 this season. So, that may be where the issue comes.
There may not be much of a market for the ageing Crawford as a starter. There certainly won’t be many teams lining up to give him a huge payday. He may be able to go to a rebuilding team who wants a mentor for one of their young goalies. However, even that has a very limited list. His options may be very small if he has to be a starter. It’s possible that if he wishes to become a tandem goalie the options may open up a bit more.
Out West, he could try and help out someone like Mikko Koskinen at the right price. At this point, it feels like the Hawks would be smarter to give Lehner an extension given his age and play, even if it comes at a higher dollar. If Crawford is willing to take a lesser role there should be plenty of possible options for him. The experience he brings is huge and teams will value that. However, it would be surprising if many teams, including Chicago, are lining up for him to be their starter.
That’s all for NHL Rumours! Tune in tomorrow for more.