The NHL Trade Deadline has finally passed. Yet, while the Deadline may have passed, NHL rumours are still running rampant. The Last Word on Hockey team will continue to keep fans updated on these NHL rumours. Today, we’ll cover NHL rumours around the Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers, and Montreal Canadiens.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Rumour: Kyle Dubas addressed the Toronto media following the Deadline, where he was hounded about Tyson Barrie. Among the discussion, Dubas said that the Leafs will continue to work with Barrie to find a fit for next year, before the season ends.
Analysis: Barrie’s name came up seemingly everywhere in the days leading up to the Deadline. Dubas said multiple teams were interested in the defenceman, who has seemed to finally find his groove. He continued by saying that it’s custom to at least hear out any offers and envision what a deal would look like, even if one wasn’t close.
This was much to the dismay of Barrie, who has supposedly become beloved by his teammates in Toronto. Many say the blue-liner was very nervous for his fate coming into the Trade Deadline. Luckily, he was not moved. Instead, he’ll finish off the season in Toronto and might find a way to stay for longer. During the press conference, Dubas said, “We’ll use the remaining time we have together to see if there’s a fit. As you know, with our cap situation it’s never so simple.” While admittedly vague, he clearly showed an intent to keep Barrie in Toronto past the end of this season.
This becomes a bit easier now that fellow defenceman Jake Muzzin is signed to an extension of his own. Many fans had gone back-and-forth discussing which defenceman the Leafs would keep between Muzzin and Barrie, saying it’d be too expensive to keep both. While this still may be true, Muzzin’s extension at least provides clarity. His new deal sets a cap hit of $5.625 million over the next four seasons. This leaves Toronto with just over $4 million in estimated space for this summer. On top of Barrie’s expiring deal, Ilya Mikheyev, Travis Dermott, and Cody Ceci all become free agents; among others.
Rumour: Chris Johnston said during an appearance on SN 590 that Florida has been instructed to void $10 million in salary by their owners.
Analysis: This is… interesting. The Panthers went all-in this summer, signing Joel Quenneville to be their new head coach, Sergei Bobrovsky to a record-breaking, double-digit deal, and added names like Brett Connolly, Noel Acciari, and Anton Stralman. The team finally had a statement summer, looking to do all they could to make the playoffs; something they’ve only done twice since the turn of the century.
This bold statement hasn’t translated into too much of a revenue boost, though. Per HockeyDB, the Panthers rank third-to-last in attendance numbers this season. Their 13,791 average is worse than everyone in the league, save for the New York Islanders and Ottawa Senators. While this is a slight increase from last season, it still continues the trend of poor attendance that Florida’s seen over the last three seasons. This three-year stretch has been the worst in Panthers history, save for a one-off year where they only averaged just-over 11,000. Other than that, Florida has never struggled with attendance to this degree.
Cutting down $10 million won’t be an easy task. The Panthers already traded away Vincent Trocheck, who was making $5.25 million in salary this year, $3.5 million next year, and $6.25 million the year after that. This is definitely a start. But it seems like at least one more big-name move will be needed to satisfy Florida’s ownership. In what form this will be isn’t sure. But it does definitely add another layer of regret to the Bobrovsky deal.
Rumour: The Canadiens dealt away Ilya Kovalchuk to the Washington Capitals earlier this week. TSN’s Tony Marinaro is one of many saying this was supposedly a reward for Kovalchuk’s great play in Montreal and a move of good-faith to try and make things easier for Montreal to sign Kovalchuk this summer.
Ilya Kovalchuk just said Marc Bergevin got a better offer from other teams but asked Kovalchuk where he preferred to go. Kovalchuk chose CAPS whose trade offer was inferior. Say what? I'd hope Kovalchuk in turn gave Bergevin his word that he'd resign with Habs in July..if not….
— Tony Marinaro (@TonyMarinaro) February 24, 2020
Analysis: There is admittedly a healthy amount of speculation behind this whole claim. But it does make sense. The Canadiens reportedly had plenty of offers on the table for Kovalchuk but decided to give the winger his wish and send him to the Capitals despite a cheaper return package. Montreal is turning their sights onto next season, which hopefully won’t be riddled with injuries and bad luck like this year was. Bringing back Kovalchuk would notably help this cause. The winger scored 13 points in 22 games with Montreal this year and simply rejuvenated a struggling Habs lineup. This is despite his age and previous struggles; he was a perfect fit in Montreal.
There’s not much more to say. Dealing Kovalchuk to Washington, despite the cheaper price, seems to only spell out one thing. If this isn’t enough, Kovalchuk’s departure interview added an extra layer. He cited the decision to come to Montreal as, “one of the best decisions in my life.” When asked if this was a “goodbye” or “see you later” to Montreal fans, Kovalchuk continued by saying, “[This] is not goodbye. For sure.” Again this is a healthy amount of speculation. But all signs point to Montreal and Kovalchuk both wanting a reunion sooner rather than later.