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 Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames, and Colorado Avalanche.
Rumour: David Pagnotta recently appeared on up-and-coming podcast Chel Squared. There, he said that a general manager change in Buffalo is entirely plausible.
— Chel Squared (@ChelSquared) February 28, 2020
Analysis: This is absolutely no surprise. Jason Botterill has made a mess of the Sabres since his joining in 2017. The team has gone negative in each of the last two seasons, ranking dead-last and second-to-last in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons respectively. What’s made it worse is Botterill’s complete unwillingness to fix it. Despite the team’s incompetence, Botterill has tended to sit back after only one-or-two moves, despite the team’s clear need for an overhaul. And most of these deals he makes aren’t well received by fans.
The situation around Jeff Skinner is a great example. Botterill made a great move acquiring Skinner from the Carolina Hurricanes before the 2018-19 season. His 40 goals and 63 points were an amazing addition to the lineup; much needed in a struggling Sabres offence. In return, Botterill inked Skinner to a massive eight-year, $9 million-a-year contract this summer. $9 million was seen as a stretch by many even despite his great goal-scoring ability. The deal ranks Skinner as the t-21st in the league in cap hit. His cap hit is higher than Sidney Crosby, Leon Draisaitl, Steven Stamkos, and plenty of other stars.
This season has only worsened the snowball. The Sabres were well out of a playoff spot prior to the NHL Trade Deadline. Many expected them to be ‘sellers’ as a result, with players like Sam Reinhart, Jimmy Vesey, and Brandon Montour all becoming free agents this summer and all sure to garner interest from teams around the league.
Wayne Simmonds to the Rescue
Instead, Buffalo doubled down. They reeled in Wayne Simmonds and Dominik Kahun for admirable prices, to the dismay of many. And while these acquisitions could definitely help Buffalo fight for a playoff spot in a tight Atlantic Division, their usage of new-and-old players alike has been terrible since the Deadline. Skinner was on the team’s third-line in their most recent outing. Zemgus Girgensons played on the second. Even worse, newly acquired Kahun was on the fourth. It seems that not only is Botterill struggling, his recently hired head coach, a former soccer coach of five years, is as well. With Buffalo losing 12 players to free agency this summer, including nine forwards, a new general manager could be just the thing to breathe life into the lineup.
Rumour: Per Elliotte Friedman, in his most recent 31 Thoughts, the Flames expressed interest in Simmonds for the second Trade Deadline in a row this year.
Analysis: The Flames have been in NHL rumours all season long. They struggled for a good chunk of the season and many had split thoughts. Some speculated that the team would get uneasy and sell the lot, potentially moving players like Elias Lindholm and Johnny Gaudreau. Others said that the team would take the opposite approach and add to their already strong offence in an effort to return to form.
In this latter scenario, Simmonds is a great asset to look into. The 31-year-old may have seen his fair share of struggles these last few seasons but the fact still remains that he’s a great goal-scorer. He has scored over 20 goals in six of his 12 NHL seasons and scored over 40 points in seven; not taking into account all the times his campaigns were cut short. As many Philadelphia Flyers fans would testify to, he’s also a great leader and personality to have in the locker room. These traits are exactly what Buffalo looked for when they ended up acquiring him this Deadline.
Simmonds a Good Commodity
But Simmonds is a free agent in the upcoming summer and is sure to garner quite a bit of interest. Last summer, the New Jersey Devils signed him to what many called a ‘prove-it’ deal: a one-year, $5 million contract. And despite this, he hasn’t really proven anything. He’s still struggled this season, albeit on a Devils team that seemingly everyone is struggling on. In 62 games on the year, 61 with New Jersey and one with Buffalo, Simmonds has only 24 points. This could mean that he’s in for a much cheaper deal this upcoming summer, making him that much more attractive to competitors like Calgary who have been interested for a while and feel they could bring back the potency he once had.
Rumour: Friedman also said that Tyson Jost reeled in quite a bit of interest this Deadline and could be on the move come summer.
Analysis: This, again, isn’t entirely a surprise. The acquisition of Nazem Kadri this summer knocked Jost out of his natural centre position. With Kadri performing well, it’s not looking like Jost is close to regaining a top-six-centre role any time soon. Meanwhile, plenty of teams around the league are in desperate search of a reliable top-six-centre.
Jost could be a great option to groom into such a position. He’s only 21-years-old and, while his scoring totals in the league thus far haven’t been very impressive, has more than enough potential. Prior to joining the NHL, Jost performed great in the BCHL and with the University of North Dakota. He was a highly-acclaimed prospect. And, while he only has 68 points in 201 career NHL games, he still boasts plenty of ability. Jost would be an amazing option for a team needing extra offensive help. Of course, that would come with a bit of extra work.