NHL Rumours: Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Blackhawks, and More

NHL Rumours
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 05: Kyle Clifford #73 of the Toronto Maple Leafs forechecks during the first period against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on March 05, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

This time around, Thursday morning brings a bulky list of NHL Rumours. The Last Word on Hockey team is here with our NHL Rumours series to provide you with the latest and greatest rumblings from around the league. Even though the season has stopped, general managers across the league are still at work. Take a look at what’s going on with NHL Rumours involving the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Blackhawks, and the NHL Draft Lottery.

NHL Rumours

Toronto Maple Leafs

Rumour: According to Maple Leafs forward Kyle Clifford‘s agent, Todd Reynolds, the player and team are mutually interested in a contract extension.

Analysis: Clifford is anything but the new kid on the block in the NHL, having played almost 700 games. However, only 16 of those games have been with the Leafs. After being acquired near the trade deadline along with Jack Campbell in exchange for Trevor Moore and a couple of draft picks, Clifford posted 3 points. The 29-year-old played his other 660 NHL games with the Los Angeles Kings, where he won two Stanley Cups. It was widely believed that Clifford would use his unrestricted free agency status to re-sign with the Kings at the season’s end.

That is not the case, as apparently 16 games are enough for Clifford to make up his mind. Even in a fourth-line role, Clifford’s physical identity and style of play have made a noticeable impact on his Toronto teammates.

He should come at an affordable price for a team that desperately needs affordable depth, especially with the increased cap crunch inevitably coming next season for Toronto. Even with the NHL’s projection of a cap increase next season, potentially lost games due to COVID-19 look to either maintain the current cap or decrease it.

Montreal Canadiens

Rumour: If the NHL season resumes, highly touted Canadiens defence prospect Alexander Romanov may sign with the team to play out the rest of the regular season.

Analysis: While Romanov is talked about quite a lot, his baseline stats may cause some fans to ask questions. In 43 games for the KHL’s CSKA Moscow this season, Romanov didn’t get a single goal and only tallied seven assists. Those aren’t exactly impressive numbers right off the page.

However, two key considerations need to be examined here. For one, Romanov started the season as a 19-year-old, playing against experienced men in the top Russian league. The KHL is widely viewed as the second-best hockey league in the world. Second, Romanov’s ice time has been limited playing on one of the KHL’s best teams, restricting him to a more defensive role.

Despite his young age and his concerning numbers, though, Montreal desperately needs an overhauled left side on defence. Hopefully, the arrival of a young name in Romanov can help with that process.

Chicago Blackhawks

Rumour: In an analytical piece published in The Athletic by Scott Powers, the Blackhawks are connected to top Swiss forward Pius Suter.

Analysis: The 23-year-old Suter has torn apart the Swiss NLA this season. He’s posted 53 points in 50 games and potted 30 goals. The ZSC Lions forward has represented Switzerland internationally at most levels, including the 2018 Olympics. Suter is still under contract in the NLA for the 2020-21 season, but his contract contains an NHL out clause. With Chicago’s recent success in attracting European free agents, he should be a name to watch.

Although he’s Swiss-born and plays in Switzerland, Suter has some junior experience in North America with the OHL’s Guelph Storm. During the 2014-15 season, Suter was a large part of their team. He notched 43 goals and 29 assists for 72 points in only 61 games.

He’s a versatile name that can play either wing or centre, which is huge for coach Jeremy Colliton. Chicago is desperately trying to shake up their bottom six to get some offensive depth. A name like Pius Suter’s may be part of the solution.

Draft Lottery

Rumour: In another Athletic article authored by Craig Custance, it’s reported that the idea of a tournament rather than a lottery for the right to pick first overall has been supported by at least one NHL team.

Analysis: When no games are being played, some interesting ideas can come out. This is certainly one of them.

This situation would obviously arise if the regular season cannot be played out. The lottery odds would not be fair due to the imbalance of games played. The idea certainly has its benefits. Every team would be playing instead of just playoff ones, even if there is an expanded playoff field. It serves as a revenue booster for the league and individual squads.

However, the idea also has some pretty noticeable drawbacks. For one, the entire purpose of the draft is to increase parity. It ensures that a team that needs a first-overall pick gets the first-overall pick. Playing games for the first overall pick gives an obvious disadvantage for higher-ranked teams that just missed out on the playoffs, rather than fledgling teams in need of a star (see: Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators). It’s a polarizing issue, and, quite frankly, probably won’t end up being a reality.

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