Another week in the books, and there is good news on the horizon as the NHL is inching closer to returning to the ice after NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman officially announced the return to play format. However, we are still a long way from seeing players return to the ice. But there are still plenty of NHL Rumours to talk about. As always, the team at Last Word on Hockey will continue to keep fans updated on the latest NHL rumours and rumblings around the league. Today’s NHL rumours feature the New Jersey Devils, Detroit Red Wings, Colorado Avalanche and NHL’s 2020-21 Schedule.
New Jersey Devils
Analysis: The New Jersey Devils are looking to make a change at the head coaching position going into next season now that their season has officially come to an end. With Gerard Gallant and John Stevens already being interviewed, the Devils reached out to Rikard Gronborg. Along with Gallant, Gronborg has been listed as one of the potential head coaches for the Devils next season. However, unlike Gallant and Stevens, Gronborg does not have an out clause in his contract with the ZSC Lions. While Gronborg is an ideal fit for a young team because of his coaching style, and how he adapts his style to the players on the roster, the Devils need an established coach.
Not to mention his meeting with the Devils was just that a meeting. The two sides were just looking to get to know each other. It was nothing more than that. There have been several NHL clubs interested in Gronborg’s services, but for right now he likes his job with the Lions and has no plans of looking elsewhere as he told swisshockeynews.ch There may come a day when he decides to leave Switzerland for the NHL, but with so much going on in the world and the NHL schedule for next season up in the air, he does not know when, where, and how an NHL job will be relevant for him. But for right now it appears Gronborg and the Devils will have to wait.
Detroit Red Wings
Analysis: It is no secret that Howard is getting up there in age. He is 36 years old and is one of the more successful goalies in Red Wings history. However, there is no guarantee he will be coming back. He is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. As Kulfan writes with the Red Wings need to get a goalie that can form a good tandem with Bernier. Even though Bernier will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of next season, the team will likely extend him. If they do not extend Bernier, the Red Wings need to bring in someone who can take over the starting job after next season.
With no one coming up through the ranks the Red Wings can go after players like Braden Holtby, Jacob Markstrom, Thomas Greiss, Robin Lehner, Anton Khudobin, Cam Talbot, and Corey Crawford. Some are coming from situations where they have been part of a tandem for a long time. Others want to be starters. While Greiss and Holtby are probably moving on from their respective teams. One because of money. And two there is a prospect in the system the teams want to elevate to the starters role. Holtby most likely will want to go to a contender. The Vancouver Canucks will do everything to sign Markstrom. It will come down to how much the Red Wings will be willing to pay for Lehner and who will outbid them. The most likely two candidates the Wings get are Greiss and Khudobin.
Rumour: Adrian Dater of Colorado Hockey Now writes that fourth overall pick from the 2019 NHL Draft defenceman Bowen Byram could play for the Colorado Avalanche in the playoffs. However, the team wants to keep his entry-level contract intact.
Technically, Bo Byram could play for #Avs in playoffs. But I’m told that won’t happen. Avs want to keep his ELC still fully intact
— Adrian Dater (@adater) May 23, 2020
Analysis: With the way the 2019-20 season is playing out, it is no surprise that players like Bowen Byram are eligible for the Stanely Cup Playoffs. With rosters expanding to 28 players, teams will be looking to add players from their AHL affiliates or draft picks from last season who are eligible to enter the league. Byram was playing with the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League before COVID-19 cancelled the rest of his season. This highly skilled defenceman is just one of many weapons the Avalanche have on defence. Last year the Avalanche burned a year on defenceman Cale Makar‘s contract. Recall Makar joined the Avalanche in the playoffs after his college season was over. That worked out really well for them.
However, according to Dater there is no way Byram will play. Not because he is not good enough, because there is simply no room for him to jump into this year’s playoffs the way Makar did last season. Colorado wants to keep Byram on track for his regular development instead of having to start and stop especially with the unknown of when next season for any league will start. In addition, Colorado can defer another year of Byram’s contract that way they can wait until they have to pay him more money. With so many contracts expiring soon, Colorado has work to do to get other players signed. They do not want Byram to be one of them.
2020-21 NHL Schedule
Rumour: James Mirtle of The Athletic writes the NHL could start the 2020-21 season as late as January 1st, a full three months after the 2019-20 season ends.
Lot of rumours lately that the next NHL season may not start until Jan. 1, a full three months later.
— James Mirtle (@mirtle) May 26, 2020
Analysis: The NHL is not so concerned with the start of next season. The league wants to finish this season and will do everything in its power to do so. However, if the NHL was going to have a plan going forward this would be it. Why not make January 1st your day on the sports calendar and kick off your new league year with the Winter Classic. With rumours of the NBA not starting their next regular season until Christmas Day, why not do the same thing. Besides when you think of hockey, you think about winter. For years, general managers and owners have complained about going up against the NFL, MLB Playoffs and college football.
For example, if the NHL had a normal season starting up in October, do you think people in Tampa Bay even if the Tampa Bay Lightning would have won the Stanley Cup, would have had an interest in watching the Lightning play? No, because of what was going on with the Tampa Bay Buccanneers and Tom Brady. NHL owners know the first two months of the season are poor for gate revenue. It is time for the NHL to switch the playing calendar around and get more eyes on the sport and have less competition at the beginning of the year. With this new format, the NHL will avoid all of that entirely, except for the New Year’s Day Bowls. But kicking off the new season on New Years Day will draw even more interest from the casual fan.
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