Welcome back to another edition of NHL Rumours from the crew at Last Word on Hockey. We’re inching closer to the next phase of the NHL’s return to play plan which will see training camps open on July 10th. As long as it’s safe to do so. Teams will be gearing up to make to take part in the play-ins to see who ultimately make the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Despite the fact that there has yet to be a Stanley Cup winner crowned, teams are still looking ahead to next season. Today, we will focus our NHL rumours on the Montreal Canadiens, Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers.
All NHL rumours come from their original source and are subject to change.
Rumour: During a conference call, Montreal Canadiens Owner Geoff Molson debunked the rumour started by Rejean Tremblay of the Journal de Quebec. Tremblay had stated that the Canadiens would be hiring Vincent Damphousse as president of hockey operations. However, that is not the case.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) June 11, 2020
Analysis: Geoff Molson has made sure during his press conference that this was the first thing he commented on. He wanted to shut down any notion that he did not have faith in Marc Bergevin because let’s be honest, hiring a president of hockey operations this far into Bergevin’s tenure would basically make it look like they weren’t doing things right from the start and he was now losing faith in their abilities to turn this team into a contender. However, Molson stayed firm and made sure to let everyone know he believes in the team they have assembled. The goal remains to bring a 25th Stanley Cup to Montreal.
Stick With the Plan
Molson did acknowledge that he does not believe the team is there yet. However, Bergevin has a plan that had been put in place two years ago to readjust and change up the roster a bit. This ‘readjustment’ meant moving out some of the Habs core players such as Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk and to start building through the draft. They got a significant return for both players. Bergevin has managed to build what is widely considered to be a top-five prospect pool. With 14 picks in the upcoming draft, 11 next year and a pool full of promising prospects, the Canadiens are well equipped. It will soon get to the point where they will start using these pieces as trade chips, to solidify the roster and make a legitimate run at Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Rumour: In an article written by Ben Kuzma of theprovince.com, Jim Benning was quoted saying that goaltender Jacob Markstrom is an important player for their organization. His intent is to figure something out that works for both Markstrom and the Canucks.
Ben Kuzma: Markstrom makes Canucks extension case, Baertschi banter, lauding Larionov https://t.co/3jySKVeoDl
— Province Sports (@provincesports) June 9, 2020
Analysis: Jacob Markstrom put together the best season of his career this season. He posted a record of 23-16-4, with a goals-against-average of 2.75 and a save percentage of .918. He also posted two shutouts. Markstrom has really proven to be the goaltender that the Canucks thought he would be after acquiring him in a trade with the Florida Panthers that sent Roberto Luongo back to the sunshine state. Benning mentions he knew what he was capable of. It was the reason they sent him to Utica in 2015 to further his development. Because of this, he believes it’s why they are seeing his high level of play on a nightly basis. It’s why he feels Markstrom does not need to prove himself any further to them, he is Benning’s guy.
Expansion Draft Issue?
However, this is met with some mixed reactions. With the expansion draft coming, each team needs to expose at least one goaltender. If Markstrom is to sign a deal that is longer than one season, chances are he will want a no-trade clause in his contract. This is to make sure he is protected from the expansion draft. That means, Thatcher Demko, who is expected to be the goalie of the future, would have to be exposed. The Canucks would be stuck in an issue much like the Pittsburgh Penguins were in the last expansion draft. The Penguins ultimately lost Marc-Andre Fleury. You have to believe if Demko is available, he will be taken. Being six years younger, it’s hard to believe that’s the route the Canucks want to go. They’ll have to find a way to keep both goaltenders if they plan on signing Markstrom past next season.
— BarDown (@BarDown) June 12, 2020
Analysis: It’s hard to imagine Puljujarvi would even entertain coming back to the Oilers. Puljujarvi demanded a trade from the Oilers in the summer of 2019. Puljujarvi’s agent stated that if Puljujarvi was not traded he would play in Europe. He would not be playing for the Oilers. So that’s what he did. However, it seems the two sides may be repairing the relationship. Surely, Puljujarvi wants to get back to the NHL and prove he was worthy of the fourth overall selection back in 2016.
Return to the Oilers?
What better team to do that with than the Oilers? Puljujarvi is an extremely gifted hockey player. With three outstanding centres in Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Puljujarvi could not find better pivots to play with. With the ask from the Oilers being so high to acquire his talents and teams obviously not willing to pay it at the moment given his struggles in the NHL thus far, Puljujarvi would benefit from coming back and signing with the Oilers. He could play himself into a full-time roster spot with the Oilers that he was expected to by now. Or, if he does play well enough, he could prove himself worthy to other NHL teams. Then they may actually be willing to pay the price to acquire him from the Oilers.
The Oilers are not just going to let Puljujarvi go, that would be foolish. However, even after his comments, it does not mean that the trade talks for the young Finn are over. It’s still possible we see Puljujarvi in another team’s uniform next season.