NHL Rumours: Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, New CBA

nhl rumours
SUNRISE, FL - FEBRUARY 29: Goaltender Corey Crawford #50 of the Chicago Blackhawks stops a second period shot by Evgenii Dadonov #63 of the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center on February 29, 2020 in Sunrise, Florida. The Blackhawks defeated the Panthers 3-2 in a shootout. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Welcome back to another installment of Last Word on Hockey’s NHL Rumours series. The NHL is much closer to making a return to play this summer a reality, and with those developments have come other sprinklings of information. It’s front office changes, upcoming free agent destinations, and the business side of hockey. Everything seems to be changing at the moment. Today, Last Word on Hockey keeps you up to speed with the NHL rumours of the Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils, as well as a potential agreement on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

NHL Rumours

Buffalo Sabres

Rumour: Per SB Nation’s Chad DeDominicis, current Carolina Hurricanes Senior VP of Hockey Operations Rick Dudley will join the Sabres next year, as his contract is expiring.

Analysis: As the staff wheel continues to churn within the Sabres organization, there were bound to be some high-profile hires at some point soon. Dudley’s served in NHL front office and coaching roles since 1998. He’s exactly the kind of experienced mind that the Sabres lack in their front office. His previous teams include big markets like the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens, but he carved out an important niche in the Carolina front office.

Dudley’s front office versatility is near unmatched. He served as both assistant and head general manager, senior advisor, head coach, team consultant, and director of player personnel in addition to his current role with the ‘Canes. His unique approach to scouting and player development could be extremely beneficial for a team that’s struggled to retain and develop prospects for the majority of the 21st century.

As long as Dudley, in any capacity, can help the Sabres avoid another Casey Mittelstadt or Jeff Skinner scenario, fans of the northern New York squad should consider this a rare front office victory by the Pegula family, who’s ownership of the team has been marred with poor decision-making.

New Jersey Devils

Rumour: NJ.com’s Randy Miller sorts through the possibility of the Devils bringing in Evgenii Dadonov in free agency as a replacement for Taylor Hall.

Analysis: The Devils aren’t in too different of a position than the aforementioned Sabres. While they have had a few recent playoff appearances, the Devils can’t waste much more time before they enter playoff contention again. A lengthened rebuild would only shorten the championship window they may have with Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes. Immediate contention is the best option for almost everyone involved, assuming the price is not too high.

Free agency comes as a way for teams to add without giving up internal assets. That’s a saviour in cases like the Devils are in. They were forced to give up a struggling Hall this season. Dadonov could fill his shoes as an adequate replacement. While ageing, a short-term deal with Dadonov could pan out as a low-risk, high-reward-type arrangement. You can expect goal totals in the high 20s from him, and he fit in well on Florida’s first line with Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov. He’d fit in well on a similarly structured line with Hischier and Kyle Palmieri.

It’s a smart deal for the New Jersey squad if they can make it work.

Collective Bargaining Agreement

Rumour: Via respected Sportsnet insider Elliotte Friedman, the NHL and NHLPA are approaching a modified CBA extension, with a vote that could happen this weekend.

Analysis: A longtime worrying point in NHL rumours seems to have settled. Labour solidarity hasn’t come this easily in quite a long time for the NHL. It couldn’t have come at a better time. As other sports leagues like the MLB suffer acrimonious amounts of internal distress, labour peace in the NHL screams confidence and a solid base for the sport and league’s future.

This news carries many significant implications, the most obvious being the avoidance of a lockout after its 2021 expiry. If labour peace was not achieved, any potential lockout would have to delay the debut of the NHL Seattle franchise on ice. That would create a huge public embarrassment. Not only that, but the details Friedman shares creates a plan for a financially stable and frugal future. The COVID-19 pandemic created a lot of financial uncertainty for those entities. A flat salary and escrow cap create additional financial planning ability for both teams and players.

Moreover, a return to the Olympics gives the NHL additional opportunity to market itself on a global scale as it tries to continually enter non-traditional markets. Regaining international respect is never a bad thing. Overall, there’s nothing negative that can come out of this news.

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