Hockey is officially back with the start of training camp 2.0. As the NHL inches closer to dropping the puck on August 1, news is coming from other directions. Especially in the NHL rumours mill. As things continue to swirl off the ice, the team here at Last Word On Hockey will continue to keep fans up to date on the NHL rumours and rumblings around the league. Today’s NHL Rumours feature the St. Louis Blues, Vancouver Canucks, and Boston Bruins.
St. Louis Blues
Rumour: As the St. Louis Blues returned to the ice for Phase 3 training camps, Louie Korac of NHL.com was there and all the attention was on defenceman Alex Pietrangelo as he said, “he remains hopeful he will sign a new deal with the Blues.”
Analysis: Pietrangelo is arguably the biggest free-agent defenceman to hit the market in a long time. Most players of his caliber have signed deals already to remain with their respective clubs. Pietrangelo’s goal from the beginning has been to get something done with the Blues. However, he is focused on getting back on the ice and staying healthy through the NHL’s Return to Play. A guy like Pietrangelo will command big dollars on the open market. And it is tough to replace an elite defenceman like Pietrangelo, who helped the Blues win the Stanley Cup last season. They also have an excellent shot to win this year too.
He is in a different situation. With the salary fixed at $81.5 million, it is unclear whether or not Pietrangelo will find the money his looking for. Though most believe the top guys will still get theirs despite a fixed salary cap of $81.5 million. That means general manager Doug Armstrong will have to figure out a way to get a deal done. And with nothing likely to get done during this season, Armstrong has a short window before next season starts to sign Pietrangelo. Armstrong will have to be smart about the kind of money he gives Pietrangelo. The Blues have committed about $78.5 million towards the salary cap next season. That means they have about $2.9 million to spare to sign Pietrangelo and RFA defenceman Vince Dunn.
Armstrong is in a pickle and will have to figure which players he will need to make room to keep this defence corps intact. After signing Justin Faulk to a new contract this past off-season, you have to wonder if Faulk will replace Pietrangelo if he decides to leave via free agency.
Rumour: Following up on a report from Friday about Vancouver Canucks forward Brock Boeser being on the trade market, general manager Jim Benning made it clear to the media at the start of training camp that he has no intention of trading Boeser.
“I have no intention of trading Brock Boeser. I haven’t had one conversation about that, so I don’t know where this stuff comes from.” – Benning
— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) July 13, 2020
Analysis: Now we have to take this with a grain of salt. We have heard general managers make this claim in the past and do the complete opposite. However, Boeser spoke to the media and reiterated that he did not have discussions with Benning about trading him. He also felt the timing of the report was unnecessary. As Thomas Drance and Harman Dayal of the Athletic point out, Boeser is an important piece to the Canucks, considering what he does at even strength. Just like it is hard to replace a franchise defenceman it is hard to replace a guy like Boeser. Considering Boeser just signed his new deal at the beginning of this season, it would be unwise for the Canucks to trade a cornerstone piece.
While Drance and Dayal write that the Canucks rate Tyler Toffoli higher than Boeser, that should not matter. The Canucks are better with Boeser on the team than without him. And even if the team was to trade him, there is no winning the backlash over trading a playing like the caliber of Boeser. Granted Benning does not want to look foolish for what he gave up to acquire Toffoli, there are other routes to go instead of trading a player who has chemistry with the young core and makes them better. The priority for the Canucks this off-season is to make sure they can sign Jacob Markstrom and go from there. It is wise to stick with the status quo instead of changing for the sake of changing. The Canucks have the potential to be contenders again, unless they go mess that up.
Torey Krug acknowledges he probably has to prepare for free agency.
— Fluto Shinzawa (@FlutoShinzawa) July 13, 2020
Analysis: Like Pietrangelo, Krug is an unrestricted free-agent this off-season. The Bruins are another team up against the salary cap next season. They already have $62 million committed to players next season as Krug, Jake Debrusk, Anders Bjork, Matt Grzelcyk, and Zdeno Chara need new contracts. Chara will be the easy one because he will be last on the list and take a similar deal to what he had this season. The dilemma will be with DeBrusk and Krug. DeBrusk’s agent has come and stated, his client is not taking a hometown discount and is a $6 million player. Krug will be looking for a raise from the $5.250 million he’s making now.
So general manager Don Sweeney will have to get creative, but there is a reason why he won the general manager of the year award. He’ll now have to choose between Krug or DeBrusk. The Bruins have depth at defence but lack secondary scoring which DeBrusk brings. It is a tough no choice nobody wants to make. The Bruins have been so good for so long as they have done things the right way. However, there always comes a point in time when a player must do what is best for himself. So you have to wonder will this post-season be the last time we see Krug in a Bruins uniform? The odds are not in their favour to keep both of those players.
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