NHL Rumor Mill – November 2, 2020
A look at five teams with unanswered offseason questions in the NHL rumor mill.
NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz recently listed five NHL teams with some unanswered questions to address in this offseason.
Gretz noted the Edmonton Oilers brought back the goaltending duo of Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen, wondering if they will be good enough in 2020-21. Smith is 38 and hasn’t played well over the last two seasons while the 32-year-old Koskinen still hasn’t established himself as an NHL starter.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers couldn’t or wouldn’t pay big bucks to land someone like Jacob Markstrom via free agency. They’ll start next season with their current tandem and see how things shake out. I expect they’ll test the trade market if Smith and Koskinen aren’t getting the job done.
Defense remains the Winnipeg Jets’ Achilles heel entering 2020-21. Gretz feels they’re lacking a true No. 1 defender and maybe another top-four option.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That explains in part why Jets winger Patrik Laine keeps appearing in offseason trade speculation. He’d certainly land a No.1 defenseman, but no one’s willing to part with a top blueliner right now for a 40-goal first-line winger.
Sportsnet’s Ken Wiebe doesn’t see the Jets trading Laine unless they’re blown away by a big offer in the coming weeks or months. He didn’t rule out using Jack Roslovic and Sami Niku in a package deal or in separate trades to bring in a defenseman. Maybe that package nets a second-pairing rearguard but it’s not enough for a top defender.
Gretz wonders how the Nashville Predators will replace the offense lost by the departures of Craig Smith, Mikael Granlund and Nick Bonino. He doesn’t think the additions of Brad Richardson, Nick Cousins and Luke Kunin will address that issue.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hence the rumors claiming the Predators have interest in Mike Hoffman. However, the 30-year-old unrestricted free agent winger reportedly seeks a one-year deal worth $6 million. It’s believed the Predators (and other interested clubs) are playing the waiting game hoping he’ll lower his asking price.
The departure of Torey Krug via free agency leaves a big hole on the left side of the Boston Bruins’ defense corps. Gretz pointed out Sami Vatanen and Slater Koekkoek remain available but they’re not going to replace Krug’s minutes and production.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Bruins have over $6.6 million in cap space. However, they must re-sign restricted free agent Jake DeBrusk and determine if long-time captain Zdeno Chara will return for another season. New contracts for those two will eat up most of that cap space. They won’t have enough cap room to bring in someone to suitable replace Krug unless they go the trade route, and that’ll mean parting with a very good player.
Gretz also wondered why the Buffalo Sabres stuck with goaltenders Linus Ullmark and Carter Hutton. The latter was a notable flop between the pipes. He feels none of their offseason additions will matter if their goaltending doesn’t improve.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gretz did point out Ullmark was solid last season. Nevertheless, he’s yet to establish himself as a reliable NHL starter. Hutton blamed vision problems for his struggles last season but credits therapy with addressing that issue. Like the Oilers, I daresay the Sabres will evaluate their goaltending during next season and look to the trade market if there’s no significant improvement by their current tandem.