NHL Rumor Mill – April 24, 2021

by | Apr 24, 2021 | Rumors | 27 comments

Are offseason changes in store this summer for the Blue Jackets? Could Patrik Laine, Max Domi or John Tortorella be part of them? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill

THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Aaron Portzline was asked if Patrik Laine’s body language suggests the Blue Jackets winger wants out of Columbus. Citing those who know Laine best, he said the winger does care, wants to be in Columbus and is being maligned by a lack of confidence. Laine becomes a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer. Portzline suspects he’ll get a one-year deal, making him an RFA again next summer.

Columbus Blue Jackets winger Patrik Laine (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Laine could also pop up in offseason trade speculation. Unless he demands a trade or the Jackets get a mind-blowing offer I expect they’ll re-sign him. A one-year contract could be the best path for now given his difficulties this season.

This was a tough season for the Jackets as a team and Laine personally. The club could have a different coach behind the bench and maybe some news faces in the lineup for 2021-22. Gauging Laine’s play over a normal 82-game schedule will allow them to fully evaluate whether he’s a worthwhile long-term fit.

The likely return for Elvis Merzlikins or Joonas Korpisalo could be underwhelming if the market for goaltenders is flooded this summer. He suggested teams like Colorado, Toronto or Washington could seek help between the pipes if their goaltending fails them in the playoffs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This summer’s pending UFA goalies include Boston’s Tuukka Rask, Colorado’s Philipp Grubauer and Toronto’s Frederik Andersen. There could still be a decent market for Merzlikins or Korpisalo assuming Rask and Grubauer sign with their current clubs.

The health of the franchise will depend upon what Seth Jones wants to do. Signing the defenseman to a contract extension this summer has to be the top item on general manager Jarmo Kekalainen’s list, followed by deciding whether to sign or replace head coach John Tortorella.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Jones is eligible next summer to become an unrestricted free agent. The Blue Jackets can open contract extension talks once the NHL offseason is in full swing. His contract negotiations could become a hot topic in this summer’s rumor mill. If Jones prefers testing the market it could lead to a franchise-altering trade at some point before next year’s trade deadline.

Tortorella’s critics this season (of which I am one) wonder why he hasn’t been replaced given the Jackets’ decline this season and the struggles of Laine and Max Domi since their arrivals in Columbus. There’s no question he did a good job reversing their fortunes in recent years. Nevertheless, the club’s disappointing performance this season suggests it’s time for a change behind the bench. We’ll find out well before next season if Kekalainen shares that view.

Portzline is against trading struggling forward Max Domi, pointing out the Jackets would be selling low. He wonders if Domi might benefit from a different voice behind the bench.

In another mailbag, Portzline suggests the Jackets might have to package defenseman Zach Werenski to acquire a No. 1 center in the trade market, though they shouldn’t do that unless they know what Jones intends to do. Free-agent options include Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Montreal’s Phillip Danault but the former is really a second-line center and the latter a middle-six guy.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Boosting the offense should be a priority, even if it means adding wingers if no decent centers can be found. The Jackets require a reliable first-line center but they might have to develop their own while making do in the short term with second-line additions via trades and/or free agency.


  1. I wrote yesterday that Buffalo should trade Eichel for a number 1 D man. Seth Jones for Eichel might be the basis for a positive trade for teams.

    Anyone have ideas as to who would add? How big an add would be sensible.

    • Werenski (or Jones) and Domi for Eichel may be interesting for both clubs.

      Eichel is the true #1 Centre CBJ need despite his off year.

      Werenski (or Jones) brings top end D to Buffalo and moving Domi makes it cap in cap out.

      Domi doesn’t belong with CBJ, it was a bad trade and they should cut their losses. He has shown himself to be capable if handled properly and worth a gamble for Buffalo.

      • Eichel is not likely to be traded and if he is it will be to the west coast.

        Portzline is an idiot.

    • That is a very interesting idea. I would assume that Jones would be the more valuable of the two, given that he’s a right shot and would look great with Dahlin. If I were Adams, I would want assurances that Jones would sign an extention: that may be a tough sell: if Jones is fed up with loosing in Columbus and knew that he could pick his destination after the season, Buffalo might not be his first selection.

    • Surely they have to get a quality center back as part of the deal, OBD. Cozens has promise but as we have seen with Suzuki and KK it takes time for even promising young centers to learn their craft. A quick scan of Sabres top prospects didn’t bring up any young centers.

      So I propose Suzuki and any current D the Habs have. Perhaps Chiarot if they want a veteran, Romanov if they want a young player.

  2. The CBJ season was clearly a major disappointment after 4 straight playoff appearances. The talk here in CBus is: 1) Torts is not returning and this was a mutually agreed upon decision (hence, in part, why he wasn’t replaced when CBJ slide out of playoff contention); 2) the Jones signing will be the critical factor in determining “reload” vs something resembling a “retool/rebuild”; 3) Jarmo is choosing his words very carefully but they general message is they believe in their core and don’t require full scale rebuild as long as Jones signs long-term; 4) 1 goalie will be traded still 50/50 on who it will be. CBJ are VERY high on Tarasov which could make Elvis the more available of the 2 (which I would be personally disappointed in); 5) they will be very active in trades for F this offseason rebuilding the C depth of course is the focus…..My speculative prediction, if Jones signs Werenski may be available which changes the dynamic of what type of C they can realistically trade for. Expect a new coaching staff & 5-6 new players next year….wow

  3. Torts is moving on. You can tell, much like with Babcock in his last year in Detroit, he’s ready to move on. It wouldn’t surprise me if he ends up in Detroit.

  4. Lyle, I seem to remember there were rumours a while ago that Tortorella planned to retire after the season which could explain why he hasn’t been let go.
    One way or another I can’t see him being back in Columbus.

    • BCLL…yes there whispers, that got pretty loud honestly, he almost retired before the season (unclear how true that is). It appears to be a mutual decision that this would be his final year and that at least partially contributed to not making an in-season coaching change

      • It would be good for your Jackets if he did Deacon. Torts wore his welcome out everywhere he has been and his task master style exhausts after a while.

        I am not one who believes a club’s peformance is on the coach (The Habs and Flames record hasn’t improved under their new coaches), but Torts’ time is up.

  5. Buffalo should jump all over Seth Jones for Eichel, not so much if I’m Columbus … imo …

    this is the perfect time for RNH to be a ufa, the centre market is weak as usual … he should be able to write his own ticket … Habs need him badly, they still don’t have a #1 C …

    the Blue Jackets are a mess, they are headed into that dreaded no man’s land territory …

    • Torts would love Eichel. I think its a good deal for both organizations in their current positions.
      If CBJ keep Torts.

      Sabres are no worse without Hall and Eichel.

  6. Three firsts. Tight cap. Might be able to pry a number one center with that draft capital if teams are tight against cap. Tampa?

  7. I believe CLB management is letting Torts to resign as opposed to YOUR FIRED. Witch should have been the case regardless.
    You have to keep Jones and Werenski at all costs. Build around those two .

    Laine Laine Laine keeps getting in the way of Laine

    • I wonder if torts really is made of wood?

  8. Keep Eichel it’s difficult to obtain a 1C why trade him away the team playing good under a new coach. Cozens and Mittelstadt are developing nicely the center position looks promising. Dahlin getting better this young team needs more experience. This year 1st rounder will be a trade chip before Eichel

  9. I would say the foundation of any club that wants to compete has to include:
    1- a franchise Center
    2- a consistent scoring winger
    3- an aggressive checking line
    4- an offensive defence man who can drive the play
    5- two experienced defensive stalwarts on d
    6- a goalie that can stop a beach ball
    7- players who backcheck and finish their checks
    8- effective penalty killing unit
    9- a coach who demands consistency
    10- if you can’t have all 9 any combination of up to 6 will be good.

  10. Just an unrelated question . With less to no action in developmental league like the OHL etc , did it lower the value of picks?

    • MotorCitySmitty, the chief scout for Ottawa (Trent Mann) had this to say on the OHL kids the other day in the Ottawa Sun

      ” … the result of not playing may make it difficult to take a chance on a player if you don’t have the whole picture.

      Unfortunately for those kids they’ll fall in the draft if they get drafted at all … it’s a little hard to gamble too early on a kid that you haven’t seen play in 18 months.”

      When Mann was reached Thursday he was on a stopover in Denver and was en route to Texas for the IIIHF Under-18 tournament that gets under way Monday and will wrap up with the final May 6. Prospects from 10 countries — including Canada, the United States, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Switzerland and the Czech Republic — will participate in Plano and Frisco.

  11. Buffalo should hire Torts for 3 years and then hire an assistant coach (a young head coach in training) to be his successor. It would be the culture shock that Buffalo needs.

    Buffalo should keep Eichel and build around him. The #1 C position is the toughest to fill and most of the good teams drafted and developed their own.

    Columbus and Nashville didn’t accomplish what they wanted to do in the off season. That’s why both teams are where they are today. Nashville needs a new GM.

    RNH would be a good fit with either team.

  12. Any team looking for a head coach should not look beyond Gerard Gallant first & foremost.

    Unfortunately for the Habs, he is not francophone!!!!

    • Yeah, Gallant is a good coach. You and I continue to have a difference of opinion on what the Habs need.

      it isn’t another coach. The Habs play well against skating teams: The Oilers, the Jets, the Canucks. They play poorly against teams that grind: the Flames and the Senators. After improving in size, they still have players that are neither effective at puck battles, nor scoring: Byron, Drouin. Danault can’t score, and Staal has been disappointing. So much of their problem is an almost complete lack of scoring up the middle. These are personnel issues, not coaching inadequacies.

      • MTL is the has been the most physical and obstructive team the Oilers have played all year.
        Each of those last 2 games were like playoff hockey. The refs let them play like it too.
        I think MTL will be a tough out come playoff time.
        If healthy of course.

  13. I think that the NHL is starting to become like the NBA in that quite a few of the players don’t want to play in small markets.

    Unfortunately, most American couldn’t find Columbus, Ohio on a map.
    At least Nashville has music. What does Columbus offer compared to NY, LA, Montreal, Toronto and many others?

    Laine wants the big stage just like Panarin did.
    Eichel would be a god in Boston or NYC.

    I say this as a lifelong Isles fan who has suffered through years of players not wishing to come to the Island. The franchise was a joke.

    Both JK and Torts need to move on. The Jackets need a new team in the front office and behind the bench.
    Look at how LL and Trotz have turned the Island battleship around!
    That’s what Columbus needs.

    • Lot to unwind here. First. Are you saying Long Island is a small market? What?
      Second. Buffalo treats their sports stars like gods. So do most smallerish markets like Pittsburgh philly etc.

      It’s a shame you are right about Columbus and the map. It’s a nice city and a great place to live.

    • Yeah, I think Kekalainen has to go as well. He made a couple of nice moves but the start of his downfall was when he traded away a bunch of draft picks at the deadline a couple of years ago knowing full well he was going to loose Panarin and Bobrovski. Then backing Torts and getting rid of Dubois. Part of a GM’s role is taking a longer term view, he is only capable of a short term and has now put Columbus in a bad situation.

    • I think major markets like NYC, LA, TOR etc can attract players because of what they are.
      The smaller market teams need to be good, or on the upswing.
      EDM will have some money, finally, this off season and have some holes to fill. My guess is they get a good player without over paying.
      WPG core guys, that they wanted to keep, signed long term extensions except for Trouba.
      Major markets will always have an advantage though.