NHL Rumor Mill – May 10, 2021
Speculation over Taylor Hall and Jaroslav Halak’s futures with the Bruins, the Blue Jackets face a busy offseason, plus a look at some possible coaching candidates for the Coyotes in today’s NHL rumor mill.
THE ATHLETIC: Eric Duhatschek recently examined how the Boston Bruins could keep Taylor Hall after this season if he remains a good fit on their roster. He’s not going to get more than Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak or Brad Marchand, with Bergeron the top earner of the trio at $6.875 million annually.
If they do keep Hall it could come at the expense of another forward such as Jake DeBrusk, who’s signed beyond this season at $3.675 million. That’s assuming Hall would accept playing on their second line.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, the Bruins could re-sign Hall if he’s willing to accept a pay cut to play the same role he’s currently filling as their second-line left wing. That could also mean re-signing linemate David Krejci on an affordable, short-term deal, which he could accept to stay with the only NHL team he’s ever played for. Doing so, however, will mean shipping out DeBrusk in a cost-cutting move.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy reports this season could be Jaroslav Halak’s last with the Bruins. There were exploratory contract talks with Halak and Tuukka Rask two months ago but a source said the play of Jeremy Swayman changes everything.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Swayman’s emergence this season likely spells the end of Halak’s tenure in Boston. Like Krejci, Rask could return on a cost-effective, short-term contract.
THE ATHLETIC: Prior to the Columbus Jackets parting ways yesterday with John Tortorella, Aaron Portzline wondered who they could hire as a replacement. He speculated they could go with a “player’s coach”, though general manager Jarmo Kekalainen never had an issue with Tortorella’s firm stance. He doubts the Jackets will pay top dollar for one of the bigger names available in the coaching market.
Turning to the roster, signing Seth Jones to a contract extension will be the offseason priority. The 26-year-old defenseman is a year away from unrestricted free agent status. If Jones doesn’t re-sign, Kekalainen could attempt to trade him for the best possible return. Then again, perhaps Jones will wait and see what roster moves the Jackets GM makes before signing an extension.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Jones’ contract status will be among this offseason’s closely-watched stories. He’ll draw considerable attention in the trade market if a new deal cannot be reached with the Jackets.
Kekalainen must also decide if winger Patrik Laine’s game will improve under a new head coach and if they can find a suitable center for him. Portzline cites sources saying he isn’t averse to trading Laine for the right deal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kekalainen’s proven he’s willing to make bold moves. That’s how he got Laine in the first place. He could trade the winger this summer but that doesn’t mean he will. The right deal would probably be the offer of a good, young first-line center. A lot will also depend on how Laine’s contract talks shake out. He’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights costing $7.5 million just to qualify his rights.
The Jackets GM must also attempt to acquire one or two centers. He has three first-round picks in this year’s draft and plenty of salary-cap space to pursue a deal with a cap-strapped rival.
He’ll also have to decide between goaltenders Joonas Korpisalo or Elvis Merzlikins. Portzline doesn’t see them returning as a tandem for next season. Both are UFAs next summer and Kekalainen can’t afford to lose one of them for nothing.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Korpisalo or Merzlikins could be part of a package deal to acquire a center or one of them could be used to address other roster needs.
AZ COYOTES INSIDER: Craig Morgan listed several potential coaching candidates for the Arizona Coyotes after the club parted ways yesterday with bench boss Rick Tocchet. A source told Morgan they’d like to have Tocchet’s replacement hired before this year’s draft on July 23-24.
Morgan doesn’t expect veteran coaches such as John Tortorella, Claude Julien, Bruce Boudreau or Gerard Gallant will be under consideration. He speculated options include St. Louis Blues assistant coach Mike Van Ryn, San Jose Sharks associate coach Rocky Thompson, New York Islanders associate coach Lane Lambert or Blue Jackets assistant coach Brad Larsen.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Like the Jackets, the Coyotes seem to prefer affordable coaches over more well-known ones who’ll be expensive to hire.