NHL Rumor Mill – June 11, 2021
A look at what could be ahead for the Avalanche in the offseason, more Bruins speculation and the latest on Jack Eichel in today’s NHL rumor mill.
WHAT NEXT FOR THE AVALANCHE?
ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski observes the Colorado Avalanche face some big free-agent decisions in the offseason. Captain Gabriel Landeskog, Vezina Trophy finalist Philipp Grubauer, and winger Brandon Saad are among those slated to become unrestricted free agents. Defenseman Cale Makar, meanwhile, is a restricted free agent in line for a significant pay raise coming off his entry-level contract.
The Avs also risk losing a good defenseman to the Seattle Kraken in next month’s expansion draft. Even if sidelined Erik Johnson agrees to waive his no-movement clause, someone like Ryan Graves or Jacob MacDonald could be left exposed if they opt to protect three defensemen.
Head coach Jared Bednar could be under the microscope after failing to get the Avs past the second round. He has a year remaining on his contract and could return to finish that season.
THE DENVER POST: Mark Kiszla believes Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic needs to build a tougher roster and replace Bednar as head coach, citing the latter’s inability to make strategic roster adjustments against the Vegas Golden Knights during their second-round series. “The Avs are pretty, not gritty,” opined Kiszla among his colorful descriptions of their lack of postseason toughness.
Ryan O’Halloran agreed with Kiszla in less hyperbolic terms. He feels the Avs aren’t in the same depths as the early-era Alex Ovechkin Washington Capitals. Nevertheless, he believes “they need to get bigger on defense and deeper at center” to beat the Golden Knights next season.
THE ATHLETIC: Peter Baugh believes the Avalanche must address how long and for much they’re willing to sign Landeskog for. He also thinks paying Makar $10 million annually is worthwhile and considers it too risky to let Grubauer walk via free agency. He also recommends they explore creating cap space through trades and add some low-cost veterans.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sakic did a fine job building the current roster. He must now figure out how to get this team to the next level without the salary-cap flexibility he enjoyed in recent years.
Yes, the Avalanche needs more depth at center and size on defense. Yes, they need to get tougher. However, Sakic and his staff must avoid overreacting as the 2010 version of the Capitals did following their first-round upset by the Montreal Canadiens. Those missteps set the Caps back several seasons before they finally won the Stanley Cup in 2018.
Landeskog, 28, will seek a substantial pay raise over his current $5.57 million cap hit. Some might scoff at Makar earning $10 million annually but his rise to Norris Trophy finalist in just three seasons provides his camp with sufficient grounds to seek that much. Sakic could try to go the bridge deal route but that seems unlikely given Makar’s talent. Grubauer’s Vezina nod this season also works in his favor as he pursues a big bump over his $3.33 million AAV.
Sakic has shown in the past a willingness to make bold moves to improve his roster. We should expect he’ll do the same this summer as he attempts to retain his core free agents and address his roster needs.
He could use one of the defensemen he risks losing in the expansion draft as a trade chip. Perhaps he’ll move a skilled blueliner like Samuel Girard for a bigger physical rearguard. Maybe he shops center Nazem Kadri to free up cap space to add a tough, cool-headed two-way replacement.
MORE BRUINS SPECULATION
His optimistic forecast regarding Tuukka Rask has the goaltender signing a short-term deal between $5 million and $6 million, undergoing whatever offseason surgery he requires and gradually returning to the lineup next season. He also suggests signing Taylor Hall to a five-year deal worth $6 million annually and David Krejci for a year at around $5 million. The latter would give the Bruins time to determine if Jack Studnicka or Charlie Coyle can play at second-line center or if they need to bring in someone for that role.
Porter also speculates Jake DeBrusk could be shopped for a helpful secondary player. The lack of quality left-side defense options via free agency could see them bring back Mike Reilly if another club doesn’t offer to double his $1.5 million cap hit.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: NBC Sports Boston’s Nick Goss suggests the Bruins should transition Jeremy Swayman to the starter’s job but bring back Rask on a one-year deal worth between $3 million and $5 million. It’s a sensible suggestion but that depends on whether Rask is prepared to accept the backup/mentor role with the Bruins or look elsewhere for a starter’s job.
Hall was a good fit with the Bruins and he really wants to stay but that depends on how much he wants on his next deal and for how long. I think Krejci’s open to returning for another year or two for a lesser cap hit, perhaps around $5 million.
The Bruins were reportedly reluctant to trade DeBrusk this season over fear he’d regain his scoring touch elsewhere. However, I think they should explore the trade market while he still has some decent trade value. It’ll be interesting to see if Reilly is willing to stick in Boston for perhaps a little less than market value.
LATEST ON JACK EICHEL
Friedman believes the Sabres want to move on from their captain. He said the teams around the league with interest in Eichel are trying to convince GM Kevyn Adams to move the unhappy center sooner rather than later. Friedman feels Adams should set the marketplace himself rather than be influenced by those clubs.
The Sabres GM could try to play the interested clubs against each other to drive up Eichel’s trade value. Some teams, however, are pointing to the center’s neck injury to suggest Adams isn’t dealing from a position of strength.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Friedman didn’t indicate which teams could be calling the Sabres. I’ve posted up a list of potential teams in my latest column for The Hockey News, including several suggested by Friedman last month.
If the Sabres trade Eichel during the offseason it’ll likely happen just before or during the opening day of this year’s NHL draft on July 23. Adams will use the next several weeks to evaluate the clubs with the most interest while also gauging Eichel’s ongoing treatment.