NHL Rumor Mill – April 28, 2022
How will missing the playoffs affect the Golden Knights’ offseason plans? What’s the latest on the Jets and Canucks? Find out in today’s edition of the NHL rumor mill.
WHAT NEXT FOR THE GOLDEN KNIGHTS?
SPORTSNET: In his latest “32 Thoughts” column, Elliotte Friedman wondered what the repercussions will be for the Vegas Golden Knights after missing the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
He also mused over what it could mean for Robin Lehner after head coach Peter DeBoer seemed to criticize the oft-injured goaltender when he observed a number of his teammates were also playing hurt and giving their best.
Friedman indicated we’ve yet to hear from Lehner, general manager Kelly McCrimmon, team owner Bill Foley or the other Golden Knights players. He wondered where everyone stands, suggesting the possibility this gets “more flammable” before it calms down. Lehner is under contract with the Golden Knights for three more seasons.
THE ATHLETIC: Jesse Granger also wondered what the offseason holds in store for the Golden Knights. He pointed out that injuries to core players Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty were a contributing factor to the club’s struggles this season.
The club’s lack of identity could also be an issue despite their star-studded roster. DeBoer has always preferred a defense-first mentality but most of their biggest roster additions fly in the face of that strategy. They’ve also struggled to score in big moments.
The uprooting of many of their original core players from their 2017-18 Cup Finalist roster also played a part. Granger suggested the constant push to upgrade may have burdened the club with additional pressure.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Golden Knights will have to make some offseason moves to trim payroll.
Cap Friendly shows the Golden Knights have over $83.8 million invested in 18 active roster players for 2022-23 with pending UFA winger Reilly Smith as their most notable free agent this summer. What other factors will be involved in their summer plans remain to be seen.
Lehner’s situation is an interesting one. He was frequently sidelined but the club downplayed the severity of his injuries. He’s undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery but before that he was reportedly unhappy over being pulled from a recent game after the first period with the score tied at one. DeBoer said the move was made to shift the momentum in his club’s favor but there appears to be a rift growing between the two that could prove costly to one of them.
LATEST ON THE JETS
Friedman repeated his Saturday report where he suggested Pierre-Luc Dubois’ contract talks with the Winnipeg Jets could be worth watching. He wondered if the 23-year-old center has “a long-term vision.” Friedman pointed out the Jets prefer term and have locked up some good contracts that way. He wondered what will happen if Dubois is unwilling to do that.
NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien also pondered the Jets’ potential offseason plans to address the issues that derailed them this season, most notably their defensive play. He wondered if the right coach might help them find the right balance of improving their defense without stifling their skilled forwards.
Making additions won’t be easy as they’ve got $16.2 million in cap room. A big chunk of that could be taking up re-signing Dubois and perhaps bringing back pending UFA center Paul Stastny on another 35-plus (bonus-laden) contract.
There aren’t many answers for the Jets in this summer’s UFA market. They could attempt to pursue defenseman John Klingberg or center Nazem Kadri but both will be expensive to sign. Claude Giroux’s two-way style could help if his asking price isn’t too steep.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Much will depend on whether Kevin Cheveldayoff returns as general manager and how much pressure he might receive from ownership to shake things up. Perhaps a new head coach will be able to address the Jets’ defensive woes. Maybe it requires trading a core player like Mark Scheifele to free up the cap space to add a skilled defenseman to bolster the blueline.
I believe the Jets’ front office will do all it can to sign Dubois to a long-term deal but it could cost as much as $8 million annually. If he only wants a two-year deal that brings him up to UFA eligibility, they might have to consider shopping him.
MORE CANUCKS SPECULATION
SPORTSNET: Iain MacIntyre reports J.T. Miller’s future will dominate the Vancouver Canucks’ offseason. The 29-year-old center is enjoying a career-best 97-point performance. He’s under contract for one more season with an annual salary-cap hit of $5.25 million.
Miller said he wants to win with his friends in Vancouver, suggesting his play this season is indicative of what’s to come. However, MacIntyre noted his age, potential UFA value next summer and the Canucks’ cap crunch could bring a trade instead of a contract extension.
THE ATHLETIC: Harman Dayal believes Boeser’s subpar performance this season could force the Canucks to make a difficult choice. It will cost them $7.5 million to qualify his rights, meaning they invest big money in a player whose production is less certain than it was a year ago or attempt to trade him while his value is likely to be at an all-time low.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Despite the Canucks cap situation, it wouldn’t be surprising if they sign Miller to a lucrative contract extension if they see him as someone worth building around. Doing so, however, could mean a cost-cutting move or trading a restricted free agent such as Boeser.
Horvat’s situation will also be worth monitoring. His annual average value ($5.5 million) is slightly higher than Miller’s but he won’t cost as much as the latter to re-sign. Nevertheless, it will be as high as around $7.5 million. The cost of new contracts for Horvat and Miller could ensure Boeser’s departure this summer.
The long-term futures of Miller and Horvat could also depend on whether management brings back Bruce Boudreau as head coach. The Canucks responded very well under his guidance, rallying from the bottom of the division standings to staying in the playoff race until the final week of the season.