NHL Rumor Mill – May 12, 2023
In today’s NHL Rumor Mill, we look at the Devils’ possible offseason moves and if there are other clubs besides the Canadiens that could pursue Pierre-Luc Dubois.
WHAT NEXT FOR THE DEVILS?
The Devils must determine if Timo Meier is part of their long-term future. They parted with a package of players, prospects and draft picks to acquire the 26-year-old winger from the San Jose Sharks before the trade deadline.
Meier is a restricted free agent who’s a year away from unrestricted free-agent eligibility. It will cost the Devils $9 million to qualify his rights unless they agree to a more economical long-term contract.
What they do with Meier will also determine what they do to improve their lineup next season. Winger Jesper Bratt is coming off a 73-point performance and is also an RFA this summer while Miles Wood, Damon Severson and Ryan Graves are slated to become UFAs. Shilton speculates the Devils’ improvement and promising future could make them a desirable destination for free agents.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Adam Proteau believes improving the defense should be the Devils’ offseason priority. They have over $34 million in cap space with 12 players under contract for 2023-24.
Some might prefer Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald use some of that cap room to re-sign Meier but their offense remains potent without him. Their defense needs a direct boost. Proteau suggested pursuing a UFA such as Minnesota’s Matt Dumba or Boston’s Dmitry Orlov.
THE ATHLETIC: Shayna Goldman believes Fitzgerald’s goal will be to re-sign Meier and Bratt and balance the books around them or replace the high-end skill of whichever one departs.
To balance the rising cost of those two, they should maximize players on entry-level contracts like defensemen Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec. Goldman also believes they must stabilize their goaltending situation.
They have plenty of salary-cap room to address those aforementioned issues. However, they must ensure they have sufficient long-term space for when their up-and-coming talents like Dawson Mercer and Luke Hughes are ready for new contracts within the next couple of years. The anticipated big jump in the salary cap after next season should help them in that regard.
The situation with Meier and Bratt will be interesting. It can be argued that they didn’t produce as expected in the postseason. That could have an effect on their contract negotiations.
COULD THERE BE OTHER CLUBS INTERESTED IN DUBOIS?
The potential departures of Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci suggest Dubois would be a good fit with the Bruins but Wiebe doubts the cap-strapped club can afford to re-sign him. The 24-year-old center is a restricted free agent this summer and could seek over $8 million annually on a long-term contract.
Wiebe believes a lot of contending teams will be interested in Dubois even if it’s for one shot at winning the Stanley Cup. His appeal is enhanced if he’s willing to sign an extension with the team that trades for him.
The Colorado Avalanche could be a possibility as they’ll be looking for a second-line center. The Montreal Canadiens still look like the front-runner but Wiebe believes it’s not a “Habs-or-bust” scenario. He believes an Eastern Conference team close to New York is the most likely outcome but doesn’t rule out the Los Angeles Kings as a sleeper.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wiebe is among the few pundits I’ve read or heard that aren’t pushing the narrative of Montreal as Dubois’ sole destination. Some, like Nick Kypreos, have floated the scenario of a contender signing Dubois for just a one-year deal for a chance at pursuing the Cup next season even at the risk of him walking away as a free agent next summer.
The Canadiens likely remain Dubois destination of choice but we can’t rule out the possibility that he ends up with another club, perhaps on a lengthy contract extension. That will provide fodder for Montreal followers demanding the Canadiens trade for Dubois this summer and ink him to a long-term deal.