NHL News & Rumors: Oilers, Canucks, Flyers, Maple Leafs, More

In today’s NHL news and rumors rundown, it appears the Edmonton Oilers will be activating Jujhar Khaira this week and bringing him back for game action. Is that wise considering his concussion history over the past month? Meanwhile, one scribe wonders if Elias Pettersson is a target for an offer sheet this offseason? Former Columbus Blue Jackets players talk what the experience was really like playing with that team and the Toronto Maple Leafs are viewing their upcoming series with the Montreal Canadiens as a playoff preview.

Khaira Returning to Game Action

According to Daniel Nugent-Bowman of The Athletic, “Dave Tippett said he expects Jujhar Khaira to return to the lineup at some point this week. Also, expect Mikko Koskinen to get some action with four games, including a back-to-back situation Monday and Tuesday in Vancouver.”

Jujhar Khaira Edmonton Oilers
Jujhar Khaira, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Koskinen news makes sense, but the Khaira news is a bit surprising considering the forward is believed to have suffered two concussions in short order, one against the Calgary Flames and one against the Montreal Canadiens, both of which left him buckled. Obviously, we have to assume the medical staff checked him out thoroughly before coming to the decision he was fit to play, but that won’t stop people from making the argument Khaira definitely should not be returning to the lineup this week, or argue that with his potential concussion history this season he shouldn’t return for the rest of this season at all.

** Update: Khaira will play tonight versus the Canucks.

Offer Sheet For Pettersson?

We don’t see it often in the NHL and with a flat salary cap situation, it’s probably less likely an NHL tenders an offer sheet to a player, but Patrick Johnston of The Province wondered if a rival club will attempt to sign Elias Pettersson to an offer sheet.

Elias Pettersson Vancouver Canucks
Elias Pettersson, Vancouver Canucks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The 22-year-old center becomes a restricted free agent this summer and Johnston writes:

But if you’re Seattle, you really should think about it. Throw a huge offer, one that, given the Canucks’ cap constraints, would make it very hard to match. Heck, if you’re Montreal, maybe you should think about it too. The Habs do have cap space and Marc Bergevin and Pat Brisson do have a long standing relationship.

Bergevin did Brisson, one of his oldest friends, a big favour two years ago in offer sheeting Sebastian Aho. Maybe he’d do it again?

source – ‘The Skate: Just not good enough’ – Patrick Johnston – The Province – 05/02/2021

Flyers to Make Big Offseason Changes

Philadelphia Inquirer scribe Sam Carchidi speculates the Flyers’ terrible season could lead to big changes in the summer and that GM Chuck Fletcher will look at altering his roster, especially in an attempt to improve special teams numbers. The Flyers defense was terrible after learning that defenseman Matt Niskanen was retiring and the team is missing shoot-first players. Carter Hart struggled this season and the Flyers should try to find a more suitable backup option than Brian Elliott.

James van Riemsdyk Philadelphia Flyers
James van Riemsdyk, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The problem is, many of the changes might need to come via trade as the team has over $70 million invested in 18 players for next season. Fletcher could try to, once again, move struggling blueliner Shayne Gostisbehere but that may not be an easy task. Trading high-contract players like Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and/or James van Riemsdyk isn’t a slam dunk either.

Carchidi also notes that there’s unrest between the head coach Alain Vigneault and some players as he has been calling the team out publicly. Carchidi writes:

Some of the Flyers are not happy with Vigneault’s public criticism of them, according to a source connected to the players.

That should entice Fletcher to become much more active in the trade/free-agent markets than he was last year, and it figures to make the offseason much more exciting than a regular season that can’t end fast enough.

source – ‘Maybe Flyers’ bad season will have a silver lining: Showing GM Chuck Fletcher he needs to make major changes’ – Sam Carchidi – Philadephia Inquirer – 05/20/2021

Maple Leafs Using Series Against Canadiens as Playoff Test

As both the Maple Leafs and Canadiens get set for the first round of the playoffs (likely against each other), the Maple Leafs have decided to look at the upcoming three-game series against the Habs as a playoff mini-series.

Jake Muzzin spoke with the media ahead of Monday’s matchup and said, “We just had a meeting about that actually and were talking about looking at a little mini-series here against them.” Nick Foligno added that both sides will be taking mental notes ahead of what could be a first-round playoff series and noted, “It’s just about understanding who you’re up against, how they play. More importantly, the focus is always on how you’re playing.”

Former Blue Jackets Players Critical of Team Approach to Keeping Players

The Athletic took a deep look inside the Blue Jackets organization by talking to respected veterans who have recently played for the team but are now either done playing or playing somewhere else. With questions about why Pierre-Luc Dubois wanted out so badly and concerns over what that might mean for Seth Jones, Aaron Portzline felt having an inside look at the inner workings of those negotiations would help.

He spoke to players who played for coach John Tortorella in Columbus under full anonymity.

John Tortorella Blue Jackets bench (2)
John Tortorella, Columbus Blue Jackets bench, Feb. 22, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Part of the issue in keeping players was in respect to what the GM was offering during contract negotiations. One player said:

When we talked contract it was, “Where do you want to be?” And we said “X” amount, they immediately said, “Nope, no chance.” And we were like, “Well, that’s where we’re at and there are like six other teams willing to go there.” They expected me to give up a ton of money to play there, like they were the only team in the league. When you’re a (restricted free agent) they play hard, hard, hardball, which is unfortunate, because then as soon as a guy gets a chance to get out there, he’s like “F–k this, I’m gone.”

source – ‘Former Blue Jackets on what’s wrong with Columbus: ‘If you’re going to try to sign free agents, you need to overpay – Aaron Portzline – The Athletic – 05/03/2021

Another said that management treated effective players during their exit meetings as though they didn’t matter and that there was no guarantee they’d be back with the team on an extension. It was as if the organization was always looking at the future instead of realizing what they had right in front of them.

One thing the players all suggested was that the issues in Columbus are not about the coach. He’s got his faults, but all coaches do and all of the former players appreciated his candor and ability to treat everyone the same, regardless of their status as a star player or a fourth line player.

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