In today’s NHL news and rumors rundown, the Columbus Blue Jackets are likely to make some changes at the center ice position and speculation is they’ll want to add a top-line pivot to help Patrik Laine. The New York Rangers will look to make a splash this offseason. Could it including going after Jack Eichel? The Ottawa Senators will likely leave Matt Murray exposed and ESPN is going after a huge name for their broadcast team.
Blue Jackets to Add a Center
TSN’s Darren Dreger believes Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen will try his best to bring in a top-line center for winger Patrik Laine next season. Laine has mentioned he’d like to say but Dreger doesn’t believe that the combination of Max Domi, Jack Roslovic, and Alexandre Texier is enough.
It would be expensive to land a top-line center and it’s not clear if there’s even anything available that would be worth spending major assets on. Boston’s David Krejci and Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are the best centers in this summer’s UFA market. Krejci is on the back-nine of his career and Nugent-Hopkins hasn’t exactly hit it out of the park this season.
Coyotes to Lose Tocchet and Hjalmarsson?
Dreger also reports that Arizona Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet could be moving on at the end of this season. The NHL insider noted that sources close to the story said Tocchet is more likely to test the open market this summer.
In other Coyotes news, a Swedish news outlet called AFTONBLADET is reporting that Coyotes defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson could return to HV71 Jonkoping of the Swedish Hockey League after 14 NHL seasons. They write (translated into English):
After 14 seasons, over 800 NHL games and three Stanley Cup victories, Niklas Hjalmarsson is on his way back to Sweden. The 33-year-old, who is one of Sweden’s most deserving defenders, is considering, according to information to Sportbladet, playing in the hockey allsvenskan and HV71 next season.
Hjalmarsson is slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and while he could get a nice offer, in a flat salary cap NHL, it’s hard to know what that offer might look like.
Murray Likely to be Left Exposed by Senators
Ken Warren of the Ottawa Sun writes that the Senators can only protect one of their goaltenders during the NHL Expansion Draft and will need to make a choice between Matt Murray, Joey Daccord and Filip Gustavsson. It’s not likely the team re-signs goaltender Marcus Hogberg.
Murray won’t be protected, because there’s little risk Seattle would take a gamble on a guy with a 10-13-1 record, 3.38 average, .893 save percentage, injury question marks and with three years and $21 million remaining on his contract.source – SENATORS AFTERTHOUGHTS: Will the Kraken get a crack at Gustavsson or Daccord?’ Ken Warren – Ottawa Sun – 05/04/2021
Rangers Ready to Circle Back on Eichel?
Elliotte Friedman noted that the New York Rangers will be looking at roster changes after the executive firings this week and said the team — specifically new GM Chris Drury and owner James Dolan — will try to make a splash this summer.
That brought up the topic of Jack Eichel and Friedman confirmed this wouldn’t be the first time the Rangers have made a pitch to acquire Eichel from the Buffalo Sabres. He noted they made an offer on Eichel this past offseason and it was good enough that it forced the Sabres to pause and consider things before ultimately deciding not to pull the trigger.
ESPN Looking to Land Big Names
With a new television rights deal in hand and a need for some broadcasters to cover NHL games, ESPN is apparently aiming high in terms of who they’d like to have on their broadcast team. Sean Shapiro of The Athletic reports that ESPN is going after some big names, including NHL legend Wayne Gretzky. He writes:
ESPN has approached and pitched Wayne Gretzky about a broadcasting role, according to multiple sources. Whether Gretzky, an alternate governor for the Edmonton Oilers, is interested is unknown, but at this point ESPN hasn’t been given a “no.”
It’s been believed that ESPN wanted to take some big swings when it came to adding hockey personalities whose names held Hall of Fame value from their playing careers. Bringing in hockey’s universally known all-time leading scorer would certainly fit that ambition.source – ‘ESPN courts Wayne Gretzky for broadcasting role as push to sign on-air talent intensifies’ – Sean Shapiro – The Athletic – 05/06/2021
There is also talk that ESPN is looking at Ray Ferraro and Kevin Weekes.
Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”