NHL Rumor Rundown: Maple Leafs, Oilers, Canadiens, Lightning, More

In our Christmas Day version of the NHL news and rumors rundown, we’re focused on the Toronto Maple Leafs and just how critical Jack Campbell will be to their success this season. In Edmonton, there could be a trade to narrow down the right-wing depth on the team. How quickly will Alexander Romanov rise up the ranks on the Canadiens blue line? And, is it worth asking why Nikita Kucherov didn’t elect to have surgery immediately following the end of the 2019-20 season?

Campbell Could Be Key for Maple Leafs

NHL insider Elliotte Friedman joined the hosts of Leaf Off with Rusic and Ziggy recently and talked about just how important three goaltenders will be for the upcoming 2020-21 NHL season. When it comes to the Maple Leafs, Friedman suggested Jack Campbell’s role was “going to be huge.”

The Maple Leafs have 10 back-to-back games this season and Friedman wasn’t sure how many of those games Campbell might start. He pointed to the series against Edmonton in particular in which the Leafs play every other night. Andersen could get all three games but that’s not likely.

NHL insider Elliotte Friedman joined the hosts of Leaf Off with Rusic and Ziggy and discussed the importance of having a strong backup netminder in this condensed 2020-21 NHL season. For the Leafs, who have to hope that Frederik Andersen has a bit more of a consistent regular season that last year, Campbell becomes increasingly important to the Maple Leafs overall success over the course of 56 games. The Leafs have 10 back-to-back games this season. Friedman was asked how crucial Campbell would be to the Leafs success and he responded, “It’s going to be huge.” He added: “Now, there’s some of them they ended up getting spread out a bit. It’s going to be interesting. The one I think is most fascinating if the schedule holds is three games with Edmonton, in Edmonton over five days.”

Friedman explained, “Now, there’s some of them they ended up getting spread out a bit. It’s going to be interesting.” He added that not only will the backup become key, but so will the third goalie and on paper the Leafs look pretty good with Aaron Dell. “I think this year, you’re gonna need three guys,” Friedman said.

Related: Canucks 12 Days of Hockeymas: Captain Luongo

Oilers Could Make a Trade Before Season

According to Allan Mitchell of The Athletic, the Edmonton Oilers might be ready to move a forward thanks to a surplus of players at the right wing position. He made these comments while talking about why fans should expect the Oilers to be a 2020-21 playoff team coming out of a Canadian Division.

Edmonton Oilers Zack Kassian, Darnell Nurse, Jujhar Khaira Leon Draisaitl
Edmonton Oilers Zack Kassian, Darnell Nurse, Jujhar Khaira and Leon Draisaitl (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Amber Bracken)

Mitchell writes:

I suspect we get a trade either before the season or early on, as the club has five regulars for four positions. Archibald, a key penalty killer, is on the outside looking in. Unless Puljujarvi struggles badly, a good winger will be in the pressbox opening night.

source – ‘Lowetide: Why fans should expect an Oilers playoff berth in Canadian division’ Allan Mitchell – The Athletic – 12/24/2020

He also noted that Joakim Nygard may get squeezed out of a left wing spot and start the season on the taxi squad, while on defense he notes, “The list could grow.” He said NHL teams love to add extra defenseman and rumours abound that Oilers general manager Ken Holland has his eyes out for an NHL veteran for the blue line.

Finally, since the Oilers have 11 back-to-back games, Mitchell expects third-string goaltender Anton Forsberg to make an appearance during the season.

Related: 4 Headlines for Team Canada Heading Into the 2021 WJC

Romanov Could Jump Up Quickly on Canadiens Blue Line

According to of The Athletic’s Arpon Basu and Marc Antoine Godin, while predicting the line combinations and where players will slot on this very different version of the Montreal Canadiens, the two scribes noted that Alexander Romanov’s advancement up the line up should be worth watching.

Alexander Romanov Montreal Canadiens
Alexander Romanov, Montreal Canadiens, 2018 NHL Draft (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

They write, “Romanov is most likely to be starting on the left side of the third pairing.” But, they also say that could change quickly. They explain:

How Romanov will perform is the big unknown right now. If he takes off the way the Canadiens seem to expect, he might very well force his way into a top-4 role before his rookie season is over. Should that happen, Julien will have a ton of options, the most intriguing one being to put Romanov and his exceptional skating ability on a pair with Shea Weber.

source – ‘Canadiens training camp primer: Projected lineup, battles, taxi squad and more’ – Arpon Basu and Marc Antoine-Godin- The Athletic- 12/21/2020

Interesting Question Worth Asking in Tampa

Right now, it seems like the Nikita Kucherov injury is nothing more than interesting timing, but there are some quetsions that are sure to arise as the playoffs creep closer and Kucherov is listed as available — if, in fact, he turns out to be ready to go.

Nikita Kucherov Tampa Bay Lightning
Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The problem isn’t so much that Kucherov is severely injured, it’s that the Tampa knew about this injury, why wait until just before the season to announce surgery? If Kucherov was always going to get the work done, why not do so right after the Stanley Cup Finals? Had the Lightning and Kucherov gone that route, he’d have likely been back for part of the regular season and to help the Lightning secure a postseason spot.

Happy Holidays!

Finally, from myself to all of you, Happy Holidays! While this is going to be a strange year and a particularly down time for many of our readers — since visits with family and friends will be far less frequent than in the past, there is hope and a silver lining as far as sports are concerned.

There is so much to watch over this weekend that there should be no shortage of content to sink your teeth into. Stay safe, enjoy and look forward to some tremendous World Junior Championship action!

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