NHL Rumors: Maple Leafs, Kraken, Jagr, Kovalchuk, More

In today’s NHL rumors rundown, the Toronto Maple Leafs will have a decision to make when it comes to either trying to sign Zach Hyman on an extension before the NHL Expansion Draft or wait until afterwards. One decision comes with potential consequences, the other serious risks. Meanwhile, Ilya Kovalchuk may be headed back to the NHL and Jaromir Jagr has discussed why he’s not leaving the game of hockey and retiring, even though he feels like maybe he should. Finally, the Seattle Kraken have officially become a part of the NHL. What’s next for the league’s 32nd team?

To Sign Hyman Before or After Expansion Draft…

Rory Boylen of Sportsnet took a look at what the Maple Leafs might do when it comes to extending forward Zach Hyman, specifically asking if they’ll do so before or after the NHL Expansion Draft. He writes that it won’t be an easy decision because signing him before changes the format the Leafs likely use for protecting players at the draft. Not signing him risks that another team has a chance to sign him first.

Toronto Maple Leafs Zach Hyman
Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Zach Hyman (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)

Boylen writes:

It’s of course possible Hyman is left unsigned and unprotected and then comes back to re-sign with the Leafs after expansion, but that close to free agency and knowing there would be a number of suitors for him, it’s a risk the Leafs may not want to take. Heck, Seattle may even be able to offer him a competitive and attractive contract in their negotiating window.

Hyman’s pending contract will have major repercussions on how the Leafs move forward and the decision looms over Toronto’s off-season.

Kraken Now Officially Part of the NHL

The NHL now officially has 32 teams. On Friday, the Seattle Kraken made their final franchise installment of a $650 million and given official NHL standing. They now have the ability to sign free agents, make trades and vote on league proposals.

Commissioner Gary Bettman released a short statement:

On behalf of the Board of Governors, I am delighted to officially welcome the Seattle Kraken to the NHL as our 32nd Member Club. Congratulations to David Bonderman, the Bonderman Family, their partners, the entire Seattle Kraken organization, the city of Seattle and Kraken fans as the Club continues on its exciting journey towards puck drop in October.

Kovalchuk Back to NHL…Again

It appears Ilya Kovalchuk is looking to make another return to the NHL. He has reportedly terminated his contract with his team in Russia and Avangard mentions that the reason they agreed to terminate the contract was that Kovalchuk was planning to return to the NHL next season.

Now 38-years-old, Kovalchuk left the NHL in 2019-2020, he floated around between the Los Angeles Kings, Montreal Canadiens and Washington Capitals and at the start of this past offseason it was noted that he’d be willing to sign with a contender. It didn’t happen and he left to play international hockey again.

Jagr Not Retiring for Business Reasons

Jagr said he does not plan to retire after completing his 33rd professional hockey season Thursday, even though the 49-year-old forward has called himself an embarrassment to the game. He told Michael Langr of NHL.com, “The main reason I am still playing is my responsibility to the club,” Jagr said. “If I did not have any, I would not be flying around on the ice here. Because I am embarrassing myself there, I can say.”

He talked about what he needs to do to stay effective but noted, “I expect much more from myself and I don’t have it.” He added, “But I am aware that when I leave, many (business) partners will leave the team too. That’s why I have no choice.”

He says because he’s part of the reason that the series of outdoor games at Spindleruv mlyn in the Czech Republic is sold out, he can’t quit and he’s going to dedicate his offseason to getting better and being a more effective player than he felt he was this season.

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