NHL Rumors: Avalanche, Sharks, Blackhawks, Maple Leafs, More

In today’s NHL rumors rundown, as part of a follow-up to the story about the NHL investigating Evander Kane for allegedly gambling on his own games, there’s more chatter coming out of San Jose when it comes to Kane’s relationship with his teammates. Meanwhile, a different kind of relationship story, there’s a ton of chatter (mostly lighthearted) about the way Nathan MacKinnon apparently interacts as a leader. Will the Chicago Blackhawks be making any trades to accommodate Marc-Andre Fluery’s contract? Finally, what do all the big contracts being handed out for defensemen mean for a player like Morgan Rielly of the Toronto Maple Leafs?

Sharks and Players Want Kane Gone

Evander Kane has a full plate of trouble when it comes to his future in the NHL. Add to it the fact that a number of players on the Sharks’ roster are apparently tired of the distraction and it could spell the end for the forward in San Jose. According to Kevin Kurz of The Athletic, Kane simply doesn’t follow team rules and it has created frustration in the Sharks’ locker room.

San Jose Sharks Evander Kane
San Jose Sharks Evander Kane celebrates with teammates (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

He writes:

The team was trying to trade Kane earlier this summer, a source says, confirming a report from the Daily Faceoff. A big part of the reason for the team to pursue a deal was Kane’s strained relationship with many of his teammates, according to several sources.

According to one source, the frustration with Kane stemmed from a general “disrespect for team rules,” such as being late for practices and games.

source – ‘Several Sharks teammates don’t want Evander Kane back on the team: Sources’ – Kevin Kurz – The Athletic – 08/03/2021

Kurz writes that Kane was hard to deal with and he wasn’t punished for not following the rules which set a terrible tone for younger players. The problem is, Kane has a limited no-trade clause and it’s doubtful they’d be able to trade him. There are also going to be few teams in the NHL that want to take on the baggage that comes with the player. Even if Kane were to be open to a deal, there aren’t many takers for his contract or his off-ice issues.

Related: Oilers’ New Look Defense Will Do Just Fine Without Adam Larsson

MacKinnon a Drill Sergeant?

Apparently, MacKinnon sets a high standard for his teammates and he’s got quite the leadership style when it comes to getting the rest of his Colorado Avalanche teammates to perform at their highest levels. According to comments from a Russian interview where former Avalanche teammate Nikita Zadorov talks about Mackinnon and the expectations he places on the roster, it’s interesting, to say the least.

Nathan MacKinnon Colorado Avalanche
Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

If you’ve ever seen The Last Dance documentary about Michael Jordan, you’ll get the comparison Zadorov makes. He says:

“Nate is like MJ. I don’t want to make a direct comparison, but his way of thinking is very similar to MJ. He can be a jerk to his teammates. You need to accept that and it would improve you as a hockey player as a result. If you can’t accept it, well, you’re off the team.”

He cited examples where players have missed passes only to get literally screamed at. He noted that if you didn’t hit MacKinnon’s tape in a drill with a pass, he stops everything, turns around and slaps the puck back at you. He also noted that off ice, MacKinnon is tireless in his pursuit to be healthy. Zadorov says MacKinnon has a personal dietician and a chef at a total cost of $150,000 per year, he’s got a “live-in doctor/physiotherapist” $1,000 each day, and he got rid of all soda and desserts from the dressing room, and eliminated “white sauce” and replaced regular pasta with chickpea pasta, because it’s higher in protein.

It’s admirable that MacKinnon is so demanding of himself and his team to be the absolute best they can be. One has to wonder if it has any affect on certain player’s willingness to want to play in Colorado or if it attracts players because the standards are set so high?

Could the Blackhawks Move Out Money?

According to Ben Pope of the Chicago Sun Times, the Blackhawks’ have essentially thrown any rebuilding plans out the window with the acquisitions of Fleury, Seth Jones, Jake McCabe and others. But, they might need to move some money around now that Fleury plans to report and play out his contract.

Pope writes:

With Brandon Hagel and Alex Nylander still needing new contracts, general manager Stan Bowman will need to be creative — and possibly active again in the trade market — to fit Fleury’s $7 million cap hit. The odds of a trade involving Calvin de Haan or Dylan Strome instantly increase, even with Andrew Shaw bound for long-term injured reserve. The Hawks might be able to make everything work just by burying Brett Connolly in the AHL, but that would cut it close and be less than ideal for Connolly.

source – ‘Marc-Andre Fleury will play for Blackhawks in 2021-22’ – Ben Pope – Chicago Sun Times – 08/01/2021

Can the Maple Leafs Afford Morgan Rielly?

With huge deals going out to defensemen like Seth Jones, Cale Makar, Zach Werenski, Dougie Hamilton and others, blueliners like Darnell Nurse and Morgan Rielly are licking their chops knowing that the market is set for them to make a lot of money on their next deals. In Toronto, the question is, can the Maple Leafs afford what Rielly will command on the open market?

Rielly is headed toward a decision in much the same way Zach Hyman was. And, will the Maple Leafs be willing to lose an asset two years in a row for nothing if they can’t afford to pay the defenseman’s next salary? One would have to imagine if the team can’t get him locked into something long-term and on a team-friendly contract, they’ll look at trading him before the NHL trade deadline.

Remember, Hyman was said to be a player that everyone figured would want to stay. He didn’t. There’s a lot of talk that Rielly could be a name that pops up a lot throughout the season in trade talks.