NHL Rumors Overshadow the Holidays III: Flyers, Flames, Penguins, Avs

In our third edition — one day before the NHL is really set to get back underway — of the NHL rumors overshadow the holidays rundown, we’ll focus on rumors that are front and center in another string of hockey markets not mentioned in the Christmas Day or Boxing Day editions. This post will focus on the Philadelphia Flyers, Calgary Flames, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Colorado Avalanche. There are executive changes, roster issues, and trade rumors surrounding these teams and they’ve had a lot to think about over the holiday break.

What’s the Plan for the Flyers?

After big offseason changes that saw the organization try to change its culture, the Flyers are still struggling. Sixth in the Metropolitan Division and with just 29 points, the team fired head coach Alain Vigneault and assistant head coach Michel Therrien. They’ll need to find a replacement if Mike Yeo isn’t the guy moving forward.

Related: NHL Rumors Overshadow the Holidays: Oilers, Blues, Bruins, Canadiens

Meanwhile, the Flyers have to worry about this roster. It’s been hit with injuries — specifically, Ryan Ellis who has missed 20 or more games in multiple seasons and the Flyers just traded for a 31-year-old who is signed through 2027. It hasn’t helped that Ivan Provorov has struggled this season.

Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers (a href=httpswww.facebook.com38PhotographyAmy Irvina The Hockey Writers)

They also have to think about the future of Claude Giroux. The long-time Flyer has a contract that is up at season’s end, which has scribes such as Sam Carchidi wondering whether Fletcher will move him ahead of the March 21 trade deadline. He writes:

If the Flyers fall out of playoff contention, general manager Chuck Fletcher needs to make some hard decisions, such as: Is it time to ask captain Claude Giroux to waive his no-movement clause and deal him for, say, a high draft pick and a quality prospect? Giroux, who turns 34 on Jan. 12 and can become an unrestricted free agent in July, is having a good season (7 goals, team-high 17 points in 20 games) and still has plenty left in the tank.

source: ‘Time for Flyers to trade Claude Giroux and launch a full rebuild’ – Sam Carchidi – The Philadelphia Inquirer – 11/29/2021

In the latest roster news, the Flyers have placed Derick Brassard, Carter Hart, and Scott Laughton on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list.

Flames Getting Healthy

At one point, the Flames had something like 31 people on the COVID protocol list. The team is finally returning to good health as the players returned to the practice this weekend. While a couple of bodies were still not available and remain in COVID protocol, the bulk of the team is back.

All the while, the Flames have made front-page news in what looks to be a failed new arena deal with the city of Calgary. Over a $9 million cost difference, ownership has said it plans to pull out of an agreement to build a new arena and will stay in the Scotia Bank Saddledome.

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Finally, are the Flames going to extend Johnny Gaudreau? He’s playing well again and the question about whether or not he produced in the playoffs is important. If he does, he’ll be an expensive extension. If he doesn’t, how willing are the Flames to commit to him long-term with a reputation for failing to show up when it matters most?

Penguins Could Trade a Forward or Move a Veteran?

One of the burning questions in Pittsburgh is whether or not the team will move a forward this season. Specifically, can the team move the contract of Jason Zucker now that Evan Rodrigues has shown well and proven himself a capable winger to consistently stay in the top six. Dan Kingerski of Pittsburgh Hockey Now recently reported both Zucker and Kasperi Kapanen could be trade candidates.

Jason Zucker Pittsburgh Penguins
Jason Zucker, Pittsburgh Penguins (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

The Penguins also have to figure out what their respective plans are for Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin, Bryan Rust. All three are pending free agents and there’s certainly a question about whether or not to re-sign Letang and Malkin and if so, one what types of deals? The Penguins would like to get Letang re-signed on a short-term extension but the defenseman wants something long-term. Malkin hasn’t played all season and the question about what he’s worth on a new deal is certainly a tough one to answer.

Related: NHL Rumors Overshadow the Holidays II: Canucks, Coyotes, Maple Leafs

Finally, what will the Penguins do with Rust? He has scored 20-plus goals the past two seasons but a lower-body injury this season has affected his game. He’ll be looking for a big deal in free agency — possibly around six years at $6 million per season and depending on where the Penguins are at in a couple of months, he might be considered trade material.

Avs Need to Juggle Health and Salary Concerns

With both Bowen Byram and Ryan Murray injured, there are questions about what the Avalanche will do to ensure they have the proper blue line in place to stay a top contender for the playoffs. Could they go out and add someone to the grouping of Cale Makar, Devon Toews, and Samuel Girard?

Meanwhile, the Avs will need to clear up some cap space while still keeping the best possible roster together. Nazem Kadri, Andre Burakovsky, and Valeri Nichushkin become UFAs, while the team needs to come up with the money to re-sign Nathan MacKinnon before July 2023. They also don’t have a starting goaltender signed beyond this season.

Interestingly, there are questions about moving a player like blueliner Erik Johnson, while also looking at the marketplace for another defenseman.

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