In today’s NHL rumors rundown, the NHL is reportedly losing one its best defensive defenseman as Niklas Hjalmarsson is set to retire. Meanwhile, the Vegas Golden Knights are signing a pretty good defenseman in Alec Martinez. The only issue is, how can they afford to sign anyone else? The Columbus Blue Jackets are reportedly receiving calls about Zach Werenski, and the Edmonton Oilers are looking at at least one buyout.
Niklas Hjalmarsson Set to Retire from NHL
According to Craig Morgan, one of the NHL’s best defensive defensemen is hanging up his skates. Hjalmarsson is retiring after 14 seasons in the league. Morgan posted on social media:
“Per source, Coyotes UFA D Niklas Hjalmarsson is retiring. I don’t expect a formal announcement or statement from Nik. Those who have covered him or known him know that is not his style. He was an integral part of 3 Stanley Cups in Chicago and the consummate pro on/off the ice.”
Hjalmarsson was easily one of the NHL’s best stay-at-home defenders in the modern era. He was vastly underrated for the type of game he played and may have been one of the most underappreciated players in hockey over the past decade. He was incredibly gifted at shutting down offensive chances and will finish his career with 1,605 blocked shots.
Blue Jackets Getting Calls on Zach Werenski
As per a report by NHL insider Elliotte Friedman on his latest 31 Thoughts Podcast, the Columbus Blue Jackets are receiving trade calls on Zach Werenski. He’s not sure if the Blue Jackets are keen to move the defenseman, but wonders if the team will simply rip the Band-aid off and make wholesale changes following all the other departures from the team. Friedman’s exact words were, “We’ll see if that goes anywhere or if that just stays.”
If Werenski does go, it will signal a total rebuild in Columbus as the team will have moved the biggest three pieces of their blue line. David Savard went last season, Seth Jones went a couple of days ago to Chicago and Weresnki could go next.
Speaking of Jones, word is that it was down to Colorado, Dallas and Chicago. The Avalanche couldn’t do the term Jones wanted while Dallas wasn’t willing to pay him more than what Miro Heiskanen just got paid.
Golden Knights Close to Extending Alec Martinez
As per Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli, “Hearing Vegas @GoldenKnights are closing in on an extension to keep D Alec Martinez off the market.” He adds, “Expect Martinez to come in around $5 million, perhaps a little more, on a three-year deal.” This is a strong re-signing for the Golden Knights as Martinez, 34, had 9 goals and 32 points in 53 games for the Golden Knights this past season.
He regularly played more than 20 minutes per night but at 34, this contract will end when Martinez is 37 years old and it will be intriguing to see if his overall minutes will have to decline over the course of the contract. It will also be interesting to see what the Golden Knights next move is.
This will put them in a situation where they’ll need to clear some cap space to make any additional moves.
Panthers Re-Sign Sam Bennett
The Florida Panthers are rumored to be taking care of some internal business over the next couple of days. Sam Bennett just extended his contract with the team and signed a four-year deal worth $4.4 million per season. Bennett, 25, was acquired from the Calgary Flames ahead of last season’s NHL Trade Deadline.
Oilers to Trade Koskinen and/or Neal?
It was being speculated that one of James Neal or goaltender Mikko Koskinen would be placed on unconditional waivers today for the purposes of a buy out. That didn’t happen. As such, the Oilers are either thinking about keeping both players or there’s a potential trade in the works.
Jason Gregor of TSN 1260 and DFO noted, “Edmonton has been discussing trade options with Neal. If they can’t secure it (one broke down on weekend) I’d expect Neal to be placed on waivers today for purpose of buyout. He has 24 goals in previous 84 games. He’ll get signed for lower AAV and I could see him score 15+ goals.” Is the fact Neal wasn’t waived today a sign something else is coming?
The Oilers still have one more day to decide to buy out Neal. Buyouts must be completed by July 27 at 5pm ET. Gregor says he gets the sense the Oilers will explore every possible option first and wait until the last moment.
Sabres and Jack Eichel Update
Dan Rosen writes that Jack Eichel was back on the ice skating but Buffalo Sabres GM Kevyn Adams wasn’t aware of it. While the GM says that he could see scenario where Eichel comes back to the team, others don’t. John Vogl writes, “One thing is clear from Kevyn Adams’ chat: Anyone thinking the relationship will Jack Eichel is salvageable is mistaken. The Sabres GM is paying no attention to whether his captain is even skating now.”
As it is now, the asking price is still too high for the player and teams are waiting for it to come down. Friedman noted that perhaps Calgary is sniffing around on this and that he’s getting mixed signals when it comes to the Montreal Canadiens.
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.”