NHL Rumors: Flames, Sabres, Canadiens, Blues, More

In today’s NHL rumor rundown, we’ll look at how the lack of an amnesty clause impacts the Calgary Flames, look at the Buffalo Sabres hope for a draft choice, wonder if the hockey gods might be conspiring to help the Montreal Canadiens, and look at a key fourth-liner for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

No Amnesty for the Calgary Flames

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will be felt for many years in the NHL. That rumor was strengthened last week when it was suggested that the salary cap would remain flat at $81.5 million over the next two seasons. That decision leaves some teams in a pickle because general managers have recently been working under the assumption – which had been accurate – that the salary cap would continue to rise. As a result, even if they signed a player to a problematic contract, the rising salary cap would level off that bad choice.

Related: Flames GM Brad Treliving’s Draft History

Those days are over: but, is there relief? One possibility that had been discussed with the use of an amnesty buyout provision that would allow a team a one-time get-out-of-jail-free card that could erase a bad contract.

But, as TSN’s Bob McKenzie tweeted this week, that’s not going to happen.

The Calgary Flames have Milan Lucic who, as Todd Cordell of the Hockey Buzz notes, is signed to one of those contracts. Lucic has three years left on a deal worth $5.25 million per season. Although he was once worth every penny, these days the 32-year-old Lucic isn’t contributing to his team’s offense like before. During the 2019-20 season, Lucic’s first in Calgary, he scored only eight goals and 12 assists (20 points) in 68 games. That’s not much given the size of his contract.

Milan Lucic Calgary Flames
Milan Lucic, Calgary Flames (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Flames owe Lucic three more years. He contributes as a bottom-six player, but $15.75 million over three seasons should bring with it more scoring production. And, Lucic’s hard-driving style means he’s probably sliding downhill further as the years go by.

Maybe he can impact a short postseason series where play is often more physical, but $5.25 million is a lot to pay for that possibility. And, for the Flames, there’ll be no amnesty from that fact.

Will the Buffalo Sabres Choose Marco Rossi in the 2020 NHL Draft?

The Buffalo Sabres’ luck might have been better. During the Draft Lottery, the Sabres slid down a spot and will choose in the eight spot. Still, it’s a deep draft and the Sabres should get a strong young player with that eighth pick.

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Reviewing Sandin & Ristolainen

The Buffalo News’ Lance Lysowski believes the team will go after star OHL center Marco Rossi because of his interesting tie to the team and to head coach Ralph Kreuger. Although the Sabres recently cleaned house, relieving much of their hockey operations staff and minor league coaches from their jobs, Kreuger remains on the job and will likely assume a major role in draft-day decisions.

If Kreuger weighs in, there’s speculation Rossi would be his preferred target if he were still on the board. (from “Sabres’ possible targets with the No. 8 pick in the NHL draft, The Buffalo News, 27/06/20).

MArco Rossi Ottawa 67s
Marco Rossi of the Ottawa 67’s (Credit: CHL Images)

For more than a decade, until he resigned in 2010, Kreuger coached the Swiss national team. Lysowski writes that he stays in contact with the programs that produced Rossi. In addition, Kreuger coached Rossi’s father Michael when he played in Austria during the early 1990’s. That makes the clever, play-making forward attractive to Buffalo with their eighth choice.

That is, if he’s still around.

Are the Hockey Gods Setting Up Alexis Lafreniere to the Canadiens

The hockey gods can be capricious, and who knows their plans? As ProHockeyRumors wondered, given what happened during the season and at the recent Draft Lottery, is something afoot? After the Draft Lottery, much to the dismay of most of the NHL, none of the poorer teams have the chance to choose Alexis Lafreniere as the first pick. Now, one of the 16 teams that don’t win the play-in round leading to the postseason will get that chance.

Related: NHL Rumors: Hall, Oilers, Rangers, Bruins, More

Here’s where the Montreal Canadiens come into play. Had the season concluded as it should have, there’s little chance the Habs would have made the postseason. Now, if they lose in the play-in round, they might get a chance to draw for the right to pick a generational talent in Lafreniere from Quebec.

The young Francophone and Quebec native is by far the best player on the board. If the Canadiens end up with him, does that prove the hockey gods were conspiring? The Canadiens should have been a player in the draft lottery anyway and are clearly the worst team of the qualifiers.

Alexis Lafrenière Rimouski Oceanic
Alexis Lafrenière of the Rimouski Oceanic (Photo by Vincent Ethier/CHL)

There was a time when the Canadiens, who have more Stanley Cups than any other franchise, had the right to choose the best French Canadian players in the draft regardless of draft order. If that happens this season, does it mean that the hockey gods want the good old days to return?

The Blue Jackets Activate Alexandre Texier for Series with the Maple Leafs

As reported by NHL.com, the Columbus Blue Jackets activated forward Alexandre Texier from Injured Reserve. The 20-year-old Texier, who was chosen 45th overall during the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, played 36 games for the Blue Jackets before his season was cut short in December with a lumbar stress fracture. He scored 13 points (6 goals and 7 assists) in those games.

Related: The Good & the Bad: The Columbus Blue Jackets Under GM Scott Howson

Although Texier is “only” a fourth-line player, after making his NHL debut late last season he earned ice time during the Blue Jackets postseason. In his team’s hugely surprising sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning, he scored two goals in the 7-3 series clincher.

Alexandre Texier Columbus Blue Jackets
Alexandre Texier, Columbus Blue Jackets (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

If head coach John Tortorella can lead his Blue Jackets to the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season since he took over the bench, can fourth-liner Texier help him get there?

St. Louis Blues Shut Down Practice

As CBS Sports announced this morning, the St. Louis Blues canceled practices at their team facility due to “multiple” positive coronavirus tests. However, the team is reported not to see this as a huge setback, and practices are expected to resume on Monday.