NHL Rumors: Lightning, Maple Leafs, Oilers, Blues, More

In today’s NHL rumor rundown, is Steven Stamkos upset with the NHL and their decision to expand NHL rosters during Phase 2? In Toronto, how might they try to improve their blue line this offseason? The Edmonton Oilers are getting some players back for skating, Vladimir Tarasenko is ready to go and NHL player contracts have been extended.

Stamkos Seems to Question NHL Decision

On Monday, Sportsnet’s NHL insider Chris Johnston reported that the NHL was moving to the next stage of “Phase 2,” expanding the number of players that will be allowed to train together at any given time. He tweeted:

Effective tomorrow, the NHL will allow Phase 2 groups to be expanded to 12 players for on-ice sessions. Those had been limited to six skaters apiece since small-group workouts began in team facilities on June 8.

One player, Steven Stamkos, seemed a bit puzzled by the news. His Tampa Bay Lightning team has been hit hard by the recent outbreak of new COVID-19 cases and has been forced to shut down their facility.

With no chance to practice and with fewer players available, perhaps Stamkos is wondering why the NHL would keep moving forward at such an aggressive pace? At the very least, adding more players for other teams puts the Lightning at a competitive disadvantage. So too, Stamkos could be thinking this isn’t exactly the safest decision in the world, especially when you think about how it could affect his own teammates.

Stamkos tweeted a response to the Johnston report with a simply emoji scratching its head. He didn’t expand beyond that.

Related: Tampa Bay Lightning’s 50-Goal Scorers

Maple Leafs Focus on Defense

Luke Fox of Sportsnet took a look at a number of items regarding the Maple Leafs in a recent mailbag article. Noting that right-handed defensemen Tyson Barrie and Cody Ceci will hit free agency, the team could use an experienced defenseman that can kill penalties. Targets may include unrestricted free agents like Travis Hamonic, Chris Tanev, Sami Vatanen, or Radko Gudas.

New Jersey Devils Sami Vatanen
New Jersey Devils Sami Vatanen (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

If free agency isn’t an option, the team could look to the trade market and focus on names like Matt Dumba, Rasmus Ristolainen, David Savard, Brett Pesce, Colin Miller, Adam Larsson, and Josh Manson. Cheaper trade targets could include Troy Stecher, Matt Roy, Matt Benning, and Ilya Lyubushkin.

In either case, don’t expect the organization to go after Alex Pietrangelo and do expect the team to give every opportunity to prospects like Mikko Lehtonen, Rasmus Sandin, and Timothy Liljegren.

As for what the Leafs would give up in trade, the same names are out there — Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson — but a surprising name that could be in the mix is goaltender Frederik Andersen who is a UFA at the end of next season.

It’s more likely the Leafs try to extend Andersen, but if he doesn’t play well during this upcoming playoff run, GM Kyle Dubas could offer him up in a deal.

Related: Wendel Clark for Mats Sundin: 25 Years Later

Player Contacts Extended to October 30th

According to both Larry Brooks and Elliotte Friedman, NHL contracts that would normally expire on June 30th will now run to the end of October. The idea is to ensure players would be able to get the required work visas needed in order to play.

Pierre LeBrun adds call it a “one-off agreement” and notes it only covers expiring contracts for foreign nationals who need to have work visas/work permits extended.

It will be a strange feeling for fans who are used to seeing a ton of trades and signings this time of year and as July 1 rolls around. None of that will happen.

More Oilers and Rangers to arrive

Ryan Rishaug notes that more Edmonton Oilers players are expected to arrive in the next few days to join names like Alex Chiasson, Kris Russell, Matt Benning, and Stuart Skinner on the ice at Rogers Place. Defenseman William Lagesson was en route yesterday per his Instagram account.

Rishaugh notes:

The bulk of veterans will return at the end of the month, and enter phase 2 for a week or so before training camp begins – assuming the July 10th start date remains.

Tarasenko Good to Go

St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko talked in an interview with TSN and discussed his shoulder rehab after a long layoff. He’s rested and ready to join his Blues teammates competing for another Stanley Cup.

St. Louis Blues Vladimir Tarasenko
St. Louis Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko (AP Photo/Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke)

He said he was really close to returning when the season was ongoing, but this extra time has just really helped give it time to heal up. Tarasenko was on the ice Monday as Blues players took part in Phase 2 of the Return to Play plan. 

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