NHL Rumors: Penguins, Coyotes, 24-Team Playoffs, Travel, More

In today’s NHL rumor rundown, there is buzz the NHL is working on a 24-game playoff outline and that players have been told they can head home, leading to the belief the NHL regular season is probably done. And, while the NHL figures out what to do about playoffs, teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins are thinking about whether or not to re-sign a player like Justin Schultz and the Arizona Coyotes might be thinking about how to regroup in the off-season.

Justin Schultz Done With Penguins?

Matt Vensel of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes that Justin Schultz has probably seen his last games as part of the Pittsburgh Penguins organization if the season doesn’t resume. The 29-year-old defenseman is a UFA this summer and his lack of strong play and poor underlying numbers this season likely means the Penguins, who are limited in cap space, will elect not to keep him.

Justin Schultz, Pittsburgh Penguins
Justin Schultz, Pittsburgh Penguins, March 7, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

That rookie blueliner John Marino stepped up this season also doesn’t help Schutlz’s case and a serious ankle injury probably has the Penguins unsure about retaining his services. If Schultz is willing to take a pay cut, there are a number of teams who might be interested.

Vensel writes:

Asked about his future, Schultz said he will worry about that this summer. His current concern is helping the Penguins have a special spring. Schultz playing like the guy we saw three years ago will certainly aid them in that quest.

source – ‘Justin Schultz hoping to prove he’s still one of Penguins’ top defensemen’ – Justin Vensel – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – 03/11/2020

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NHL Mapping Out 24-Game Playoff Scenario

While there is talk the NHL is looking at multiple scenarios, one idea that is reportedly kicking around and getting a serious look is a 24-team playoff format. The news was broken by Sport-Express hockey writer Igor Eronko.

2020 NHL Playoff Odds

Eronko didn’t give much detail, only that a 24-team playoff might include a playout round. That playout round would then get the group of 24 down to the more desirable 16-team playoff while solving the problem of what to do with teams who were hovering right around the playoff cutline when the NHL’s regular season was paused.

There’s no response from the NHL on how it might break down, but the thought seems to be that the NHL would choose twelve representatives from each conference and divisional leaders have automatic playoff berths.

The most challenging part would be how to seed or decide which 12-or-so team makes the extra Wild Card spots.

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Coyotes Could Be Busy Over Off-Season

Craig Morgan of The Athletic took a look at the strong opening but terrible finish for the Arizona Coyotes and what that means in terms of their off-season plans. He believes they could be among the busier of organizations this summer.

General manager John Chayka
BUFFALO, NY – JUNE 24: General manager John Chayka of the Arizona Coyotes. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

Morgan feels like the team is targeting a first-line and they still need a legitimate goal scorer, with more production from their blueline. He writes:

At this point, the list of untouchable players in trades should be shockingly small, confined probably to goaltender Darcy Kuemper, forwards Lawson Crouse, Conor Garland, Hayton and defenseman Jakob Chychrun. All else is negotiable if the Coyotes can land the missing pieces they sorely need.

source – ‘ ‘Got to be better’? This crushing loss may signal an offseason of hard questions’ Craig Morgan – The Athletic – 03/10/2020

What happens to Taylor Hall will be a real question for the organization as the team went 19-12-4 before they added Hall and 14-16-4 after they added him.

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Resumption of NHL Season Could Take a While

After the CDC (Center for Disease Control) recommended that any and all events that are 50 people or more in size be cancelled for the next 8 weeks, it was pretty clear a regular season was going to be delayed, if not cancelled for the NHL. The feeling expanded exponentially on Monday when the NHL advised players they could return home, including to their homes in Europe.

This means that the league is not expecting any resumption in play for least two months and as TSN’s Frank Seravalli writes, is a “significant loosening on the NHL’s initial plan when the season was paused last Thursday, which instructed players to stay in their NHL city to self-quarantine.”

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