NHL Rumors: Canadiens, Blackhawks, NHLPA Comments, More

In today’s NHL rumor rundown, could a recently shipped out forward make his way back to the Montreal Canadiens? In Chicago, what does a contract for Dominik Kubalik look like? And, according to NHLPA, the players only want to play for the Stanley Cup under certain conditions.

Kovalchuk Back to Canadiens?

Sportsnet’s Eric Engels believes it’s all but assured winger Ilya Kovalchuk will return to the Montreal Canadiens on a bonus-laden deal next season. Kovalchuk was traded to the Washington Capitals at this season’s trade deadline but hasn’t built chemistry with anyone or likely grown attached to the city as he’s only played seven games there.

Ilya Kovalchuk Montreal Canadiens
Ilya Kovalchuk, Montreal Canadiens (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Engels also believes that Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin will look to the UFA market for a reliable backup goaltender to play behind Carey Price.

There were comments made by Bergevin that he wouldn’t shy away from offer sheets if he felt there was a good fit, but Engels doubts the Canadiens will go that route. If they do, they’ll target cap-strapped clubs who will get hit hardest by a potential status quo salary cap. That might include teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Vegas Golden Knights.

Related: Blackhawks Top 3 Current Rivalries

Comparables for Kubalik

Ben Pope of the Chicago Sun-Times takes a look at what it will cost the Chicago Blackhawks to retain RFA and 24-year old rookie Dominik Kubalik. He hit the 30-goal mark this season but his age and small sample size make it harder to determine fair value for his next deal.

Dominik Kubalik Chicago Blackhawks
Dominik Kubalik, Chicago Blackhawks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Pope writes:

Kubalik was having a great rookie season when the league suspended play because of coronavirus concerns — but at age 24, rather than at 19 or 20. His 30 goals were off the charts, but his 46 points were merely solid. And he carries obvious sample-size concerns, too.

He certainly will get a big raise over his restricted $925,000 cap hit this season, but gauging exactly how big a raise will be hard.

source – ‘Blackhawks could go two routes with Dominik Kubalik’s contract, based on past comparisons’ – Ben Pope- Chicago Sun Times – 03/15/2020

Pope uses comparables to try and determine his value. His examples included Andreas Johnsson (four years at a $3.4 million cap hit), Mike Hoffman (four years at $5.2 million), Anders Lee (four years at $3.75 million – a $4.4 million cap hit factoring in inflation), and Tyler Johnson (three years at $3.3 million – $4.2 million with inflation).

He doesn’t believe getting Kubalik signed to a three or four-year extension at between $3 and $4 million will be easy.

Related: Longest Stanley Cup Droughts

NHL and Players Strengthening Relationship in Time of Crisis?

NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said Wednesday in an appearance on the podcast Two-Man Advantage, that the talks between the league and the players during this unique situation that sees the NHL on hold has actually created a stronger bond between the two sides.

NHL Players Association NHLPA Donald Fehr
NHL Players’ Association (NHLPA) Executive Director Donald Fehr (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

He suggested as the two sides partner up to navigate the unknown, keeping such a businesslike relationship and open lines of communication will help pave the way to not just a new labor agreement but could help forge a new relationship with the league. Fehr notes, “There is no posturing, there is no attempt, so far, to take advantage of this or that or the other.”

When asked about whether or not he believes there will be a resumption of the NHL’s regular season, Fehr wasn’t sure but he did explain:

What changed in the last couple of days, of course, was the decision to postpone the Tokyo Olympics, and when that happened that created, from a fan perspective and a broadcast perspective, some opportunities that might not have been there before. Whether we’ll be able to exercise those opportunities remains to be seen.

source – ‘ Q&A: NHLPA’s Donald Fehr on possibility of resuming the NHL season this summer’ The Athletic – Pierre LeBrun and Scott Burnside – 03/25/2020

Fehr also noted, that from a player’s perspective, most players would want to complete a regular season and have a Stanley Cup awarded, assuming a playoff structure included fair circumstances that allowed for bubble teams to compete. The players don’t want to win the Stanley Cup if being awarded it seems unfair.

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