NHL Rumors: Canucks, Maple Leafs, Oilers, UFA Defensemen, More

In today’s NHL rumor rundown, is Josh Lievo of the Vancouver Canucks going to be ready to play if the NHL resumes games? Are the Toronto Maple Leafs moving on from prospect Jeremy Bracco? Have the Edmonton Oilers decided the fate of d-man Kris Russell? Finally, which older free agency defensemen might still find employment in the NHL next season, and did Jason Pominville just retire from hockey?

Canucks’ Leivo Not Ready

Sportsnet’s Iain MacIntyre writes that Vancouver Canucks forward Josh Leivo isn’t currently one of the many players getting healthy enough to resume games thanks to the NHL pause. A season that would have otherwise been over for a lot of injured players is now likely again since players have had extra time to rest and heal. However, Leivo, who fractured his kneecap during a game on Dec. 19, would not be ready if the season were to resume anytime soon.

Josh Leivo Vancouver Canucks
Josh Leivo, Vancouver Canucks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

That’s not great news for the Canucks as he had already passed his career-high in points, posting 19 points in 36 games.

Related: The Worst Free Agent Signings in NHL History

No Role on Maple Leafs For Jeremy Bracco

Sportsnet’s Luke Fox notes that an exit interview was conducted with Maple Leafs prospect Jeremy Bracco following the cancellation of the AHL season. That means he will not be among Toronto’s ‘Black Aces’ (additional players on-call) for the stretch run and playoffs. 

The last few months have been tough for Bracco as he struggled to repeat his strong offense and Toronto was unable to grant his midseason trade request. He will become a restricted free agent this summer and will likely try to latch on with another team.

Oilers Russell and Benning’s Futures Tied Together

Mark Spector of Sportsnet recently answered a few questions about the current blue line for the Oilers, focusing a lot of mailbag time to Kris Russell. Spector hints that the Oilers have determined Russell is too costly at $4 million per season to keep in a third-pairing role. They will try to move him this offseason.

Kris Russell Oilers
Kris Russell, Edmonton Oilers, Oct. 21, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

How successful they are in doing so could hinge on what Matt Benning signs for. Spector writes:

GM Ken Holland’s ability to move Russell’s contract will impinge on what the GM will offer Benning, a fellow third-pairing guy who is a restricted free agent (with arbitration) coming out of a $1.9 million deal. Benning turns 26 this month and is properly priced for his role. In an ideal world, a GM moves out the older, more expensive players while keeping the younger, cheaper one.

Spector does believe that Benning will be traded if Russell can’t be, making room for either Caleb Jones or Evan Bouchard.

Related: Oilers History: The Importance of Jimmy Carson

The Market For Aging Defensemen

James O’Brien of NBC Sports took a look at what aging free-agent defensemen might get in the offseason. Among the names he looked at were Dustin Byfuglien, Mike Green, and Andy Greene.

O’Brien notes that if Byfuglien is healthy enough to return next season, he’ll get some interest around the NHL but will have to sign a 35+ contract. If he’s asking for more than one year, some teams may remove themselves from the running.

Dustin Byfuglien, Winnipeg Jets
While Byfuglien is having a mediocre season by his standards, he has still been a force for the Jets. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

34-year old Mike Green is currently the property of the Edmonton Oilers but there’s no guarantee he’ll re-sign there considering he played so few games before an injury took him out of their regular-season stretch run. He may get another look with the Oilers but he might be looking for work.

37-year old Andy Greene was traded to the New York Islanders at the deadline and could draw some interest in free agency.

O’Brien also mentioned Justin Braun, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Ron Hainsey as names to watch, while suggesting UFA blueliners like Jonathan Ericsson, Jay Bouwmeester, Deryk Engelland, or perhaps Andrej Sekera could retire.

Pominville Takes Coaching Job

While Jason Pominville hasn’t officially announced his retirement from the NHL or the game of hockey, his accepting a coaching job with the Lanaudiere Pioneers, a youth hockey team near his hometown of Repentigny, Quebec, suggests he might be hanging up his NHL skates.

According to the Buffalo News’ Lance Lysowski, the Pionniers announced Friday that Pominville will be an associate coach at the pee-wee and midget levels, and he will also serve as a special adviser and skills trainer.

Pominville told The Buffalo News in March that he came to terms with his playing career likely being over.

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