In today’s NHL rumor rundown, there are whispers that Antti Niemi might be headed to the KHL, Derrick Pouliot is likely leaving Vancouver, the Blue Jackets are making one final push on a couple of free agents and the plan for the Dallas Stars is becoming clearer after being booted from the NHL playoffs.
Antti Niemi Leaving for KHL?
The Finnish newspaper Satakunnan Kansa is reporting that Niemi will join Jokerit for next season. He is under contract until July 1, 2019, but most reports are that the Canadiens will let Niemi walk considering they have plans for Charlie Lindgren at the NHL level in 2019-20. In fact, there are reports the team has already told Niemi he won’t be returning.
Niemi will become an unrestricted free agent but at 35 and having played in just 17 games with the Canadiens this past season, there might not be much of a future for him in the NHL. He struggled and can make more by leaving.
If the Canadiens aren’t sold on Lindgren, expect them to look for a backup this offseason.
Derrick Pouliot Leaving Vancouver?
Sportsnet’s Rick Dhaliwal reports that the Vancouver Canucks have informed defenseman Derrick Pouliot and his representation that they will not qualify him this off-season. He will become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
While there is still some things to like in Pouliot’s game and he will find a team, part of the issue in Vancouver is that they have a number of up-and-coming prospects on their blue line, many of whom are ready to take the next step.
The group is led by Quinn Hughes and Olli Juolevi, undrafted free agents Mitch Eliot, Brogan Rafferty, and Josh Teves, plus Troy Stecher, Chris Tanev, Ben Hutton, and Alex Biega. There are AHL standouts Ashton Sautner and Guillaume Brisebois and, of course, unrestricted free agents Alexander Edler and Luke Schenn, neither of whom want to leave Vancouver.
Blue Jackets to Make One More Big Push
The Columbus Blue Jackets are rumored to be making one final push to re-sign both Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky. Panarin has said he wants to test the free agent market and the Florida Panthers and New York Rangers are the front runners to land him while Bobrovsky is looking for a big payday and it’s been rumored he’s longed to leave Columbus for a while.
The Blue Jackets took a big gamble just prior to the trade deadline to land a number of big-time players and it almost worked. Now, there is a chance the team will look extremely different with as many as five or six big-name pending free agents on the move.
The name most likely to stay is Ryan Dzingel but even he could test the free agent waters, especially after he was a healthy scratch in Game 1 of the Blue Jackets latest series.
Dallas Stars Next Steps
Following the Dallas Stars elimination, last night from the Stanley Cup playoffs, Emily Kaplan and Chris Peters of ESPN.COM write that they believe the Stars should attempt to re-sign winger Mats Zuccarello.
While Zuccarello missed a big portion of the regular season after joining the Stars, he was one of their best forwards in the playoffs. The Stars are hoping they can convince him to stay at a reasonable number.
Kaplan and Peters also suggest restricted free agent defenseman Julius Honka has fallen out of favor and the team should attempt to add a scoring winger.
Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”