NHL Rumors: Devils, Senators, Maple Leafs, Oilers

In today’s NHL rumors rundown, the New Jersey Devils are realizing that Jesper Bratt is going to cost a lot of money next season. In Ottawa, the Senators have confidence in their coach, while in Toronto, it’s unclear if the team has confidence in their goaltenders.

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Finally, are the Edmonton Oilers going to try and make a trade to replace the production lost by Evander Kane’s long-term injury?

Devils Ready to Pay Jesper Bratt

David Pagnotta of NHL Network discussed the contract situation in New Jersey when it comes to Jesper Bratt and noted that the Devils realize just how good a season Bratt is off to and what that could mean for a contract extension. He recently signed a one-year deal and bet on himself. That decision seems to be paying off as he’s got five goals and 18 points in 13 games so far this season.

Jesper Bratt New Jersey Devils
Jesper Bratt, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Pagnotta says that Bratt creeping into the 90 points area on the season will put him in line to get paid what the top guys on the team are making and if he approaches 100 points, he could get upwards of $10 million. Pagnotta also notes that if the Devils believe he can sustain this kind of production over multiple seasons, they’re willing to open up the checkbook and give him what he wants.

Dorion Has Faith in D.J. Smith

Despite a slow and underwhelming start to the 2022-23 season, the Ottawa Senators aren’t prepared to move on from head coach D.J. Smith. General manager Pierre Dorion was asked about the coach and his faith in what Smith is doing and responded:

“Very happy with him. I think it’s, I wouldn’t say very happy because we’re 4-7 but I’m happy with the job that D.J.’s done, his staff is done. Obviously 4-7, it’s a bit tougher. I think it’s the first time we’ve given him a team that can compete for the playoffs.

D.J. Smith Ottawa Senators
D.J. Smith, head coach of the Ottawa Senators (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Smith himself noted that the losses are frustrating but that the team is in games and playing much better than last season. Everyone on the team knows they are playing well enough to win, but they are finding ways to give away the game. Dorion told TSN reporters that he isn’t loving the poor start but does like what Smith is doing and while there have been defensive breakdowns, thinks the whole team needs to take responsibility, not just the defense.

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That said, Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun reports the Senators are still looking for a top-four defenseman. Dorion has been looking since the offseason and is having trouble finding a trade that works. The Senators and Jakob Chychrun are reportedly a dead issue as the price is way too high. Garrioch quotes Dorion who said:

“The price sometimes to give up isn’t worth it. I’ve never said we’re going to be a team that’s going to be vying for the Stanley Cup this year and to give up what possibly (the price is for) some defencemen on the market … when I ask (his closest advisors), ‘Should I give up this?’ The answer is always ‘No’.”

Maple Leafs Goaltending Not a Crisis… More a Distraction

Darren Dreger noted on TSN That’s Hockey that the concern in Toronto about their goaltending situation might not be as dire as it was when Ilya Samsonov first went down with an injury. Dreger notes that Samsonov had a scan and the news was positive. He could be gone for maybe 10 days to two weeks. Matt Murray says he’s day-to-day and feeling better with each day. There is no restriction on his movement but also no timeline on his return.

Dreger said it’s not a crisis, but Samsonov’s injury goes beyond 10 days to two weeks, “we might be singing a different tune here.” Dreger did admit that the goaltending situation is likely a distraction in Toronto as the locker room knows they don’t have a real solution in net and their past playoff experiences don’t give them a lot of confidence that they have the right combination backstopping their team.

Will Oilers Try to Replace Evander Kane?

David Staples of the Edmonton Journal wrote about what a lot of Oilers fans are thinking following the news that Evander Kane is out for 3-4 months: can the team add another player via trade with his cap space off the books? Staples wonders if the team will try to add another top-six forward and do what the Tampa Bay Lightning did with Nikita Kucherov, keeping him out until the playoffs so the cap doesn’t count on the books.

Evander Kane Edmonton Oilers
Evander Kane, Edmonton Oilers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Staples writes:

Could Kane’s cap hit be used to bring in another Top 6 forward, with Kane coming back just in time for the playoffs? Yes, those are the rules. Tampa Bay did it. It may well develop in that direction for the Oilers.

While those are the rules, Kane’s likely to be back by February, and the only way Edmonton probably makes this kind of move is if they are struggling to get into the postseason ahead of the NHL Trade deadline. The Oilers would need to clear sufficient cap space for Kane to come back and it’s unlikely they would hold him out of the lineup for nearly two months if he was healthy and ready to return.