NHL Rumors: Maple Leafs, Flames, Canadiens, Byfuglien, More

In today’s NHL rumor rundown, there is news out of Toronto when it comes to the reaction over Mike Babcock’s firing. In Winnipeg, there are updates on the Dustin Byfuglien situation and in Calgary, are the rumors surrounding Johnny Gaudreau overblown? Finally, would the Montreal Canadiens be interested in Taylor Hall?

Odd GM, Coach and Player Dynamic in Toronto

Reactions to the firing of Mike Babcock on Wednesday are mixed. There are many who felt the decision was long overdue and others who believed the choice to remove Babcock was done too early. Babcock released a statement and in it, didn’t name Kyle Dubas, Brendan Shanahan or any of the players except Morgan Rielly. Some believe that to be intentional, specifically when it comes to John Tavares who is being labeled by some of the fans as a “coach killer”.

Toronto Maple Leafs John Tavares
Toronto Maple Leafs John Tavares (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)

There was no reported rift between Tavares and Babcock but James Mirtle reports that 90% of the players wanted Babcock gone. There is also speculation that Dubas was not the one to make the announcement because he supported Babcock in April and it wasn’t Dubas who hired him in the first place.

Shanhan made the announcement and also flew to Arizona to undertake the task of letting Babcock go.

Bob McKenzie of TSN writes:

It is being billed as an organizational decision. Something that Dubas believed was necessary but fully supported by Shanahan and the Maple Leaf hierarchy. They felt the “message” was not getting through and a new voice is required. Shanahan and Dubas will be speaking to media.

If the reports of the players wanting Babcock gone are true, it will be up to them to turn things around now and their last chance seeing as removing Babcock was seen as the big card the organization could play this season.

Related: Maple Leafs’ Kyle Dubas Wants to See More Diversity in Hockey

NHLPA Files Grievance on Byfuglien’s Behalf

The talk surrounding Dustin Byfuglien and the Winnipeg Jets seemed to quiet over the past few weeks but it’s certainly not a dead story. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports that the National Hockey League Players’ Association has filed a grievance with the league challenging the suspension of Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien. 

Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien
Dustin Byfuglien (Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports)

As McKenzie wrote, this is the battle lines being drawn between the NHLPA and the Winnipeg Jets as the case will now go before an independent arbitrator. If the Jets are deemed to have been holding back information on his unexpected absence, including their knowledge he was considering surgery for a previously undisclosed injury, they could be in trouble when it comes to avoiding his salary.

The NHL and the Jets will counter that Byfuglien did not abide by the terms of his contract and that if he had concerns over an injury and his ability to play, he should have reported to camp and discussed those issues with the team. They’ll argue he did not do that and then the franchise traded a number of key players thinking he’d be returning. They may also argue that he underwent unapproved surgery after asking for a leave of absence, that the injury was unrelated to hockey, and he is now using that surgery as an excuse to try and collect his salary.

Related: NHL Rumors: Byfuglien, Turris, Muzzin, More

Gaudreau Speculation Overblown?

Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reports that it would be a big surprise if the Calgary Flames traded forward Johnny Gaudreau despite some speculation the organization is considering it. Friedman doesn’t believe the Flames want to make any rash moves.

Calgary Flames Johnny Gaudreau
Calgary Flames Johnny Gaudreau (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)

Friedman does admit that the Flames are looking to shake things up but salary cap issues could stand in the way. If they focused on moving Mark Jankowski or Michael Frolik (the most rumored names) they could be selling low.

On a side note, Friedman doesn’t get the sense that Flames coach Bill Peters is in jeopardy of getting fired.

Related: NHL Rumor Shootdown: Flames to Consider Gaudreau Trade

Canadiens and Taylor Hall?

Eric Engels of Sportsnet says he doesn’t have insider information to confirm his hunch, but wonders if the Montreal Canadiens might have interest in Taylor Hall? He’s expanding on the point Friedman brought up that Montreal might swing for the fences on a trade this season.

The Canadiens have a plethora of prospects available in trade and 12 draft picks in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. Engels adds that Montreal GM Marc Bergevin may be inclined to move their 2021 first-round pick.

Related: NHL Rumors: Sabres, Kings, Oilers, Barrie, More