NHL Rumors: Hall, Puljujarvi, Gudbranson, More

In today’s NHL rumors rundown, the New Jersey Devils are in the spotlight, will Jesse Puljujarvi spend the entire season in Finland, and Erik Gudbranson’s thoughts on being healthy scratched in recent games.

Related: NHL Rumors: Byfuglien, Quick, Babcock, More

Devils Willing to Be Patient with Hall

The Devils had one of the more exciting summers this past offseason after they acquired P.K. Subban and Nikita Gusev, drafted Jack Hughes with the first-overall pick, and signed Wayne Simmonds. All of these created great expectations that the team would compete for a playoff spot this season. Lost in the excitement is that 2018 NHL MVP Taylor Hall is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) in 2020. There’s plenty of reason to believe he’ll sign an extension with the Devils after they conveyed their desire to build a winning roster. Recent rumors even suggested that Hall gave his representatives the go-ahead to continue negotiating with the Devils front office during the season, however, the team’s 0-3-2 start may have dampened Hall’s desire to sign extension early in the season.

Taylor Hall #9, New Jersey Devils
Taylor Hall #9, New Jersey Devils, October 20, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman thinks the team’s slow start, combined with the absence of an extension, could lead to teams checking in with Devils general manager Ray Shero on Hall’s availability via trade. Friedman thinks that it’s far too early for Shero to consider dealing Hall and that the Devils are willing to be patient with Hall.

I think the answer is this is way too soon to start asking.

Elliotte Friedman

If Hall does reach free agency, he will be the most coveted player on the market next summer. However, according to Friedman’s colleague Chris Johnston, “I do think we can’t rule out the possibility of an extension depending on how things turn out.” Hall currently has three assists through five games this season.

Is John Hynes on the Hot Seat?

The other rumor out of New Jersey is that Devils head coach John Hynes could already be on the hot seat. According to the New York Post’s Larry Brooks, the Devils may have more urgency than normal to make a coaching move. Although five games is a very small sample size, the Devils are in last place in the Metro Division and eight points behind the first-place Carolina Hurricanes. Considering that Hall is a pending UFA, it was vital for the team to get off to a strong start this season in order for them to push for the playoffs.

…it is important for Hynes, about whom everyone raves, to generate some early success here. Or at least ensure the Devils don’t fall into a hole out of which they’ll be digging all year. It’s too hard.

Larry Brooks

But because that hasn’t happened, Shero may be forced to make a coaching change early in order to right the ship and further convince Hall to stay. However, there is the fact that Shero signed Hynes to a multiyear extension in January, so the team is clearly invested in him as coach. Then there’s Shero, who has historically been a very patient GM. In his eight-year tenure with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the team had just two head coaches.

John Hynes
New Jersey Devils head coach John Hynes meets the media after a game at Prudential Center. (Photo Credit: Dan Rice/THW)

As Brooks points out, Shero is also loyal to Hynes, whom he hired as an assistant coach for the Penguins’ American Hockey League team in 2009. But still, the Devils have to experience on-ice success this season. Not just for Hall, but also for the fanbase and the players they’ve invested in. A couple of wins in a row will rapidly cool Hynes’ seat, but for now, it’s warm and only increasing in temperature.

Puljujarvi Content in Finland

A lingering situation out of Edmonton involves Oilers restricted free agent (RFA) Jesse Puljujarvi. The 21-year-old former fourth-overall pick is currently playing in his native Finland with Karpat after he requested a trade over the offseason. After struggling to earn consistent playing time with the Oilers, he is succeeding in Finland with 11 points in 11 games. According to Chris Johnston, Puljujarvi would be comfortable playing the entire season in Finland and not returning to the NHL until next season.

I’m hearing he’s comfortable staying all year in Finland…I get the feeling that’s a comfortable situation for the player. He’s trying to get his confidence back, trying to get his game back and he might be the best player right now in the Finnish Elite League.

Chris Johnston

The Oilers, or any other team for that matter, have until Dec. 1 to sign Puljujarvi and still have him play in the NHL this season. At one point it looked like a trade was inevitable, however, with the Oilers’ perfect start to the season (5-0-0), there’s no rush for them deal him. At the moment, it’s a positive outcome for both team and player, and perhaps they address the situation after the Dec. 1 deadline or into next offseason.

Ivan Provorov, Jesse Puljujarvi
Edmonton Oilers’ Jesse Puljujarvi, and Philadelphia Flyers’ Ivan Provorov (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Matt Slocum)

If the Oilers do decide to trade Puljujarvi this season, one possible trade destination that continues to appear is the Hurricanes. Specifically, a one-for-one trade for the team’s 21st-overall pick in 2016, Julien Gauthier. Gauthier made his NHL debut this season and has no points in two games, but he did have 27 goals in 75 AHL games last season and two goals in two AHL games this season. According to the Edmonton Journal’s Kurt Leavins, the Oilers could have interest in Gauthier because he’s waiver exempt, meaning he could be sent to the AHL without having to clear waivers, unlike Puljujarvi. (from ‘One of the unsung heroes in the Edmonton Oilers shining 5-0 start has been a player that far too many critics love to hate: 9 Things,’ Edmonton Journal, 10/13/2019)

Julien Gauthier
Julien Gauthier (Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports)

So it’d buy the Oilers some time and roster flexibility. While this trade would work for the Oilers, the Hurricanes currently have no reason to give up Gauthier or acquire Puljujarvi. The Hurricanes are currently 5-1-0 on the season and are tied for first in the league with the Oilers. Given their success, there’s no reason for them to disrupt the team’s chemistry or roster construction.

Gudbranson Frustrated with Being Scratched

With the Penguins currently having an excess of NHL-caliber defensemen, veteran Erik Gudbranson is one of the players who has suffered. After being a healthy scratch in the Penguins’ past two games, both wins, he struggled to hide his feelings over the decision to scratch him in an interview with Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer Matt Vensel:

“It’s frustrating. Very frustrating,” Gudbranson said. “It’s part of being an NHL player, I guess. I’ve worked hard, did a lot of really good things this year. I feel pretty much back to what I used to be. I’ve got a few years of separation from my surgeries and whatnot. I put a lot of work into being here. So it’s frustrating.”

from ‘Erik Gudbranson is frustrated by benching, but here’s why he won’t take it out on John Marino,’ Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/12/2019

It’s not the first time Gudbranson has been a healthy scratch in his career after he struggled to find playing time with the Florida Panthers early in his career. That experience taught him to handle his current situation with grace and to be supportive of John Marino, the player who supplanted him in the lineup. If the Penguins continue to have success with Marino, perhaps Gudbranson is placed on the trade block as the Penguins attempt to add scoring depth.