In today’s edition of NHL rumors, do the Pittsburgh Penguins have a trade market for defenseman Erik Gudbranson, what are the Arizona Coyotes’ plans with Niklas Hjalmarsson out three months, and how long does New Jersey Devils head coach John Hynes have to turn the team around? Also, NHL veteran Chris Stewart earned a contract with the Philadelphia Flyers after the team created cap space yesterday.
Will the Penguins Find a Suitor for Gudbranson?
According to The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun, the Penguins’ strong play (4-2-0) to begin this season has alleviated the pressure on general manager Jim Rutherford to address the injuries to centers Evgeni Malkin and Nick Bjugstad. (from ‘LeBrun’s observations: Quality coaching, Sandin’s demotion and Penguins shopping D-man,’ Thet Athletic, 10/14/2019) Specifically, Jared McCann and rookie Sam Lafferty have stepped up and helped fill the void. However, despite the team’s strong play, LeBrun points out that the Penguins are still carrying nine defensemen on their NHL roster and he thinks that Rutherford is looking to move one of them. In recent weeks, Jack Johnson, Juuso Riikola, and Erik Gudbranson have all been mentioned.
LeBrun thinks that Gudbranson remains the likeliest to be moved and suggests the Winnipeg Jets as a possible trade partner. The Jets would certainly like to bolster their defense, however, they can’t afford to take on Gudbranson’s $4-million cap hit unless Dustin Byfuglien retires or they send an comparable salary back to the Penguins. If the Jets do have interest in Gudbranson, one possible fit is Mathieu Perreault ($4.125-million cap hit). Perreault is a center, which would help the Penguins if they want to add depth down the middle and the salaries would balance out.
Another potential trade partner proposed by LeBrun is the Anaheim Ducks, a team rumored to be looking for defense help for some time now. They also have the cap space to absorb Gudbranson’s cap hit without having to send a big contract back. He wouldn’t address the Ducks’ need if they are looking to add a right-shot defenseman, but he could be a low-cost addition since the Penguins are likely only looking to shed Gudbranson’s salary without expectation of a big return.
Coyotes to Address Hjalmarsson Injury with Internal Options?
In the Coyotes’game against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday, veteran defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson blocked a shot and cracked his fibula. It’s an injury that will cost him the next three months. He is a vitally important defenseman for the Coyotes and played in all 82 games last season while averaging 19:42 per game. On a relatively young blue line, he is a steadying presence and quality leader. He’s also a great penalty killer and excellent defensive defenseman. So how will the Coyotes, a team with playoff aspirations this season, replace Hjalmarsson?
According to the Arizona Republic’s Richard Morin, the Coyotes’ plan is to utilize internal options:
When reached by phone Monday in Winnipeg, Tocchet described Hjalmarsson’s responsibilities as being like a pie — and every other defenseman must take a slice for the Coyotes to pick up the slack.Richard Morin (from ‘Tough break: What the Arizona Coyotes can do in wake of Niklas Hjalmarsson’s injury,’ Arizona Republic, 10/14/2019)
In response to the injury, the Coyotes recalled Kevin Capobianco from the American Hockey League and Morin believes that Ilya Lyubushkin will replace Hjalmarsson in the lineup for tonight’s game. The team also has veteran Aaron Ness (47 career NHL games) in the AHL, but they lack a quality defense prospect other than Filip Westerlund and Victor Soderstrom, and both are currently playing in their native Sweden. If the Coyotes eventually feel like their internal options aren’t enough, they have just over $2.4 million in cap space, which can increase if they place Hjalmarsson’s $5-million cap hit on long-term injured reserve. If that is the case, perhaps they’re a landing spot for one of the Penguins defensemen.
Can Hynes Save His Job?
The Devils have seemingly hit rock bottom after they blew a 4-1 lead yesterday against the Florida Panthers. That loss dropped them to 0-4-2 and they are eight points back in the Metro Division. At the center of the team’s abysmal start is head coach John Hynes.
According to NJ.com’s Steve Politi, Devils fans are starting to get angry and at one point during yesterday’s game, fans expressed their displeasure via “Fire Hynes!” chants. (from ‘John Hynes is on the hot seat as Devils horrific start gets even worse | Politi,’ NJ.com, 10/15/2019) The Devils entered this season with high expectations after they spent on free agents, pulled off a big trade, and had the first-overall pick in the draft.
Take high expectations after an offseason spending spree, then add in a scuffling young star and the overriding fear that a league MVP might bolt for free agency, and you’ve got a full blown crisis for a head coach.Steve Politi
And while the Devils’ ownership group has expressed patience in the past with the other franchises they own, including the Philadelphia 76ers, the team is quickly falling out of playoff contention in a highly-competitive Eastern Conference. Hynes certainly isn’t to blame for all of the team’s struggles, but that may not matter. He’ll have the opportunity to cool the perpetually-warming seat upon which he sits when the Devils face the New York Rangers on Thursday. A win buys him time, but a loss, especially one in the same nature as yesterday’s blown lead, and he may be in an unrecoverable position.
Chris Stewart Back in NHL
On Tuesday, the Flyers announced that they had signed veteran forward Chris Stewart to a one-year, one-way contract worth $700,000 per year.
Stewart had been with the team on a professional tryout contract since training camp but the Flyers didn’t have the cap space to sign him and add him to the NHL roster. However, that all changed when they waived defenseman Andy Welinski on Monday. Waiving Welinksi meant that the Flyers added the necessary space to sign Stewart to a league-minimum, $700,000 deal. It’s a great ending to Stewart’s lengthy journey back to the NHL.