In today’s NHL rumors rundown, we look at the Colorado Avalanche and whether they’re making progress on a contract with restricted free agent (RFA) Mikko Rantanen. Plus, several teams could be close to making a trade, including the Calgary Flames and Carolina Hurricanes. Finally, Sidney Crosby’s No. 87 will be retired league-wide by the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).
Are the Avalanche and Rantanen Making Progress?
After the Winnipeg Jets re-signed RFA Patrik Laine, all attention turned to Laine’s teammate Kyle Connor and Avalanche forward Mikko Rantanen. While there hasn’t been much information surrounding the Rantanen negotiations, it does appear that both sides are committed to getting a long-term deal done. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported on Friday that there’s still work to be done. It appears that $9 million per year is the most common salary being discussed.
LeBrun asked the question of whether the Avalanche would be willing to go above that number and, simultaneously, would Rantanen be willing to go below that number. Regardless, he is a key player on one of the best lines in hockey and needs to be on the roster for the Avalanche to reach their goals this season.
Will the Flames Be Forced to Make a Trade?
In a blog post earlier this week, The Hockey News’ Jared Clinton highlighted five teams that could be on the verge of making a trade. Th Flames were one of those teams. After re-signing RFA Matthew Tkachuk to a three-year, $21-million contract, the Flames are currently above the salary cap. They’ll get some relief if they place defenseman Juuso Valimaki on long-term injured reserve to start the season, however, that relief will only be temporal.
Clinton points out that an easy way to create cap space would be to send forward Dillon Dube to the American Hockey League, but that would mean not icing the best possible lineup. As a result, the Flames could once again look to trade Michael Frolik, whom they tried to trade for Jason Zucker last season. Other options to be dealt include defensemen T.J. Brodie and Travis Hamonic, but as Clinton points out, with Valimaki’s injury it’s unlikely the Flames are willing to further take from their defense corps.
Can the Jets Replace Byfuglien?
This offseason was one of removal for the Winnipeg Jets, especially on defense. They traded Jacob Trouba to the New York Rangers, yielding Neal Pionk, and lost Tyler Myers to free agency. Both Trouba and Myers are defensemen who are right shots. The loss of them was already going to strain the Jets’ blue line depth and that strain was only made worse with the news that Dustin Byfuglien was taking a leave of absence to ponder his future. His absence means every other defender will be tasked with playing a bigger-than-expected role. Clinton asks whether the Jets could look at bringing in a defender.
…there’s going to be pressure put on those slated to skate on the backend to fill the gap. Josh Morrissey, in particular, will be asked to step up, but depth defenders Dmitry Kulikov and Sami Niku will also be asked to play larger roles than expected, as will off-season acquisition Neal Pionk.
While I’m certain it’s something general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has looked at, it remains to be seen if there’s a great fit now that Justin Faulk is off the board. The Jets also don’t have a ton of cap space when you consider they need to re-sign Connor and when you factor in Byfuglien’s $7.6-million cap hit, if he returns. That may leave the Jets with only being able to pursue bottom-pairing defensemen unless they’re able shed the contract of Bryan Little or Mathieu Perreault.
Do the Hurricanes Still Have Too Many Defensemen?
Another team that could make a trade in the near future is the Hurricanes, although it’s for a much different reason than the Jets. Even after the Hurricanes dealt Faulk, one could argue that they still have too many NHL-caliber defensemen, perhaps the best problem a team can have. With a top-four that still consists of Dougie Hamilton, Jaccob Slavin, Jake Gardiner, and Brett Pesce, the Hurricanes have no room for Joel Edmundson, whom they acquired Faulk, and Trevor van Riemsdyk.
Add in that they also have younger blueliners pushing for NHL playing time and that they are over the salary cap and it appears they’ll be looking to move on from one of Edmundson or van Riemsdyk. Moving a defenseman would open a spot for one of the younger blueliners, plus provide them with the room to have forward prospect Martin Necas on the roster or acquire another forward. Perhaps there’s even a trade to be made with the Jets.
Crosby’s Jersey Retirement
On Friday night, Pittsburgh Penguin Sidney Crosby was in Rimouski, Quebec, where the Rimouski Ocean, his junior team, retired his No. 87 jersey. In celebration of their 25th anniversary, the QMJHL club retired Crosby’s jersey after he scored 303 points in 121 games with the Oceanic. But it went further than that as the QMJHL surprised Crosby by announcing that they were going to be retiring his number league-wide beginning next season.
In doing so, Crosby will be the first player in history to have his number retired league-wide. The experience was clearly emotional for Crosby, who fought through tears during his speech. It is a fitting tribute for a player who meant so much for the franchise.