NHL Rumors: Duchene, Aho, Hall, More

In today’s rumor rundown, Matt Duchene says he owes it to himself to do what’s best for his career personally, Kevin Bieksa is looking for the “perfect fit”, the Hurricanes expect to pick up talks with their top scorer and an Edmonton Oilers’ insider says never say never to a Taylor Hall return.

Matt Duchene Looking Forward to Free Agency

In a recent interview with Frank Seravalli, Ottawa Senators center Matt Duchene said he understands there is a lot going on in Ottawa right now, and that while he’s open to signing a contract extension, knows there is a process to getting something done. He has options that he owes to himself worth exploring.

Matt Duchene #95, Ottawa Senators
Matt Duchene #95, Ottawa Senators – February 3, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Duchene said he understands why John Tavares hit the free agency market this summer. In a quote that many are reading as the first sign Duchene is looking elsewhere, he said, “It’s the first time you have that ultimate power as a player and you have to do what’s best for you.” He hasn’t ruled out signing an extension with the Senators but it sounds like Duchene is going to field offers and take the best deal for his own career.

Duchene knows that Ottawa has likely made Erik Karlsson and Mark Stone the priorities this season and that could mean he’s overlooked. If the team struggles, or if either player chooses not to stay, the odds of Duchene looking at another team go up significantly. At only 28 years old, Duchene has a good chance of landing a big-ticket deal if he has a strong season.

Related: NHL Rumors: Seguin, Panarin, Staal, More

Kevin Bieksa to Vegas Golden Knights?

Veteran defenseman Kevin Bieksa is still looking for an NHL contract this summer but it appears he’s being selective.  According to Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy, Bieksa has received multiple offers this off-season but is looking for a perfect fit. His family will be staying in California regardless of where he ends up he’d prefer to stay close. This has led to speculation the Vegas Golden Knights might be a location he ends up in.

Kevin Bieksa Ducks
Kevin Bieksa, Anaheim Ducks, Oct. 24, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

With the Golden Knights still not having signed Shea Theodore and after defenceman Nate Schmidt was handed a 20-game suspension, the team has just six proven NHL defenseman on the active roster. Bieksa might be a good option for an organization like Vegas who needs a short-term contract while providing depth and leadership.

Related: NHL Rumors: Panarin, Pacioretty, Flyers, More

Hurricanes and Aho Talking Extension

Based on an interview with NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti, GM Don Waddell said the Carolina Hurricanes are expected to pick up extension discussions with winger Sebastian Aho. There is no official deadline to get a deal done but Waddel wants to have a new contract in place before the season starts if possible.

It would make sense that the Hurricanes would want to lock up one of the team’s best offensive players.  He scored 65 points in 78 games last season and has one year left on his entry-level deal.

A Taylor Hall Return to Edmonton?

Edmonton Oilers radio host Bob Stauffer dropped a bit of a bomb on Oilers fans when he said on his radio show that people shouldn’t rule out the idea of Taylor Hall maybe returning to Edmonton.

Noting that Hall himself made comments about loyalty in hockey, Hall might see the best fit for himself on a team that has a couple strong center options. Stauffer seemed to think that after Hall made comments suggesting players are more loyal to franchises than teams are to players, this could be a sign that Hall doesn’t feel he’s destined to re-sign in New Jersey and that what John Tavares did was something more players will do in the future. Hall definitely respected Tavares decision to do what was best for himself.

Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils, NHL
While his career points per game is under 0.89, would you consider Taylor Hall a successful player? (Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports)

Hinting at Edmonton as an option, Stauffer said, “If I’m Taylor Hall, if I do go to free agency, I’m looking to go to a place that has a couple great centres.” He added that Hall was upset when he was moved out of Edmonton. “Taylor wanted to play here. Taylor wanted to be part of the equation,” he added.

Stauffer also suggested that New Jersey’s quiet offseason may be something Hall keeps an eye on. If the team doesn’t make big improvements or make a compelling case to keep Hall, he could choose to leave and as an unrestricted free agent, can pick and choose where he goes. One thing to keep in mind is that the Oilers wouldn’t have the cap room to add Hall and Stauffer is ignoring the fact that Hall may still feel scorned by the Oilers when he was traded after suffering through so many losing seasons.