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Weekly Rumours – The Jets Are In Trouble

With training camps open and RFAs still unsigned, there are plenty of NHL storylines for me to address in this week’s rumours blog. 

As expected, as one RFA domino fell, a handfull quickly followed. Mitch Marner got done and then Brock Boeser and Travis Konecny followed suit. Zach Werenski’s three-year deal in Columbus seemingly nudged along the process for Charlie McAvoy and Ivan Provorov as well.

With about two weeks until the start of the season, there are still five big-name RFAs on the board and none of them appear particularly close to getting a new deal done. Brayden Point, Matthew Tkachuk, Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor, and Mikko Rantanen are all finding new spots to skate and stay in game shape because it’s starting to look more and more like those young stars may end up missing some regular-season games (although things change very quickly when it comes to these negotiations).

I believe Brayden Point will get a deal done before the start of the regular season. Everything I’m hearing in the media is leading me to believe that dialogue between the two sides is positive. Julien Brisebois said the other day that he’s very optimistic that a deal will get done.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have only $8.1 million in cap space (per PuckPedia) so it will be tough for them to squeeze him in. They do have eight NHL defensemen on their roster, so there’s a part of me that thinks they could trade out a guy like Jan Rutta ($1.3m) or maybe even Brayden Cobourn ($1.7m) to clear out a little bit of money. I also wouldn’t be surprised if they go the entire season with just 22 players on their active roster to save some cap space.

Matt Tkachuk reportedly wants a five-year deal and has said in the past that Auston Matthews mega-deal set the bar for other RFA’s. That’s not good for GM Brad Treliving and the Calgary Flames, who have just $6.3 million in open space (that is with a full 23-man roster, so they could clear up $1 million by sending someone down). Can they find a last-minute taker for Michael Frolik? I doubt it. I think Brock Boeser’s three-year $5.875 million deal is a good comparable for Tkachuk and I have a feeling Tkachuks new deal will look similar.

Mikko Rantanen is overseas skating with SC Bern and his agent told TSN Radio recently that the two sides are not close and that he believes the Mitch Marner contract is a direct comparable. That’s not good news for the Avalanche. The fact that the team has the most cap space in the NHL ($16.3m) is good news though. Joe Sakic says that he’s confident that Rantanen will be in Denver for a very long time, which is also a positive sign. A deal will get done, it’s just a matter of when.

The two RFA’s I haven’t really dug into are Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor and that’s because the Winnipeg Jets have an even bigger issue currently facing their organization and they deserve their own segment of this weeks blog.

TROUBLE IN WINNIPEG

When news broke that Dustin Byfuglien was not going to be with the Jets for the start of training camp, I didn’t think much of it. He’s a private person and I figured there was something going on behind the scenes that he needed to get sorted out.

Now that reports have broken that Byfuglien is reportedly considering retiring, and walking away from over $14 million in salary, Jets fans are worried.

The club has already lost Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers, and Ben Chiarot this offseason and they really can’t afford to lose another defenceman, especially ‘Big Buff’. Also, this has a massive effect on their salary cap situation and with Laine and Connor unsigned, that can’t be overlooked.

TSN’s Frank Seravalli wrote a great piece on tsn.ca that outlined the different possible outcomes of the Byfuglien situation. He could retire and that would mean his contract will go completely off the books and the Jets would gain an extra $7 million in cap space. The Jets could suspend him and ask the NHL to give them salary cap relief for every day that he isn’t on the roster but that wouldn’t really help them sign Laine or Connor because for every day into the regular season that they aren’t signed, their first-year cap-hit continues to go up (think back to the William Nylander situation last season). They could also just keep Byfuglien on the roster but that wouldn’t help their cap situation.

So while Connor and Laine aren’t signed, the Byfuglien situation almost needs to be sorted out before GM Kevin Cheveldayoff can do anything. 

Another thing to consider: if Byfuglien retires, I wonder if Cheveldayoff would be more inclined to trade Patrik Laine for some help on the blueline. It’s something to keep in mind but no matter how things end up sorting themselves out in Winnipeg, it’s clear that the Jets are in trouble.

Could the Oilers help them out? Maybe. If the Jets need defenseman, maybe they’d be inclined to look into acquiring Kris Russell, which would give the Oilers some cap flexibility. But I couldn’t see the Oilers getting anything of value back. As far as acquiring Laine, Connor, or even Nikolaj Ehlers, the Oilers simply don’t have the money to make that work, even if Russell goes back the other way.

MINOR TRADE NOTES

Those who have been reading my takes this summer, you know that I’ve been keeping an eye on the Tristan Jarry situation in Pittsburgh. The former Edmonton Oil King needs to clear waivers if the Penguins want to send him down to the minors and with Matt Murray and Casey DeSmith both on the roster, there is essentially nowhere for Jarry to go.

GM Jim Rutherford reportedly tried to move Jarry this summer but couldn’t find someone to take him and now, he’d be willing to settle for a late-round pick. I said the Oilers should have been in on Jarry earlier this summer because he would have been a low-cost backup option and he has some upside. Now that they have Smith, the Oilers obviously don’t have room for him but one team that might: the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Another player that has had his name thrown around a lot lately is Julius Honka. Considering the young options that the Oilers have, I don’t see them as a realistic fit for Honka. The Montreal Canadiens are reportedly interested and the Hurricanes are apparently keeping tabs on Honka, but would need to move Justin Faulk before bringing in another defenseman. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Winnipeg Jets made a call as well. They clearly need some help on the blueline.