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Weekly Rumours – One Week Closer to the Madness…

Another week has come and gone and that means we are even closer to what should be a wild month of October. We already know the NHL Draft will start on October 6th and wrap up the following day. Free Agency will begin two days later on October 9th at 10 a.m. mountain time. 

The Draft has basically become ‘Trade Deadline 2.0’ as teams try to straighten out their rosters and their salary cap situations ahead of free agency. This year, the gap between the Draft and free agency has been shortened which means we will likely see more moves at the draft and probably more moves in the days leading up to the draft. Which means we are just a few weeks away from the offseason really getting going.

Earlier this week, we also got confirmation on a couple of other key dates. Pierre LeBrun reported the deadline for NHL teams to submit qualifying offers to their pending RFAs is going to be October 7th. If a player receives a qualifying offer, then they can only sign with a different team in free agency is through an offer sheet. If a team does not offer the player a qualifying offer, then they become an unrestricted free agency on October 9th. Players can sit on the qualifying offer until October 18th if they wish. 

The Oilers have four notable pending RFA’s and some decisions to submit qualifying offers will be more difficult than others. It’s pretty obvious that Ethan Bear will be back and I wouldn’t be surprised if they sign a new contract before even getting to the qualifying offer stage. William Lagesson has arbitration rights, but I really can’t see him commanding anything more than $1 million on a one-year deal, so that deal should be pretty easy to get done as well.

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The two interesting cases are Matt Benning and Andreas Athanasiou.

Starting with Benning, there haven’t been very many reports about what could happen with him, but I wouldn’t be stunned if the Oilers didn’t qualify him at $2 million. I think the team would like to have him back and I imagine that Benning wants to stay here. I could see them agreeing to a two or three-year deal worth less than the $1.9m Benning made last season. It will give Benning some security and allow the Oilers to save some money. He might also be trade bait considering the Oiler’s current depth chart.

As for Athanasiou, Frank Seravalli from TSN told TSN 1260 earlier in the week that Athanasiou could very well be traded. It would make sense. I don’t think the Oilers have any interest in bringing back the speedy winger at a cap hit north of $3 million, which is what his qualifying offer would be, and they obviously want to lose him for nothing in free agency. Could they sign a two-year deal for around $2 million? That would be possible, but I think we could see him get traded around the draft, before they even get to the qualifying offer deadline.

Those are some interesting stories to keep an eye on around Edmonton. Here are some other interesting rumours from around the rest of the league:

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CHANGES IN VEGAS?

Aug 11, 2020; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN;Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner (90) makes a save during warmup against the Chicago Blackhawks in game one of the first round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe ‘changes’ wasn’t the best word to use. Perhaps the headline should read ‘Chaos in Vegas’. Assuming all of the reports are correct, the team will be signing goaltender Robin Lehner to a five-year deal with a cap hit of $5 million. That signing will put them just over the cap when the new season begins on October 9th. That means they will need to move out a lot of money if they want to re-sign RFA’s like Nick Cousins or Chandler Stephenson. If they can’t afford to bring back either of them, the Oilers should be calling.

They’ll no doubt be looking to move Marc-Andre Fleury, and considering everything that happened over the last month I’m sure the veteran stopper would be more than okay with being moved, but that trade will be very hard to make. Fleury is under contract for two more seasons with a cap hit of $7 million. If the Knights are going to trade him, they’ll likely need to package him with a draft pick or a prospect or be prepared to retain close to 50% of his salary. On top of that, Fleury has a no-trade clause that requires him to submit a list of 10 teams he’d approve a trade to. The deadline to submit that list was this past Tuesday.

Moving him is going to be very difficult. GM Kelly McCrimmon has some other pricey contracts he could try to move out. The most obvious candidate to be moved is Paul Stastny, who has one more year at $6.5 million. His play slipped this season and he’s no longer worth his cap hit. They’ll probably have to keep some money, but they could probably find a trade for Stastny a lot easier than they could trade Fleury.

If they’re willing to retain 50% of his deal, I think the Oilers should be really interested in Stastny. He’d be a really good third-line centre and playing for the Oilers would take the pressure off him to produce offence. I don’t think it’s likely the Oilers get him, and I’m sure the Golden Knights could move him without trading 50%, but it’s an interesting idea. His name has been thrown around the rumour mill a bit.

WHAT’S GOING ON IN ST. LOUIS?

Dec 18, 2019; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (27) and Edmonton Oilers right wing Zack Kassian (44) fight during the third period at Enterprise Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Pietrangelo did an interview with Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic earlier in the week and said that he’s disappointed he hasn’t signed a new deal with the St. Louis Blues. It’s easy to understand why he would feel that way. A year ago, he helped lead them to a Stanley Cup and then he watched them go and give $6.5 million a year to Justin Faulk on a long-term deal and $3.275 million a season to Marco Scandella. Now, they might not have enough money to bring back their Captain and it’s no one’s fault but their own.

In my opinion, as every day passes, the chances of Pietrangelo leaving St. Louis increases. The longer we go without one of these sides taking a step in the right direction, the greater chance there is that he hits unrestricted free agency. Let me also add this: I do not see any scenario where he ends up in Toronto. The math just doesn’t make sense.

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There are some interesting names that the Blues could move to free up cap space. Tyler Bozak and Alex Steen are both in their mid-thirties, make $5 million or more, and will be unrestricted free agents after this season. Steen has a full no-trade clause while Bozak has to submit a 10-team no-trade list. It will be hard to find them new teams considering their cap-hits and trade protection, but that’s likely where the Blues will look first. I can’t see the Oilers being interested in either player.

The other name that popped up this week was Jaden Schwartz. The 28-year-old has one more year left on a deal that carries a $5.35 million cap hit. The Blues would have no problem trading Shwartz and could probably get a pretty good young player in return considering he had 57 points in 71 games this past season. I would love to see him in the Oiler’s top six, but considering Edmonton’s cap problems, I can’t see them being in a position to afford him.

It’s clear though that the Blues front office will have to get very creative in a hurry if they want to keep Alex Pietrangelo in blue and yellow.

QUICK NOTES

  • I loved the move by Buffalo to acquire Eric Staal. They get a solid veteran centreman who can eat tough minutes and make life easier on both Jack Eichel and Dylan Cozens. They also saved some money in the move.
  • The Wild signed Jonas Brodin to a long-term extension this week, which has led to a lot of chatter around Matt Dumba. I think there’s a good chance they move Dumba to get some help up front and I wouldn’t be surprised if all three of Toronto, Winnipeg, and Calgary were interested.
  • Some talk that the Canadiens could be prepared to make a big trade for a scoring winger after signing Joel Edmunson to shore up their blueline. I would imagine that they’re interested in some of the bigger names on the market, but I still wonder if Andreas Athanasiou would interest Marc Bergevin.