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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Weekly Rumours – Here come the moves!

Well, we can finally say with certainty that the 2021 NHL season is going to happen! Not only that, but also know pretty much every important detail! 56 games, the schedule and new divisions! It’s an exciting time and as I’ve been saying for a few weeks, I’m fully expecting an avalanche of transactions to occur in the next few weeks before training camps begin.

There are a handful of big stories already developing, including a very interesting situation in Tampa Bay. Before I get to that, there has also been some news surrounding the Oilers.

AN EDMONTON UPDATE

Jan 31, 2020; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) and St. Louis Blues forward Sammy Blais (9) battle along the boards for a loose puck during the third period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Oilers GM Ken Holland did a zoom call and a radio hit with 630 CHED this week and threw out a few interesting nuggets of information. First, he confirmed that Oscar Klefbom will miss the entire season with a shoulder injury. We all knew it but this does also confirm that the Oilers will have $4.1 million in LTIR flexibility this season. That will come in handy come trade deadline time.

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Second, he gave updates on the contract negotiations between the club and both Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Ethan Bear. Talks between the Oilers and Nugent-Hopkins camp have stopped, which isn’t all too surprising considering everything that’s been happening over the last few weeks. I still expect that he’ll be an Oiler for a long time.

As for Bear, I would be stunned if he isn’t in the lineup on opening night. His camp really doesn’t have a lot of leverage and it would be silly for him to hold out and miss any part of an already shortened season. This deal will get done, it’s simply a matter of time.

Finally, there have been some rumours floating around this week that the Oilers could be signing a depth defenseman before training camp opens. Both Ben Hutton and Slater Koekkoek have been linked to the team with the latter being the more popular choice. Both would be fine additions. I will once again say that I wouldn’t be opposed to the team adding a veteran centreman for their taxi squad.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE LIGHTNING?

Julien BriseBois was the busiest GM in the league this week. He started by signing defensemen Erik Cernak and Jan Ruuta to new deals. Those moves put them close to $7 million over the cap with Anthony Cirelli still a pending RFA.

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Well, their cap problems were pretty much solved with the announcement that star forward Nikita Kucherov will miss the entire regular season with a hip injury. That means his entire $9.5 million cap hit can be put on LTIR for the regular season. In their announcement of the Kucherov injury, they said he will miss the entire ‘regular season’. It’s going to be something when/if he’s back for game one of the playoffs. Basically, this move just goes a long way in allowing them to be cap compliant come opening night.

The Kucherov news still only give them around $2 million to get Cirelli signed. BriseBois likely isn’t done yet. There has been plenty of chatter that he could be looking to move Tyler Johnson to Detroit. That would solve their cap problems. I suppose there’s also a chance that the Lightning sign Cirelli to a cheap, one-year deal and don’t make another trade.

UPDATE ON REMAINING UFAs

While the Lightning have been the busiest team in hockey recently, the Nashville Predators are right behind them. On Tuesday night, they signed Mikael Granlund to a one-year contract. The deal comes with a cap hit of $3.75 million. They followed it up by signing Erik Haula, the best centre remaining on the market, to a one-year deal worth $1.75 million.

Those moves leave the Predators with just under $7.5 million in cap space. They’ve improved their forward group over the last 48 hours and if they want to, they still have the cap room to make a splash and go after someone like Mike Hoffman.

The clock is ticking on Hoffman to get a deal done. With quarantine rules, he’ll need a deal to decide on a new home in the next few days if he wants to be ready for the start of camp.

Pierre LeBrun sent out a flurry of tweets about the remaining UFA’s earlier in the week. 

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Again, I don’t think the Oilers are going to grab any of the big names still on the market. They don’t have the cap space and their roster seems rather set. A few depth adds are likely all we’ll see for the Oilers.

As for who could go after one of those players, money is obviously important to an extent but I think fit will be valued just as much. These are going to be one-year deals and a player will need to put himself in a position to succeed. That’s what I think a player like Andreas Athanasiou will be looking for.

QUICK NOTES

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  • On The Jason Gregor Show this week, Kevin Woodley talked about what’s next for the Washington Capitals after Henrik Lundqvist announced he will not play next season. Woodley said that there’s a chance that the Capitals just run with Vitek Vanecek as their backup and Pheonix Copley as their third, adding that there were people who wanted them to just do that instead of signing Lundqvist. Woodley did add that of the available options, Jimmy Howard would be the best fit in his opinion.
  • Mike McIntyre of the Winnipeg Free Press reported this week that the Jets and Jack Roslovic are not close to a new deal. 
  • I love that the NHL decided to change up how offsides work. Reviews should be much simpler now that a player doesn’t have to keep his skate on the ice to stay onside.
  • I’m surprised that the Columbus Blue Jackets didn’t get one of Granlund or Haula. I wonder if they’ll push hard to get Hoffman. With Gustav Nyquist out long term, they could use the scoring help.
  • Boston is also believed to be interested in Hoffman. They also need to make a decision on Zdeno Chara, who is still a UFA. They’re tight to the cap and if they bring back Chara, it’s going to be a very cheap deal. Pierre LeBrun has reported that there are as many as 20 teams who have reached out to Chara’s agent.
  • Shawn Simpson of TSN in Ottawa is saying that the Senators and Coyotes have talked about a trade centred around Derek Stepan and his $6.5 million cap hit. Would be a good addition for a young Sens team if it happens. Still just a rumour for now though.

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