As the off-season really gets underway with all but four teams in summer-mode, here’s a roundup of the latest reports around the NHL.
Hall unsure of his own value
One season after signing an unconventional one-year, $8-million pact with the Buffalo Sabres, Taylor Hall is once again one of the biggest names entering what is looking like a pretty deep class of unrestricted free agents.
Only, it feels like he’s already found his home.
“I see a fit and hopefully they feel the same,” Hall told reporters during his end-of-season availability last week in reference to the Bruins.
Hall has been vocal about his love for Boston since landing with the Bs, telling reporters back in April that he’d been “really close” to signing with them in free agency last fall, but that it ultimately “didn’t work out.”
“We’ll let the dust settle on everything this year — I’m sure they have a lot of stuff going on, and some other guys that have been here longer than me that they have to worry about and then we’ll figure that out,” Hall explained. “But hopefully we can make something work. That’s obviously my goal, and hopefully we can make that happen.”
As Bruins general manager Don Sweeney indicated Tuesday, the feeling is mutual.
So, what does re-signing Hall actually look like?
“Yeah, I mean, I don’t even know what my value is at this point. I feel like I had two different seasons,” said Hall, when asked about whether he might consider a bit of a (new) hometown discount in order to stay.
In 37 games with the Sabres in 2020-21, Hall scored just two goals and registered 17 assists for 19 points. He then tallied eight goals and 14 points in 16 games to finish the season with Boston — a night-and-day difference, and a testament to the power of chemistry.
“I’m not looking to absolutely maximize my value at this point in my career. I’ve been fortunate enough to make some good money in this league and at this point it’s about more of a fit for me than maybe money or a long-term thing,” said Hall. “I just want to find a home for the next few years here, and we’ll see what happens.”
Bruins giving Krejci space to make UFA decision
Asked about Hall’s new linemate, longtime Bruin and now UFA David Krejci, Sweeney had this to say:
“In David’s case, it’s very unique in the fact that he would like to continue to play with the Bruins, he’s obviously interest that he may return home at some point in time. Whether that’s next year or down the road. His family dynamic is important to him. He’s asked to have a little bit of time in the next few coming days to allow him, on his own, to have conversations with his family and then we’re going to sit back down and have a real honest conversation. I do believe David does want to continue to play and he’s made it pretty clear that he if he’d like to continue his career, this is the place he’d continue to play should he chose to stay at the NHL level.”
Rask set on staying in Boston
A lot of Boston’s success, of course, will hinge on how they can cope without veteran starter Tuukka Rask — for now, anyway.
Rask, another UFA this summer, made it clear he’s not playing anywhere but Boston. The big question here will be health.
Rask announced last week that he’ll be undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip, which means a lengthy recovery period that will extend well into the 2021-22 season.
“He indicated to us that he fully intended to rehab with the intention of coming back and we’ll go through our meetings and such and go forward. But we have to factor in that he could be a part of that,” Sweeney said of Rask’s situation and how the team could proceed. “Whether or not that means that the two young guys get the bulk of the work in the early going and see where Tuukka comes, or we go to augment our group and create internal competition and then reevaluate how Tuukka’s doing coming out of the rehab process.”
By “the two young guys,” Sweeney is talking about Dan Vladar and Jeremy Swayman.
Swayman, 22, was excellent in his short stint at season’s end, putting up a 7-3 record in his first 10 starts while registering a 1.50 goals-against average, .945 save percentage and two shutouts.
What’s next for Hamilton?
Monday brought us what will be a really interesting story line as teams begin to dig into off-season moves: The Carolina Hurricanes granting star defenceman Dougie Hamilton permission to speak with other teams ahead of free agency.
This sets up a number of possibilities, including the elusive sign-and-trade. That the Seattle Kraken are preparing to build their roster also adds an interesting layer here. Hamilton would be an excellent star to construct a brand new blue line around, and while Kraken GM Ron Francis wasn’t the guy who brought Hamilton to Carolina, the former Hurricanes GM is known for his penchant for collecting strong defencemen.
Of course, Hamilton being permitted to explore other teams doesn’t mean he’s out the door in Carolina. The blue liner has made it clear he loves playing in Raleigh, and the team is poised for many wins in its near future as a club just entering its prime. Owner Tom Dundon has been known for taking a hard stance in contract talks, and by giving Hamilton space to explore his own value after talks broke off during the season, perhaps it’s his belief that the market will do the talking for him.
When will Brind’Amour sign?
Another interesting negotiation in Carolina has been with Jack Adams finalist head coach Rod Brind’Amour.
“I think teams wanted to talk to him. I don’t think he was ever leaving,” Sportsnet‘s Elliotte Friedman said during a chat on The Big Show on Monday. “I think it was Carolina or nowhere, but I think teams wanted to talk to him.”
Of course, these things can change really quickly. But multiple reports over the course of this past season, including from Hurricanes reporter Sara Civian of The Athletic, point to Brind’Amour staying put, with the holdup in contract talks due to his desire to keep the entire coaching staff intact.
Eichel-Sabres saga continues
As Friedman wrote Tuesday, the situation between the Buffalo Sabres and Jack Eichel has entered the “cone of silence” phase.
Friedman reported that he doesn’t believe the Sabres have given anyone permission to talk to Eichel.
“From what I can tell, the team and its captain are negotiating the next steps of his recovery,” Friedman wrote. “Multiple sources indicate that if there’s any deal involving either Eichel or Sam Reinhart, do not be surprised if the Sabres end up with a second high first-round selection in July’s draft.”
Kings writer John Hoven indicated last week that while L.A. is in a position to make some offence-boosting moves this summer, it isn’t expected to be in on Eichel.
What about Reinhart?
While we’re all focusing on Eichel, it might be Reinhart that makes the first big headlines on the trade front. Reinhart was one of very few bright spots of 2020-21, and is still under contract for another season. It sounds like there’s tons of interest.
Listen up, Canucks fans:
Tocchet looks like front-runner for Kraken job
With the coaching carousel making a few stops — Gerard Gallant to the New York Rangers, Travis Green re-signing with the Vancouver Canucks, Brad Larsen getting promoted by the Columbus Blue Jackets — when might we find out who lands in Seattle?
Sportsnet‘s Chris Johnston said during an appearance on Halford & Brough on Wednesday morning that the current coaching landscape “certainly points to Rick Tocchet” being the first head coach of the Kraken.
Johnston said it’s not a slam-dunk, but if we’re establishing a front-runner in this scenario, it’s Tocchet.
Another interesting nugget from the conversation: Johnston said he’d heard some suggestions of Paul Maurice possibly being a fit in Seattle, based on his history with Francis in Carolina.
Johnston clearly states, however:
“I don’t have any informations to suggest he won’t be coaching the Winnipeg Jets next year, but there’s been some whispers of that around that maybe there could be a fit,” said Johnston.
“But I do think that, after what’s been a pretty long process … it does seem as though we’re getting toward the finish line here with Rick Tocchet the most likely to get that job,” he said.
Power considering a return to school
Owen Power, the projected first-overall pick of the upcoming 2021 NHL Draft — a.k.a. future Buffalo Sabre Owen Power — is coming off an excellent outing with Team Canada at the world championships and will soon be back in the hockey spotlight come draft season next month.
Asked during an NHL Network interview last week about his initial thoughts on where he’ll play next season (pros or NCAA), the Mississauga-born defender said he’s leaning toward heading back to Michigan for his sophomore year of college hockey.
“I think right now I’m probably leaning more toward going back to school,” he said. “It’s something that I’d like to do, just to try and get the true experience of playing college hockey. But at the end of the day, it obviously depends on what the team wants and what everyone around me thinks is best. So, I don’t think there’s really a bad option, but I would say I’m probably leaning a bit more to going back to school right now.”