The Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues have each won three games in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final. This means that no matter who wins on Wednesday night, the 2018-19 NHL season is down to its final game.
Once Wednesday has come and gone, it will be on to the draft-which is scheduled for June 21 and 22-and free agency, which kicks off on July 1. While those two very important dates are still a bit away, the 29 teams who aren’t involved in Wednesday’s contest are already getting prepared.
As is usually the case, with offseason preparation comes the spinning of the rumor mill. There has been no shortage of offseason buzz floating around, and we’re here to examine some of the latest.
Coyotes, Blue Jackets Targeting Duchene
The Columbus Blue Jackets traded for center Matt Duchene just before the deadline, and the former Ottawa Senators star helped spark a postseason run that ended against the Finals-bound Bruins. Now, Duchene is set to hit the free-agent market, though, the Blue Jackets are certainly interested in keeping him around.
According to The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun, Columbus is still negotiating with Duchene’s agent, Pat Brisson. The question for the Blue Jackets is whether they’d be willing to top the market by offering an eight-year deal.
This is a huge financial commitment, and re-signing Duchene would also mean Columbus has to send its first-round draft pick to Ottawa, per terms of the trade.
LeBrun also reported that the Arizona Coyotes intend to “aggressively” pursue Duchene if he does get to free agency.
Fitting Duchene under the salary cap could be tricky for Arizona-according to Spotrac, the team will carry roughly $74 million in salary into free agency. However, TSN’s Darren Dreger believes that pending owner Alex Meruelo could help ensure that space is created.
“They’ve got a new injection of ownership there, so perhaps there’s more capital for [general manager] John Chayka to work with,” Dreger said on Insider Trading. “And I’m told that Matt Duchene is Arizona’s primary focus.
Avalanche Targeting a Forward in the Draft?
Western Hockey League star Bowen Byram is perhaps the best defenseman in the 2019 draft, and he’s one of the most enticing overall prospects. He’s capable of playing strong defense at the blue line while also providing a spark on the offensive end-Bowen had 26 goals and 45 assists this past season.
“He’s a threat in all three zones,” Vancouver Giants head coach Michael Dyck said of Byram, per Miranda Einhorn of the Colorado Avalanche’s official website. “He’s able to make plays under pressure and make plays in traffic in his own zone and in the neutral zone.”
While Byram would certainly be an asset for the Avalanche, he may not be on their radar. According to AJ Haefele of BSN Denver, Colorado is targeting a winger or a center with the fourth overall pick in the draft:
AJ Haefele @AJHaefele
Something for the rumor mill: Most of my conversations surrounding the Avs and the 4th pick have led to them targeting a F regardless of Byram’s availability. Adjust your mocks accordingly :p
This could be a smokescreen, of course, but a center like Dylan Cozens or Kirby Dach would make sense for Colorado, as would a winger like Vasili Podkolzin.
Interestingly, the fourth overall pick is draft selection Colorado received when it traded Duchene to the Senators in 2017.
Sabres Could be Buyers in the Trade Market
While the Avalanche are looking to add future scoring depth in the draft, the Buffalo Sabres appear to want to add immediate scoring depth in either free agency or via the trade market.
According to Lance Lysowski of TBN Sports, Sabres general manager Jason Botterill would prefer to go the trade route:
Lance Lysowski @LLysowski
Botterill said the #Sabres will try to add scoring depth in free agency but acknowledged the trade market is a more “realistic” way to use his remaining cap space, much like he did by adding Skinner and Sheary last summer
LeBrun reported that the Sabres are in the market for a second-line center and are also “kicking the tires” on Minnesota Wild winger Jason Zucker.
If the Sabres are targeting Zucker, they certainly aren’t the only ones. TSN’s Mike Halford reported last week that the Vancouver Canucks are also looking to deal for him:
TSN Radio Vancouver @TSN1040
.@HalfordTSN from a source: “I’m hearing Vancouver is all over Jason Zucker. There are multiple trade offers on the table”
One thing is for sure. Should the Sabres and the Canucks get in some sort of bidding war for Zucker, it would likely benefit Minnesota.