So far this summer, there has been a lot of chatter from teams that have players heading into the final year of their current deals. Having not been traded yet, a handful of these players are seemingly unhappy with their current fits but have taken the high road in talks with the media, suggesting they want to see how things play out and then make a decision based on where their respective teams are at and where they fit into the long-term plans.
In some cases, these players are giving their teams too much love. Whether that be due to loyalty or a lack of desire to ruffle feathers, these pending UFAs have said the right things, but they may be underestimating just how much it might behoove them to get out while they can.
A former Vezina winner, Connor Hellebuyck has done everything he can for a Winnipeg Jets team that can’t seem to put all the pieces together. Once deemed one of the future forces in the NHL, the club was loaded with high-end skill, who, one by one, either fizzled out or wanted out. These are still good players, but the Jets never reached the level many analysts had predicted for them.
Now, with the future success of the team still very much a question mark, there is a ton of speculation about Mark Scheifele and Hellebuyck. The latter has said he believes this team has what it takes to be a winner and all he wants is a Stanley Cup. He’s willing to give it time and then he’ll see what unfolds as the season rolls along. What he should be doing is telling management that they need to make dealing him a priority.
Hellebuyck is the best shot the Jets have at winning anything. He’d be much better off on a team that has the pieces at forward and defense to get him the Cup he so badly wants.
Even the Vancouver Canucks know they won’t be very good this season. Their own President of Hockey Operations came out and said that everything has to go right for them to be a playoff team. It’s not exactly a ringing endorsement if you’re trying to convince a player like Elias Pettersson to commit long-term to a team he wants to know is competitive.
The Canucks are still working to make deals and clear space and they’ve struggled with their roster decisions for the last decade. Pettersson has said he wants to wait and make a decision later. While it’s hard to know if that means he’s confident in the team or he isn’t, a quick slide towards the bottom of the standings early in the season may open his eyes rather quickly.
A 10-0 loss in preseason doesn’t inspire confidence either.
Stamkos went public last week about how disappointed he is that the Tampa Bay Lightning haven’t shown him the kind of respect he thinks he deserves heading into the final season on his current contract. Every other major name in Tampa has been extended a year before they become a free agent, but twice now, the Lightning have ignored Stamkos.
With the latest news that Andrei Vasilevskiy is out for 8-10 weeks with an injury, this team is in trouble. Already getting older and having lost a couple of key pieces, the Lightning are not the elite dynasty they once were. They could be one of the teams to see the biggest drop off this season from last and if Stamkos has the feeling that the organization is happy enough to see him go, maybe he should put a rush job on it.
Outside of Mikael Backlund quickly shifting gears and suddenly signing an extension to stay in Calgary, only Elias Lindholm has given any indication that he wants to stay with the Flames. He’s said in multiple interviews now that the team knows what he wants and he’s just waiting. The Flames, meanwhile, don’t seem eager to jump up to the numbers he’s probably asking for.
Calgary shouldn’t be as bad as they were last season, but they won’t be a contender in a tight Pacific Division. Lindholm is looking to lock in long-term with a club that might not be good unless everything clicks. In Jonathan Huberdeau finds his game again, or Noah Hanifin suddenly wants to stay too, Lindholm is signing up for a lengthy and potentially painful run in his career where he’s not playing for anything of meaning. He’ll simply be collecting a cheque.
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