Just a few weeks into the second-half and the 2020 portion of the NHL’s regular season, there’s no shortage of stories worth watching. While one GM says there might not be big trades until right before the deadline, there are rumors aplenty and buzz surrounding at least 15-20 teams in the NHL.
The most popular topic of discussion seems to be the trade deadline (as expected this time of year) which is only five weeks away. That, of course, equates to lots of chatter about upcoming deals, buyers and sellers and the NHL rental market.
Not to be overlooked, there are injuries plaguing certain teams which has sent organizations into scramble mode and some franchises are surprising themselves with how competitive they’ve been, forcing them to rethink their strategies for the season. So too, some teams that typically compete every year are struggling and management is changing with regularity. In fact, seven coaches have been relieved of their duties so far this season.
With all the newsworthy items worth considering, here are the 10 biggest stories worth keeping an eye on:
Taylor Hall and the Coyotes
It seems hard to fathom, but weeks after being acquired by the Arizona Coyotes, there are some in the media suggesting the team already move him.
The argument is that Arizona has a chance within their own division but really isn’t a contender when it comes time to face stronger teams in the playoffs. And, with Hall more likely to test free agency, if the Coyotes aren’t competitive and stand to lose him for nothing, they’re better off to move him now.
Hall himself said he’s excited to be in the thick of a playoff race but it’s hard to know if that equates to him taking a more serious look at the Coyotes long-term. And, with the Coyotes a couple of losses away from no longer being in the playoff conversation, then what?
As the next few weeks unfold, how Arizona does and where they find themselves in the standings may be something to watch. If they struggle, might GM John Chayka get what he can and maximize a return even if it means folding on the season? If they’re close, there’s no way he can lessen the team’s chances of getting in by moving the best forward is there?
The Maple Leafs Injuries
How the heck does a team that looked front-end heavy at the start of the season manage to be competitive with so many defensemen going down to injury? That will be the question in Toronto where the Maple Leafs have been dealt repeatedly bad news.
Morgan Reilly is out eight weeks with a fractured foot. Add this to Jake Muzzin being down (close to a return) and the Leafs will need to do something. Their first course of action was calling up Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren who look to short-term stop gaps.
What will Toronto do? Their window to win isn’t big and there are great expectations for success this season, even though there are rumblings the team might be making moves for next season instead of this season.
There are rumors surrounding the team moving a forward like Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson or Alex Kerfoot in an attempt to address the blue line, the backup goalie position or team toughness. Kyle Dubas might be among the most active GM’s over the next three weeks.
How Will Oilers Maximize Their Window?
GM Ken Holland has said the Oilers window to win is now. With Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl one and two in NHL scoring, Edmonton needs to find whatever they can without mortgaging the future to remain in the race for a playoff spot. What will they do?
Rumors are they have their eyes on Jean-Gabriel Pageau or Andreas Athanasiou out of Detroit. Darren Dreger recently reported they’ve inquired with the Maple Leafs about a top-six forward. But, already unwilling to give up high-end draft picks to acquire rentals, will Edmonton move a player like Jesse Puljujarvi or a prospect like Evan Bouchard?
Edmonton is in tight for cap space and as such, somewhat limited in what they can do. That said, they need more scoring in their top-six and possibly a third-line center. They’ve already worked internal options like Kailer Yamamoto into their lineup and may look at other internal options before making a trade. Those moves will need to come soon however if these players want to have the proper experience needed for a playoff push.
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