Although many will blame goaltending performance for the Colorado Avalanche loss in the Western Conference semifinals, GM Joe Sakic is not so quick to blame his netminders, Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz. Both goaltenders were injured in the seven-game series against the Dallas Stars, leaving Michael Hutchinson to fend for himself. Grubauer also missed time due to injury in the regular season and many felt his play was affected. Overall, the pair played well this year and both are signed through at least next season at a valuable rate. While many have speculated, including Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek, that the club could still use their considerable cap space to bring in a new starting goalie for next year, Sakic says otherwise. Speaking with Mike Chambers of the Denver Post, Sakic offered support for his tandem and stated that he does not plan to bring in another keeper for next season:
They both had good years. Unfortunately, they both got hurt at the wrong time, but neither of those injuries are injuries you have to worry about. Train hard in the summer and make sure it doesn’t happen again. You can’t predict injuries, but no, they both had good stretches and we expect that next year.
Sakic revealed that Francouz was already dealing with an injury when he replaced the injured Grubauer in the postseason and tried to battle through the pain as long as he could. Fortunately, he stated that both goalies – and in fact all injured Avs – are expected to be back at full strength for next season. As a result, Sakic does not anticipate chasing a new goalie on the free agent or trade markets, as he is content with his duo’s performance, blaming only the poor timing of their injuries.
- Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford made yet another major trade on Friday, his second already since his team was eliminated in the qualifying round, when he dealt Nick Bjugstad to the Minnesota Wild in a salary cap dump. Talking to The Athletic’s Josh Yohe about a deal that on paper seemed to net Pittsburgh little in return – a conditional seventh-round pick and only half of Bjugstad’s 2020-21 cap hit ($2.05MM) – Rutherford made it clear that he is simply doing what he can to create enough cap space as to allow the Penguins to be active in free agency:
Well, I’d really like to be able to get there, to be at the point where we can do something in free agency, but we aren’t there yet… I want to be able to be active on that day, but it’s going to be difficult to get to that point… You’ve got to realize that teams don’t know how much money they’ll be making next season and moving forward. Plus, teams all thought the salary cap for next season was going to be anywhere between $3 million and $6 million higher than what it is. So, everyone is in a pretty difficult situation, and that includes us… First things first, we need to get to a point where we are comfortable that we’ll be compliant with the cap. We’ll see what happens between then and now.
- If there has been any one theme to Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning’s comments all season long, it has been that he would like to keep as many of his current players on the team as possible, including his pending unrestricted free agents. While much of that focus has been on a trio of top players in Jacob Markstrom, Chris Tanev, and Tyler Toffoli, Benning has thrown his support behind role players as well. The latest name that Benning hopes to squeeze back on the roster next season is Josh Leivo, who lost much of his season to a fractured knee cap but was working his way back into game shape when the Canucks were eliminated in the Western Conference Semifinals. Benning knows what Leivo can do when healthy and in an interview with TSN Radio 1040 he stated that he hopes to give him another chance in Vancouver:
He played well for us. We haven’t ruled out re-signing him… He’s a big body, shoots the puck well, is a smart player… His rehab has gone well… he’ll be ready to play next year for us.