Auston Matthews, Bryan Little, Florida Panthers, NHL Rumors, Pittsburgh Penguins, Scott Mellanby, Top Story, Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets

NHL Rumors: Jets, Penguins, Maple Leafs, Panthers, More

In today’s NHL rumors, Bryan Little of the Winnipeg Jets comments on the possibility of him never playing hockey again. The Pittsburgh Penguins have made sweeping changes to their coaching staff, and in Toronto, Auston Matthews comments on the opinions from fans and media about how the Maple Leafs team is constructed. The Florida Panthers are talking to candidates about the open GM job, and will the trade market open up a bit now that 15 teams are able to make deals?

Little May Never Return to NHL

Murat Ates of The Athletic today writes that in a conversation with injured forward Bryan Little, the Winnipeg Jets’ player hasn’t closed the door completely on ever returning to the NHL, but a lot has to happen to make a return possible.

Bryan Little Winnipeg Jets
Bryan Little, Winnipeg Jets (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Little explained that for six weeks after the injury (he took a slap shot to the head) he wasn’t even allowed to pick his young daughter up. He tried to practice but was forced to stop and while he still hopes to play again and is “not shutting the door”, he noted the only way he returns if he’s told there’s no risk to do so.

It will be hard to imagine a doctor saying there’s never going to be a risk associated to him playing hockey again and a brain injury is a very serious concern.

Penguins Fire Assistant Coaching Staff

The Pittsburgh Penguins have completely overhauled their coaching staff with the exception of head coach Mike Sullivan. The team announced on Wednesday that Sergei Gonchar, Jacques Martin and Mark Recchi will not have their contracts renewed and Penguins GM Jim Rutherford released a statement saying:

We are in the process of conducting a review of our organization because we have underperformed in the playoffs the last few years. We just thought we needed to change the dynamic of our coaching staff. We have very high standards here in Pittsburgh, and we want to continue competing for Stanley Cups. The message to our fans is that ’We are not rebuilding, we’re re-tooling.’

Sullivan said of the changes and the season’s results, “When teams like ours don’t have good success, changes are inevitable. We have to take responsibility for it – and that starts with me.” He added:

“This is a difficult day for me, more difficult than you can imagine. I know how hard these guys work. We’ve been through a lot together. These guys are good coaches and they’re my friends…

Panthers to Speak With Mellanby About GM Job

The moment Dale Tallon was officially removed as GM of the Florida Panthers, speculation surrounded Montreal Canadiens Assistant GM Scott Mellanby. Mellanby captained the Panthers for several seasons and Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic has confirmed the team would like to speak with him about the job.

LeBrun reports that the Panthers received permission from the Canadiens to interview him.

Related: Prospects News & Rumors: Beniers, Kase & Krutil

Matthews Says He Believes In This Group

Pundits from a number of different outlets are trying to dissect what went wrong for the Toronto Maple Leafs, many of them suggesting that the team isn’t constructed properly and the makeup of the roster needs to change. In one example, Sportsnet’s Brian Burke noted the team has a few problems.

He says their defense isn’t deep enough and the team has too much money committed to the their top four forwards. He notes, “I think philosophically they are committed to a style of play that is conducisive to regular season success but not playoff success.” He adds, “They’ve got to get bigger, they’ve got to get a little rougher, and they have a lot of work to do and not much cash to do it with.”

Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews has responded to the opinions he’s hearing about the team (not just from Burke) and has a message for fans and media.

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Matthews notes:

“The perception of how things are going or how the team’s been perceived outside the locker room may be a lot different than what we believe in. Obviously the results of the playoffs and what not haven’t shown. But with the players we have on this team and the core group that we have – being together for four years now – we really believe we are right there. And I gotta be honest, we don’t really care what other people think, or how far away other people think we are, or the article they’re going to write about all the things that we need. I think we believe in our management and in our staff and in the players on this team and in this organization that we’re going to power through this adversity and we’re going to break through eventually.”

While Matthews’ response should be commended, these pundits will still argue that when you lose every year in the first round, you need more. The current core and management team is why the results haven’t be there and change is what is needed.

While a lot of talk has surrounded Mitch Marner, Burke believes it will be Nylander who moves. He notes, “It’s time for William Nylander to move. He is a cash under cap guy. He’s a good player. I think it’s time to move and get a defenseman for him.”

Related: Maple Leafs Facing Tough Decisions Heading Into Offseason

Trade Market Could Heat Up a Little

The eight teams eliminated from the play-in rounds are now officially joining the seven teams who were already out as teams who can make trades, should they choose.

TSN Hockey Insider Pierre LeBrun confirmed that the 15 teams can get the process going and with knowledge of what the cap will be next season, there could be some action. But, other teams will wait for all 31 clubs to be free to make moves before pulling the trigger on any deals.

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