Rangers should keep an eye on UFA Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Penguins coach Mike Sullivan

By Anthony Scultore
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on Broadway? (Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins appears to be heading to free agency. Although he wants to stay in Edmonton, the latest talk is that Ken Holland does not want to give him a penny over $7 million. The Oilers have converted him to a winger, but some teams looking for help down the middle may give the former center what he wants.

Elliotte Friedman appeared on Sportsnet 960 radio in Calgary and said that things have gone sideways between the two parties. “Something happened here. I believe it was always the plan that Nugent-Hopkins was going to stay and they wanted to keep him,” he said. “I think anyone who is familiar with this situation will tell you they thought it was going to happen and it got mangled. And now I don’t know.”

Rangers should consider Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

“I think I’ve said it from the start, I love being an Oiler, I always have,” Nugent-Hopkins said Tuesday. “My goal is always to stay an Oiler, and right now at this point, (free agency) is not really in my mind. Right now, I have a lot more in my head than that, so it’s tough to kind of think about that and get my thoughts wrapped around that. I think I’ve said it from Day 1, I love being an Oiler and it’s something that I’ve taken a lot of pride in the last 10 years.”

Edmonton Journal

The 28 year-old scored 35 points in 52 games this season. Many teams like the New York Rangers believe he could make the transition back to the middle with ease. However, his face-off winning percentage is a putrid 44%. So you aren’t getting him for that facet of his game. The Blue Jackets are another team looking at him as a possible free agent signing.

RNH is also coming off a deal that paid him $6 million AAV. He will be looking for a 7 year deal on the open market and an increase in the $7.5 to $8.5 million range for sure. If the Oilers do re-sign him, they are likely to get a hometown discount, but like many teams that won’t happen until after the expansion draft. Free agency starts on July 28.

Mike Sullivan a possible coaching candidate if fired

mike sullivan
May 18, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan (middle) reacts on the bench against the New York Islanders in game two of the first round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PPG Paints Arena. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan has had an incredible run in Pittsburgh. Over the course of the last six seasons he’s amassed a record of 251-131-43 with two Stanley Cup Championships. But after their recent first round exit, some believe he could be on the hot seat.

Two main reasons he may be replaced have a lot to do with the new guys in charge, Brian Burke and Ron Hextall. First off, Sullivan isn’t their hire and secondly, they want a little more grit in the lineup. One of the chief complaints of the Penguins is that they’ve been a little too easy to play against over the last few seasons. Mike Sullivan prefers a more skill oriented lineup.

Burke is on the record as saying him and Sullivan might have different ideas about what wins. The oft-referenced quote, uttered to the Post-Gazette just before the trade deadline, went like this: “I’m a big fan of not going to a gunfight with a knife. So Sully and I will have to thrash that out at some point.”

Joe Starkey, Post-Gazette

The jury is still out if a move is going to come down in Pittsburgh with regards to coaching. If the Penguins were to do it, this is the time with candidates like Gerard Gallant, Rick Tocchet, and John Tortorella available. That being said, the Blueshirts should immediately consider Sullivan for their own coaching search.

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