Insider Trading: Will Matthews be ready for opening night?
Will Auston Matthews be ready for opening night? How close are we to seeing female officials in the NHL? With Julien BriseBoise re-signed in Tampa Bay, what does it mean for Marc Bergevin in Montreal? Will the Hockey Hall of Fame Ceremony be moved back? TSN Hockey Insiders Darren Dreger, Pierre LeBrun and Chris Johnston discuss this and more.
Will Auston Matthews be ready for opening night?
Chris Johnston: There is no guarantee, and we should be clear here, Auston Matthews wants to play on opening night, and he’s been consistent in saying that since training camp opened. He is progressing well and the fact that he was on the ice at practice, bombing around there, taking some shots, that’s a positive thing from Leafs practice.
But how he progresses will be important. It’s a day-to-day situation, there’s no plan yet to play exhibition games. If it gets to next week or two weeks down the road where he’s not able to play, he could miss that Game 1.
How close are we to seeing National Hockey League female officials?
Darren Dreger: There’s no specific timeline on that from a National Hockey League perspective but the NHL have been quietly pushing to have women officiating at higher levels in the sport. It’s very likely that you will see women officiating at the American Hockey League at some point this season. Several women participated in recent camps involving the AHL. We know that Alex Clarke will be officiating in the Western Hockey League this season and Kirsten Welsh will also begin her officiating career in the Ontario Hockey League later this week.
On Julien BriseBois getting an extension in Tampa Bay.
Pierre LeBrun: In the “No-Brainer department,” Jeff Vinik [owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning] is wasting no time. In fact, he was quoted earlier this month in The Athletic by my colleague, Joe Smith, saying, “I am going to take care of Julien BriseBois.” That has now happened I can confirm via Vinik today that he has agreed to a new deal with BriseBois. [His contract] was set to expire at the end of this season but why would BriseBois want to leave a place where he just won two Stanley Cups? Why would Vinik want to depart from a GM that he had the courage to replace a legend in Steve Yzerman with? They’re going to stick together. Not as big news in Tampa as much as it’ll be interesting headlines in La Belle Province.
What is the status of Marc Bergevin’s contract in Montreal?
Pierre LeBrun: That’s where all eyes are now. He’s not the only GM entering this season on an expiring deal but there’s no bigger story after seeing his team reach the Stanley Cup Final last year. What I can tell you is this, he has talked to owner Geoff Molson about his future dating back to last January. I’m told they spoke again last March. I’m told in July, Molson made an offer. There has not been an agreement, read into that what you will. I believe Marc Bergevin wants to stay, but they obviously have to reach a deal that works for both sides. Both sides continue to talk, and there’s a lot of pressure on this situation.
I don’t think they want this to be hanging over the Montreal Canadiens season. Like I said, there are other guys on expiring deals including Don Sweeney, who I think will get a deal done at some point, Don Waddell on an expiring deal, and of course Bob Murray and Rob Blake in California as well.
Is the Hockey Hall of Fame’s November 15th induction date set in stone or could it be pushed back?
Chris Johnston: There’s a chance of that and certainly this wait continues. There’s some hope from the Hockey Hall of Fame that they would be able to clarify this by this week, 100 per cent put this to bed and get the approvals needed to have that November 15th ceremony. That is being pushed back as they await direction on where this can go. At this point in time, the Hall of Fame is approaching it, they’re ready to have it in November, they’ve sold tickets to Meridian Hall for the event. If it can’t go then there is a backup plan for February. But the hope still is for November.
With everything going on with COVID in Alberta, is it possible there will be no fans at the World Juniors?
Darren Dreger: It is possible and that is obviously the worst-case scenario for all involved. Hockey Canada and the governing bodies are paying close attention to what’s happening in the province of Alberta right now. They’re going to continue to monitor the NHL clubs, and the Western Hockey League teams. The good news is 75 per cent of the tickets have been sold so Hockey Canada can wait until the beginning of December before ultimately making the decision about what the capacity issues are. You might see some unique travel twists. Maybe you’ll charter the teams in and maybe fly commercial out. There’s still work to be done.