TSN Hockey Insiders Chris Johnston, Pierre LeBrun and Darren Dreger joined host Gino Reda to discuss the emerging trade market for defenceman Ben Chiarot, how things came together between Jack Hughes and the Devils and what the next steps might be for Pierre Dorion and the struggling Sens.
Chiarot emerging as trade target?
Over a quarter of the way into the season, contenders are starting to separate themselves from the pack. Who might be interested in acquiring Ben Chiarot if Montreal makes him available?
LeBrun: Ben Chiarot is a player who’s high up on some trade boards now. It’s way early, remember, the trade deadline isn’t until March 21 but the Habs are obviously out of playoff contention already. And so Ben Chiarot, who is a pending unrestricted free agent, I spoke with a few contending teams today who value him greatly and here’s a guy who can absolutely fetch a first-round pick given the dearth of rental defencemen available. He was terrific during the Habs’ playoff run to the Stanley Cup Final last year. Now, we have to wait and see what Jeff Gorton, who has just got the job this week, is going to do with this Canadiens roster. But contending teams I spoke with are acting as if Ben Chiarot will be available between now and the 21st. He has a 10-team no-trade list. It’s a ‘no’ list. That list was submitted last summer. Certainly it’s not out of the question they try and re-sign him, but he’s probably going to be dealt before the 21st.
Bertuzzi in COVID-19 protocol
Players testing positive for COVID-19 has become an almost daily occurance for the NHL over the last few weeks. But was there something different about the news Wednesday?
Johnston: There was. That’s because Tyler Bertuzzi of the Detroit Red Wings is the lone unvaccinated NHL player. And based on the rules that were written up and agreed to between the NHL and NHLPA before the season, if you’re unvaccinated and you do test positive, your team is under no obligation to pay you during that period. In the case of Tyler Bertuzzi, that would be forfeiting a little bit more than $20,000 per day in salary. He is expected to be out at least 10 days while in COVID-19 protocol. And this isn’t entirely new for him. He hasn’t been able to travel into Canada with the Red Wings this year and on those days that the Wings have been in Canada he’s been suspended without pay and not getting paid those days.
How did the Hughes deal come together?
The New Jersey Devils and former No. 1 overall pick Jack Hughes reached an agreement on an eight-year, $64 million deal earlier this week. The extension materialized faster than others, too. Why?
Dreger: Well, because Tom Fitzgerald, the general manager of the New Jersey Devils, and ownership are committed to building the Devils into a contending team the right way. Now, eight years and $64 million is obviously nothing to sneeze at and I can tell you it raised eyebrows from some of the rival general managers around the National Hockey League. But this is part of their plan. They believe that they can be a contending team in the next two to three years. And look, Fitzgerald is going to follow his plan. Which means yeah, they’d like to add some pieces, including a scoring winger or two, but they have to be age sensitive and they have to fit into the core of the group. I expect Fitzgerald will check in with Don Sweeney in Boston about Jake DeBrusk. But again, that contract given the qualifying offer may not be the right fit for the Devils, but that player is definitely a player of interest.
What’s the latest with the Coyotes?
The Arizona Coyotes’ lease in Glendale is expiring at the end of this season. Reports on Thursday indicate they might be looking for a new home well outside the Phoenix area.
Johnston: There was a report from the Forbes reporter that said the team is being prepared to be sold and moved to Houston. And then, needless to say, the Coyotes probably couldn’t have more forcibly denied this story. And look, no team of course if they were ever considering being moved would be able to do anything other but deny this story, but I think it’s a little deeper here. In fact, I had a chance to speak to their president and CEO Xavier Gutierrez on Thursday. He was actually flying back when this report came out from New York where he was presenting on the plan they have for Tempe, Ariz. They have quite a big real estate and business plan for building an arena there. They’ve made that proposal to the city. They were the only group that stepped forward with the proposal for the piece of land that’s open to be built on. So they’re waiting to hear back from the city. But Gutierrez couldn’t have been anymore clear that their only focus at the moment is finding solutions in Arizona and they think they have short-term solutions for next season that are lining up as well.
Sens on the lookout for upgrades?
The Ottawa Senators are in a bit of a freefall amidst a six-game slide sitting last in the NHL. Is there any help on the way or is it going to be up to the guys in the locker room to figure it out?
Dreger: It sounds like the latter. Not to say that Pierre Dorion, the general manager of the Senators, isn’t making his calls and looking for upgrades or reinforcements. I mean, just by nature of how Dorion goes about his business, he is most definitely looking for some help. I mean, you look at the gaping hole they have up the middle of the ice with the long-term injuries to Colin White and Shane Pinto. This team needs better goaltending and they are weak defensively. You can’t cover all of that up by making a trade or two. But again, Dorion is trying to get something done. What they need more than anything is a win. Just to breathe some freshness, some life back into that room, because they do believe in Ottawa that the answers can come from within.