What will the Blue Jackets do with coveted centre Pierre-Luc Dubois? What teams have the most to give Columbus? What does the future hold for Frederik Andersen in Toronto? TSN Hockey Insiders Darren Dreger, Pierre LeBrun and Frank Seravalli discuss this and more.
Pierre Luc-Dubois agreed to a two-year contract extension with the Columbus Blue Jackets, but does that mean he's happy in his current situation?
Darren Dreger: Well, no he's not happy, obviously. Hence the trade request. I know that Pat Brisson represents Pierre Luc-Dubois and has been in regular communication with Jarmo Kekäläinen of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Now both sides are trying to work through this and Dubois is going to play in good faith. He promises to be a good teammate for his Blue Jackets teammates, so that's good news. But, there is a sense that it would be better for both sides to get something done sooner rather than later, but whether that's two weeks or two months. There doesn't appear to be a firm timetable at this point.
Pierre LeBrun: And it might be easier to name the team that won't be calling Columbus than the teams that probably will by season's end. And certainly a lot of people I've talked to around the league think that the Jackets are going to take their time on this. They might even wait until the June Draft. There are a number of teams who intend to make sure they stay on this. I bring up the Anaheim Ducks. They have a lot of young assets. Pierre Luc-Dubois with his age and skill set, will be a player of interest I believe for the Ducks. Just down the highway, across town with the LA Kings, another team with a lot of young assets now. They're pretty deep at centre in terms of prospects, but that just might be something that Columbus needs in return. The Winnipeg Jets, that's been out there. Can you trade one situation in Patrik Laine for another in Pierre Luc-Dubois? I don't know how much there is to that, but that is out there. The New York Rangers, what piece are they missing and what could Dubois bring with all those talented wingers with the New York Rangers? I don't know if Columbus would want to trade with a rival. And certainly you got to mention the Montreal Canadiens. Now the Habs are pretty happy with their depth at centre with [Nick] Suzuki and [Jesperi] Kotkaniemi and Phillip Danault for now. So, they're not in a desperate situation, but there's no question Marc Bergevin's track record when there's a situation like this is to keep tabs on it and I think that's exactly what he'll do.
All seven Canadian team can now play home games in their own buildings after getting provincial approval. And there will be plenty of Canadian content in the North Division.
Frank Seravalli: There's going to be a healthy dose of Canadian officials as well because the NHL expects that they're going to keep the same group of officials with the North Division on the north side of the border for the duration of the season barring any injury or illness. If so, they can tap into a few officials for some games that have been in their officiating development program, but that's going to create a really interesting dynamic for the seven Canadian teams seeing the same officials if emotions bubble over throughout the season on a consistent basis, but they're not going to be alone. The American teams in the U.S. will also likely see the same group of officials for two to three games at a time as they play their baseball-style schedule in order to cut down on official travel as well.
A number of key players are going into the final year of their contracts, including Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen. Anything new on that front?
LeBrun: It's my understanding that the two sides have not talked about his contract since July, so it's been quite a while and crickets since then. But, I think both sides are comfortable with that. Now, of note Freddy Andersen's agent is Claude Lemieux and his track record normally is not to negotiate during the season for a client of his that's a pending UFA. He think it's a distraction. Does it mean he couldn't make an exception if the Leafs come to the table mid-season with something that Freddy Andersen is really excited about? But for now, the idea is that both sides are comfortable that he starts the year and perhaps plays out his contract.
Dreger: Well, Freddy Andersen has a contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, meanwhile, Matt Barzal, a restricted free agent with the New York Islanders, is still working hard to get a contract from the Islanders. Both sides grinding away, is my understanding. Trying to hammer out something, more likely to be a bridge deal than anything else. The good news is Barzal is local, he continues to skate, he is working out and as soon as they get a deal done he will be able to jump onto the ice and into the lineup for the New York Islanders. Unlikely that it happens tonight, but you never know.
When the NHL returned over the summer, the play-in round was met with mixed reviews. Is it something we may possibly see again?
Dreger: Well unfortunately no, but the idea of using a play-in formula was certainly floated because of the shortened season. Now, the presentation was made specific to fourth- and fifth place. So, the idea would be that those two teams would meet at the end of the regular season in a two-game series. If the fourth-place team at the end of the regular season won the first game, well then, they’ve locked down fourth and go on into the playoffs in each division. If the fifth-place team ended up winning both of those games of the two-game series, they would take over fourth place and advance into Round 1. So, the theory being, at least from a TV perspective, it would keep things really interesting for teams three through six at the end of the regular season. The NHL isn’t interested. They want to recognize the integrity of the playoffs.
John Chayka unexpectedly resigned as general manager of the Arizona Coyotes over the summer. Could he have a new landing spot?
Seravalli: That’s right. There was no shortage of speculation over the last number of months about John Chayka’s next landing spot. He’s been connected seemingly without end to the New Jersey Devils and their parent company Harris Blitzer Sports Entertainment in a potential role overseeing some of their other sports properties. But I’m told there hasn’t been any dialogue there of late and part of the reason for that is John Chayka is still waiting for an arbitration ruling from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman as to the contractual dispute that he had with the Arizona Coyotes dating back to last year. So until he gets that ruling and he’s free and clear – or not – to resume league activity and be employed, he’s in limbo and sources say at this point that John Chayka is involved in some other business ventures at the moment including some consulting work with other major league sports. So, we’ll see where all this goes but certainly it’s been bubbling under the surface.
What’s the status of Mike Hoffman after signing a professional tryout with the St. Louis Blues? Is there anyone else out there looking for a new deal?
LeBrun: Well, listen, let’s be clear. Mike Hoffman didn’t go to St. Louis really having to try out I mean, there was a verbal understanding that it would lead to something better, although, nothing is guaranteed. But when you saw him rolled out on the first unit power play this week in training camp, you knew that something was going to play out in a positive sense for Mike Hoffman. And that’s what’s going to happen. He’s going to sign a one-year deal in the neighbourhood of $4 million to $4.25 million I think between now and opening night. The Blues have to do a little salary cap gymnastics. Vladimir Tarasenko will probably go on LTIR closer to opening night. That’ll create some room for Mike Hoffman. But he should be a Blue all things being equal. Now, speaking of contracts, Alex Ovechkin of all people needs one. His 13-year deal expires at the end of this season. There were some talks over the summer – Frank and I both talked about that a few months ago – those talks were shelved but I spoke to Caps general manager Brian MacLellan this week and he said that those talks would resume within his franchise captain sooner rather than later. I see an extension getting done here during the season.
Seravalli: And Pierre, if you’re sitting down, I’m told the initial ask from Alex Ovechkin pre-pandemic was $12.5 million a year. We’ll see where all this goes for the greatest goal-scorer of his generation. And speaking of pay, some sobering news out of New York. The NHL held a townhall meeting with its employees on Thursday and notified them that they can continue to expect to receive 75 per cent of their salary for the remainder of this season. Just speaks to the financial reality that the NHL is dealing with as it tries to get back to level ground in terms of revenue.
Reda: That’s rough. Pre-pandemic the NHL was bringing in annual revenues north of $5 million but given the fact we could be looking at 30 to 40 per cent reductions on that this year, finances could be taking a hit for a long while.