Is a Jack Eichel trade out of Buffalo on the horizon? Despite a 99% vaccination rate in the NHL, there are still COVID-19 cases happening. How is that affecting the NHL season, and could it change Olympic participation? TSN Hockey Insiders Chris Johnston, Pierre LeBrun and Darren Dreger have more.

Are we finally getting closer to the conclusion of the Jack Eichel saga?

Embedded ImageDarren Dreger: Yes. The countdown is officially on. And it could be a countdown to an NHLPA grievance more than a trade, but that’s what Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams and those that represent Jack Eichel, Pat Brisson and J.P. Barry, CAA Hockey, are working with right now. 
Earlier this week, trade talks heated up with the Buffalo Sabres and now they seem to have cooled down a little bit but that can change with one simple phone call. So the hope is from both sides, the player’s perspective and the Buffalo Sabres, that they do find a trade that works. Otherwise, his Player’s Association grievance is coming. If the trade does happen, Jack Eichel could be under the knife and having disk replacement surgery early next week.

Despite 99 per cent of the league being double vaccinated, teams are still dealing with positive tests. Why is it playing out this way?

Embedded ImagePierre LeBrun: Players continue to end up in COVID protocol, as we’re seeing from day to day. I reached out to NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly this week to get the sense of his concern and he said of course he is concerned but it’s nothing they weren’t aware of before the season started and, in his words, it continues to stress the need for continued vigilance, and frankly, the need for continued testing even though most of the players in the league are vaccinated.
It also stresses the fact that while everyone has committed to go to the Olympic games in February, there’s a reason that there’s a January 10th opt-out for the NHL and NHLPA. If COVID cases escalate to a point where games start to get postponed and rescheduled, then there is a conversation to be had. So keep that in mind as we go along.

Is there concern about China’s men’s hockey team as they prepare to host the Winter Olympics?

Embedded ImageChris Johnston: There absolutely is. There is doubt whether the Chinee men’s team should still be placed in the Olympics. That’s doubt that will be talked about next Tuesday. There’s a board meeting of the IIHF in Zurich and the concern here is that this team has been placed in a group with Team USA and Team Canada. They would play round-robin games against those countries and potentially have some pretty lopsided, embarrassing scores.
This isn’t necessarily a new issue, the IIHF has been aware of the possibility. I think they’ve tried to be patient in hoping that they bring along the country. Now, as it gets close, they have to make a decision by Dec. 1, whether China will be in as a host nation at the Games and it’s very much up in the air.

What are the trade rumours surrounding the Los Angeles Kings?

Embedded ImageLeBrun: Maybe not the kind of the trade the Kings would like to make in a perfect world because they’re hamstrung by the cap but the long-term injuries to two of their top four defencemen on the right side, Drew Doughty and Sean Walker, has them working the phones looking for, at least, a depth defenceman for the right side. Doughty will be back in 6-to-8 weeks so that’s why they can't just go out and replace his $11 million cap hit. Walker is out for the season. Huge injuries for the Kings’ blueline and the team hopes to at least go and find some depth there.