TSN Hockey Insiders Bob McKenzie and Pierre LeBrun join host Gino Reda to discuss a few NHLers Hockey Canada could be looking at for the coming World Junior Tournament, the latest on pending UFA Taylor Hall and how much urgency the Washington Capitals have to re-sign Braden Holtby and Nicklas Backstrom.

Canada’s World Junior forecast

Hockey Canada will be keeping a close eye on the CHL’s Canada-Russia series as they scout for the World Junior Championship this winter. But there are three players who aren’t playing in the series that should draw some attention.

Embedded ImageMcKenzie: I mean the quantity is not off the charts. Sometimes there’s six or seven guys that are eligible for Canada’s National Junior Team in the NHL. It’s only three this year, but the quality is really something. We are talking high-impact individuals. A couple of stud centres: Barrett Hayton of the Arizona Coyotes and Kirby Dach of the Chicago Blackhawks. And there’s defenceman Noah Dobson of the New York Islanders. Boy oh boy, Canada would love to get these guys but there are no guarantees. And there’s still lots of time for decisions, but I can tell you this: Arizona doesn’t appear to have any intention of sending Barrett Hayton back to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and as far as the World Juniors go, all they’re focused on is trying to make the playoffs in Arizona. Kirby Dach right now, if Stan Bowman had to make a decision, he’d be there for the long haul but that one we’ll have to wait and see how it plays out. And Noah Dobson, I don’t think he’s going back to the QMJHL. The Islanders have a plan where they’re getting him stronger. They’re playing him in some games and they intend to ramp those games up – not to say he couldn’t be loaned in December, but those are three big adds that Team Canada would love to try and get in the fold.


What’s the latest with Hall?

Are there any talks between the New Jersey Devils and pending unrestricted free agent Taylor Hall?

Embedded ImageLeBrun: It was a pretty quiet summer and then his agent, Darren Ferris, didn’t meet with Devils general manager Ray Shero during training camp. Not a whole lot since then, but my expectation is that Darren Ferris will meet face-to-face with Ray Shero sometime in the next two weeks, I think the first week of November to resume that process. I should say, by all accounts, the dialogue has been very transparent between all the parties involved including almost a daily communication between Hall and Shero. But there’s some urgency here. The Devils are off to a slow start, this is a huge decision for this franchise, but until Taylor Hall frankly decides that it’s time to go to the next level in this process, he really holds all the cards. And right now he’s nowhere close to a decision.


Perlini on the outs in Chicago?

Embedded ImageMcKenzie: Darren Ferris has something else on his to-do list and that is to try and find a new home for his client Brendan Perlini of the Chicago Blackhawks. You may remember that Perlini came over to Chicago from Arizona along with Dylan Strome but he’s not been able to establish himself in Chicago and he’s only played one game so far this year – less than eight minutes – and so Ferris and the Blackhawks have agreed that they’re going to try and find a new home for him. Something to keep an eye on.


Could the Rangers lose a former top-10 pick?

Friday is a key date for Vitali Kravtsov and his future with the New York Rangers. Why?

Embedded ImageMcKenzie: As of Oct. 25, 2018 top-10 pick Vitali Kravtsov can start exercising his European Assignment Clause. He didn’t make the Rangers out of training camp. He got sent to Hartford and hasn’t played particularly well there. He’s played five games and has one assist. But, if he wants to return to the KHL, beginning on Friday he can do that. Now the Rangers don’t want him to go back, they want him to stay and play with less time and space and get used to smaller ice, but he does have that option and this would be the only year he has that option and in the future he would have to stay in the minors.


All quiet on the Holtby, Backstrom front?

The Washington Capitals have a couple of important pending unrestricted free agents of their own – Braden Holtby and Nicklas Backstrom. Is there a hurry to get something done?

Embedded ImageLeBrun: No, and it is quite interesting. I know this term gets overused but these are two legacy players after winning a Cup and being part of these powerhouse teams forever. There has been a lot of dialogue but there’s absolutely been a decision to let the season play out here for a while – if not the entire season – before we address these two key contracts. There are all kinds of reasons, I think the salary cap is one of them, I also think there’s a bit of a referendum on this team. Are they still a true contender? Does this team need to transition or do they go out and win a Cup this year? All of that will play into these decisions. The players know it, everyone is on the same page, but absolutely fascinating especially Holtby’s case. Ilya Samsonov is pushing him for starts and that’s another factor in a long-term decision in goal for Washington.