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Insider Trading: International hockey talks trending in the right direction

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TSN’s Hockey Insiders on why international hockey talks are trending in the right direction, Chris Tanev’s trade future, if Sean Monahan can fetch a first-rounder, Kaapo Kakko’s name surfacing ahead of the deadline, the latest on Phil Kessel, and John Klingberg’s long road to recovery.

With just over two years until the start of the next Winter Olympics, where are we in figuring out if NHL players are going to be taking part in that?

Sidney Crosby Team CanadaChris Johnston: As it was put to me, the All-Star Weekend is a great place to announce things. Of course, All-Star Weekend arrives in Toronto here this week and I do think there is a chance that we see some kind of international announcement. 

We know the NHL, NHLPA, and IIHF have been working toward getting a package of international events. That being, a limited field tournament for 2025, the Olympics in Milan in 2026, and eventually a full-scale World Cup in 2028. 

At this time I’m told those are still a work in progress. What I can tell you is that there is a call with the IIHF on Wednesday and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is expected to meet with the media on Friday in Toronto. There does remain hope that there will be something to announce once he gets to the podium.

We’re just over five weeks from the trade deadline and our Trade Bait board is riddled with Calgary Flames, including defenceman Chris Tanev. Is any team showing particular interest in Tanev?

Chris TanevDarren Dreger: Well, there are multiple teams that are in the mix. Of late, it seems to be the Ottawa Senators. I can tell you that the Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs most definitely have a keen interest in Tanev. 

Ottawa, I think, looks at Tanev as being a foundational fit,  which tells us It’s not just about the trade, it’s about the contract extension that would likely have to happen after they acquired Tanev.

There are lots of teams that remain interested, including non-playoff teams like the Senators and some other contending teams as well.

As I was reminded, doesn’t Chris Tanev have to make a decision? Is he chasing the Stanley Cup this year? And if the answer to that is yes, then that’s going to factor significantly into his destination of choice.

Sean Monahan Montreal CanadiensPierre LeBrun: Another player that may be chasing a Stanley Cup is Sean Monahan, a pending UFA centre. The Montreal Canadiens most likely will be dealing him, although they haven’t completely closed the door on talking to him about the future and a potential extension. 

All things being equal, I do think he’s going to get dealt. Word right now from talking to teams around the league is that teams haven’t put their best foot forward yet. They’re checking in and telling the Canadiens that they want to be in the mix, “don’t do anything without checking back with us”, but teams seem to want a couple more weeks before getting more serious in their conversations with the Habs on Monahan. 

Part of that I think is attached to the centre market, Elias Lindholm of Calgary being at the top of it, and that having some kind of impact on Monahan. 

The question is this, could Sean Monahan fetch a first-round pick? From talking to a couple of teams today, a lot of people point to his less than $2 million AAV and say yes, especially if the Habs are willing to eat 50 per cent of that. 

Stay tuned, Monahan is going to be a hot name before March 8.

Kaapo Kakko New York RangersDreger: No question about that. I look at the New York Rangers as a buyer in the trade market in an effort to bolster their Stanley Cup playoff runs and their Stanley Cup chances. 

A second overall pick in 2019 by the New York Rangers, Kaapo Kakko is an asset that perhaps Chris Drury, the general manager of the New York Rangers, considers using as trade bait. I know that multiple sources have said that Drury is taking calls on Kakko. Now, losing Filip Chytil for the remainder of the season is a big blow for the Rangers but New York has cap space and potentially the assets, like Kakko, to acquire a significant piece.

Before the start of the NHL season, Phil Kessel made it clear he wanted to come back and play but the UFA could not find a taker. Could we still see him come back and play this season?

Phil Kessel Vegas Golden KnightsLeBrun: I’ve checked in on that over the last day and the answer is that he still absolutely hopes to catch on with an NHL team. He has not given up hope. His camp is still in contact with a couple of teams. One of the things in consideration here is that, because he hasn’t played since last year, is that there might be a team or two that says “Hey come and skate with us for a bit so we can take a look at you and see where things are.” 

He’s been skating and trying to stay ready. After Zach Parise and Corey Perry found homes, could it be a hat trick with Phil Kessel finding a home before March 8? We’ll see.

Leafs defenceman John Klingberg will miss the rest of the season with hip issues. He’s only 31 so what is the plan for him long term?

John Klingberg Toronto Maple LeafsJohnston: Nothing has changed in terms of him being ready for this season. What has changed is that now he’s on the road to recovery. Klingberg had a bilateral hip resurfacing procedure done earlier this month in New York. He’s now working back towards what will be a long recovery process, similar to the procedures that were done on Patrick Kane and Jesse Puljujärvi before they returned to pro hockey this year.

For Klingberg, there is some uncertainty. He was only on a one-year deal with the Leafs so he will be a free agent this summer. He is a player that will try to work his way back once he gets to full health.