TSN Hockey Insiders Darren Dreger and Pierre LeBrun join host James Duthie to discuss the latest news surrounding Patrik Laine and the Jets, Zdeno Chara’s future, the possibility of an all-Canadian division next season, and more.
Duthie: Gentlemen, we've been able to cross most of the prominent free agents off our list, but there's still some question on where some key players will be playing this upcoming season and maybe at the top of that list is Patrik Laine. What's the latest, Pierre?
LeBrun: Well, first of all, James, there's been some scuttlebutt around the National Hockey League of late that Patrik Laine may not show up at camp if he's not dealt by the Winnipeg Jets. I reached out to his representation agents, Andy Scott and Mike Liut, to get some clarity and they absolutely deny that. That Laine has not asked for a trade, he's not threatening to not be a camp if he's not dealt. Having said that, his agents also made clear that it's fair to say that given that Laine knows his name has been in trade discussions as we've talked about here, and given that his usage in the lineup the last couple of years has been a constant topic of conversation, the fact that he doesn't get consistent first-line minutes, his agents Mike Liut and Andy Scott do confirm that it probably would be mutually beneficial to both the player and to the team if Patrik Laine is traded and that there is clear communication between them and Kevin Cheveldayoff, the GM of the Winnipeg Jets, about this. Now I spoke to Kevin Cheveldayoff on this day. And he reiterated that he's looking at all options when it comes to trade and that Patrik Laine remains a big part of the organization. What I would say, not Cheveldayoff, is that he's not going to just trade Patrik Laine for the sake of it, that it's going to have to be something that makes sense for the Winnipeg Jets. But I will say this, as Andy Scott, the agent for Patrik Laine, said to me, there is a clear understanding between both sides about where this is probably headed.
Duthie: Vegas owner Bill Foley is not the first person to talk about an all-Canadian Division in the upcoming season. In fact, you guys have been talking about it for weeks. But when an owner says it, I think people say, Oh, they must have been talking about it. It's a done deal. Is it Dregs?
Dreger: It's not. As a Canadian Division of possibility at this standpoint? Absolutely. No doubt about that. But there also has been no decisions made specific to the start of the 2020-21 season. But that's a scenario that has to be discussed, and I'm sure will be negotiated between the National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players’ Association as to whether or not it's the right fit or not. Now we know that the NHL is in constant communication with the Canadian government, the borders are still closed. And that is the primary reason that Bill Foley would make such a comment, but I also had an owner suggest that there's no guarantee that there is a 2020-21 season so it seems like owner opinion is similar to all of our opinions - all over the map.
Duthie: When we have unrestricted free agency, the idea is that a player can go anywhere but I don't think that we expected Zdeno Chara would go anywhere except Boston, even though he's a UFA. But is it possible that we see him in a different sweater, Pierre?
LeBrun: James, it is a possibility. I mean, I asked his agent Matt Keator on Thursday for an update and specifically asked 'Hey, like I'm hearing that you know, it may not necessarily be Boston as a slam dunk if he decides to play another season.' And Keator's answer was "looking at all options." Now, I have to say that the Bruins are probably the frontrunner but other teams keep calling. The key thing that Keator said is that Zdeno Chara is in no hurry, he wants to take his time. And one thing he mentioned is the format for next season is of particular interest to Chara. He's got a young family, there's a lot of factors to consider whether he jumping back in for another season, depending on how next year looks like. Bottom line is right now big Z is in a holding pattern.
Duthie: The NHL expected hopefully to start in January and junior hockey, the Western Hockey League has said it will start in January. Dregs, does the Ontario Hockey League follow suit?
Dreger: It's certainly looking that way, James. As we know, the COVID-19 landscape in Ontario right now is very, very difficult. The Ontario Hockey League was hoping to start in early December. Now they're targeting a decision for when they will officially start by the end of this month, by the end of October. But they are leaning towards early January after the World Junior Championship. As for the protocols that will be employed in the Ontario Hockey League, will there be contact allowed? Will there be body checking? All of that seems somewhat up in the air even though the provincial government recently indicated that those aspects would have to be employed. So, still a lot to be decided in Ontario.