Not surprisingly, Zack Kassian was not happy with his two-game suspension. That’s not unusual. What is unusual though, is when a player who’s been suspended’s team steps up and says, hey, we need to talk to the league about this.
Dreger: Well there is a lot of emotion around this one, both on and off the ice. The Battle-of-Alberta renewed, it is legit. You’ve got the two-game suspension. You’ve got two frothing fanbases. And at least a couple of annoyed executives. Edmonton Oilers chairman Bob Nicholson got involved on Sunday. He called deputy commissioner Bill Daly at the National Hockey League’s head office to voice the team’s concerns. The discussion, some might assume, should have been, could have been isolated to the officiating. Allegedly, the missed calls. It wasn’t specific to officiating, but it was overall game specific.
To the Leafs and we already knew, everybody around the league knew, that the Leafs had some needs on the blue line. Jake Muzzin already out with a broken foot. Now Morgan Rielly gone for two months, and they’re on the playoff bubble as it is. Bob, are the vultures circling?
McKenzie: There’s no question about that Gino. Lots of teams around the National Hockey League calling the Toronto Maple Leafs saying, ‘hey, would you like one of our defencemen? We could make you a real sweet deal.’ And I suspect the Leafs are making some calls of their own on that front. Now, the short-term strategy is to get through their next three games. Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, all home games. Then they get their bye and then they get their All-Star break. Now, Jake Muzzin, could be back in the Toronto Maple Leafs lineup coming out of that break, the Nashville game on Monday, January 27. The idea of trading for another defenceman is not entirely out of the question. But here’s where it gets complicated. The short-term need for the Leafs right now is left-side where Morgan Rielly is out and Jake Muzzin is out. But the long-term need beyond this season is more on the right-side. So the question the Leafs have to ask themselves and one that maybe other teams will be asking them as well, is are you prepared to trade Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson or Alex Kerfoot, those good young players at good contracts, for a likened contract on defence, a young defenceman. That is a hell of a needle to thread for the Toronto Maple Leafs, but that’s one of the questions they’re going to have to ask themselves. One other thing to note. Very preliminary and I stress, very preliminary, the Leafs have talked to Jake Muzzin about a contract extension but it’s just getting going.
LeBrun: Well there were Leaf fans on social media in the new of Morgan Rielly hoping of a Shea Weber trade. I don’t think you’re going to see that happening. But, there are certainly fans and media in Montreal with the Habs falling out of a playoff spot wondering how to rebuild this team. Or to continue to the rebuild. And yes, should Carey Price be dealt, or should Shea Weber? I can tell you this. You can stop speculating about that, because Habs GM Marc Bergevin told me on Tuesday he has no intention of thinking about trading Carey Price or Shea Weber and would not listen if a team phoned on Carey Price or Shea Weber before the trade deadline. And listen, he’s been on the record before saying that as this team gets younger, the leadership that Shea Weber and Carey Price provide for this team is important to him. He believes it works and he wants those two guys to be part of that.
Dreger: Well, ‘tis the season to speculate, because everyday, obviously, we inch closer to the NHL trade deadline. Chris Kreider’s name, of the New York Rangers, remains front and centre. There’s still going to be contract discussions, perhaps negotiations with Rangers management. But it’s assumed that Chris Kreider’s most likely going to be traded. Of course there is interest in this power forward. And there is a sense that the New York Rangers will be willing to retain as much as 50 per cent of the salary. If that’s the case and the deal is right, then you could look at some of the big dogs like the St. Louis Blues, maybe the Boston Bruins to take a run at Chris Kreider.
Speaking of big dogs, Nicklas Backstrom and Braden Holtby were both set to become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season. Backstrom has signed his extension. Where does that leave Holtby?
LeBrun: Well he may be on the outside looking in, in terms of his future. Now it’s not decided and one thing to note, the Caps have been very transparent with Braden Holtby and his camp since training camp, that they would wait until after the season and decide how to proceed in terms of whether or not he’d get a contract offer. He knows that. Now, Ilya Samsonov has been pretty good. The young goalie for the Washington Capitals, that’s part of this dynamic. So is the fact that I think Washington looks at some of the other long-term contracts for goalies and isn’t sure that it is interested in that. So, to me, it’s either a short-term deal for Holtby, or he goes to market. It’ll be decided after the year.
Back in September, it looked like negotiations for a new CBA were pretty intense. Maybe something in place by the All-Star break. We’re almost there Bob. Any news?
McKenzie: There’s been some dialogue and communications over the last little while, but there’s been no face-to-face meetings or substantive negotiations whatsoever and there’s virtually been no progress in a big way since last September. I think it’s fair to say that the NHL believes a deal could be done in days, if not weeks. Players’ Association thinks it could be weeks, if not months. Either way, I think the optimism of September has dissipated. It’s not completely gone, but I think both sides are looking at the possibility of a four-year extension that could include Olympic involvement if everything were to go perfectly right. But boy they still have some heavy work to do here. So all of that optimism of maybe something being done by the end of the All-Star game, I wouldn’t hold my breath.