The hockey world was shocked when they learned of Kris Letang's stroke, but the Pens' defenceman is now back on the ice. What is the latest in his comeback attempt? What are the options for the salary cap for next season? Will Columbus' tough season alter their plans? TSN Hockey Insiders Darren Dreger, Pierre LeBrun and Chris Johnston discuss this and more.
The entire hockey world was extremely concerned after news of Kris Letang's second stroke 10 days ago, but, C.J., he's already back on the ice.
Chris Johnston: Pretty remarkable scene out of Pittsburgh on Thursday with Kris Letang being in full equipment, being with his teammates on the ice there. And this is a real sign that he is well on the road to recovery, and look, you hear stroke; obviously, that's a very scary serious situation. This isn't a typical recovery from a setback, and the Penguins intend to proceed with extreme caution, but at this point, Kris Letang is considered day-to-day. Obviously, [he] will continue to be monitored as he skates more, gets his conditioning back up. But signs are pointing to him returning much quicker than his first stroke back in 2014. He was out 10 weeks at that point. It's only been 10 days. He's back on the ice. We'll see where it goes next.
The NHL Board of Governors meet next week. Is a salary cap next year right near the top of the list, Pierre?
Pierre LeBrun: Yeah, it is the meeting every year where owners and team executives get kind of a sneak peek of what the [salary] cap might look like. But the reality of next week, from what we're being told, is that the revenue projections will be similar in the ballpark to what they got already in October in New York at the last Board of Governors Meeting. Which is to say that if the players are able to pay the debt from the pandemic, then the cap will have that significant jump - that capital up to north of $86 million - but if they don't finish paying it off, and a lot of people believe they won't this year, then the cap will just go up a million dollars. However, there is a third option that's being talked [about] around the NHL. Not so much by the League and the NHLPA (National Hockey League Players' Association) - the people that have to talk about it - but by player agents and GMs. And, Dregs, what I think it comes down to here is that the NHL is waiting for the NHLPA to have that conversation. Which is, do they agree to massage the cap in a sort of a smoother way here over the next few years?
Darren Dreger: And that's exactly what the National Hockey League Players' Association is planning right now. They're asking their players as part of their annual tour as to whether or not the players do want the salary cap for next season to be increased by as much as $3 million - likely between $2 million and $3 million. Now it won't impact escrow. So that's a must from a player's perspective and from the National Hockey League, and it could go even higher than that in '23-'24. But as Pierre says, the PA has not engaged yet with the National Hockey League. They don't have to. They're first gauging the voice of the player, but they will have to decide before early summer.
So I'm watching our friends on TNT last night, and they do a lot of cool stuff there...including they decided to mic-up Johnny Gaudreau's dad for the game against Buffalo, which sounded like an awesome idea. Except that Johnny Gaudreau and Columbus were down 6-1 after one [period]. So all the mic'd up sound was just Mr. Gaudreau in stunned silence at that point. How embarrassed, how concerned are they in Columbus right now, Pierre?
LeBrun: Yeah, James, the embarrassment was felt from top to bottom, I was told (on Thursday) by someone with the organization. And the players themselves, of course, having a players-only meeting after the game. But the reality is, this isn't going to fuel GM Jarmo Kekalainen to go out and make a bunch of trades to try and get the team out of the bottom of the standings to salvage the year. The reality is they've had massive injuries, they're too far down, they've dug too much of a hole (in the standings). They are going to take their lumps. Now they're not going to come out and say that publicly, but the reality is this is a special draft, as we know, at the top in June, and that's really the focus now for Columbus aside from the development of their young players.
The NBA has long done this thing called the "Legends Lunch", which is extremely popular. Also, some of the greatest names in the game always come back. Dregs, has the NHL looked at that and said, 'We're going to steal that'?
Darren Dreger: One hundred per cent, they're borrowing it, if not stealing it, yes. And it'll happen as part of All-Star festivities, it will be called the Legends Lunch and they will honour Dave Keon as Man of the Year. It's being presented by the National Hockey League Alumni in conjunction with the NHL. And not unlike the NBA with some of the greats in the past. Bobby Orr will be there, Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, and they're also trying to involve as many great NHL players from the '60s as possible. Again in honouring Dave Keon as Man of the Year.