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Insider Trading: Could NHL city host Olympic hockey in 2026?

Olympic Hockey Olympic Hockey - The Canadian Press

TSN’s Hockey Insiders discuss the chances of an NHL city hosting hockey at the 2026 Winter Olympics, the Minnesota Wild’s front office in flux, why there’s no rush in the Blues’ coaching search, Canada’s open World Juniors roster spot, and updates on Zach Parise and Steven Stamkos

GINO REDA: Alongside the Insiders, Chris Johnston, Pierre LeBrun and Darren Dreger. The Winter Olympics are in Italy in 2026, the NHL wants to send players. The problem is, they may not have the rinks ready in time to host the event. Could the answer be Olympic hockey way closer to home in two years, Darren?

DARREN DREGER: Well, it’s far fetched but it could be, yes. The National Hockey League, Gino, has offered a North American city to house the hockey portion of the Olympics in 2026. Now, this is unlikely going to happen. We know that the pressure is on Italy, they’re trying to get their main venue completed in time for the Games. They’ve also got another satellite venue that’s available to them, perhaps they pick another Italian city if the main venue isn’t ready, like Torino. The National Hockey League has made this offer before, it’s never been accepted. So again, doubtful, but possible. The offer has been made.

REDA: That would be something. Something very strange going on in Minnesota right now. On Wednesday, the Wild parted ways with assistant general manager Chris O’Hearn. What do we know about what’s going on there, Chris?

CHRIS JOHNSTON: Well, it’s really a tough situation to make clear sense of because Chris O’Hearn manages the cap. The Wild are a capped team, this is not the time, usually, where you would be parting ways with an employee of that nature. It’s also believed Chris O’Hearn signed an extension recently in Minnesota, and that’s sort of led us to dig into more, and what we’ve found is that there have been two investigations into conduct involving the Wild front office this year. They’re believed to be unrelated, and these are investigations that the NHL has known about and been kept apprised of, but not led, and ultimately it’s easy to connect one dot to the other with O’Hearn exiting the organization this week, but certainly there’s a lot of speculation and thought that there could be a future shoe to drop. So, we don’t have a full picture here just yet, but I suspect we haven’t heard the last of the situation in Minnesota.

REDA: The Blues parted ways with their head coach, Craig Berube, on Tuesday. They replaced him with their AHL head coach, Drew Bannister, on an interim basis. What’s the plan moving forward, Pierre?

PIERRE LEBRUN: Doug Armstrong is going to start a coaching search, no real rushed timeline on that. I think he’s going to take his time and go through the process but, of course, Drew Bannister as you mentioned, the former Soo Greyhounds coach is very much a candidate. And this is the approach that Doug Armstrong took in 2018, when Craig Berube was, at first, an interim head coach. Well, Doug Armstrong had a coaching search throughout that season in ’18-’19, but Berube, of course, wins the Cup. The other thing to remember here, Doug Armstrong does not hire a lot of coaches since he’s been a GM in the National Hockey League. Dave Tippet, his only hire in Dallas, was their coach for a long time. Of course, Ken Hitchcock, Mike Yeo and Craig Berube, Mike Yeo the only short stint. And so my point is, whoever gets the permanent gig in St. Louis has a chance to be around a while.

REDA: All right. When the Canadian Junior team announced its roster for this Christmas in Sweden, they left a spot open. How do you see them filling that vacancy, Dregs?

DREGER: Well, it seems most likely, Gino, that a CHL player will be added. Hockey Canada wants to fill out their roster by the conclusion of this weekend and have their full team ready to go by Tuesday’s game, so that will likely rule out the two NHL players that Hockey Canada has been keeping an eye on. Zach Benson of the Buffalo Sabres is not going, he’s too important to the Sabres team. He’s on the power play, he’s on the penalty kill, he plays with (Tage) Thompson and (Alex) Tuch, so that’s not happening. There is a bit of hope around Matt Poitras of the Boston Bruins, but he too is a key centre for the Bruins right now. He’s playing good minutes, he’s playing, basically, in the majority of their situations. So, less certainty around Poitras than there is around Zach Benson, so I think we can conclude it will likely be a CHL forward that’s added.

REDA: When the Islanders were eliminated from the playoffs last season, Zach Parise said he wasn’t sure about his future, needed some time to figure out what was next. Now a third of the way into this season, could he be considering a return, Chris?

JOHNSTON: Absolutely he is, in fact, he’s ramping up his training right now at home in Minnesota, with an eye on returning for that 19th season. And I think where this gets interesting is that the Islanders have kept the door open to Zach Parise, they wanted to bring him back for a third season this year, but in the meantime here, you’ve got other teams, and some teams with a legitimate chance of winning the Stanley Cup that have entered the picture and expressed some interest in him. And so, when he does get to the point where he’s ready to return, ready to sign a contract, Zach Parise is going to have a decision to make, and that’s to try to go to a team, maybe, that he thinks has the best chance to win the Cup, or to stay loyal to the Islanders.

REDA: The Lightning tried to clear the air on Steven Stamkos questions by saying they’re not talking extension until the end of the season, despite that, people keep asking questions. Anything new, Pierre?

LEBRUN: The answer is no, it’s status quo, and I get it. Sometimes with the New Year approaching you wonder if teams will revisit that type of situation. Julien BriseBois was very clear before the season, he’s on-record, they’re not going to talk contract with their captain until after the season. They were clear about that with Steven Stamkos, and there is no reason to believe that that will change.

REDA: All right, but of course, we’re going to keep asking just in case somewhere along the lines someone changes their mind. They are the Insiders, Chris Johnston, Pierre LeBrun and Darren Dreger.