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Insider Trading: Devils' Meier benching sends clear message to team

Timo Meier New Jersey Devils Timo Meier - Getty Images

Gino Reda is joined by TSN Hockey Insiders Pierre LeBrun, Chris Johnston, and Darren Dreger to discuss Lindy Ruff’s handling of Timo Meier, what the Toronto Maple Leafs will do with Fraser Minten, the NHL’s plans for the 2026 Winter Olympics, and more on Insider Trading.

A week after New Jersey Devils head coach Lindy Ruff signed a new multi-year extension, he sent a very clear message to his highest paid player in Timo Meier.

Pierre LeBrun: Meier is on the first season of an eight-year deal worth $8.8 million per year. That made waves around the NHL on Monday night when he saw the ice once in the third period of a game that the Devils were chasing and needing goals. 

I can tell you that no one in the Devils organization had an issue with what Ruff said. This is about higher standards this year for a team that aspires to take that next step and be among the elite. Meier is a player they believe in but, so far, he’s trying to do too much. He has spoken to Ruff and they all feel that they’ve turned the page. 

The Devils had a pretty hard practice on Tuesday because this is about the whole team, not just one player getting out of the gates on the right foot.

A key milestone is coming up as teams decide what to do with their CHL eligible players.

Chris Johnston: There are nine players on NHL rosters right now that have the ability to kick in the first year of their entry-level deals if they get to a 10th game. In some cases, they are easy decisions like Connor Bedard with the Chicago Blackhawks, Adam Fantilli with the Columbus Blue Jackets, and maybe Logan Cooley with the Arizona Coyotes. Those are players that we expect to be there throughout the balance of the season.

But for someone like Toronto Maple Leafs forward Fraser Minten, who surprisingly made the team out of training camp, this next stretch of games is going to be very important. General manager Brad Treliving set the table for this when he spoke to reporters at the end of training camp. He said ‘with a 19-year-old we want to see a player who can help us win games, not just someone who survives’.

So as the Leafs head out on the road, Minten has played three NHL games, and the team won’t be able to insulate him as much on the road in terms of matchups. So, they’re looking to see how he exerts himself before they make a decision whether he goes back to the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League or if he remains in the NHL beyond the nine-game mark.

We haven’t seen NHL players at the Winter Olympic Games since 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Where are we in knowing whether they will participate in the 2026 Games in Italy?

Darren Dreger: We could be two or three months away from knowing what the official details are. It’s expected and believed that the NHL will participate in 2026, but it’s a lot of financial work that has to get dealt with. We’re talking about insurance cost and travel expenses; those are issues that need to be resolved. 

The NHL and NHLPA would like to have the resolution to that early in the year so they can move forward on other agreements like content and the sharing of the Olympic Rings and the NHL logo as examples. So, there’s a lot of work that still needs to get done.

Chris Johnston: Meanwhile, discussions are ongoing a little bit behind the scenes between league officials and those at the NHLPA on the rule that the league brought in that showing support for causes. Things like Pride Tape. It sounds like those discussions are at the preliminary stage, it’s too soon to say if there will be a change to that rule or some alterations.

But there are creative ideas thrown around where players still might be able to, and I stress the word might, show their support for causes. I think this is really important because in Arizona on Oct. 27, a little more than a week from now, the league will see its first Pride Night since this new regulation has been brought in. Obviously, it’s receded to the background of conversation in the last week or so, but I think it’ll bubble forward to the surface when we see a team hold its Pride Night.

About three weeks ago, free agent forward Patrick Kane sent out a video of him skating and working [out] as he recovers from his hip surgery in June. What are you hearing about his progress?

Pierre LeBrun: I reached out to his agent Pat Brisson on this day and he said “he’s progressing very well” as to where Kane was. Everything is still in the right direction for him to be medically cleared at some point in early-to-mid November. 

Until then, Brisson doesn’t want to start entertaining conversations with teams. They want to get him cleared or close to cleared before they go back and re-engage with teams. About a dozen teams reached out on July 1 to ask to be kept in the loop and several teams have stayed in touch. It’s all on pause until Kane is medically cleared. 

Former Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman and coach Joel Quenneville met with the NHL general managers and coaches about a month ago where they shared their experiences about the last two years after resigning in the wake of the sexual abuse scandal involving the Blackhawks. Is there any word on their possible reinstatement into the league?

Darren Dreger: They haven’t been cleared yet and there hasn’t been any indication, specific to Bowman, as to when commissioner Gary Bettman will reinstate the former NHL general manager. I can tell you guys that clubs do have interest in Bowman in some hiring capacity. However, he’s not allowed to move forward at all until he’s been reinstated by the commissioner.

In the meantime, Bowman continues to work with Respect In Sport group and will be working with USA Hockey next week.