Insider Trading: Kane in final stage of decision on NHL return
TSN’s Hockey Insiders discuss Patrik Laine and a frustrated Blue Jackets team, where Patrick Kane is at in deciding on his NHL return, Mexico City on the NHL’s radar, relieving news on Sasha Barkov, the struggling Wild and what’s next for Jaroslav Halak.
Gino Reda: They are the insiders, Chris Johnson, Pierre LeBrun and Darren Dreger. The Patrik Laine saga continues, guys. First, he was benched in a game, not on the line in the third period, then he was made a healthy scratch over the weekend. Darren, is this strictly a Laine issue, or a sign of much bigger problems in Columbus overall?
Darren Dreger: Well, I think it is a sign of bigger issues in Columbus, but for the moment, in the moment, it’s up to Patrik Laine to determine what direction the team wants to move with him going forward. Now, it’s about his play, it’s about his practice approach, that’s why he was a healthy scratch on the weekend. He described the experience as the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to him. Well, the level of frustration organization-wide is just as significant. Laine and top players have to be better, that’s non-negotiable, his actions and play on Wednesday will determine whether or not this phase passes, or if it gets worse.
Patrick Kane New York Rangers
Reda: Darren, when we spoke last week, you mentioned Patrick Kane and his camp would love to have the interview portion of his return done by early this week. How close are they to making a call now?
Dreger: Well, very close. Patrick Kane is mulling over the multiple options that he is considering. You know, he and his agent, Pat Brisson, were part of several face-to-face interviews, including ones with the Toronto Maple Leafs that happened via a Zoom call, so I guess we’re dealing a bit there in semantics. As many as eight clubs initially involved, the agent Pat Brisson will start circling back to clubs to tell them that they’re out, that hasn’t happened yet, when a final decision is made. You’re right, Gino, it was expected that it would be made early this week, but again it’s a difficult one as Kane looks over all of these options, given that it’s U.S. Thanksgiving week. If it doesn’t happen this week, then perhaps it happens early next week.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Reda: All right, Leafs, Sens, Wild and Wings are all back in North America after their brief European road trips, and now word that the league might be interested in heading south, Chris?
Chris Johnston: Yeah, that would be to Mexico City, and it was an interesting moment on Sunday night. I was in the room there in Stockholm, Auston Matthews lobbed, you know, kind of a generic question about where he might, otherwise, like to play a game like the Global Series games in Stockholm, and he mentioned Mexico City, and this peaked the interest, certainly, got some attention in the NHL’s front office because there have been, already, extensive discussions about trying to take NHL games there. There are a number of teams interested, among them the Dallas Stars. But having someone of Matthews’ stature and with his connection, his mom Emma is Mexican, to that market, I do think this will renew a push to try to get the NHL games played in Mexico City.
Reda: The Panthers got a major scare on Friday night when Sasha Barkov went down in a knee-on-knee collision with Jackson LaCombe. But the news isn’t as bad as first thought, Pierre?
Pierre LeBrun: No, it’s kind of an amazing story. In fact, the team had the day off Tuesday in between two games, but Barkov, I’m told, was skating a light-skate on Tuesday by himself to test out the knee. He has not been put on IR, that’s how encouraging the results have been that they have gotten here over the last day. The team went from fearing the worst for their top centre to really feeling like they dodged one here, and the bottom line is, he’s not going to play Wednesday but he could be back after that, so pretty encouraging news for the Cup-finalist Panthers.
Reda: That is great news. U.S. Thanksgiving is a time that teams like to sit back and re-evaluate, and that often becomes a time of change. How close are the Wild to making a move behind their bench, Chris?
Johnston: Well, I think naturally those questions are fair at this point about head coach Dean Evason with the Wild languishing near the bottom end of the standings having lost five straight games. But at this point, the sense is he’s not in imminent danger, and I think that’s mainly because management looks at this roster and says, it’s not a trade away from being fixed, it’s not a coaching change away from being fixed, it’s up to the best players on this team to pull them through what’s been a difficult stretch. Look at the roster, you’ve got Kirill Kaprizov with five goals, Marcus Foligno with two goals, Matt Boldy had 31 last year, he’s only got one goal on the season. So I think right now, when Bill Guerin had a pretty heated meeting with his players here within the last week, the message is that it’s up to them to get themselves out of it, rather than a change coming from above.
Reda: Guys, when Freddy Andersen went down with that blood clotting issue, Jaro Halak was skating with the Canes, but he’s now no longer with the team. What’s next for him, Pierre?
Jaroslav Halak New York Rangers
LeBrun: Yeah, kind of interesting how that’s played out, Gino. The Hurricanes actually had interest in signing him to an NHL contract, but my understanding is it came with the fact that the Hurricanes would have wanted him to have a conditioning stint in the AHL, because Halak hasn’t played in the NHL since last April, and it sounds like that wasn’t too appetizing to Halak, so he was released from his tryout. He’s gone back home to Boston to contemplate his future. The door is not closed on Carolina but in the meantime, his camp has been talking to other teams, including by the way, the Oilers, but of course Edmonton has been looking at every single goalie possibility out there so I wouldn’t read too much into that, but they have talked to him. Halak doesn’t want to give up, he’s five wins away from 300 for his NHL career, so I think he’s hoping to figure this out.
Reda: Can’t blame him. They are the insiders, Chris Johnston, Pierre LeBrun, and Darren Dreger.