TSN Hockey Insiders Pierre LeBrun and Chris Johnston joined host Gino Reda to reveal how just four players are unvaccinated as the season gets underway, discuss why the Blackhawks are listening to offers for Dylan Strome, explain how Vitali Kravtsov is seeking a new home after refusing an AHL assignment from the Rangers, and more.

NHL almost fully vaccinated

It was about a month ago that NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly came out and said he anticipated by the time the puck dropped on the NHL regular season 98 per cent, maybe even 99 per cent of the players would be fully vaccinated, how did they do?

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Johnston: They scored even better than that, which is not something any of us saw in our schooling careers of course, but as the NHL season started on Tuesday there were just four players on NHL active rosters that were considered unvaccinated. That is quite a contrast of what we’ve seen in the other leagues, you know on this day the Brooklyn Nets suspended, essentially, their star player Kyrie Irving saying he won’t play or practice while going through that. Two of the players that we know are unvaccinated in the NHL are Mackenzie Blackwood of the Devils, who told reporters over the weekend that he thinks he’ll likely get a shot at some point in the next few weeks. Another holdout is Tyler Bertuzzi of the Detroit Red Wings, it doesn’t remain clear if he’ll get it but needless to say we’re already very, very close to 100 per cent and there is a chance we get there before the end of this season.

What will the trade market look like this season?

As the puck drops on the regular season there’s a number of NHL franchises that look to be setting new courses, making for some interesting names potentially becoming available on the trade market?

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LeBrun: Keep an eye on the Chicago Blackhawks, they have a surplus at centre and the name that’s retaining attention around the league is Dylan Strome. There’s some teams kicking tires on him and I think there’s a chance that he moves here over the next week or two. The Hawks, of course, got Jonathan Toews back this year and we wish him well this year after a year off taking care of his health. Kirby Dach is healthy, of course they traded for Tyler Johnson from Tampa, so they got too many bodies, and so Dylan Strome is the guy I think they’ve earmarked to potentially move and I think that could happen here in the short term. Remember, third overall pick in 2015, how time flies [for] Dylan Strome

What is the latest on Vitali Kravtsov

Are the Rangers about to potentially part ways with a former first rounder of theirs?

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Johnston: Yeah, there’s a good chance of that, and the first rounder is Vitali Kravtsov, who started his season by being suspended. He didn’t report to AHL Hartford for assignment after being designated there by the Rangers, and now his agent Dan Milstein has been given permission to go around the league, try to find some interest from other teams, bring them to the negotiating table to try to complete a deal here for the ninth overall pick from 2018. Now, acquisition cost I think will be an important question here, and there is some precedent. Lias Andersson, a seventh overall pick by the Rangers, was traded last October for the 60th overall selection from L.A. and so if it’s a sort of bargain-type acquisition like that I could see this move happening quite quickly. 

Will Claude Giroux be a Flyer for life?

A guy we always figured would be a Philadelphia Flyer lifer, Claude Giroux, their first-rounder back in 2006, could they be breaking up down the road?

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LeBrun: That remains to be seen, I still think there’s a chance that he plays his career there. But, what they’ve agreed to is that, he’s entering the final year of his deal, as we’ve just mentioned time flies, his eight-year contract that he signed in July of 2013 expires at the end of the season at which point he’ll be a UFA. Claude Giroux, his agent Pat Brisson, and the Philadelphia Flyers mutually agreed at an off-season discussion that they would not look to extend right now, that they would all play out the year and see how they all feel, how the team feels, how he feels, the Flyers captain, before making those decisions. So, still a chance he signs after the season; there’s no rush, but it is interesting, that unlike a lot of other prominent players that are entering their final year that he chose not to extend. 

What’s going on with the Nashville Predators? 

Are the Nashville Predators on the verge of a very significant deadline?

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LeBrun: We mentioned this last week, that Mattias Ekholm and his camp led by agent Kurt Overhardt put some pressure on the Predators that they said once the puck drops on their season, that they wouldn’t be continuing negotiations for the pending UFA defenceman. So, that put a little pressure on this situation, what I can tell you is that over the last three, four days, they’ve been going back and forth, and absolutely grinding trying to get an extension done. I’m not here to say it’s going to get done for sure, but that both sides are certainly putting their best foot forward right now, we’ll see if it gets done.