With NHL training camps underway and the 2022-23 season around the corner, the Insider Trading panel takes a look at early storylines around the league, including Bo Horvat‘s contract status and the NHLPA’s search to replace Donald Fehr. TSN Hockey Insiders Darren Dreger and Pierre LeBrun joined Mark Roe to discuss.
Mark Roe: Joined alongside our TSN Hockey Insiders Darren Dreger and Pierre LeBrun, and with training camps underway, no shortage of big questions across the league including in Vancouver; Pierre, what’s the latest on the Canucks extending their captain?
LeBrun: Well, the first thing I would say on that Bo Horvat front – he’s UFA (unrestricted free agent) this year, as everyone knows – is that it’s been quiet of late but those discussions date back three, four months, it’s not like they’re just getting going right now. Both sides have really laid out their positions, and my understanding is that there’s a pretty sizable gap between those positions at the moment, which again: there’s lots of time for the Canucks and Horvat’s representatives to find a way over the next few months and it is the Canucks’ absolute priority to get their captain signed to a long-term deal, but it’s also true, I think, that the Canucks’ front office feels a bit less pressure in the wake of JT Miller signing to get it done at all costs. In other words, they have a delicate salary cap position, and a Horvat extension has to fit within that long term. We’ll see where this goes, but certainly my sense is that if Horvat is not signed by the March 3 trade deadline, there is a possibility the Canucks would trade him instead of losing him for nothing come July 1.
Roe: The NHL Players’ Association also has a big decision to make, Dregs, any progress in their pursuit of a replacement for Donald Fehr?
Drager: Well, they’re working hard at it, Mark. I can tell you that the head-hunting firm employed by the players’ association continues to aggressively work with the search committee that was formed to find Fehr’s replacement. Now, they’re looking and interviewing candidates both inside and outside of hockey, as you’d expect. It’s a confidential approach, no specific timeline as to when the PA hopes to have Fehr’s replacement in place but optimistically, it could happen before the New Year.
Roe: One of the biggest surprises of the off-season was the New York Islanders firing of Barry Trotz, and while he has stepped away from coaching, Pierre, is it safe to say that’s not his long-term plan?
LeBrun: No, that’s right, and if you’re calling that one of the biggest surprises, surprise number two would be that he didn’t take up some of the offers he had on the table and removing himself from the coaching market. We know there was an offer from the Winnipeg Jets, but there was also interest from Detroit, [Las] Vegas and Philadelphia. Trotz made a very difficult and unselfish decision to attend family matters this summer. I caught up with Trotz yesterday and as difficult as that decision was, to put his career on hold, he knows it was the right decision. He had a really busy summer attending to family matters, going to Manitoba to help his Dad pack up their home of 60 years, and losing his mother back in January so a lot going on in his life, he made the right call. But know this: Trotz feels re-energized, refreshed, and he intends to coach again in the NHL. Obviously, no opportunity right now but when the time comes – whether that’s a coaching fire this season or the off-season carousel – Trotz is ready to go.
Roe: Over the last few years we’ve seen a greater investment into the health and safety of players and, Dregs, we’re seeing another example of that from the NHL in the alumni association.
Drager: Yeah, what a great initiative here, Mark, and credit goes to the NHL, all the clubs involved in this initiative, and to the NHL alumni as well. All clubs have opened their doors to provide medical access to all ex-NHL players. My understanding is that over 200 ex-players have already booked their appointments and this is for all types of medical care, as simple as just an annual medical checkup. So this is good work done by the NHL and the alumni and it’s not an easy process when you look at Canada, the United States, the states, the provinces involved, all the doctors, the trainers, and everyone but undoubtedly this effort will save lives.