In today’s NHL rumors rundown, Patrik Laine and the Columbus Blue Jackets have apparently worked through their issues, both sides speaking about his being benched on Monday and where things go from here. Ron Hextall was offered a job with the Seattle Kraken before accepting the GM position with the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Edmonton Oilers may be without one of their more productive forwards as they take on the Montreal Canadiens Thursday night. Finally, what will the red hot Toronto Maple Leafs do when both Joe Thornton and Nic Robertson are ready to return to the roster next week?
Laine and Blue Jackets Have “Moved On”
Both Laine and the coaching staff of the Blue Jackets says things are good now and that any friction that may have existed has been dealt with. Laine was benched during Monday’s game for “verbally disrespecting’ an assistant coach. On Wednesday, the two had a long chat and worked things out.
The Blue Jackets have said, “We’re just trying to do it the right way, problem-solve when we need to, and try to get about our business.” Head coach John Tortorella noted, “You guys are a little bit more worried and anxious about it than we are.”
Laine said he deserved to get benched but it’s not fair to say that he’s not playing hard enough. He notes anyone who thinks that isn’t necessarily watching the games. He plays with passion and sometimes you say things you don’t want to say. “You got to talk about it and move on.”
When asked if being benched might have any affect on his future with the team or willingness to renegotiate a contract extension, he said “I’ve loved my time here so far” and said he doesn’t see any reason this would affect things. He is actually glad to know that no matter who you are or what your talent level, if you do something you shouldn’t, you can be benched.
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Hextall Turned Down Offer from Kraken
According to NHL insider Elliotte Friedman, before taking the job as the Penguins’ new GM, Hextall had a pretty significant job offer on the table from the Kraken. Friedman notes, “Hextall had the opportunity for an assistant GM role in Seattle. He declined because he wanted to be a GM. Score one for betting on yourself.”
The Penguins held nine interviews and Friedman said Kevin Weekes got a long look for the role Brian Burke received as President of Hockey Operations. It shouldn’t be long before Weekes is working in a high-profile executive position with an NHL team.
Oilers Might Have Lost Jesse Puljujarvi
Jesse Puljujarvi was not on ice this morning for the Oilers’ team skate notes, TSN’s Ryan Rishaug. Instead, James Neal is taking his spot with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Connor McDavid on the top line and head coach Dave Tippett says they will see how Puljujarvi feels throughout the rest of the day.
Speculation is that the Oilers held Puljujarvi out for precautionary reasons and whatever is ailing him is not long-term. When later pressed by a Montreal reporter for details about whether it was an injury or something else, Tippett would only say he’d been advised by the training staff to hold Puljujarvi out for the morning.
Maple Leafs Decisions Regarding Thornton and Robertson
James Mirtle of The Athletic writes:
Joe Thornton and Nick Robertson are getting close to a comeback here, after early injuries sidelined them after five games and one game, respectively. We could see both back in the lineup as early as next week.
Long-term injured reserve rules require they miss at least 10 games and 24 days, which would mean Robertson could return as early as Wednesday against the Canadiens and Thornton could return as early as this weekend.source – ‘Mirtle’s 6 observations: What’s behind the Maple Leafs’ best start in 27 years?’ – James Mirtle – The Athletic – 02/09/2021
Mirtle says the Leafs might have some tough decisions to make. The idea will be to not disrupt the chemistry of the team, but also offer some help to a struggling third line. He notes that Toronto will probably try Robertson with Thornton and Ilya Mikheyev and wonders if it might be best to shift Thornton to his natural position at centre. The alternative is moving Zach Hyman back down and getting Thornton back on the top line.
The second option means Robertson would be available for some duty with John Tavares and William Nylander.
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Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”