NHL Rumors: Bruins, Senators, Olympics, More

In today’s Rumors rundown, will the Boston Bruins move a defenseman to add a winger? What’s the latest regarding Nolan Patrick’s health? Can hockey fans expect to see NHL players at the 2022 Winter Olympics? Plus, when can we expect the Seattle expansion franchise to name its head coach, and the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch has some interesting notes on the Ottawa Senators rebuild.

Related: NHL Rumors: Sharks, Red Wings, Honka, More

Bruins Looking to Trade a Defenseman?

The Bruins have needed help at wing on the second line for several seasons now. Prior to 2018-19 Rick Nash was supposed to be that player, but he retired before the season began. The absence has left center David Krejci playing with many different wingers and none have stuck. It’s resulted in the team’s vaunted top line being relied on far too much while not enough offense comes from lines 2-4.

In a recent Hagg Bag Mailbag, NBC Sports Boston’s Joe Haggerty received a question that listed Urho Vaakanainen and several other prospects and asked Haggerty to craft a trade package for a second-line winger. Hagerty balked at the idea of trading Vaakanainen, citing Zdeno Chara’s age (42) and how the Bruins will need to replace him at somepoint in the near future. Vaakanainen, along with Matt Grzelcyk, could form the backbone of the left side of the Bruins’ defense in the future, and trading him would create another hole that would need addressed.

Urho Vaakanainen (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Plus, as Haggerty points out, with Torey Krug being a free agent at season’s end, the Bruins could begin turning over their blue line to a younger group of defensemen. One suggestion Haggerty provides is perhaps the Bruins will create a trade package around Krug and a prospect or two to acquire a winger, if they don’t plan on re-signing Krug. However, if the Bruins are looking like serious contenders at the trade deadline, and there’s no reason to think they won’t be, it could also make sense to hold onto Krug as an internal ‘playoff rental,’ especially if they feel Vaakanainen isn’t ready for top-four minutes yet.

The Latest on Nolan Patrick’s Health

On the latest edition of TSN’s Insider Trading, Bob McKenzie was asked about the status of Philadelphia Flyer Nolan Patrick, who’s been dealing with migraine issues since the end of last season. Patrick has missed the start of the season and is officially listed as week-to-week, so there are no expectations for his return. McKenzie points out that Patrick is improving and has been skating with the Flyers at practice. He was even able to travel with the team on their upcoming road trip through Northwest Canada.

And the good news too, as the Flyers headed west in Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary they took Patrick along with them.

Bob McKenzie

The plan at the moment is for Patrick to continue rehabbing and conditioning with the possibility of getting into games within the next three weeks, perhaps in the American Hockey League on a conditioning stint.

Will the NHL Be at the 2022 Winter Olympics?

After the NHL sat out the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, there has been a lot of talk about whether the league will send its players to the 2022 Olympics in China. It’s long been thought that the NHL would be more inclined to send its players due to its interest in growing hockey in China. However, as TSN’s Pierre LeBrun and Darren Dreger point out, there remain roadblocks in the way.

Sochi Olympics
Opening ceremony at the 2014 Sochi Olympics (Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports)

One is the International Olympic Committee, or IOC. The IOC was partially responsible for the NHL not going in 2018 as it refused to pay for the players’ travel costs or provide insurance. LeBrun mentioned that NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly was in Switzerland last week to informally meet with the IOC to, potentially, begin the discussion of sending NHL players to the 2022 Olympics.

Meanwhile, Dreger pointed out that the other roadblock is the International Ice Hockey Federation, or IIHF. The IIHF meets in November and Dreger believes that the various European hockey federations are going to begin pressuring IIHF President Rene Fasel to work with the IOC to get something accomplished.

While pretty much every NHL fan wants the league’s players to participate at the Olympics, it’s easy to see why the teams and the league are hesitant to give the go-ahead. Participation means a two-week stoppage in the NHL schedule and the potential for injury, all while not generating any revenue off the Olympics. Therefore, unless the IOC steps up and covers the players’ travel and insurance costs, it’s looking more likely that the NHL won’t be sending its players in 2022.

When Will Seattle Name its Head Coach?

LeBrun was also asked when he expects the Seattle expansion franchise to name its first head coach even though they’re not due to begin playing until the 2021-22 season. With the franchise expected to announce its team name in early 2020, LeBrun believes a head coach could come a year later, or Jan. 2021.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, center left, holds a jersey after the NHL Board of Governors announced Seattle as the league’s 32nd franchise, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018, in Sea Island Ga.. Joining Bettman, from left to right, is Jerry Bruckheimer, David Bonderman, David Wright, Tod Leiweke and Washington Wild youth hockey player Jaina Goscinski. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

That would be a several months earlier than the Vegas Golden Knights hired Gerard Gallant, but then again Seattle also hired Ron Francis as general manager a year before the Golden Knights named George McPhee their GM. It’s clear Seattle is willing to do everything possible to be prepared before the June 2021 expansion draft, so paying a coach for longer than is necessary wouldn’t be a surprise.

Related: Seattle Mock Expansion Draft: Win-Now Team

Senators Rebuild Right on Schedule

Following the Senators’ 6-4 loss to the St. Louis Blues last night, the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch wrote a story recapping the game and providing an update on the status of the team’s rebuild. (from ‘GARRIOCH: Rebuilding Senators believe they’re taking the right road to success,’ Ottawa Sun, 10/10/2019) He points out that both GM Pierre Dorion and head coach D.J. Smith aspire for the team to be difficult to play against in 2019-20, even in losing efforts. Based off their strong showing against the defending Stanley Cup winners, it’s clear that they’re not a pushover and shouldn’t be taken lightly. When the Senators began their teardown, which included trading Erik Karlsson, Mike Hoffman, and Mark Stone, it was obvious this rebuild was not going to be quick.

If anybody thought the changes by general manager Pierre Dorion and Smith’s approach were going to turn this team around overnight, that’s not going to be the case. This is the next phase of the rebuild and there are many layers to the plan Dorion has to get this team back to respectability.

Bruce Garrioch

However, having a strong showing against one of the league’s best teams is a positive sign of things to come. Garrioch writes that the Senators actually out-shot the Blues 13-10 in the first period and had a 2-0 lead at one point. The Senators believe they’re rebuilding the correct way, like the New York Rangers believed their rebuild was the proper way, and that it will result in them becoming an elite contender, just like the Blues.

Ottawa Senators Pierre Dorion
Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang)

Although the NHL roster is light on proven talent, the Senators possess a great group of young players, including Vitaly Abramov, Brady Tkachuk, Colin White, Thomas Chabot, and Erik Brannstrom. Thus far, the Senators have gone about things the right way. If they stay on this path, there’s reason to think that Dorion might just be correct in his assessment of the rebuild.