While half of the NHL is gearing up for the playoffs and the unique playoff setup, teams that won’t be in the playoffs are making news behind the scenes, including the newly minted Seattle Kraken. Seattle is still looking for a head coach and the New Jersey Devils who could revisit a new front office hire.
There are rumblings that Seattle General Manager Ron Francis would turn to one of two former teammates, one of which helped him win a Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins, to run the Kraken bench if either coach becomes available.
There are several more situations that hockey execs and insiders are closely watching.
Will John Chayka resurface in Newark? And OTR has the industry scuttle on what will happen to the NHL on NBC crew now that Turner owns the second NHL broadcast package.
It’s in the latest ‘Off The Record.’
1. Who’ll Be Kraken The Whip In Seattle?
The Seattle Kraken officially became the NHL’s 32nd franchise on Friday after making their final payment of their $650 million expansion fee. The league’s newest franchise is now allowed to make trades ahead of the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft on July 21 and sign free agents ahead of their first season. The Kraken have already been hard at work under General Manager Ron Francis, who put in place an experienced pro and amateur scouting staff this season.
One big question remains in Seattle: Who will be the first head coach of the Seattle Kraken?
‘Off The Record’ talked to an NHL source close to Francis and was given three names considered to be top candidates. One is already a free agent coach, and two are set to be if they and their current teams don’t agree on extensions.
Off the record:
“Well, first off, Mike Babcock is the biggest free-agent coach out there,” the source said. “No disrespect to Mike, but everyone is really waiting to see what happens with Rick Tocchet and Rod Brind’Amour. Are the Coyotes going to fire Rick? Does he want to stay? No one knows right now. It’s still a bit of a mess there.
As for ‘Brindy,’ I think there’s a very strong mutual desire to reach an agreement in Carolina. (Owner Tom Dundon) knows how big a hit this would be to the team on the ice and PR-wise if they can’t lock him up, but what if this keeps dragging past the season? There is a strong bond between (Brind’Amour) and Ronny. To work with his former teammate and good buddy and start a new team like this has got to be tempting…If it gets to the point where Ronny can actually talk to ‘Brindy’ on this, the Canes are in big trouble.”
2. Will Chayka Join The Devils?
In his latest 31 Thoughts, Sportsnet Insider Elliotte Friedman indicated that the New Jersey Devils were close to extending Tom Fitzgerald in his role as General Manager. New Jersey clung to Fitzgerald this season. It is believed the Pittsburgh Penguins asked but did not get permission to speak with him when their GM spot was open.
Fitzgerald is already under contract with the Devils past this season but not as GM. According to an NHL management source, one hiccup in negotiations to keep Fitzgerald may be the status of former Arizona Coyotes GM John Chayka, who left his post in the Desert under a cloud of negativity and uncertainty last summer. At the time, numerous reports had Chayka talking to Devils ownership about positions in their company but not specifically with the Devils since that was not allowed under his contract with the Coyotes.
While it could not be confirmed if that clause has been lifted and Chayka can become part of the Devil’s front office, his situation could play a role in what happens with Fitzgerald.
Off the record:
“There is mutual interest for sure,” the NHL management source told OTR of the Devils and Fitzgerald. “The question is, what if any role Chayka will play. Could he come in as a President Of Hockey Op’s, and if so, would he and ‘Fitz’ be on the same page. Obviously, Chayka is all about analytics, and a good portion of the Devils hierarchy is too. ‘Fitz’ is more in the middle, right? If it’s my call, ‘Fitz’ is running the show, but what happens if Chayka is brought in too?”
3. NHL On NBC Crew Will Resurface
With the news this past week that the NHL and NBC are done after this season, and Turner Broadcasting and ESPN will be the exclusive broadcast partners beginning next season, there was immediate speculation as to what will happen with the broadcast personalities that helped NBC and the NHL make NHL games on NBC must-watch TV. More specifically, many hockey fans on social media wondered what would happen to ‘The Man Between The Glass,’ Pierre McGuire? McGuire can be a polarizing personality and an acquired taste, but there’s no arguing – and this is meant as a compliment – his ‘Rain Man’ knowledge of the game and its players. Well, according to a longtime NHL Productions source, McGuire, Kathryn Tappen, Eddie Olzcyk, Kenny Albert, and others will have the opportunity to remain in the NHL TV scene if they want.
Off the record:
“Turner will want some of their own hires, but they know what NBC and the regulars there did for the game on TV,” the source said. “Turner will, of course, want this to be their own and unique broadcast, but from what I hear, they’re already talking to some of the NBC people, and they at the very least want them on board to learn the game and how it needs to be delivered to the public. The worst thing you can ever do is to erase the past, and the league won’t let that happen.”