NHL Rumors: Habs GM updates, Canucks trade approach, and Patrik Laine trade bait?

patrik laine rumors
Oct 16, 2021; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Patrik Laine (29) celebrates scoring the game winning goal with center Max Domi (16) in the game against the Seattle Kraken in the overtime period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Montreal Canadiens are all about next season and beyond despite only playing 34 games of the 2021-22 campaign.

It’s been one of the most tumultuous seasons in the historic franchise’s history, but new VP of Hockey Ops Jeff Gorton is moving the puck forward.

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This week the Habs will begin their first round of virtual interviews with possible GM candidates and some big names are on the docket.

“Hearing that the Montreal Canadiens have begun reaching out to teams asking permission to speak to GM candidates,” Pierre LeBrun reported Sunday. “Believe they’ve done so with the likes of Roberto Luongo, Daniel Briere and Mathieu Darche, among others. Obviously a ways to go but the process has started.”

From the beginning, I’ve pegged Tampa Bay Lightning’s Mathieu Darche as a top candidate.

Darche has been Tampa Bay’s Director of Hockey Operations since 2019. He retired from playing in 2013 as a member of the Lightning. The 44 year-old is an up and coming star in the executive ranks. He’s also familiar of what it’s like to play in Montreal spending three seasons there from 2009 to 2012.

During the 2012 lockout, Darche played a role for the NHLPA’s negotiating team to get a new CBA. That’s where he garnered the skills to help current Lightning GM Julien BriseBois with managing the cap and contract negotiations.

Darche would bring a fresh approach and bring in some new ideas to the Habs. He has been an integral part of the NHL’s most successful franchise over the last several years and appears ready for an increased role.

Canucks trade approach

nul rumors vancouver canucks
Dec 29, 2021; Anaheim, California, USA; Vancouver Canucks center J.T. Miller (9) is congratulated by left wing Tanner Pearson (70) after scoring a goal in the overtime period of the game to defeat the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Vancouver Canucks new President Jim Rutherford had yet to step foot in his new office before getting hammered by other GMs about trades.

“I’ve already got calls even before I got to Vancouver,” Rutherford said with a laugh. “You know, ‘I like this player or that player – don’t forget me – give me a call if you decide to move somebody’, but if something pretty good comes along that improves out team now and in the long run, we’ll take a look at it.”

The 72 year-old is a well-known and respected executive who is still looking to fill out his front office, including a new GM and AGM.

Recently, he addressed the media to explain what the organization’s approach will be regarding trades.

“I don’t believe it has to be a rebuild. But certainly the team has to be transitioned into a stronger team to be a regular playoff team,” Rutherford said via The Province.

“How we’ll look at this in the future is we won’t trade high picks. Anytime we’re making a deal it’s for younger players and we’ll try to bring this team, really make it stronger over the next couple of years, to where it can start to be a regular playoff team.”

Those comments certainly raise some eyebrows. One veteran they could move for a great return would be JT Miller.

The 28 year-old has one more year left on his deal worth $5.25M before becoming a UFA. He’s also been extremely productive with 36 points in 34 games for Vancouver this season.

Patrik Laine on the move again?

Sportsnet’s Luke Fox recently posted his bold predictions for 2022. In it was the Columbus Blue Jackets trading Patrik Laine.

Laine accepted a hefty qualifying offer last summer (one year at $7.5 million), but he’ll again be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights in the summer of 2022. GM Jarmo Kekäläinen cannot run the risk of inking Laine to another one-year deal and effectively walking an elite talent to unrestricted free agency shortly after he turns 25.

Sportsnet

The big question surrounding Laine is if he is willing to sign a long-term deal in Columbus. There’s no way that President John Davidson and GM Kekäläinen can find themselves in another Seth Jones situation.

Laine will be an interesting name this season, but even more so at the NHL draft. It would not surprise me to see Laine moved to get a top five selection.