In today’s NHL rumors rundown, while there are rumors surrounding the Anaheim Ducks, Vancouver Canucks, and Montreal Canadiens, a shift in conversation turned from on the ice topics of the day to an off the ice PR disaster as Chicago Blackhawks CEO Rocky Wirtz verbally blasted two reporters for asking questions about the culture within the organization and how it related to Kyle Beach. Based on his incredibly insensitive response, the questions in Chicago now have to do with the fallout and how the team, season ticket holders, and players will react.
Wirtz Berates Reporters at Town Hall Meeting
Mark Lazerus of The Athletic was one of two reporters the Blackhawks’ CEO targeted when he demanded the conversation about culture in Chicago be dropped and everyone quit talking about Kyle Beach. Lazerus asked a question about the team’s future and what they were doing now to empower players and Wirtz lost his temper, angrily saying, among other things, “We’re not going to talk about Kyle Beach. We’re not going to talk about 2010. We’re moving on.”
His son, Danny Wirtz did try to offer up a professional response but Rocky cut him off and continued to go after Lazerus. The scribe writes that Danny would like to address the topic when things cool down. He notes, “I’m sure that’ll happen soon. Danny Wirtz has been saying all the right things and seems to want to do the right things. But if he said anything today, it would just get drowned out.”
Wirtz did apologize in a statement after his tirade went viral, but the damage was done and many are calling for him to be suspended by the NHL or removed from his position. This was nothing short of a disaster scenario for the organization and puts them back at square one, assuming they’d earned some goodwill in the days between Beach’s statements and Wednesday.
Will Players Avoid the Blackhawks?
There’s also speculation this could have an effect on the team as it reflects incredibly poorly on the organization, with players and free agents having to think twice about whether or not this [playing for Chicago] is a good situation or environment to be in.
Wayne Gretzky made an interesting point on TNT Wednesday night after the network showed the footage of the town hall meeting where the outburst took place and said, “I’m sitting here thinking, as a parent, you’re sitting there going, ‘My son is 18 years old and he’s going to maybe be drafted by that team…I want to know my 18-year-old son is going to be protected.”
One player who people will be focused on now is goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and there will be talk about whether or not he’ll want to play out this season with the team or welcome a trade. He was pulled Wednesday night during the game after allowing multiple goals and was visibly upset. While the two things may have nothing to do with each other, “free Fleury” was trending on social media and his name has already been in the rumor mill this season.
It’s not fair to say we can know how Fleury is feeling about the team after the Wirtz explosion and a tough game, but fans and insiders will be keeping an eye on him over the All-Star break to see if there’s any trade chatter.
Ducks Expected to Name Verbeek Next GM
According to multiple sources, including TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, the Anaheim Ducks are likely to name Pat Verbeek the team’s next general manager. The Athletic’s Eric Stephens is also reporting the news and it is expected Verbeek will be the official replacement for Bob Murray, who resigned in November, with a formal announcement coming today.
LeBrun writes, “The former NHLer has worked alongside Steve Yzerman in Tampa and Detroit. Seems primed and ready for this opportunity.”
Gallagher Unsure About Future With Canadiens
According to Stu Cowan of The Montreal Gazette, big changes are coming to the Canadiens and those changes will start with the March 21 NHL trade deadline. One name that could be in the mix is Brendan Gallagher.
Gallagher hasn’t had a chance yet to sit down with Gorton and Hughes to discuss their future plans and how he might or might not fit in. Gallagher noted there’s a big difference between a rebuild and a reset.
Source – ‘Future with Canadiens is uncertain for Brendan Gallagher’ – Stu Cowan – Montreal Gazette – 01/29/2022
The player wants to win and said he can’t turn that switch off. He also said that being a Canadien is pretty important to him. The question is, which factors in more to his future? The expectation is that GM Kent Hughes will look around to see what he can get for Gallagher on the trade market and the player will submit his six-team no-trade list. If a trade partner can be found, the belief seems to be that Gallagher would be open to a change.
Bruins Would Have to Move Lysell
If the Bruins want to land either J.T. Miller or Conor Garland from the Canucks, Jimmy Murphy of Boston Hockey Now believes Bruins’ top prospect Fabian Lysell will need to be involved in the deal. An NHL source said the Canucks love Lysell and that a deal could be worked out for Garland, who the Bruins were interested in out of Arizona.
Murphy also writes that any Miller trade to the Bruins would include Lysell as part of the return.
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.”