Hockey Central: Ask the Insiders

With Thomas Vanek becoming an unrestricted free agent this off-season, he’s likely to be one of many trades the Isles are expected to make at the deadline. (Mike Stobe/Getty)

Welcome to Hockey Central: Ask the Insiders where fans get to pick the topics. This week The Insiders answer three questions including where Thomas Vanek might end up next season and if retired players are likely to sue the NHL over concussions suffered.

You can submit your questions by e-mailing us at asktheinsiders@sportsnet.ca or by using the hashtag #HCasktheinsiders.

This week’s questions:

‏@HDayalKDFan1h asks: Where will Thomas Vanek likely sign? Maybe Minnesota?

Billy Jaffe(@BJaffe): Way too early to know but Minnesota makes good sense for him. He played at The U and his wife is from the Twin Cities area so there is definitely an attraction for him there. They will have money available assuming they don’t re-sign Dany Heatley. Other teams that need some offense (that’s how we Americans spell it) will no doubt be making bids as well. Obviously salary cap room will come into play, but think of teams like the New York Rangers, Montreal and New Jersey. And my sleeper to get in on him is Boston. Can you imagine that?

Doug MacLean(@DougMaclean): Not sure, but if he and Tavares hit it off and they are willing to pay him crazy money he might be wise to sign there. The move to the new building will add a nice touch but I keep hearing he wants to play in Minnesota. With Heatley’s deal up they could fit him in with some challenges. The question is: Will Minnesota pay him what he will demand? It will be crazy money.

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Peter asks: What are the prospects of former NHL players suing the league over concussions? I know the NHL is very worried about the prospect, having seen the NFL settle for as much as they did ($700 million-plus, which is something the NHL cannot stomach). Does the Collective Bargaining Agreement preclude players from going to court, given that it specifies that injury issues go to arbitration?

Jeff Marek(@JeffMarek): I could perhaps see a group of them trying, but the NHL situation is much different than what the NFL just went through; even though the specific injury that the battle is over is similar, if not the same. Let’s not forget the crux of the NFL lawsuit was that the league deliberately withheld information from players that was crucial to their safety and well-being. If you’ve read the book or seen the documentary ‘League of Denial’ you’ll know what I’m talking about (do yourself a favour if you haven’t already and have a peek at this outstanding work). However, there has been zero evidence that the NHL has ever shielded the players away from research and such information and although it’s not perfect, the NHL has been very open about their concussion protocol.

John Shannon(@JSportsnet): You are certainly correct that the NHL, like all leagues, watched the NFL and its former players come to a settlement with great curiosity. And there is probably general nervousness about the concussion topic and players from previous generations. Also understand, the NHL believes that it has been pro-active for the past 15 years on concussion diagnosis, treatment and protocol. And under the terms of the recently signed CBA, the players and the league have created a joint health and safety committee to improve working conditions and work on all issues pertaining to the players’ health, including concussions.

That said (understanding that I am not a lawyer), we live in a very litigious world. If a former player chooses to sue, I’m sure there is a jurisdiction that would hear his case. And despite the fact that the player signs a Standard Players Contract, it would be hard to prove that teams intentionally deceived the player on the severity of concussions and their life after hockey. I can only imagine that the NHL is being very cautious on how it views its alumni and their health.

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Juan Javier Otero ‏@OteroJjavy783h asks: Do you think that with Rick Nash out with concussion and Henrik Lundqvist “injured” the rangers should think about a rebuild?

Nick Kypreos(@RealKyper): Not a chance at a rebuild. They are closing in on an extension for King Henry and can’t think about winning a cup three years from now. Nash and Lundqvist are in their prime and they went with an experienced coach instead of Messier because of it. They need Nash back as soon as possible from his latest concussion in the worst way; he was playing awesome before the Stuart hit. They also desperately need a right handed offensive defenceman man who can quarterback the power play. No two ways about it: Sather needs to trade for one right now. In a perfect world, they need a PK Subban type. I know, like finding a needle in a haystack. Don’t tell me it’s impossible to find though. Glen Sather is the highest paid general manager in the world. Not even a close second behind him so he’s paid well to find him. The Rangers need to go for it this year and next.

Marek: No, not at all. The Rangers are still in a ‘win now’ position. And despite the injury to Nash this team should still be performing much better than they are based on personnel. Don’t forget this is a much different system under Alain Vigneault, one that should work but seems to be taking a little longer than expected to adjust to. If I’m the Rangers I’m still not throwing in the towel. Not even close.

Jaffe: Lundqvist should be just fine. He played this week and seems to have dealt with his injury. I don’t see the Rangers doing a total rebuild, especially with players in their 20s like Stepan, Hagelin, Callahan, Staal, Girardi and Del Zotto already there. What they do need is to get faster and more capable offensively, especially on the power play.

Shannon: Can’t believe you’re off the Rangers’ bandwagon already Juan. No question the 3-6 road trip started this team deep in a hole, but I don’t think they should be thinking of a rebuild just yet. Rick Nash is being very cautious with his concussion. I’ve been told, he’s very much in-tune with his body and brain and just doesn’t feel right at this point, with little or no improvement. Considering that he still wants to be part of Canada’s team in Sochi, playing slow and steady is probably the right way to go. As far as King Henrik, my gut tells me that come April, he will be back in the Vezina talk, so re-build shouldn’t be discussed. Remember too, that the Blueshirts play in the not so “Mighty Metro”! A slow start in this division isn’t the wisest thing, but hardly crippling.

MacLean: The Rangers just finished a rebuild. Didn’t they miss the playoffs a bunch of years and addall these kids like Staal, Mcdonagh etc . It would be a joke if they said they were going to re-build. They can still climb back in the race and challenge for the playoffs.

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