“Obviously the closer it gets to camp, it’s becoming more and more of a distraction. But as I said, I’m being more than reasonable and it’s their decision to make.”
Toronto’s likely No. 2 centre in 2013-14 believes he’s already making a strong case for future investment.
“That’s all I can control — how I play. Maybe not that many people expected it out of me (last year’s 44 points), but I knew I was capable of that and even more. I did my work during these past three years, doing exactly what they told me, trying to be the player they want me to be. I think I’m well on my way.”
On the criticism suggesting he needs to put up last year’s results over a full 82-game schedule: “I have 100 games in this league, I don’t think that’s a little. I understand you have to put 82 games together, but I’m becoming more and more mature and every year it’s becoming easier and easier. I don’t see a problem with that.”
“I know these players. I haven’t seen them play a ton. I look forward seeing them with fresh eyes. The biggest thing here is that Craig MacTavish created competition,” he said of his general manager.
“Especially on back end. But up front as well.” He has a last message to his players as they begin preparation for camp.
“No one will be judged on their contract or their age. They’ll be judged on their performance. That’s it. That’s how I do things. I don’t care if they make $500,000 or $5 million. There will be competition for the top forward spots and for the guys who do the tough work on the fourth line. Then we hit the ground running.”
Eakins believes he got the message out to his hockey players.
“I’ve sent out a training camp letter. Fitness has been clearly defined. The first day on the ice has been clearly defined. I’ve let them know not put themselves in position to ease their body and their minds into the rigours of being a hockey player or they’ll be firmly left behind.
“I don’t like surprises as a coach and I think it’s important to be up front with them.”
RANGERS’ LUNDQIVST NOT THINKING ABOUT FREE AGENCY
Henrik Lundqvist could, if he wanted to, become a free agent next summer.
He doesn’t want to.
Two interviews in the past few days, one with The New York Post and another with Newsday, paint a clear picture of King Henrik’s intentions: He wants to remain a member of the New York Rangers. He’s entering the final year of a six-year, $41.25 million contract.
Via The Post: “If we can find a solution, it’s no secret that this is where I want to be — I’m not thinking about free agency at all,” said Lundqvist. The way the organization has treated me, the way that our team has played over the last few years, the way I feel about New York City, this is definitely the place I want to be.
“But we do have a few things we have to talk about.”
On the importance of timing of the contract, again via The Post: “Ideally, of course it would be nice to have everything in place by the time the season starts [on Oct. 3], but at the same time, it’s not a must,” Lundqvist said. “My agent [Don Meehan] is going to be handling it all until I have to be involved at the end, so I am going to be able to focus mentally on playing without the contract being a distraction.
“I have kind of downplayed this since the end of last season because I didn’t want to put pressure on myself or the Rangers to have it done by now. The most important thing is that we’re talking.
“We’re having a dialogue to come up with the best solution for both sides. If it’s not done at the end of training camp, I’ll see where we are and then I will make a decision about talking after the season starts. But I will not talk publicly about my contract during the season.”
Lundqvist, via Newsday, opted to not discuss his preferred length of a potential new contract or dollar amount. But he did add that, “there’s more to just money in this,” adding that it matters who surrounds the King in the Rangers’ kingdom in years to come.
Lundqvist, who lives in Manhattan, also told Newsday: “I love it here, I really do. There’s a few things we have to discuss, but like I keep telling everyone, I’ve had such a great time in New York with the way the fans have treated me and with the challenge to be here, I just love that part. We’ll see what happens but it will be fun to stay.”
JETS’ SCHEIFELE MORE MATURE, CONFIDENT
The Winnipeg Free Press indicates Mark Scheifele is gunning for a roster spot with the Jets this year and is one of the 49 players taking part in the BioSteel strength and conditioning camp being run by former NHL player Gary Roberts and former Toronto Maple Leafs trainer Matt Nichol.
“I think this year’s been a huge stepping stone for me,” said Scheifele. “I think the year helped me out a lot and also this summer, I think I’ve had the best summer of my whole career.
“So I think I’m looking for big things in myself. I’m definitely pushing myself to get that spot.”
The 6-2, 184-pound native of Kitchener, Ont., describes himself as a two-way centre willing to make plays and shoot when the moment is right. Put another way, Scheifele wants to be good at everything.
“For the most part it’s just I’m more confident with myself,” he said. “I’ve matured physically, I think I’ve matured mentally as well. Confident with my game, confident with what I can do, I think that helps a lot when I get on the ice.”
“Yeah, definitely,” he said Tuesday. “I’ve played a long time now, seen a lot, been able to experience a lot.
“If that was something that was asked of me, then, yeah, I would certainly welcome that and be honoured.”
On being a captain: “For me, the biggest thing is leading by example,” he said. “Every time you step on the ice, to work hard, be focused and do the right things.
“And off the ice you have to, once in awhile, say things to guys that they might not want to hear …
“It’s just being able to keep everyone together.”
NYQUIST EAGER FOR SHOT WITH WINGS
Following his signing a new two-year contract with the Detroit Red Wings, Michigan Live projects that Gustav Nyquist could be paired up again with Joakim Andersson. The two fared well on the same line in the playoffs and Andersson also got a new two-year contract last month.
“We had a lot of young guys last year that developed throughout the year and it was a real good learning experience for us all,” Nyquist said. “For us to be around the guys, especially in the playoffs they all know what it takes to win.
“We have added some great additions to our team. We’ll see where I fit in, but I’ll do my best to help the team out.”
He added: “You’re excited every time you get a chance with the big club. Ice time is something you have to earn at every level. Not many players expect to jump in their first years and player 20 minutes a night. Hopefully I’ll get more and more ice time the longer I’m up there.”