The NHL is back, and with the opening of training camps comes the familiar flurry of updates, quotes and lineup notes, and the sound we’ve been craving since the Tampa Bay Lightning hoisted the Stanley Cup: skates on ice, sticks on pucks.
As we look ahead to the start of the shortened 2020-21 NHL season, we’re collecting news and notes from training camps around the league. Day 2 is underway league-wide on Monday (non-playoff teams opened up on Dec. 31, with the other 24 first reporting on Sunday), so check back throughout the day for more updates as we monitor the goings-on in rinks around the NHL.
Laine addresses trade speculation
With Patrik Laine at the mic for the first time since the summer, it didn’t take long for the elephant in the room to be addressed.
A few months ago, Laine’s representation floated the idea that a trade might be the best option for both player and team. When asked about it Monday, Laine told reporters, “I’m here, aren’t I?”
“That’s the only thing I’m worried about right now. I’m not in charge of what other people are saying. I don’t worry about that stuff,” Laine said Monday. “Even Wayne Gretzky got traded. People get traded all the time. It’s part of the game you need to be aware of and right now I’m just worried about working hard here, being the best player I can be, and help these other guys to be at their best. That’s the only thing I’m worried about right now.”
The talented winger has long been the subject of discussion in Winnipeg — whether for trade speculation, scoring slumps, verbalizing a desire for more top-line minutes — and he’s also not been one to shy away from speaking up publicly about any issues that arise.
Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said last month he expects big things for the Finnish star:
“I assume he’s probably going to have one of the best years of his career given the group of players that we have and the professionalism that is there,” he told reporters. “And the maturity level that all players gain year over year over year, I think just helps us move forward.”
Marchand plans to be ready for season opener
The Boston Bruins could be opening the 2020-21 season without their biggest players — and we’re not just talking about Zdeno Chara, whose signing with the Washington Capitals last week shocked the hockey world. After undergoing surgery earlier this off-season, the status of Bruins leading scorers Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak to open the season have been called into question. Marchand brought a little clarity to the situation on Monday, telling reporters during a media availability that he’s planning to be ready when the Bruins open the season on Jan. 14.
Marchand: "I plan to be" ready for the season opener. "That's what we're shooting for."
— Amalie Benjamin (@AmalieBenjamin) January 4, 2021
Brad Marchand on his surgery: "I needed it big time."
Felt the injury for the last two years.
— Fluto Shinzawa (@FlutoShinzawa) January 4, 2021
Marchand underwent sports hernia surgery on Sept. 14. His recovery timeline was set at four months — which just happens to be Jan. 14. Pastrnak’s procedure — a right hip arthroscopy and labral repair on Sept. 16 — brought a longer recovery time set at five months. Boston GM Don Sweeney said on Dec. 31 that it’s “unlikely” the Czech forward will be ready before that, and repeated that sentiment Monday.
Krug settling into St. Louis life
Former Bruins defenceman Torey Krug is getting comfortable in his new digs after making the move to the midwest and joining the Blues.
Early camp notes have him paired with Colton Parayko — a gritty duo that could quickly become one of the toughest in the league.
Thornton’s got ‘no stress,’ feels right at home at Leafs camp
Stressed about the upcoming season? Take a page out of Joe Thornton’s book. The veteran NHLer and latest member of the Toronto Maple Leafs is starting camp — his first not in teal since 2005 — with a fresh, positive outlook for the New Year on his new team and some excellent sound bites.
The longtime San Jose Shark and St. Thomas, Ont., native told reporters he’s feeling at home in his new surroundings.
Thornton signed a one-year, $700,000 deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs back in October. The 41-year-old playmaker is already slotted into what will likely be the Maple Leafs’ top line alongside young guns Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.
This is going to be fun.
Barzal at camp, but remains unsigned
After being notably absent from Day 1 on Sunday, Barzal Watch is on at New York Islanders camp. Following a number of prominent RFA signings around the league in the days leading up to camp, Mathew Barzal remains unsigned on Day 2 of training camp, though he’s listed on the club’s camp roster as an attendee.
According to The Athletic‘s Arthur Staple, conversations between player and management have been “pretty steady.” But, in typical Lou Lamoriello fashion, mum’s the word on any details.
Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said Sunday that Barzal’s absence “doesn’t complicate” things at camp.
“We know going into this no matter, you have to make sure that you’re adaptable, either through testing protocols or injury or anything like that,” Trotz told reporters. “It’s nothing unusual for us if we’re missing a person here or there. That’s part of NHL hockey and the world today.”
Ovechkin okay starting season without new deal
The Washington Capitals made some interesting moves this off-season — they hired a new head coach in Peter Laviolette, bid farewell to longtime starter Braden Holtby, brought in and lost veteran netminder Henrik Lundqvist, and capped it off by signing longtime Bruin Zdeno Chara — but a major talking point heading into the 2020-21 season is centred around the move they have yet to make: re-signing captain Alex Ovechkin.
Ovechkin, whose 13-year deal is set to expire at the end of this season, has been very upfront about his intentions to stay in Washington. He reiterated that same stress-free approach to his contract status on Monday, telling reporters he’s comfortable heading into this upcoming campaign without an extension in hand.
A few other notes on the team’s other off-season developments, courtesy of The Washington Post‘s Samantha Pell:
Also! Ovechkin finally got to have a meal with Laviolette — the two got lunch together after Laviolette had to turn down Ovechkin's initial ask due to quarantine protocols.
— Samantha Pell (@SamanthaJPell) January 4, 2021
Lafreniere makes strong first impression
Alexis Lafreniere hit the ice with the New York Rangers at camp for the first time on Monday, and he made a really strong first impression.
Starting new chapter in Detroit a dream come true for Namestikov
The opening of Red Wings camp has marked the beginning of an extra-special chapter of Vladislav Namestnikov’s hockey career: the opportunity to play for his beloved childhood team.
Namestnikov, who grew up in Michigan, watched his uncle, Slava Kozlov, play alongside Steve Yzerman and win the Stanley Cup. Now, he’ll see a reminder of that family connection every day:
Jack Hughes impressing early
The New Jersey Devils were among the seven teams that did not qualify for the NHL’s return-to-play last summer, resulting in an extended break upon last March’s season stoppage. It sounds like Jack Hughes, 2019’s first overall selection, used that time wisely:
Flyers’ Patrick suits up after long absence
A welcomed sight in Philadelphia this morning:
It’s been a long road to get to this point for Nolan Patrick, the Flyers’ second-overall pick in 2017. The 22-year-old was sidelined for the entire 2019-20 season (including training camp) after being diagnosed with a migraine disorder in September 2019. The centreman wore a regular practice sweater — not a non-contact one — and skated with Travis Konecny and Carsen Twarynski on Monday.