NHL Training Camp Day 5: Barzal-watch continues at Islanders camp

NHL insider Elliotte Friedman joined Hockey Central to discuss what is holding up contract negotiations between the New York Islanders and restricted free agent Mathew Barzal.

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.

Girgensons issues statement after season-ending injury

One day after being ruled out for the season due to a hamstring injury, Buffalo Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons took to Twitter to wish his teammates luck:

Girgensons was injured during a scrimmage on Monday and underwent surgery on Wednesday. His recovery timeline is set at approximately six months, ruling him out for the upcoming shortened season.

Fresh start for Puljujarvi includes new number

Since re-joining the Edmonton Oilers following a lengthy absence, forward Jesse Puljujarvi has been committed to a fresh start with the club. Reports out of Edmonton as well as his own media appearances have been really positive, with Puljujarvi finding fast chemistry with teammates and enjoying being back in the NHL fold with the team that drafted him fourth overall in 2016.

His fresh start in Edmonton even includes a new number. The team announced on Wednesday that No. 98 is now No. 13.

Oilers head coach Dave Tippett said during his media availability later Wednesday that believes “it’s good that he’s got a fresh start.”

“He’s coming to a fresh start with a new number,” Tippett told reporters. “I think it’s a good thing for him. He’s a different person than he was before here, from everything that I hear, so he might as well start with a new number. I got no issue with it at all.”

Oiler’s Bouchard confident, bringing lessons from Sweden

One thing we’re hearing a lot about from players is how many of them used the extended break in 2020 to work on themselves and hone their individual skills. That time is particularly key for young players trying to break into the league as full-timers. The delayed 2020-21 season also gave some players the opportunity to play overseas and improve their game that way. Edmonton Oilers defenceman Evan Bouchard, who had a seven-game NHL stint last season and played most of the year with the AHL Bakersfield Condors, did exactly that — the rearguard was loaned to Södertälje SK in Sweden, and said Thursday that experience gave him “a different perspective” on the game:

“There’s a lot more confidence now,” he told reporters. “You get that extra time to really get to know yourself on the ice. Going over there to Sweden, it really gives you a different perspective on the way you play the game. So, I think that helped me.”

Crawford’s camp absence continues

A story that’s being monitored in New Jersey is the status of veteran netminder Corey Crawford, who has been absent from Devils training camp practices this week.

Crawford took a personal day on Wednesday and is absent again Thursday. He took a maintenance day on Sunday, and Tuesday was a team-wide day off.

The former Chicago Blackhawk signed with the Devils in free agency, a veteran presence to complement young starter MacKenzie Blackwood and ease some of the load off the 24-year-old.

Bergeron wears the ‘C’ for spoked B

The Boston Bruins announced Thursday that Patrice Bergeron will take over the captaincy following the departure of longtime leader Zdeno Chara.

Already a longstanding part of the leadership core both on the scoresheet and in the locker room, Bergeron was the natural choice to take over. It was so obvious, in fact, that the Bruins were able to have a little fun with the announcement:

Barzal-watch continues on Long Island

It’s the fifth day of New York Islanders training camp, and the contract status of star RFA Mathew Barzal remains unresolved.

Reported signings of Matt Martin, Cory Schneider, and Andy Greene — still not made official by the team — make the roster a little clearer, but Islanders GM Lou Lamoniello’s leak-proof front office makes all negotiations with Barzal a mystery.

Looking at situations between other your RFAs, like Patrik Laine in Winnipeg and Pierre-Luc Dubois in Columbus, it’s easy to speculate that there’s tension on Long Island — but Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman cautions that’s not likely the case. During an appearance on Hockey Central on Thursday, Friedman indicated that the situation is more about sorting logistics than any discontent between player and team.

“I don’t get any sense there’s an issue with Barzal and the Islanders,” Friedman said.

Friedman shared his thoughts on why he believes that while a long-term is the mutual goal, the two sides might have to settle on a bridge deal for now.

“I had heard that if it was a long-term deal, he was looking at the Marner/Rantanen comparables — which he should look at, that’s what he should aim for,” said Friedman. (For reference, Mitch Marner signed a six-year pact with the Maple Leafs worth $10.893 million a year, while Rantanen’s deal with the Avalanche comes in at $9.25 million per year for six years.)

“Barring the Islanders being able to move some bodies out, I just don’t know if they can do that,” said Friedman. “I think Barzal wanted a long-term deal, I think they’re happy to give him a long-term deal. I just don’t know if they can. So, I’ve been led to believe that it was going to be bridge, and if you look at the Islanders’ cap situation I think it really clears up in the summer of 2023. So, if they go bridge, and then they can extend him, that might be the more likely scenario… but it doesn’t mean that they haven’t tried to go longer-term.”

So, the wait continues.

Ehlers earns top-line looks

Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice told reporters about his decision to move speedy forward Nikolaj Ehlers up during Thursday’s media availability:

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