Leafs assistant GM Dave Nonis optimistic about Luke Schenn and Matthew Lombardi

Even with the limitations of a salary cap ceiling, the NHL’s richest teams still enjoy some advantages thanks to their superior resources. When it comes to the Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers, they have the money to make their worst contract choices (such as Cristobal Huet, Wade Redden and Chris Drury) go away. The Toronto Maple Leafs and their GM Brian Burke haven’t taken frequent advantage of CBA loopholes like some of their deep-pocketed peers, but they enjoy the unusual advantage of employing a handful of former NHL general managers as assistants.

That group includes former Atlanta Thrashers executive Rick Dudley and former Vancouver Canucks GM Dave Nonis, who discussed two important issues on TSN 1050 today: Luke Schenn’s contract negotiations and the status of recently acquired center Matthew Lombardi.

Nonis said that he expects the team to come to terms with Schenn before Toronto’s training camp begins on September 16. Schenn is represented by agent Don Meehan, whose clients have been the focus of many of this off-season’s critical contract talks.

“Contracts sometimes take a little longer to get done,” Nonis said in the one-on-one interview. “This isn’t the first one that’s gone into late August.

“When [your] starting point is the player wants to be here and the team wants to have him, usually you find a way to get it done.”

For a little more about Schenn’s negotiations, check out his optimistic outlook on the discussions and another update that focuses on his contributions to the Maple Leafs.

As usual with players dealing with concussion-related injuries, Nonis didn’t give a clear timeline for Lombardi’s return to NHL action (he played just two games in the 2010-11 season). That being said, he seemed optimistic about the situation and even downplayed the concussions issues, pointing to the other issues Lombardi is dealing with.

“We’re very comfortable that he’s on his way back, that the concussion isn’t an issue at this point,” explained Nonis. “But there’s a lot of things that happen when you have that kind of injury; there’s neck issues, there’s nerve issues and those all have to be addressed.

“With Matthew, there is no timetable. He’s getting better. He’s been feeling very good. His workouts have increased in duration and intensity, but he won’t be playing for us until he’s ready to play. So whether that’s a month or six months, who knows when that’s going to be. We’re not going to rush him, but we’re going to be pushing as hard as we can to get him ready and prepared.”

Lombardi might not be a star player, but he’s a speedy, versatile center. His murky health is one reason why the Leafs’ group of centers seem primed to be both fragile and exciting in 2011-12. Keeping their sturdy young defenseman Schenn in the picture wouldn’t hurt, either.

Looks like Coyotes dodged a bullet with Oliver Ekman-Larsson

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The Arizona Coyotes’ defense really rose up the NHL ranks during this summer, but how impressive would that group look with star Oliver Ekman-Larsson out of the lineup?

There was fear that another Coyotes young blueliner would face a setback as far as knee injuries go, yet the news seems positive for “OEL.”

Coyotes GM John Chayka considers him day-to-day with a knee injury, and it doesn’t sound like there’s any structural damage.

No kidding.

In other Coyotes news, the team made Pierre-Olivier Joseph (the 23rd pick of the 2017 NHL Draft) one of their training camp cuts. So not all good news for prominent Coyotes with hyphenated names, although you could argue that POJ(?) might be better off receiving additional seasoning.

Donald Trump tweets about Penguins’ White House visit

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Earlier today, the Pittsburgh Penguins announced that they would accept an invitation to visit the White House. You can read all about that here, including the Penguins’ brief statement on the matter.

On a day in which NFL teams are drawing attention for how players (and owners) are acting during the national anthem, Donald Trump took a moment to confirm the Penguins’ visit, and also to praise them on Twitter.

Trump issued this tweet on the matter:

This came about four minutes after he addressed the NFL once again, finishing with this tweet:

While NHL players haven’t been as outspoken as athletes in other sports, there have been some reactions to Colin Kaepernick and the situation as a whole.

A year ago, Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella said he would bench a player who sits during the anthem, something Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones stated was not a problem. Tampa Bay Lightning forward J.T. Brown, however, did have an issue with Tortorella’s stance.

Of course, those comments surfaced about a year ago, so it’s plausible one or more of those opinions might be different, in either large or small ways, as of today.

Winnipeg Jets forward Blake Wheeler (one of the standouts of the 2010 U.S. Olympic men’s team) criticized Trump on Twitter last night:

The 2017-18 regular season kicks off on Oct. 4, so we’ll see if there are any larger protests or statements from teams and/or players.

For more on how this situation is playing out with other sports, check Pro Football Talk (including this post), Pro Basketball Talk (Mark Cuban’s comments are the latest there), Hardball Talk (noting that Bruce Maxwell became the first MLB player to kneel during the anthem), and other sites under the NBC umbrella.

Bruised Blues: Add Robby Fabbri to a worrisome list for St. Louis

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It sure looks like the St. Louis Blues are going to limp into the 2017-18 season (sometimes literally).

The team announced that promising young forward Robby Fabbri will miss the remainder of training camp after injuring his surgically repaired left knee. The Blues say that they will re-evaluate Fabbri, 21, in 10 days.

It’s difficult to say how bad this issue is, but knee injuries – particularly involving knees that are already problems for athletes – can be tricky.

Even if this is a mere short-term setback, it’s staggering how long the Blues’ injury list is even before their season-opener.

Alex Steen was ruled out of training camp (and possibly beyond) just days ago because of a hand injury. Zach Sanford‘s push toward being an NHL regular is on hold thanks to being sidelined for multiple months with a shoulder issue, while a fractured ankle puts Jay Bouwmeester‘s 2017-18 season in some question, too. (More on Sanford and Bouwmeester here.)

Patrik Berglund might not be back until late 2017 or even into 2018 with his own shoulder issues.

While such injuries open up opportunities for younger players to make even temporary jumps, it’s tough to stomach as Mike Yeo preps for his first full season behind the Blues bench.

In Fabbri’s case, this is a considerable disappointment, as he was starting to show the zip at the NHL level that’s made him such a prolific scorer in the OHL. Here’s hoping he gets over these issues, as considering his size, a significant loss in speed could be a serious problem for Fabbri.

Coyotes want to retire Shane Doan’s number in the future

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After more than two decades the Arizona Coyotes and Shane Doan parted ways this offseason, ultimately resulting in the 40-year-old forward retiring from the league.

The decision to part ways with Doan was part of a massive overhaul that dramatically changed the outlook of the team, ending a lengthy chapter in its history.

The Coyotes would eventually like to honor Doan by retiring his number “at a time that is right for him.”

That is what team owner Andrew Barroway said at a Coyotes’ town hall meeting, via Sarah McLellan.

“The relationship with Shane Doan has improved,” Barroway said. “We’ve reached out. We’ve spoken with Shane. Everyone loves him. He’s a class act, great guy.”

There are no plans for any sort of an official announcement this season, but Barroway said the Coyotes will revisit it next summer.

Doan spent is entire career playing for the Coyotes organization dating back to its days in Winnipeg (he played one season with the original Jets). During his career he appeared in 1,540 regular season games, scoring 402 goals, 570 assists and 972 total points. He is the team’s all-time leader in games played, goals, assists, total points, even strength goals, power play goals, and shots on goal.