The mere fact that the union and league have been meeting consistently lately has led to a renewed sense of optimism, but the NHLPA memo from executive director Donald Fehr that PHT recently obtained might have been a rude awakening for some fans.
Although there are some signs of progress, Fehr cautioned that there is still plenty of work to be done. Carolina Hurricanes forward Jordan Staal is aware of the memo, but that hasn’t stopped him from staying upbeat about the process.
“Obviously it’s not fun to hear that there’s still a lot of work to be done,” Staal said in a News & Observer report. “I think a lot of the players are very optimistic and very happy they’re talking again and working hard throughout the past three days.
“It’s still part of the process, I guess. It’s my first time through it but it’s still taking time. You can’t expect it to be done in a few days.”
Staal admitted that staying patient is “the hardest part right now,” but Staal does think things are heading in the right direction. He’s hoping for a breakthrough and an NHL season that starts in December.
Anything could happen, but that also means that it’s too early to give up hope just because there’s plenty of work to be done.
Pavel Zacha was this close to making his NHL debut.
Just days prior to opening their season against the Jets, the Devils returned Zacha — the sixth overall pick at this year’s draft — back to his junior club in OHL Sarnia.
The move comes after Zacha, 18, impressed throughout training camp and the preseason. He appeared in four exhibition games for New Jersey, scoring one point while endearing himself to the organizational brass, coaching staff and players.
“He understands the game. He plays with a maturity. It’s crazy to think an 18-year-old coming out of high school is up here and playing with the maturity and understanding of the game with the new system,” Kyle Palmieri told NJ.com. “I think he’s got a lot of raw talent there as a power forward. He’s got the body for it, the puck-handling skills and the nose for the net.”
At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Zacha has the frame and physical stature to play at the NHL level, and looked the part for long stretches of the exhibition season, getting turns on New Jersey’s top line.
The decision to send him back to junior is probably the right one, however.
Zacha only turned 18 in April and has limited experience even at the OHL level; ’14-15 was his first year with Sarnia, though he did appear in 38 Czech League games (for Liberec) the season prior.
There’s another Raffl in the NHL.
On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.
Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.
“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.
With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.
For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.