Here are a couple quick-hit training camp invite bits:
- The Arizona Coyotes’ list of training camp invites continues to swell, as pugilist Krys Barch was added to the mix, according to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston. Earlier, word surfaced that fellow bruiser Matt Kassian would be in training camp alongside defenseman Jamie McBain and Matt Smaby.
From that list alone, one gets the feeling the Coyotes want to add more of the same (grit and defense) to their roster, but considering the low-end roles these guys are shooting for, it’s probably not that big of a deal.
(That said, Arizona’s clearly pulling for a lot of 2-1 wins on paper, eh?)
- Apparently undrafted prospect Vladimir Tkachev turned enough heads in the Edmonton Oilers’ rookie camp to earn a look with the big club’s camp. The Edmonton Journal provides some additional insight on the under-sized but skilled Russian forward:
Tkachev’s reputation isn’t solely built on two games in a rookie tournament; he showed well in 20 games in New Brunswick last year, posting 30 points in a brief QMJHL stop. He caught the eyes of some scouts, including the folks at Red Line Report, who had him ranked No. 58 on their 2014 draft list. It’s worth noting too that he scored very well in Russia’s MHL as a 17- and 18-year-old, actually surpassing [Bogdan] Yakimov’s scoring in the same league at the same ages.
NHL training camps tend to go by in a blur, but that doesn’t mean that they lack in interesting opportunities for players who follow less traditional development paths. Perhaps Tkachev could eventually find himself on Edmonton’s radar thanks in part to a strong September in camps?
The Chicago Blackhawks understandably (maybe even mercifully*) parted ways with Michal Handzus this offseason, but the veteran forward hopes to land a deal with another NHL team at some point. He’s been talking with “several teams” yet hasn’t come to any agreement yet, according to the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Kuc.
At 37, it’s become obvious to most observers that Handzus probably can’t hack it as a second-line center any longer. It’s never a good sign when people describe you as a “possession black hole” or an “old man chasing a turtle,” after all.
Still, the broad brilliance of the Blackhawks roster could arguably make average players look downright bad, and it’s conceivable that the “dependable” center could at least provide helpful depth experience … even if he ends up being a healthy scratch most nights.
One area of disappointment is that he wasn’t even all that dominant in the faceoff circle last season, which was one of his more reliable strengths in better days. He actually won slightly less than half of his draws (329-335) in 2013-14, so his main selling point would likely be his considerable NHL experience.
It’s not exactly a tantalizing outlook as of this moment, yet plenty of teams trust a fading veteran more than untested young players, so it wouldn’t be shocking if Handzus finds a fit and provides solid value. Then again, this could just easily be the end of the line …
* – Considering the vitriol directed Handzus’ way from some Blackhawks fans.
Defenseman Danny DeKeyser can keep his stomach steady when he’s flying in jets, but it sounds like he’s getting a little queasy from his contract negotiations with the Detroit Red Wings. At least, things are getting shakier now that training camp is rapidly approaching, as he told the Detroit Free Press.
“I’m kind of anxious,” DeKeyser said. “Hopefully, something gets done soon, because camp is only a few days away.”
The 24-year-old said “I still think something will get done before camp” even though that will start this week.
After being eased into action while making the jump from the NCAA to the NHL in 2012-13, the Red Wings relied upon DeKeyser quite a bit last season. He averaged 21:38 minutes per game in 65 contests, collecting 23 points while putting up somewhat solid possession stats.
DeKeyser jumped into a fairly prominent role already with Detroit, which likely explains why he may or may not be driving a hard bargain. Still, there’s plenty of room to improve, so both sides probably see the benefit of making sure that he doesn’t risk a slow start by missing training camp or even some regular season time.
The Toronto Maple Leafs look pretty set in net on the NHL level, but it never hurts to add options in cases of emergency or even future moves. With that in mind, they’re taking a look at free agent netminder Cal Heeter in training camp, according to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston.
Heeter, 25, made his way to the Philadelphia Flyers organization after finishing his college career at Ohio State. He played 44 games for the Adirondack Phantoms last season, going 16-25-2 with a .912 save percentage while losing in his lone NHL appearance. The Flyers decided to pass on qualifying him during this offseason, which made him available for the Leafs’ perusing.
Judging by this handy Goalie Guild depth chart, one would assume that Heeter may battle Garret Sparks and/or Christopher Gibson for AHL reps if he impresses.
Heeter rarely put up eye-popping numbers, yet he boasts a pretty big frame. Still, he might be best known at this point for being involved in this line brawl:
While just about every team gives lip service to their quest for Stanley Cups, there are generally only a select few who can look at a season as “championship or bust.” The Pittsburgh Penguins have been in that group for some time, so maybe it makes sense that they canned Dan Bylsma and Ray Shero after a second-round exit.
Sidney Crosby admitted that he’s a creature of habit, but also acknowledged that there might benefits to this wake-up call, as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
“I’m a guy who doesn’t like change,” Crosby said. “It’s never easy. But, when I look back at different experiences I’ve had, sometimes change has ended up working out to be pretty good.”
The most obvious case came when the Penguins made a bold move in replacing Michel Therrien with Bylsma, memorably setting the table for their championship run. Perhaps Crosby, 27, sees the value in putting the heat on a group that could maybe get complacent.
He seems excited about the changes, especially the addition of ugly goal artist Patric Hornqvist. Ultimately, the onus is still on Crosby and the team’s other core players to get it done, though.
“We definitely have to find a way to get over that hump and be more of a playoff team,” he said. “We did a really good job a couple of years ago of getting to the  conference final, then didn’t raise our game to that next level when we needed to, when teams get better and better with each round.”
If they fall short again, the knives will only sharpen for Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the rest of the Penguins’ go-to guys.