Kris Letang is a top-tier offensive defenseman — when healthy. That qualifier has been a big issue for Letang and the Pittsburgh Penguins as he’s been plagued by health issues over the last four campaigns.
Which makes his objective going into the season a natural one.
“My only goal is to play 82 games,” Letang told the team’s website.
There’s definitely an element of luck when it comes to a player’s health, but this isn’t a matter that’s entirely out of his control.
“Managing my ice a little bit more is going to be important,” he said. “I cannot be all out like I do all the time. But I don’t want to change my game. I want to be the same guy that is aggressive, that will finish checks and be a guy that’s tough to play against.”
But that doesn’t mean he will be aggressive in every situation.
He’ll look to Minnesota’s Ryan Suter for inspiration. Suter has only missed five games over the last three seasons while simultaneously leading the league in ice time per contest in each of those campaigns. Letang wants to follow his example by picking his spots a bit more.
Letang hasn’t played since March 28 due to a concussion, but he’ll enter training camp without restrictions.
Related: Pittsburgh’s Biggest Question: Is the defense good enough?
James Reimer‘s tenure with the Maple Leafs has been rocky at times, but he doesn’t want to see it come to an end.
“This is the only organization I know and it was always my dream when I got drafted to play my whole career here,” Reimer told the Toronto Sun. “It’s one of the best, I mean it is the best place to play and by far the best place to win and having seen that there is no place I would rather go. Hopefully, I can keep working hard and keep earning the job and we can have a lot of success.”
He’ll be eligible to test the unrestricted free agent waters for the first time in the summer of 2016 after completing his current two-year, $4.6 million contract. Although there was a time when it looked like Reimer would be the team’s starting goaltender, he’s now 27 years old and has spent the last two seasons primarily serving as the understudy.
The Maple Leafs’ decision to bring in Jonathan Bernier before the start of the 2013-14 season and Reimer’s streaky play have contributed to that. His lack of playing time has led to tension in the past, but everyone will get a fresh start under new coach Mike Babcock and GM Lou Lamoriello.
The Tampa Bay Lightning just have to hope that this isn’t a sign of the kind of season this will be for them.
They’ve already lost goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy for two-to-three months after having a blood clot removed and now one of the top candidates to fill that void, Kristers Gudlevskis, is hurt as well, per the Tampa Bay Times.
Gudlevskis sustained the injury while playing in a prospects game on Tuesday. He was able to leave the game without assistance, but did not return. After the contest Tampa Bay stated that he had an upper-body injury and would be re-evaluated on Wednesday, according to the Times’ Joe Smith.
So this injury might still prove to be minor, but if it’s not then that would drastically increase the chances of 32-year-old (33 on Sept. 28) Ray Emery making the team after being given a professional tryout offer.
In either scenario, Ben Bishop will enter the season as the team’s starting goaltender, barring yet another injury.
The revamped Buffalo Sabres appear to be on the brink of adding one more significant piece to the puzzle.
Unrestricted free agent Cody Franson is close to inking a two-year contract with Buffalo. TSN’s Bob McKenzie is reporting that the annual cap hit is expected to be around $3.3 million and PHT’s Dhiren Mahiban stated that the contract is projected to be worth $6.65 million in total. Franson is reportedly in Buffalo for a physical.
If he ends up signing for that amount, it would be the biggest contract of his career in terms of the total value, but it’s still far less than he likely imagine he would be signing for this summer. Franson recorded a career-high 36 points last season and the 28-year-old defenseman was seen as one of the better UFA options going into the offseason. He was consequently expected to be in line for a big payday, but the market proved to be a lot less friendly to veteran players than has traditionally been the case.
As a result, Buffalo appears to be on the brink of adding Franson at a great price. It also allows them to upgrade their blueline while maintaining a healthy cap situation, which will be important next summer when they have to re-sign quite a few RFAs including Marcus Foligno, Zemgus Girgensons, and Rasmus Ristolainen.
Two promising defensemen that haven’t been able to make their mark with their respective clubs will get a chance elsewhere. That’s the main takeaway from the Colorado Avalanche’s announcement that they’ve dealt Stefan Elliott to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for Brandon Gormley.
Elliott, 24, was taken with the 49th overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. He excelled offensively with the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades to the point where he scored 31 goals and 81 points in 71 contests in his last season with the squad in 2010-11. He was solid in that regard in his rookie season with Colorado as well, recording four goals and 13 points in 39 games.
The blueliner has only played in 24 contests with the Avalanche over the last three seasons though. While he did score 19 goals and 40 points with AHL Lake Erie in 2014-15, it was reported in June that he had “grown out of favor with the Avalanche,” per the Denver Post.
The fact that he was one of the few remaining restricted free agents might tie into that story. As it is, the Coyotes have already tentatively agreed upon a one-year, two-way deal with him, per Craig Morgan.
Gormley was taken by the Coyotes with the 13th overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Despite that prominent positioning, the 23-year-old has had trouble cracking Arizona’s roster as he’s been limited to 32 NHL games thus far.
“He’s at a stage where it’s either fish or cut bait, to be honest,” Coyotes GM Don Maloney said in July. “This offseason and training camp are very important for him.”
This training camp is still very important to him, but he’ll be entering it with a clean slate now.