For the Washington Capitals, the preseason narrative is getting old, but this time around there is one difference: Alex Ovechkin is no longer in his 20s.
“I think our guys are getting to an age where a lot of them are in their prime, and we need to be assertive in what we’re doing,” Capitals GM Brian MacLellan told the Washington Post. “The window is there, whatever it is; we’ve got to try to make it happen here over the next two, three, four years. I mean, there’s more urgency in what we’re doing now, because we’ve got to try to win a championship.”
Capitals owner Ted Leonsis agrees that with Ovechkin celebrating his 30th birthday and Nicklas Backstrom‘s 28th nearing (Nov. 23), the Capitals sense of urgency is growing.
In line with that win now mentality, the Washington Capitals have added to their veteran core in recent years by bringing in forwards Justin Williams and T.J. Oshie as well as defensemen Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik. Washington certainly has noteworthy youngsters too like Evgeny Kuznetsov (23) and Andre Burakovsky (20), but it’s fair to call this a veteran team.
Although Washington has made the playoffs in seven of its last eight campaigns, it hasn’t made it past the second round over that span.
“Every year we talk about [how] this team can do something,” Ovechkin said. “You know, I think right now it’s time to not [be] talking; we have to do it. It’s 10 years; we have to move forward and take a big step.”
Darren Helm has had quite a bit of bad luck when it comes to injuries, but he doesn’t think his latest setback will end up costing him much time.
Helm crashed into 21-year-old prospect Jerome Verrier during a drill mere minutes into the Red Wings’ training camp. The veteran forward suffered a Grade 1 slight shoulder separation, which is expected to keep him out for two-to-four weeks. That alone might rob him of the opportunity to play in Detroit’s season opener on Oct. 7, but he also sustained a concussion and it’s hard to say how that might impact his recovery.
“I’ve been feeling a little off, a little bit of a headache,” Helm told MLive. “I think we’re going to jump on the bike tomorrow and see how that feels, get the heart rate going, take it from there.
“Hopefully, I can get back for home opener (Oct. 9). If not, then right after that.”
That being said, this isn’t his first concussion and in his own words, “there’s no set timeline in returning.”
He played in 75 games last season, but was limited to 43 contests over the previous two campaigns.
The wait to see what Connor McDavid can do in the NHL is nearing its close as he’s set to accomplish another first tonight.
McDavid will skate alongside Taylor Hall and Teddy Purcell in his preseason debut tonight in Edmonton against the rival Calgary Flames. Although he’s already appeared in two rookie games and two scrimmages with the Edmonton Oilers, this another step up for him and his best opportunity yet to get a sense for what it will be like to compete at the NHL level.
“I don’t know if nervous is the right way to say it, I think it’s more anxious and excited,” McDavid told NHL.com. “Those are the two words that come to mind, I’m just looking forward to it. I think it’s going to be a challenge, that’s just how it is, it’s the next level. It’s going to take some getting used to, but I’m confident in my abilities and I believe in myself.”
The fact that he’s being paired up with Hall and Purcell is also noteworthy as that line is expected to stay intact throughout the preseason. With that in mind, it stands to reason that McDavid might be playing with those two when he’s projected to make his true NHL debut on Oct. 8.
Tonight’s contest will begin at 9:00 p.m. ET and its a split-squad game as Edmonton and Calgary will simultaneously battle in Calgary.
Related: Yes, McDavid is already piling up highlights
When the media talks to Erik Johnson these days, the subject of his contract situation naturally comes up. He just hopes there’s a reason for that narrative to be dropped soon “so it’s not a distraction,” per the Denver Post.
Avalanche coach Patrick Roy recently revealed that the Avalanche are negotiating with Johnson, who is entering the final season of his four-year, $15 million contract. Roy felt the talks were going well, but despite Johnson’s desire for this to be over with, it’s not at the point yet where he can say anything definitive.
“It’s my desire to stay here,” Johnson told the Denver Post, “but it has to work for both sides and I’m all for working with the team and trying to fit into the structure. I’m not out to get something over my value on the market. I’m going to work with them and I hope they work with me and we can get something done.”
Finding fair value for Johnson isn’t a simple task because he’s both shown an ability to be a great defenseman, but also has a rocky past and lengthy injury history. His last game was on Jan. 21 due to a knee injury, although he feels good now.
Even factoring in his setbacks, it’s hard to see Johnson as getting anything other than a substantial raise over his current $3.75 million annual cap hit. The 2006 first overall pick has led the Avalanche in playing time per game in each of the last two campaigns with him reaching an average of 24:25 minutes last season. He also has 62 points in 127 games over the last two campaigns.
Roughly 23 years after the New Jersey Devils traded Eric Weinrich in a deal for Bobby Holik, he’s rejoined the organization. The 48-year-old retired defenseman will serve as a development coach, per NJ.com.
Weinrich brings with him 1,157 NHL games worth of experience from his time with the Devils, Hartford Whalers, Chicago Blackhawks, Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers, St. Louis Blues, and Vancouver Canucks.
His last campaign as a player was in 2007-08 and he spent the next three seasons as an assistant coach for the AHL’s Portland Pirates. He followed that up with four campaigns as a scout for the Buffalo Sabres.
“Eric has a strong track record as a leader over his 23-year professional hockey career. We look to benefit from his time as a player and recent experience in coaching,” Devils GM Ray Shero said. “As a former Devils’ draft pick and someone who spent the early part of his career with the New Jersey organization, we feel that he can provide a unique perspective to the young players.”
Weinrich will primarily be working with the Devils’ defensemen in the minors. Pertti Hasanen, Patrick Rissmiller and Scott Clemmensen are also part of the franchise’s development staff.