The Chicago Blackhawks are two weeks away from the start of training camp, but it’s still not clear if Patrick Kane will be in attendance.
“I don’t have an answer to that question,” Blackhawks spokesman Brandon Faber told the Chicago Tribune.
Faber was willing to confirm the expected attendance of about 30 other players, but as he noted, the difference is that none of them are involved in a criminal investigation.
Kane hasn’t been charged with a crime, but the police confirmed in August that they were investigating an incident that allegedly occurred at his residence. More recently, multiple people are reportedly scheduled to appear before a grand jury, including a woman who was with Kane’s alleged rape victim.
The Tribune reported that the team is considering granting Kane a personal leave of absence until this situation reaches its conclusion. However, Faber’s statement could have been an acknowledgment that this situation isn’t entirely within the Blackhawks’ control and therefore they’re simply not in a position to make definitive statements.
It’s also worth noting that Kane hasn’t spoken publicly or issued a statement about the allegations, but if he attends training camp then he will have to face the media.
For now we have more questions than answers.
Related – Report: Hawks feel Kane ‘disrespected’ team, have received trade calls
Lately, the news regarding Anze Kopitar‘s contract negotiations has been less than encouraging, but the Los Angeles Kings forward nevertheless is still holding out hope that something will get done before the 2015-16 campaign begins, per ESPN and TSN’s Pierre LeBrun.
Kopitar has been the team’s scoring leader for an incredible eight consecutive seasons so it came as no surprise when a report surfaced in July calling re-signing Kopitar the team’s “highest and most forefront priority.” However, a month and a half later we have received a far less encouraging statement rather than a signing.
Kings GM Dean Lombardi said that the team and Kopitar are “not even in the ballpark.” We don’t know what the Kings feel is fair value compared to Kopitar, but given that the 28-year-old forward has 610 points in 683 games and has been a Selke finalist for two straight seasons, it seems reasonable to say that he has a lot of leverage. After all, if the Kings won’t pay him like an elite forward, it’s very likely that someone else will.
Of course, there’s still a lot of time for Kopitar and Los Angeles to find a common ground as one season remains on his existing seven-year, $47.6 million deal. The more immediate question is if Kopitar is going to have to put up with speculation and inquires about his status during the regular season.
The Columbus Blue Jackets managed to make one more major move before the start of training camp.
They’ve announced that David Savard has agreed to a five-year extension. The team has a policy of not disclosing the financial terms, but the contract is worth $21.25 million, according to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston.
Savard still has a season left on his two-year, $2.6 million contract, so the 24-year-old defenseman is now locked in through 2020-21.
“Getting David signed to a contract extension was a priority for us and we are very happy to have reached a long-term deal with him,” said Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen. “He has taken tremendous steps the past two seasons and responded very well to the larger role he played on our blueline last season. We are excited about his future with the Blue Jackets.”
As far as relatively recently signed young defensemen go, Savard’s new contract puts him a touch below Calgary’s T.J. Brodie (five-years, roughly $23.3 million) and comes with the same cap hit as John Klingberg‘s new contract (seven-year, $29.75 million).
Klingberg is an interesting comparable. Savard has played in 187 NHL games while Klingberg is entering his sophomore campaign, but both took major leaps offensively last season with Savard recording 36 points in 82 contests to more than double his previous career-high while Klingberg broke into the league with 40 points in 65 games. In both cases, there’s a risk that their 2014-15 showing will prove to be a deviation rather than a first step, but both teams have opted to take a risk on the young blueliners given that those cap hits will look very good if they can even just maintain their recent level of success.
It helps that Savard did far more than just chip in offensively. He was a major contributor with the man advantage and in shorthanded situations en route to averaging 22:56 minutes per game. He also recorded 195 hits and 105 blocked shots.
Although Savard is now locked up, the Blue Jackets still have some important decisions regarding their defense ahead of them as Dalton Prout, Ryan Murray, and Kevin Connauton are all eligible to become restricted free agents in 2016.
The first three seasons of the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter era with the Minnesota Wild weren’t a disaster, but they’ve been subject to a narrative that’s getting old fast: They claw their way into the playoffs and get eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks.
The fact that their last three seasons can be summed up in one relatively unflattering sentence is a problem, but it’s one the Wild will get another chance to correct in 2015-16.
Suter puts a lot of pressure on himself and he wants to his team to live up to the aspirations Wild owner Craig Leipold had when he handed matching 13-year, $98 million contracts with Suter and Parise. At the same time, Suter wants to put that narrative into context.
“There’s a reason they won the Stanley Cup this season. And two years ago. And five years ago. How many other teams lost to them?” Suter said of Chicago, per the Pioneer Press. “We’re in a good spot; we just can’t take a step back. If we keep progressing the way we are, we’re going to be fine.”
Minnesota certainly isn’t lacking in young talent that might be ready to take a step forward, including Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter, and Jason Zucker.
Even still, Suter likely hit the nail on the head when he said that they can’t take a step back. Of course, many other players from a variety of teams would say the same, but Minnesota’s recent history and expectations make that sentiment particularly relevant. This is a team that seemed to be on the brink of disaster last season before acquiring goaltender Devan Dubnyk. If the Wild struggle mightily again, if the fourth season of this era ends without so much as a playoff berth, will they really maintain the current status quo for 2016-17?
PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.
We unintentionally got an early look at the new third jerseys for the Colorado Avalanche and Anaheim Ducks:
Information regarding Steven Stamkos‘ contract talks has been scarce, but here’s what’s known. (Sportsnet)
A look at Patrick Marleau, who is coming off of a down season. (CSN Bay Area)
Ryan McDonagh feels it’s important for kids to play multiple sports to stay healthy. (NHL.com)
What would each team look like if it was made up entirely of the players it drafted? (Bleacher Report)
Zach Boychuk talks about the projected competition at the Carolina Hurricanes’ training camp and The Bachelor. (Hurricanes.nhl.com)