In Toronto, the focus is on the future after a summer of major changes, including trading Phil Kessel, marked the start of a new era that will require a building process. Leafs fans might not get as many glimpses of that future this season as the team is projected to still feature a prominently veteran cast, but one exception to that might be Kasperi Kapanen.
The 19-year-old forward was the centerpiece of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ package to pry Kessel away from Toronto, so it would certainly be a nice storyline if he establishes himself with the Maple Leafs this season.
“I was so close last year, and now I feel a lot better,” Kapanen told the Toronto Star. “I know what training camp is all about now.
He added, “I’m going to do everything I can to try to earn a spot. I know I’ll have a lot of good years with this team. I’m excited for the future.”
Kapanen had 11 goals and 21 points in 41 games with KalPa of the Finnish league last season. He does have some North American experience as he wrapped up the 2014-15 campaign with the AHL’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, scoring three goals and five points in seven playoff contests. Even still, he might benefit from spending more time adjusting to North American hockey and honing his skills in the minors.
Toronto has 14 forwards inked to one-way contracts, although that includes Nathan Horton, who will probably spend the season on the long-term injured reserve list. In addition to those forwards though, the Maple Leafs have quite a few prospects that will be fighting for roster spots including Kapanen, Casey Bailey, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander.
That volume of competition should turn this into an interesting preseason for Toronto.
Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh broke his right foot in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final, but continued to play through the injury for the remainder of the series. It shouldn’t be a factor once training camp begins.
McDonagh reported in August that he was seeing improvement every day and it had gotten to the point where he was “feeling pretty much 100 percent,” but now it’s not something that even enters his mind on a daily basis.
“It doesn’t get sore after skates and I’m able to do everything I want to do in the weight room training wise, so hopefully in that way it’s in the past now,” McDonagh told the New York Daily News. He also doesn’t require any special treatment after training.
McDonagh has been spending the past week skating with other Rangers players as they get ready for training camp. Over the past four seasons, the Rangers have lost in the Conference finals twice and the Stanley Cup Final once. That has to be a tough pill to swallow, but they can simultaneously take inspiration from the knowledge that they’ve been very close to a championship recently and are in a strong position to make another serious run at the Cup.
Just two and a half years after being acquired by Calgary Flames as part of the Jarome Iginla trade, 24-year-old forward Ben Hanowski has moved on from that franchise and the NHL.
Hanowski has signed with the Augsburger Panther of Germany’s top league, the Deutsche Eishockey Liga, according to the team’s website. It will be his first professional campaign in Europe after recording 16 goals and 21 points in 56 contests with AHL Adirondack last season.
A product of St. Cloud State where he recorded 40 goals and 74 points in 76 contests over his final two campaigns, Hanowski was originally taken by the Pittsburgh Penguins with the 63rd overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. After Pittsburgh sent him to Calgary, Hanowski went on to participate in 16 games with the Flames over parts of two seasons.
His stock with the Flames fell though to the point where they didn’t present him with a qualifying offer this summer. As a result, Hanowski was an unrestricted free agent prior to this signing.
The start of training camp is just around the corner, but any player that’s still a restricted free agent is likely to hold out unless he agrees to terms ahead of time. While it’s still entirely possible that every noteworthy RFA will sign before that happens, the fact remains that there’s still some unresolved cases.
In total there are seven remaining RFAs, per General Fanager: forwards Brock Nelson (NYI), Freddie Hamilton (COL), John Albert (WPG), Jonathan Huberdeau (FLA), Marcus Kruger (CHI), Micheal Ferland (CGY) and defenseman Stefan Elliott (COL).
Of them, Huberdeau is arguably the highest profile player as he was taken with the 2011 third overall pick and won the Calder Trophy in 2013. He’s reportedly come to an agreement with the Florida Panthers as far as term goes, but the two sides are still negotiating when it comes to compensation, per the Miami Herald’s George Richards. The team is confident this matter will be settled ahead of training camp.
There’s less to go on when it comes to Nelson. After scoring 20 goals and 42 points in 82 games last season, it seems reasonable to assume that the 23-year-old is looking for a significant payday after completing his entry-level contract. The Islanders have had an offer on the table for him for weeks, per Newsday’s Arthur Staple, but beyond that news regarding his situation has been scarce.
The other player on that list that has already spent a substantial amount of time in the NHL is Marcus Kruger. His case is a bit different as Chicago’s cap situation has limited its ability to negotiate with the 25-year-old.
Kruger, who completed a two-year, $2.65 million deal, made it clear that he wants to re-sign with the Blackhawks and they’ve been patient with Chicago given its cap issues. At this point though, something has to give soon.
Of course the same could be said for all of those cases.
The Detroit Red Wings have a reputation for letting their prospects stay in the minors until they are overripe, but 19-year-old Dylan Larkin thinks the timing is right for a young player to compete for a roster spot. Part of the reason for that belief is the fact that head coach Mike Babcock has left and been replaced by Jeff Blashill.
“That is one of the reasons I decided to sign and leave college,” Larkin told NHL.com. “There is a new coach and there seems to be some older players who might be on their way out. I think it is a great opportunity for me to learn from them. Growing up in Detroit you hear so much about those guys. I have watched Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk my whole life, so to be in the same room as them would be an incredible experience.”
Larkin had 15 goals and 47 points in 35 games with the University of Michigan last season. It was his freshman season, but the Michigan-native felt that a single year was enough time in the NCAA under the circumstances. He signed with Detroit on May 21, the day after Babcock left the Red Wings.
Regardless of who the head coach is though, Larkin will have a tough time making the roster out of training camp. Red Wings GM Ken Holland suggested as much back in July, noting that Larkin can’t make the team unless Blashill sees a lineup spot for him, as it wouldn’t make sense to keep him with Detroit if he’s just serving as a depth forward.
Taken with the 15th overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, Larkin is one of Detroit’s top prospects. However, cracking Detroit’s top-12 this year won’t be a small task for him as the Red Wings have a logjam up front with 15 players signed to one-way contracts.