Los Angeles Kings

Hawks’ biggest question: What happens with Patrick Kane?

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There’s a tremendous amount of uncertainty regarding the future of Patrick Kane.

As it stands today, Kane remains under police investigation for an alleged incident in early August, in which he’s accused of raping a woman at his Buffalo-area home. He hasn’t been charged but, per the Buffalo News, has met with both the Hamburg Police Department and Erie County District Attorney.

Kane also hasn’t spoken publicly or issued a statement since the alleged incident.

That silence, though, hasn’t stopped various entities from cutting ties with the Chicago star. EA Sports dropped him from the cover of the NHL ’16 video game and Kane’s former OHL team, the London Knights, removed his eponymous moniker from its annual training camp routine.

Needless to say, the optics surrounding Kane aren’t good right now.

Which is why the ‘Hawks are facing a difficult set of circumstances less than three weeks out of their own training camp. Publicly, the club has said little about the investigation — “We’re disappointed but hopeful,” club owner Rocky Wirtz said in mid-August, per the Tribune — while the NHL said it was monitoring the situation.

“You can assume we are doing everything we need to be doing from the league’s perspective,” deputy commissioner Bill Daly told the Sun-Times in an email earlier this month.

The situation is filled with unknowns.

It’s unknown if Kane will ever be charged by the Erie County DA and, if he is, when it will happen. It’s unknown if the league will intervene — like it did with the LA Kings during Slava Voynov’s domestic assault incident, suspending the Russian defenseman indefinitely — and it’s unknown if, should Kane be charged, he’d be allowed to continue playing, like Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov was after being charged with assault in 2013.

It’s also unknown if Chicago could — or, would — discipline Kane internally, or what role the NHLPA would play in all of this.

Right now, it’s all speculation until the Blackhawks descend on the University of Notre Dame on Sept. 18 for training camp. By then, the picture should be clearer.

Unless, of course, it isn’t.

Wild’s biggest question: Who will step up at center?

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In addition to whether Devan Dubnyk can replicate his 2014-15 season, one of the biggest questions surrounding the Minnesota Wild heading into this season is at center.

According to NHL.com, Wild centers were amongst the least productive in the league last season combining for 49 goals. Captain Mikko Koivu led the way with 14 goals while Mikael Granlund accounted for just eight goals.

In order to improve in this area they’ll need more from Granlund – the 23-year-old, who centered a line with Jason Pominville and Zach Parise last season, will be expected to contribute more offensively.

“I don’t think anybody anticipates Granlund to be an eight-goal, 40-point guy for the rest of his career,” GM Chuck Fletcher said after signing Granlund to a new two-year, $6 million deal in July. “He is going to take off here over the next two years.”

The Wild also believe Charlie Coyle can be a full-time center. Speaking with Mackey and Judd on ESPN radio in Minnesota last week, Mike Yeo said Coyle would start the season at center.

Coyle scored 11 goals and 35 points in 82 games last season.

“You look at a guy like David Backes, for instance, he’s a centerman, he’s pretty much a fulltime centerman right now, but he spent a lot of time bouncing around,” said Yeo. “I like (Coyle’s) improvement at center last year, in particular, in his defensive game, I know he’s a real reliable guy especially to have a big body like that. You can throw him out there against an Anze Kopitar, who is (6-foot-3) and (225-pounds), you know he’s not going to get out-muscled down low. That’s a real valuable thing to have.

“What’s important for him now is if he can take another step offensively playing that position.”

More will also be expected of Erik Haula. The 24-year-old, who signed a two-year extension earlier this month, took a step back last season. Haula scored six goals and 15 points in 46 regular season games during the 2013-14 season. He added four goals and seven points in 13 playoff games.

Last season, Haula managed to score just seven goals and 14 points in 72 games.

“Just because he had a bit of a down year last year, we’re certainly not ready to give up on him because we’ve also seen the flip side,” said Yeo. “We’ve seen what he’s capable of and it’s just a process that these young kids have to go through.”

The Wild also lost Kyle Brodziak in free agency. The 31-year-old was amongst the top-scoring centers in Minnesota last season with nine goals.

Related: Looking to make the leap: Mike Reilly

EA Sports unveils NHL 16’s top 10 goaltenders

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Carey Price dominated the NHL last season, winning the Hart and Ted Lindsay Trophies in addition to the Vezina, so it seems only fitting that his virtual counterpart would be exactly effective.

Price will be the top goaltender in the upcoming video game NHL 16 with a 94 overall rating, per EA Sports’ release. That’s allowed him to leapfrog Henrik Lundqvist and Jonathan Quick, who led all netminders in last year’s ratings. Price’s rise didn’t push either of them down though as he went from a 92 to 94 while Lundqvist and Quick have once again been listed as a 93 going into the season.

Rounding out this year’s top five is Boston’s Tuukka Rask (92) and Nashville’s Pekka Rinne (92). Rask received the same rating last summer, but Rinne is up from his previous mark of 91.

Braden Holtby (91), Sergei Bobrovsky (90), and Cory Schneider (90) are the remaining goaltenders with a rating above 90. That’s a new position for both Holtby and Schneider, although Bobrovsky simply maintained his rating from the year prior.

Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov remained level too with an 89 rating that was good enough for ninth place this season. After a strong showing in his first full campaign as the Anaheim Ducks’ starting goaltender, Frederik Andersen (89) was selected to round out the top 10.

NHL 16 will be out on Sept. 15 in North America and Sept. 17 in Europe.

Kings bringing veteran goalie Budaj to camp on PTO

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The Los Angeles Kings are giving Peter Budaj a shot at earning a contract in training camp, per LA Kings Insider.

Budaj, the 32-year-old veteran that spent last year with Winnipeg’s AHL affiliate, will attend camp on a professional tryout, the club confirmed on Friday.

The news comes after L.A.’s backup from last season, Martin Jones, was traded away to Boston. The Kings later filled their No. 2 void by signing Jhonas Enroth in free agency.

Budaj will now try to secure a deal as the club’s No. 3 or 4 option and, if he’s successful, would presumably land with the club’s new AHL affiliate in Ontario (CA).

Though Budaj has fallen on hard times and was beaten out of the backup spot last year in Montreal by Dustin Tokarski, it’s easy to see why the Kings are giving him a shot.

L.A. is a little light on goalie prospects, having traded away the likes of Jones, Ben Scrivens and Jonathan Bernier in recent seasons, and could use a veteran stopgap. The Kings do have a pair of young fifth-round picks (Alec Dillon and Patrick Bartozek) in the system, though, along with J.F. Berube, who helped the Monarchs capture the Calder Cup last year.

Under Pressure: Martin Jones

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ESPN called him the Sharks’ most important player.

GM Doug Wilson said he was “at the top of our list of players that we had targeted.”

He was acquired at a steep price (first-rounder in ’16), signed to a big raise (three years, $9 million) and will enter this season as a (projected) No. 1 goalie for the first time in his career.

So needless to say, there’s a fair bit of pressure on Martin Jones — not that he’s fearful of the challenges ahead.

“I think I’m ready to definitely take that step and play more hockey games,” Jones said earlier this summer, per CSN Bay Area. “It’s been a big couple years in my development I think, and I’m looking forward to a new challenge.”

Jones is high on promise and potential. He’s only 25, has good size (6-foot-4) and a ton of experience at the American League level, with nearly 150 games over the last five years.

There’s just one catch: He’s a bit of an unknown at the NHL level.

Stuck behind workhorse No. 1 Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles for the last two years, Jones made a grand total of 34 appearances for the Kings and while his numbers have been good — .923 save percentage, 1.99 GAA — it’s still a pretty small sample size.

Of course, the Sharks had an advantage of scouting Jones, thanks to playing in the Pacific Division. Jones has faced San Jose four times in his career, which included a 31-save effort in a 4-1 win at the start of the 2013-14 campaign — a game in which he was named first star.

“This is a guy we’ve seen,” Wilson said upon acquiring Jones, per CSN Bay Area. “We know a lot about him. It’s his style, his size – he’s a big goalie and highly competitive. You probably have more information on a player like this than you do a guy that you’d be drafting.”

There’s just one more wrinkle to all this.

Jones isn’t heading to any old team for the first starting gig of his career — he’s going to San Jose, a team coming off one of the most dysfunctional seasons in franchise history. The Sharks are determined to get back to the playoffs (Logan Couture all but guaranteed a return) and made two big veteran free agent splashes in Joel Ward and Paul Martin to help get back.

As such, Jones will carry additional weight in ’15-16.

Pressure’s on.