We’ve talked about the efforts being made by teams and players in the NHL to both raise money and awareness for Hockey Fights Cancer. Teams are doing great things to raise money to give to charity while some players are donning pink gear to show their support to the cause. We’ve seen Rick DiPietro throw on pink goalie pads to do his part but you don’t usually see an enforcer put anything pink on themselves ever. That’s where Toronto Maple Leafs fighter Colton Orr is doing things a little bit differently.
Orr is stepping things up in a more noticeable way to show his support for Hockey Fights Cancer by wearing pink skates in tonight’s game against the New York Rangers and he’s got a special reason for doing so.
Colton Orr recently put in a request with equipment manufacturer Reebok to see what they could come up with for the league’s Hockey Fights Cancer month. The company delivered hand-painted pink skates for the Toronto forward to wear in Saturday night’s game against the New York Rangers.
Orr is believed to be the first hockey player to wear pink skates and he did so in memory of Todd Davison, a former teammate with the WHL’s Regina Pats who died in 2006 after fighting a rare form of cancer.
“I had a teammate and friend, he was 18 and he passed away from synovial sarcoma,” Orr said Saturday morning. “Just being involved in any kind of cancer awareness is a privilege and an honour for me to help out any way I can.”
You see the way Colton Orr plays on the ice and you sometimes assume that a guy that plays as hard as he does and sometimes as ferocious as he’s capable and you don’t think he’s got a big heart in there, but Orr is proving otherwise. There’s never anything wrong with anyone doing something for charity, and to have a guy that’s better known for punching someone’s lights out serving notice by lacing up pink skates… Well, who is really going to say anything to him about that?
NHL: 43 players tested positive for COVID-19 since Phase 2 (June 8)
The NHL announced that 43 players tested positive for COVID-19 during Phase 2, which began on June 8. Phase 3 (formal training camps) began on Monday (July 13).
The NHL explained how those positive COVID-19 test results broke down since June 3.
30 NHL players participating in Phase 2 (limited skating at team facilities with small groups of teammates) tested positive for COVID-19. The league noted that more than 600 NHL players participated in Phase 2 activities.
The NHL noted that they’re aware of 13 positive COVID-19 cases among players who stayed outside of Phase 2 protocol. (It’s unclear if that number could climb if more players still need to be tested.)
In sharing this announcement, the NHL allowed a look into its daunting process. The league conducted almost 5,000 COVID-19 tests, with the 600-plus players involved. (That’s certainly thorough. On the other hand, one can only speculate about the vast quantity of COVID-19 tests required for the entire NHL playoff process. Some will argue that it’s simply not worth it.)
Check out the full NHL release about 43 players testing positive for COVID-19 here:
More on positive COVID-19 results, and the process the NHL is undergoing
The NHL states that players who tested positive are following CDC and Health Canada protocols, such as self-isolating. It also noted that the league will not identify players or teams involving positive COVID-19 tests.
Of course, that won’t stop speculation, whether players or teams are named officially or not.
Earlier on Monday, word surfaced that the Penguins “voluntarily sidelined” nine players who may have had “secondary exposure” to a person who tested positive for COVID-19. As of this writing, players haven’t been named, leaving people to speculate.
“Obviously wasn’t able to leave or anything,” Matthews said. “I think that’s really the only thing that kind of took a hit for me. I was skating beforehand and having to take two and a half, three weeks off obviously kind of catches up to you.”
Either way, Matthews’ name surfacing caused controversy. It remains to be seen if reporters and others unearth other names as the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers approach, and you can bet people will try to guess if the league and its teams decide not to be particularly forthcoming.
July 13: Training camps open (Phase 3) and 5 p.m. ET deadline for players to opt out. July 26: Teams report to their hub city. Eastern Conference teams go to Toronto, while West teams head to Edmonton. July 28-30: Exhibition games. Aug 1: 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers begin (Phase 4). Aug 11: First Round begins. Aug 25: Second Round begins. Sept. 8: Conference Finals begin. Sept. 22: Stanley Cup Final begins. Oct 4: Last possible date for Stanley Cup to be awarded.
The NHL set expectations for regular updates regarding positive COVID-19 tests. Can the league navigate all of those bumps in the road to October, mid-November training camps, and a 2020-21 season that may start as early as Dec. 1?
We’ll have to wait and see.
More on NHL return to play, CBA extension, COVID-19:
The NHL opened a window for teams to sign certain prospects from Monday to Wednesday (at 5 p.m. ET), and some teams wasted little time in making signings official. The Wild finally signing Kirill Kaprizov ranks as the biggest headliner, while the Canadiens also finalizing terms with defenseman Alexander Romanov is big, too. Those aren’t the only signings, though, and other news should trickle in early in the week.
It’s crucial to note that Kaprizov and Romanov won’t be able to appear in games for the Wild or Canadiens respectively in 2019-20. The same goes for other prospects signing in similar situations.
It does, however, appear that Kaprizov can participate in Wild training camp, and the Canadiens confirmed that Romanov will be doing the same.
Romanov is not eligible to participate in the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers.
He can, however, get acquainted with teammates. Not only can Romanov take part in training camp, but he’ll also be permitted to travel with the team to Toronto (the Eastern Conference hub city).
Of course, this assumes that all is clear. The Canadiens announced that Romanov will undergo a seven-day quarantine before he can participate in training camp.
Again, expect more news to trickle in between Monday and Wednesday (at 5 p.m. ET).
For instance, the Blues signed Alex Perunovich to a two-year contract as well on Monday. Meanwhile, the Islanders haven’t yet announced a contract with prominent goalie prospect Ilya Sorokin.
Some details on contracts for Kaprizov (Wild) and Romanov (Canadiens)
As a reminder, these signings burn the 2019-20 season off of these prospects’ contracts, even though they aren’t suiting up during actual 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers.
In the case of Perunovich and Kaprizov, two-year contracts are really one-year auditions before second, presumably much richer contracts. Romanov’s is a three-year deal, thus covering him through 2021-22 (instead of just 2020-21 for Kaprizov).
The Athletic’s Michael Russo went into quite a bit of detail on the structure of Kaprizov’s contract (sub required). CBA quirks limit Kaprizov’s ability to earn typical signing bonuses; ultimately, Kaprizov’s cap hit is expected to be $925K. Russo reports that Kaprizov would not be able to receive offer sheets during the 2021 NHL Free Agency summer, either.
For Kaprizov, the upside is clear. He can race through one season at a low rate, then cash in on his second contract. Even with less leverage than other potential RFAs, the 23-year-old could still rake it in if he lives up to the hype. Russo notes that Kaprizov is eligible to become a UFA as early as the summer of 2024, so while the Wild earn short-term gains, Kaprizov could set himself up for a lucrative stretch in the not-too-distant future.
(Maybe most importantly for the Wild, they lock down Kaprizov, rather than risking him staying in the KHL for 2020-21, and possibly even beyond that.)
The Canadiens spelled out the contract for Romanov, 20, in their release. His cap hit will be just under $900K through 2021-22, with an AAV of $1.17M. You can bet he won’t want to fall to the AHL, as his salary plummets to $70K at that level.
A quick look at what Kaprizov, Romanov may bring to their teams
The glowing reports on Kaprizov can flirt with hyperbole — or maybe he’s just that good. Scouts raved to The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy that Kaprizov has Artemi Panarin‘s “mind” and the sturdy body of a Vladimir Tarasenko.
“Patrick Kane says this all the time: ‘Yes, the game is faster, but you still have to be able to slow it down,’” TSN’s Craig Buttontold Kennedy. “The only way you can slow it down is by having a fast brain. It sounds counterintuitive, but that’s what Kaprizov does. He’s got a magnificent, magnificent hockey mind.”
While Romanov produces more mixed reviews about his true potential — some see him as top pairing, others in more of a supporting role — teams like the Wild and Canadiens would love to have these prospects in the lineup now, not later. It made sense for the NHL to worry about a bumpy process regarding getting these players overseas (or north of the border), but with Kaprizov allowed to practice with the Wild and Romanov the same with the Canadiens, it seems a bit baffling that they can’t take that extra step. But oh well.
To reiterate, there are likely to be other signings, both on Monday and through Wednesday. Sorokin could very well have a big impact on the Islanders once he’s actually allowed to play, for example.
Even so, these are already big steps. The Wild and their fans have been waiting for this moment for years. Sure, it would be better if Kaprizov could jump right in — as he would during normal years — but it’s better than wondering if things would fall apart.
Auston Matthews confirmed Monday that he had previously tested positive for COVID-19 during the NHL pause, but now feels healthy. As the Maple Leafs opened training camp, the forward said that he was asymptomatic and felt good during his two weeks of quarantine.
“I think everybody’s experience will probably be different than my own as far as COVID goes, with [various] symptoms and stuff like that,” Matthews said on a Zoom call with reporters. “And sometimes it’s hard to kind of pinpoint a norm because it’s different for everybody.”
A Toronto Sun report in June said that Matthews contracted the virus, but his representatives and the team did not comment. The NHL announced Monday that 43 players had tested positive for COVID-19 during Phase 2 (beginning June 8) of the Return to Play plan.
Matthews, who spent most of the pause at home in Arizona, said he was still able to train at home without issue. The positive test forced him to delay returning to Canada and miss the Phase 2 voluntary workouts.
“Obviously wasn’t able to leave or anything,” he said. “I think that’s really the only thing that kind of took a hit for me. I was skating beforehand and having to take two and a half, three weeks off obviously kind of catches up to you.”
Having gone through the experience, Matthews got a first-hand look at how the league is trying to make the Return to Play as safe as possible for all involved.
“To be honest, I don’t know where I got it,” he said. “I think the NHL and everyone has tried their best with the information they have to make it as safe of an environment as possible.”
The Maple Leafs take on the Blue Jackets in their best-of-five Stanley Cup Qualifier beginning Aug. 2.
As players reunite to begin practicing ahead of the August 1 start date, there are plenty of storylines to ponder over these next few weeks. After months of speculation, we have some certainty about a few things, while we wait for other things to play out.
In this week’s Power Rankings we take a look at some of the bigger storylines as NHL camps open.
1. Injuries, opt outs affecting rosters
NHL teams began releasing their camp rosters over the weekend. There have been a number of absences from those lists. Nolan Patrick (migraines) will not be with the Flyers; Mike Green, Travis Hamonic, Karl Alzner were among the first players to opt out ahead of Monday’s 5 p.m. ET deadline. The Canadiens and Max Domi (Type-1 diabetic) will wait 7-10 days before deciding if he should participate. What about Rangers rookie Kaapo Kakko (Celiac disease)? Or Brian Boyle (Chronic myeloid leukemia)? With expanded rosters teams will be able to adjust, but certain absences could leave holes in lineups that may not be able to be filled.
Kakko is on the Rangers’ camp roster as of Monday. Could that change? “If the doctors and the world of science told us not to play him, he’s not playing. It’s that simple,” team president John Davidson said last month.
This also rolls into the NHL’s plan not to release information about if a player tests positive for COVID-19. That first time a player misses practice or a game, the questions will begin.
Meanwhile, the Penguins announced Monday that nine players will be sidelined from camp after potential secondary exposure “to an individual who had contact with a person that has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.”
News of positive tests or players being held off the ice will be a regular occurrence. What will happen if a roster is ravaged by the virus, as we’ve seen in Major League Soccer and the NWSL?
2. Coaches, players with new teams getting extended practice time
For coaches like Dean Evason, Peter DeBoer, and John Hynes, and players like Ondrej Kase, J.G. Pageau, llya Kovalchuk, Tyler Toffoli, and Alec Martinez, they didn’t get a training camp with their new teams. These three weeks will allow the coaches the time to hammer home their systems and give the players the chance to gel with new teammates — some of whom they’ve only played with for a handful of games following the trade deadline.
“I love training camp,” Hynes said last month. “You can make a big difference as a coach in training camp. I think it’s how you plan it out and how organized you are, [and you can] hit the ground running. Players come in knowing the expectations, physically, mentally, how we want to practice… You have an opportunity to teach, install and condition, without games every other day. I’m really excited to get back with the group and build upon some things we liked, but also now we’ve got a chance to really iron out some things we want to be really good at.”
The dreaded Stanley Cup hangover didn’t affect the Blues during the regular season. Despite losing Vladimir Tarasenko in October, they rolled through the Western Conference and finished with the second-highest points percentage in the NHL (.662) after playing 71 games. Now they get Tarasenko back, and will come off a four and a half month break instead of going right back into the playoff grind again.
That’s good for the legs and what lies ahead. Only two teams have done the back-to-back since 1998. It’s never easy to get through four rounds, but this would be a unique circumstance for a repeat.
“They’re hungry. They want to get back,” said head coach Craig Berube. “We’ve got good motivation, I believe, coming back and playing and trying to repeat. Our guys are in a pretty good spot now.”
Four Blues players and a coach did test positive for COVID-19, but there hasn’t been an indication how that will affect the team at the beginning of camp.
5. How ready will top seeds be for First Round?
As the Stanley Cup Qualifiers are going on, the top four seeds in each conference will play three games to determine where they’ll stand in the First Round. What kind of level will those eight teams play at knowing they’re just playing for seeding, which doesn’t include traditional home ice? If you’re Bruce Cassidy or Jared Bednar or Jon Cooper or Todd Reirden, you’re not worried about wins and losses; your concern is getting your players back up to speed and your goalies ready for when the playoffs begin.
“We’re kind of setting the tone for how things are going to be moving forward,” said Reirden. “We’ll do everything we can to prepare our players to be ready for that round robin game where we can affect our seeding, and then in addition to that, going into our first playoff series against whoever that may be.”