SOCHI, Russia — Tuesday at a mass press conference for the Russian men’s national hockey team, the man who vowed to participate in the Sochi Games no matter what the NHL said was given a prime opportunity to voice his support for ongoing Olympic participation. Instead, Alex Ovechkin sidestepped the question, saying his focus was on the current Games, not the next ones four years later in South Korea, or beyond.
Evgeni Malkin spoke next and backed ongoing participation — “I wish that every four years the NHL lets the players go to the Olympic Games” — and drew some applause for his comments.
But the moment was sort of lost by then.
Perhaps the most fervent argument for keeping NHLers in the Olympics we’ve heard here in Sochi has come from Team Canada executive director Steve Yzerman.
“I think this is fantastic for our league,” he said. “We go back to the last year, and even beyond that, look how much attention this draws, how much conversation this draws, not only in Canada, but around the world. It promotes our league, it promotes our players. I believe it’s good for our game, I believe it’s good for the NHL.”
“It’s once every four years, I’m hopeful that we can continue. I understand there are challenges for our league, and things that we’d like to improve upon with the NHL’s relationship with the IIHF, the IOC, but I think it’s good for our league, and I’m hopeful that we’ll stay.”
The same question has been asked of numerous players here. Some have sidestepped it, a la Ovechkin. Others have said they’d like to keep coming. None have pulled an Ed Snider and said, “I hate ’em.” Big surprise there, right?
If the NHL had its way, unless commissioner Gary Bettman is trying to bluff his way to a better agreement with the IOC, these Sochi Games would probably be the last for the league.
Yesterday, deputy commissioner Bill Daly downplayed the allure of the Games.
“We certainly think the key element that makes the Olympics successful is best-on-best competition,” said Daly.
Translation: it’s not the magic of the Games that makes the hockey special. It’s the hockey. And we can hold our own best-on-best competition with the World Cup.
Daly did, however, allow that the Games were “special” for the players.
“I have heard the players feel the Olympics is something special and it is something different than best-on-best, it is the Olympics,” he said. “So there is an added element that the Olympics bring that is impossible for us to recreate.”
Translation: if the players want to be in South Korea four years later, they’d better speak up.
Hockey fans got a decent idea of how they’ll get their playoff fix (COVID-19 permitting) when the NHL shared an outline of a schedule for the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers. The NHL shared more specifics regarding dates and times for the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers on Tuesday, though, and also the exhibition schedule.
You can now plan your NHL playoff viewing schedule accordingly from July 28 – Aug. 5, with other game times to be determined starting on Aug. 6.
Speaking of to-be-determined, broadcast information will come later.
NHL return-to-play exhibition schedule
As you can see, the NHL exhibition schedule begins on Tuesday, July 28 and runs through Thursday, July 30:
Dates, times, NHL playoff schedule for 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers
Check out the most updated schedule information for each series involved in the NHL’s 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers, via the NHL:
STANLEY CUP QUALIFIERS BY SERIES
EASTERN CONFERENCE(all games at Scotiabank Arena, Toronto)
(All times, TV information will be announced at a later date; home team listed second)
(5) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (12) Montreal Canadiens
Saturday, Aug. 1: Canadiens vs. Penguins, 8 p.m. Monday, Aug. 3: Canadiens vs. Penguins, 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 5: Penguins vs. Canadiens, 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 7: Penguins vs. Canadiens* Saturday, Aug. 8: Canadiens vs. Penguins*
(6) Carolina Hurricanes vs. (11) New York Rangers
Saturday, Aug. 1: Rangers vs. Hurricanes, 12 p.m. ET Monday, Aug. 3: Rangers vs. Hurricanes, 12 p.m. ET Tuesday, Aug. 4: Hurricanes vs. Rangers, 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 6: Hurricanes vs. Rangers* Saturday, Aug. 8: Rangers vs. Hurricanes*
(7) New York Islanders vs. (10) Florida Panthers
Saturday, Aug. 1: Panthers vs. Islanders, 4 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 4: Panthers vs. Islanders, 12 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 5: Islanders vs. Panthers, 12 p.m. Friday, Aug. 7: Islanders vs. Panthers* Sunday, Aug. 9: Panthers vs. Islanders*
(8) Toronto Maple Leafs vs. (9) Columbus Blue Jackets
Sunday, Aug. 2: Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs, 8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 4: Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs, 4 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 6: Maple Leafs vs. Blue Jackets, TBD Friday, Aug. 7: Maple Leafs vs. Blue Jackets*, TBD Sunday, Aug. 9: Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs*, TBD
Sunday, Aug. 2: Flyers vs. Bruins, 3 p.m. Monday, Aug. 3: Capitals vs. Lightning, 4 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 5: Lightning vs. Bruins, 4 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 6: Capitals vs. Flyers, TBD Saturday, Aug. 8: Bruins vs. Capitals, TBD Sunday, Aug. 9: Flyers vs. Lightning, TBD
WESTERN CONFERENCE(all games at Rogers Place, Edmonton)
(5) Edmonton Oilers vs. (12) Chicago Blackhawks
Saturday, Aug. 1: Blackhawks vs. Oilers, 3 p.m. Monday, Aug. 3: Blackhawks vs. Oilers, 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 5: Oilers vs. Blackhawks, 10:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 7: Oilers vs. Blackhawks*, TBD Saturday, Aug. 8: Blackhawks vs. Oilers*, TBD
(6) Nashville Predators vs. (11) Arizona Coyotes
Sunday, Aug. 2: Coyotes vs. Predators, 2 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 4: Coyotes vs. Predators, 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 5: Predators vs. Coyotes, 2:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 7: Predators vs. Coyotes*, TBD Sunday, Aug. 9: Coyotes vs. Predators*, TBD
(7) Vancouver Canucks vs. (10) Minnesota Wild
Sunday, Aug. 2: Wild vs. Canucks, 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 4: Wild vs. Canucks, 10:45 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 6: Canucks vs. Wild, TBD Friday, Aug. 7: Canucks vs. Wild*, TBD Sunday, Aug. 9: Wild vs. Canucks*, TBD
(8) Calgary Flames vs. (9) Winnipeg Jets
Saturday, Aug. 1: Jets vs. Flames, 10:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 3: Jets vs. Flames, 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 4: Flames vs. Jets, 4:45 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 6: Flames vs. Jets*, TBD Saturday, Aug. 8: Jets vs. Flames*, TBD
Sunday, Aug. 2: Blues vs. Avalanche, 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 3: Stars vs. Golden Knights, 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 5: Avalanche vs. Stars, 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 6: Golden Knights vs. Blues, TBD Saturday, Aug. 8: Golden Knights vs. Avalanche, TBD Sunday, Aug. 9: Stars vs. Blues, TBD
* – if necessary
Day-by-day version of playoff schedule for NHL’s 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers
The New York Islanders on Tuesday signed goaltender of the future Ilya Sorokin to a $2 million contract for next season.
The deal includes $1 million in salary and a $1 million bonus. A day earlier, the Islanders signed Sorokin to an entry-level deal for the remainder of this season even though he’s not eligible to play.
Sorokin, 24, is considered one of the top prospects at any position not currently in the NHL. A third-round pick of the Islanders in 2014, he was among the Kontinental Hockey League’s best goalies this past season with a 1.50 goals-against average and .935 save percentage.
Two other teams signed Russian prospects Monday who can’t compete in the resumption of this season. The Montreal Canadiens signed defenseman Alexander Romanov for three years, and the Minnesota Wild signed forward Kirill Kaprizov for two years.
All three players are burning a year by signing for this season, a way of getting to more lucrative contracts sooner in the future.
The Islanders are one of several teams going into the NHL’s expanded 24-team playoffs with a goaltending competition. Coach Barry Trotz said he’ll let it play out between Russian Semyon Varlamov and German Thomas Greiss to determine who might start Game 1 of the qualifying round against the Florida Panthers on Aug. 1.
While Varlamov is under contract for three more seasons — perhaps in later years to mentor Sorokin — Greiss is a pending free agent. Sorkin backed up for the gold medal-winning Olympic Athletes from Russia at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games and showed his NHL potential over several KHL seasons and world championships.
Draisaitl, MacKinnon, Panarin are 2019-20 Ted Lindsay Award finalists
Leon Draisaitl of the Oilers, Nathan MacKinnon of the Avalanche, and Artemi Panarin of the Rangers have been announced as the finalists for the 2019-20 Ted Lindsay Award, which is given “to the most outstanding player in the NHL.”
The is voted on by fellow members of the NHL Players’ Association. Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov won the award last season.
Draisaitl and Panarin are first-time finalists, while this is the second time that MacKinnon is up for the award. The winner will be announced at some point during the conference finals.
The case for Leon Draisaitl: The 2019-20 Art Ross Trophy winner, Draisaitl led the NHL with 110 points and finished third in the league with 43 goals. He played every game for the Oilers this season and was first in points per game (1.55), assists (67), and power play points (44). He was second in power play goals (16) behind David Pastrnak and second in even strength points (66) behind Panarin. A win would mark the third time the Oilers have taken home the award in the last four seasons. Connor McDavid was voted the TLA winner in 2016-17 and 2017-18.
The case for Nathan MacKinnon: After missing only one game for the Avalanche this season, MacKinnon finished fourth with 93 points and led his team in scoring by 43 points. He was also seventh in goals (35), third overall in even strength points 962), fourth in power play points (31), and fifth in points per game (1.35). The 2019-20 season was the third straight year he finished with at least 35 goals and 90 points. It was also the third consecutive season he finished with exactly 58 assists. He would become only the second player in franchise history to win the award following Joe Sakic in 2000-01.
The case for Artemi Panarin: The Bread Man’s first year on Broadway was nothing short of spectacular. He set career highs in goals (32), assists (63), and points (95), led the NHL in even strength points (71), and was third in points per game (1.38). Prolific in production, he recorded points streaks of 12 and 13 games this season. He would become the second Ranger to win the award joining Jaromir Jagr (2005-06).
NHL AWARD FINALISTS ANNOUNCEMENT DATES • Wednesday, July 15: Jack Adams Award, Calder Trophy • Thursday, July 16: Lady Byng Trophy, Masterton Trophy • Friday, July 17: Willie O’Ree Award, Vezina Trophy • Monday, July 20: Norris Trophy, Selke Trophy • Tuesday, July 21: Hart Trophy
“Colby was an unbelievable young man, great teammate. Obviously a friend to everybody in our locker room,” said Tippett. “He would be with us today if he hadn’t passed. He planned to be with our group. He’s with us in spirit.”
The Oilers are preparing for their best-of-five Stanley Cup Qualifier series against the Oilers, which begins Aug. 1. Cave played 44 games with the Oilers in the last two seasons and spent most of 2019-20 with AHL Bakersfield. He had many friends on the roster, and his teammates will use his memory as inspiration going forward.
“This is first time we’ve all been together in a big group since Colby passed,” said Oilers captain Connor McDavid. “Those emotions are still fresh, and it makes it even more real now that we’re all together and he’s not able to join us. He’s going to be in our thoughts and in our hearts as we go forward and move through training camp and into the [playoffs], and hopefully, go on a deep run here.
“We’re going to play for Colby, and he’ll be with us throughout.”