Jarome Iginla is still without a team but isn’t giving up hope just yet on one last ride in the NHL.
The 40-year-old Iginla, who last played in 2016-17 with the Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings, was spotted on the ice at Providence Bruins practice on Tuesday, but there’s nothing in the works as far as a deal anywhere, he told the Providence Journal’s Mark Divver.
4 months after hip surgery, Jarome Iginla on ice with @AHLBruins today. Iginla: 'I’d love to still play. This is kind of the 1st step, getting out here & seeing how it is… I wanted to see if I can still go. I don’t have any deals at this point' pic.twitter.com/LiWaOQfTzG
Iginla’s name popped up in contention for a spot on the Canadian Olympic team this fall, but a hip procedure cost him time on the ice and ultimately a place in GM Sean Burke’s final roster for PyeongChang. (The Canadians are doing just fine without him having reached the semifinals of the tournament.)
Now living in the Boston area after buying a house last spring, Iginla, who played 78 games with the NHL Bruins during the 2013-14 season, was simply taking advantage of a favor from the team. He’s expected to skate with AHL Providence again on Thursday as he continues to see where his body is physically.
Iginla — and for that matter, U.S. Olympian Brian Gionta, who’s also looking to continue playing — can sign with any NHL team, but to be eligible to play in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs a deal needs to be inked before the 3 p.m. ET trade deadline next Monday.
Monday, July 13 represented a big day in the NHL return-to-play plan, as formal training camps began — naturally there was plenty of news.
To little surprise, such training camp news also brought uncertainty. This post won’t hit on all 24 NHL teams involved in the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers, but let’s take a look at some of the rumblings from around the league:
Blackhawks’ Crawford, other absences lead to speculation
The bright side of that is that players gain at least a modicum of privacy. The downside is that fans and others are left to speculate about the nature of absences. To some extent, this follows the NHL’s clear-as-mud transparency when it comes to injury updates already, only turned up to 11.
Rank Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford as one of the players people are speculating about during this first day of NHL training camps. If you’re looking for more from the Blackhawks on Crawford, you were largely out of luck.
“For now, he’s just unfit to play,” Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said. “I think the NHL has been pretty clear that’s going to be the policy going forward as far as how we’ll announce all injuries. So, that’s all I have for you.”
Blackhawks fans are probably used to uncertainty regarding Crawford, being that his career was threatened by concussion issues. Such issues, and Chicago’s mediocre overall play, might have pushed Crawford’s strong work under the radar. During the last three months of the truncated season, Crawford’s save percentage didn’t sink below a splendid .927. For a team as porous defensively as the Blackhawks, they must hope that Crawford will eventually be fit to play — particularly after trading Robin Lehner.
It would be a sad way for Crawford to end his Blackhawks career, too, as he’s a pending UFA.
Now, other goalies sat out day one of NHL training camps, too. Marc-Andre Fleury joined Crawford with that distinction. But while the Blackhawks shared few Crawford details, the Golden Knights deemed MAF’s absence a maintenance day.
Though not a comprehensive list, here are a few other notable absences from day one of NHL training camps:
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.
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.