NHL Awards: Kaprizov, McDavid headline PHT midseason winners

There are less than two months to play in the 2020-21 NHL regular season. While we don’t have an All-Star break this year to take a look back at the first half, now is as good of a time to get a gauge on the front-runners for the major NHL awards.

There’s been plenty of surprises and disappointments so far, and it’s never too early to begin discussing who could be up for the big trophies come summer time.

The PHT team was asked for their midseason winners for the following NHL awards: Hart, Norris, Vezina, Calder, Jack Adams Award, and Selke.

Let us know your winners of the midseason NHL awards in the comments.

[Your 2020-21 NHL On NBC TV Schedule]

HART TROPHY (voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association)

James O’Brien, NHL writer: Connor McDavid. Sheesh, you think McDavid spent the offseason reading about how Nathan MacKinnon was the best player in the world. Along with the huge point totals, it’s McDavid’s ability to make the extremely difficult look sublimely simple. It’s not that easy; McDavid is just that good.

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Connor McDavid. His pal Leon Draisaitl has his own strong case, but the Oilers captain has been incredibly dominant this season. In over 500 minutes at 5-on-5, his expected goals (27.82) leads all forwards, per Natural Stat Trick. Also, of Edmonton’s 103 goals scored, he’s had a direct hand in 53 of them (17 goals, 36 assists).

Marisa Ingemi, NHL writer: Connor McDavid: I thought a lot about the Canadian division and if the wild goal scoring is kind of unfair to pick an MVP out of there, but each division is kind of a mess so whatever, McDavid is the best player.

Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Connor McDavid. I am not really sure how it is not him at the moment. He is running away with the scoring title and could top 100 points in a 56-game season while helping to carry a flawed Oilers team to the playoffs. He is an unbelievable offensive force. The best we have seen since Mario Lemieux.

Michael Finewax, Rotoworld Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Connor McDavid. He is easily the NHL’s best player and this season he has been on fire with 53 points in 31 games. It’s hard to believe in a 56-game schedule but he has a realistic shot at 100 points.

Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Patrick Kane. The surprising Blackhawks are getting unexpected contributions from a few unheralded rookies, but Kane is the driving force behind Chicago’s success. Let’s be clear: this is not in any way suggesting Connor McDavid isn’t the best player in the NHL.

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NORRIS TROPHY (voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association)

Michael Finewax, Rotoworld Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Victor Hedman. He has always been a very good defenseman defensively as well as offensively but this season he has taken his offensive game to a new level with 26 points in 27 games. He is outperforming everyone, with the surprising Jeff Petry holding down second spot in the points standing as well as the Norris race.

Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Victor Hedman. Honestly ,I think Hedman could win this award every year, he is that good and he never seems to slow down. Leading point man among defenseman at the halfway point and a shutdown defendere. He is the best player on the league’s best team.

Marisa Ingemi, NHL writer: Charlie McAvoy: The Bruins defense is kind of a nightmare. Who would have guessed? Luckily for them, McAvoy has progressed quickly and is absolutely carrying the load there, contributing on offense and playing on the penalty kill too. He stabilizes the rest of the mess.

James O’Brien, NHL writer: Jeff Petry. With Cale Makar hurt, this field is wide open. Frankly, I expect the end-of-season pick to change, but Petry’s been a remarkable source of offense, without sacrificing defense. Wouldn’t be surprising if Charlie McAvoy overtakes Petry.

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Samuel Girard. This might be Makar’s if he can stay healthy the rest of the way, but for now it’s been Girard. He’s the only defenseman with a Corsi of higher than 60% and has handled a heavier load with Makar out.

Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Aaron Ekblad. This may not happen purely because a defenseman usually has to work his way up intto Norris contention before he can actually win the award, but Ekblad has been that good this season for the surprising Panthers. It may be difficult to unseat some of the incumbent contenders like Victor Hedman, but an upset could be brewing.

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CALDER TROPHY (voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association)

Michael Finewax, Rotoworld Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Kirill Kaprizov. The 23-year-old has been the best rookie to date with 24 points including 10 goals and is battling Kevin Lankinen who is 10-6-4 this season for the Blackhawks in goal. I think that Tim Stützle is the best and most exciting rookie as the 18-year-old continues to amaze for the Senators but at this point in time it is Kaprizov who is deserving of the trophy.

Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Kirill Kaprizov. We do not need to overthink this. He is the best rookie in the league by a wide margin and has completely transformed the Wild into a must-watch team. That alone is an accomplishment.

James O’Brien, NHL writer: Kirill Kaprizov. Much like with McDavid, sometimes it’s best to take the K.I.S.S. (Keep it Simple, Stupid) approach. Complain about his age all you want, Kaprizov’s lived up to the hype — and then some.

Marisa Ingemi, NHL writer: Kirill Kaprizov: He’s also the funnest player, if that is an award. He can have that one, too.

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Kirill Kaprizov. He’s going to face a battle with Stützle coming on, but the hype train is fast right now for the Wild rookie. He has 24 points in 26 games and has been an invaluable part of Minnesota’s rise this season.

Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Kirill Kaprizov. Unless his teammate Kaapo Kahkonen sustains his current form and steals some votes, Kaprizov is my heavy favorite.

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VEZINA TROPHY (voted on by the NHL’s general managers)

James O’Brien, NHL writer: Andrei Vasilevskiy. Speaking of the K.I.S.S. approach, I probably should’ve just gone “chalk” with my preseason Vezina pick. Vasi was impeccable last season, including during a Conn Smythe-level playoff run, and he really hasn’t stopped. He’s a workhorse who brings quality with all of that quantity.

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Andrei Vasilevskiy. Three shutouts and an NHL best .944 even strength save percentage, a 13.26 goals saved above average, and a .900 high-danger save percentage make the Lightning ‘tender a clear front-runner.

Marisa Ingemi, NHL writer: Andrei Vasilevskiy: Not to be boring but he’s been the best goalie this season and has honestly been the most reliable goalie for a long time. He plays a ton and he doesn’t really slump.

Michael Finewax, Rotoworld Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Andrei Vasilevskiy. He is the best goalie in the NHL. He is 17-3-1 with 1.85 goals-against-average and a .934 save percentage. Fleury is right behind him but Vasilevskiy’s win total gives him the edge.

Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Andrei Vasilevskiy. With all due respect to Marc-Andre Fleury’s fantastic start, Vasilevskiy is the best goalie on the planet and deserves the Vezina once again. It would take a serious second-half slump to remove him from my Vezina perch.

Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Marc-Andre Fleury. What a redemption story this is. After losing his starting job in the playoffs and looking like he was on his way out of Vegas, he has come back this season and played what is probably the best hockey of his career. He has never received much attention in Vezina voting in his career, but that is definitely going to change this year. I am not sure if he will beat Andrei Vasilevskiy, but he would get my vote at the moment.

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JACK ADAMS AWARDS (voted on by the NHL Broadcaster’s Association)

Marisa Ingemi, NHL writer: Joel Quenneville: Almost picked Barry Trotz because the Islanders are still overlooked, but I do not believe anyone honestly thought the Panthers would be competing with literally Tampa. Real impressive stuff in South Florida.

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Joel Quenneville. There are a few worthy contenders at the halfway point, but let’s give the Cats some love. Quenneville’s stamp is being put on this franchise and turning them into a competitive bunch in the Central with the third-best points percentage in the NHL (.750) and points in five of six games against Tampa and Carolina.

Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Joel Quenneville. Hard to ignore how good the Panthers are right now, and unlike most Jack Adams contenders he is not relying on all-world goaltending to get his wins. His team is just really good and exceeding every expectation anybody could have had for it in a pretty good division.

Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Dean Evason. There are always good arguments to be made for multiple coaches, so I’m not suggesting Evason is the runaway favorite. Jeremy Colliton, Todd McLellan, Rod Brind’Amour, Joel Quenneville, and Barry Trotz are also contenders in my book. But Evason gets my first-half vote because he’s taken a historically mediocre team, and turned them into legitimate contenders.

James O’Brien, NHL writer: Barry Trotz. The feeling was that, eventually, the Islanders would run out of steam — possibly once their goalies regressed. Instead, this team keeps getting better. I’m not saying that’s all Trotz but … maybe, I don’t know, 90%?

Michael Finewax, Rotoworld Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Jeremy Colliton. I think the job he has done in Chicago is tremendous. I thought the Blackhawks would be fighting it out with Detroit for the basement and possible first overall pick in the NHL Draft but lo and behold, Colliton has them in the thick of the Central playoff race and that’s without his top two centers Jonathan Toews and Kirby Dach all season.

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SELKE TROPHY (voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association)

Marisa Ingemi, NHL writer: Aleksander Barkov: One of the most underlooked players in the entire league and he’s had a solid Selke reputation for a bit, but this feels like the year he gets fully recognized.

James O’Brien, NHL writer: Aleksander Barkov. For a while, Barkov’s Selke-worthy reputation overtook his recent reality as more of an offensive play-driver. This season, Barkov’s converting that perception to an all-around impressive reality.

Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Mark Stone. Wingers almost never get attention for this award unless they are Jere Lehtinen. So you have to be great to get serious consideration for it. Stone is that great. He is probably the best two-way winger in the NHL right now and you could probably even put together a strong MVP argument for him. He would be in my top-five for sure.

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Joel Eriksson Ek. Second in the NHL in expected goals for percentage (65.14%), tops on the Wild in goals (11), and has excelled against top line competition all season. He’s been a integral part in Minnesota’s success this season.

Michael Finewax, Rotoworld Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Patrice Bergeron. You can never go wrong with the Bruins forward, although he should get a battle from the Blues’ Ryan O'Reilly.

Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Anze Kopitar. There is simply no better two-way center in the NHL. He never makes a mistake, is an elite faceoff guy, leads a top-10 penalty kill unit…and by the way, is in contention for the scoring title* (*for all players not named McDavid or Draisaitl).

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LADY BYNG TROPHY (voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association)

As a reminder, this award should be voted on by NHL referees and NHL referees only.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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    Back with Wild, Fleury welcomes big workload as clear No. 1

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    ST. PAUL, Minn. — With his ever-present smile, tireless approach and long list of accomplishments in the net, Marc-Andre Fleury has always embraced a heavy workload.

    The Minnesota Wild sure haven’t shied away from leaning hard on their new – and 37-year-old – goalie. After arriving in a deadline-day trade in March and re-signing with the Wild in July, the guy everyone calls “Flower” is still fully abloom as he begins his 19th season in the NHL.

    “They say, `You play,’ I play, unless maybe I’m hurt or something,” Fleury said. “But other than that, I like playing.”

    Wild general manager Bill Guerin initially planned to bring back both Fleury and Cam Talbot, who made the All-Star team and went 13-0-3 in his last 16 regular season starts before being benched in favor of Fleury for the first-round playoff series against St. Louis. The Wild lost in six games, after Talbot got the cold start in the elimination game and gave up four goals on 26 shots.

    Guerin changed his mind, though, after signing Fleury to a two-year, $7 million contract. Realizing Talbot’s frustration from the lack of postseason action, he didn’t want to risk any tension or discontent. Talbot was traded to Ottawa for Filip Gustavsson, who will be the No. 2 goalie while top prospect Jesper Wallstedt gets more development in the AHL.

    Gustavsson has only 23 career regular-season starts, nearly 200 fewer than Talbot, so it’s a good bet that Fleury will get the majority of the games.

    “I was ready to share the load with him, but things didn’t work out and happy to be having the chance to play maybe a bit more. It’s fun to play. It’s more fun than sitting on the bench,” said Fleury, who went 28-23-5 in 56 combined starts for Chicago and Minnesota last season with a 2.90 goals against average and a .908 save percentage.

    The Wild reconvened for training camp last week, beginning their quest to recapture the mojo they enjoyed last season while setting franchise records for points (113), wins (53) and goals (305). The only team that finished ahead of them in the Western Conference was Colorado, which went on to win the Stanley Cup, but they never met the Avs in the playoffs because the Blues got to them first.

    There’s a strong chemistry in place, at least, to build upon.

    “We still have a lot of guys here who were here last year. We’re just trying to make it even better, just trying to listen to everybody,” center Joel Eriksson Ek said. “We want to set a standard and a way for how hard this team’s going to work.”

    The Wild start the regular season by hosting the New York Rangers on Oct. 13.

    COMINGS AND GOINGS

    The most significant roster move of the summer amongst the skaters was the inevitable salary-cap-driven trade of second-leading scorer Kevin Fiala to Los Angeles. Fiala had a career-high 33 goals and 52 assists last season. Guerin otherwise dabbled mostly in two-way contracts in free agency for depth. Former Anaheim center Sam Steel signed with Minnesota last month, one day after defenseman Dimitry Kulikov was dealt to the Ducks.

    MORE POWER

    The Wild were done in during the playoffs by abysmal special teams. They went just 4 for 24 on the power play against the Blues, and head coach Dean Evason had the team working on that on the first day on the ice. The penalty kill that lagged last season was a focus of the second practice.

    “It has to get better, no question,” Evason said.

    BLUE LINE SHUFFLE

    Captain Jared Spurgeon has been placed with Jonas Brodin on the first pair on defense, and Jake Middleton has joined Matt Dumba on the second unit. Dumba and Brodin are close friends who’ve been paired together for several seasons.

    “Dumbs is a shooter too,” said Middleton, who re-signed for three years and $7.35 million. “It’s pretty exciting. I can get some cookies passing him the puck. That’d be a big plus. I think it’ll work well. He loves hitting guys too. He plays a gritty game as well so I think we’ll be a good combo.”

    UP FRONT

    With Jordan Greenway recovering from offseason surgeries, Tyson Jost will get the first chance to skate with Eriksson Ek and Marcus Foligno. The departure of Fiala has opened at least one spot for a rookie to make the team, with 2020 first-round draft pick Marco Rossi in line for it.

    ON THE SLATE

    This is the first time in eight years the Wild will play their regular-season opener at home. After three more games at Xcel Energy Center, they don’t hit the road until a five-game trip that starts Oct. 22 at Boston. The Wild have a season-long nine-game homestand from Feb. 9-21.

    Stars expect to open camp without unsigned scorer Jason Robertson

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    FRISCO, Texas — Young 40-goal scorer Jason Robertson is expected to miss the start of training camp for the Dallas Stars because the team and the restricted free agent haven’t agreed on a new contract.

    General manager Jim Nill said there’s been steady, ongoing negotiations over the last couple of weeks with Robertson and his representatives. Nill wouldn’t say what has kept the two sides from reaching a deal, adding there have been “very good discussions.”

    The Stars, with new coach Pete DeBoer, open camp Thursday in Cedar Park, Texas, at the home of their AHL team. They have three days of work there before returning to North Texas for their exhibition opener at home on Monday night. They open the regular season Oct. 13 at Nashville.

    “I think he’s disappointed he’s not at camp, we are too,” Nill said before the team departed for the Austin area. “I think it’s very important for a younger player and as you mentioned, the (new) coaching staff. … We do have some time on our side, but we wish he gets here as soon as he can.”

    Robertson had a base salary of $750,000 last season, the end of a $2.775 million, three-year contract. He still has five more years before he has the opportunity to become an unrestricted free agent.

    The left wing turned 23 soon after the end of last season, when he had 41 goals and 38 assists for 79 points in his 74 games. Robertson joined Hockey Hall of Famer Mike Modano, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin as the only 40-goal scorers since the franchise moved to Dallas in 1993.

    A second-round draft pick by the Stars in 2017, Robertson has 125 points (58 goals, 67 assists) in his 128 NHL games. He had one goal and three assists in his first postseason action last season, when Dallas lost its first-round playoff series in seven games against Calgary.

    DeBoer said he looks forward to coaching Robertson, but that the forward’s absence won’t change his plans for camp.

    “It doesn’t impact what I’m doing,” DeBoer said. “Listen, I laid awake at night with the excitement of coaching Jason Robertson, 40-plus goals, but he’s not here. So, you know, until he gets here, I can’t spend any energy on that.”

    Nill said the Stars are open to a long-term extension or a bridge contract for Robertson, who was part of the team’s top line last season with veteran Joe Pavelski and Roope Hintz. They combined for 232 points, the second-most in franchise history for a trio.

    “We’re open to anything. But other than that … I’m not going to negotiate through the media,” Nill said. “As I said, we’ve had good conversations. We’ll see where it goes.”

    Training camps open around NHL after another short offseason

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    Training camps open around the NHL after another short offseason, a third in a row squeezed by the pandemic. That doesn’t bother Colorado Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon one bit.

    For one of hockey’s best players and his teammates, it’s already time to get back on the ice and defend their Stanley Cup title, less than three months since they knocked off the back-to-back champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

    “I still feel like I just was playing,” MacKinnon said. “I took two weeks off, and then I started skating again. It’s just fun. I enjoy it, and I like the short summer. It feels like the season’s just kind of rolling over again.”

    The NHL rolls into fall coming off an entertaining playoffs and final with the chance to finally get back on a normal schedule. That means full camps for teams that got new coaches and the benefits of a regular routine.

    That means a mere 88 days between Game 6 of the final and the first-on ice practice sessions.

    “We’re kind of used to it now,” Tampa Bay goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy said after he and the Lightning lost in the final for the first time in three consecutive trips. “It’s a little harder, of course, because you don’t have that much time to rest. It’s basically a few weeks and you have to get back at it. But, yeah, I can’t complain. You want your summers to be short every year.”

    It was a little longer for Connor McDavid and the Oilers after losing to Colorado in the West final. Despite the lack of downtime, McDavid “wouldn’t trade that in for anything” and aims to make it even further since Edmonton shored up its goaltending situation by adding Jack Campbell.

    A few spins of the goalie carousel ended with the Avalanche acquiring Alexandar Georgiev from the New York Rangers and Cup winner Darcy Kuemper landing with Washington. Joining new teammates, many of whom hoisted the Cup in 2018, Kuemper is not worried about less time off.

    “It was definitely a very unique summer,” Kuemper said. “With how short it was, you start getting back into the gym and you’re kind of a little bit worried that your training’s going to be so short. But you kind of felt like you weren’t getting back into shape. You were already there.”

    NEW COACHES

    The Oilers are one of several teams settling in for training camp under a new coach. Jay Woodcroft took over as interim coach in February but has the full-time job now.

    “Looking forward to a camp with him,” McDavid said. “He did a great job coming in during the middle of the season, but it’s never easy on a coach, for sure. I’m sure there’s things that he wanted to touch on that you wasn’t able to kind of in the middle of the year, so he’ll be able to to touch on all of it this year.”

    The same goes for Bruce Boudreau in Vancouver, 11 months since being put in charge of the Canucks. Philadelphia’s John Tortorella, Boston’s Jim Montgomery, Vegas’ Bruce Cassidy, Dallas’ Peter DeBoer, Florida’s Paul Maurice, Chicago’s Luke Richardson, Detroit’s Derek Lalonde and the New York Islanders’ Lane Lambert are all starting the job fresh.

    CAMP TRYOUTS

    Roughly 40 players are attending a camp on a professional tryout agreement with the chance to earn a contract for the season. James Neal has that opportunity with the Blue Jackets, and Derek Stepan returned to Carolina to seek a job with the Hurricanes.

    The most intriguing situation involves 37-year-old center Eric Staal, who agreed to the tryout with Florida the same time brother Marc signed a one-year contract. Younger brother Jordan was with Eric and Marc on the 18th green at Pebble Beach to witness the occasion.

    “They’re both just super pumped, as was I,” said Jordan Staal, who is the captain of the Hurricanes. “Eric is excited about the opportunity and Marc, as well. Really cool. Really cool thing.”

    EARLY START

    Before the puck drops on the NHL season in North America on Oct. 11, the Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks play twice in Prague on Oct. 7 and 8. And those are not exhibitions.

    “We still play two important games,” said Sharks forward Tomas Hertl, who is a native of Prague. “It’s not just preseason where you coming here to warm up.”

    Colorado and Columbus will also play two games in Tampere, Finland, on Nov. 4-5 as part of the NHL’s Global Series.

    And just as the league gets used to a regular schedule, work is ongoing between the league and NHL Players’ Association to stage a World Cup of Hockey in February 2024, which is popular among players even if it knocks the calendar off kilter again.

    “I think they missed out on a huge, huge portion of the international game that’s really going to be missed,” McDavid said. “We need to figure out a way to get an international tournament in as quickly as possible.”

    Matthew Tkachuk, Panthers ready for 1st training camp together

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    CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. — Aleksander Barkov was sound asleep at his home in Finland when the trade that brought Matthew Tkachuk to the Florida Panthers was finalized, which isn’t surprising considering it was around 4 a.m. in that part of the world.

    He woke up and read texts from friends reacting to the deal.

    And it wasn’t too long before he got a message from Tkachuk.

    “The first message was `(expletive) right’ and how he was excited to come to Florida,” Barkov, the Panthers’ captain, said at Florida’s media day. “`Let’s take this next step, let’s be a winning team for many years to come.’ That’s who he is. He wants to win. He wants to bring that character to this organization. And I think he’s done some damage already.”

    With that, Barkov was sold.

    And after a few weeks of informally skating with one another, the Panthers start the process of officially seeing what they have in Tkachuk when the team’s training camp – the first under new coach Paul Maurice – opens.

    “We’ve basically had everybody here for a few weeks,” Tkachuk said. “I feel like I’ve been in training camp for a couple of weeks. So today doesn’t feel that new to me. I’ve gotten to know everybody … so let’s get these games going. I’m sick and tired of just practicing and working. I want to start playing some games. I think everybody feels the same way.”

    Maurice was hired over the summer as well, inheriting a team that won the Presidents’ Trophy last season and went to the second round of the playoffs — the first series win for Florida since the run to the Stanley Cup Final in 1996.

    He’s as eager as the players are for the first formal practice, calling it “our first Christmas.”

    “The house is bought. Most of the boxes are unpacked,” Maurice said. “I’ve got two kids that kind of came with me; one’s in Coral Gables, one’s in Estero. Their places are unpacked. They’re out of our house. Once you get down here, for me, you spend most of your days at the rink. So, experiencing all of South Florida, we haven’t gotten to that yet.”

    As part of the deal that went down on July 22, the 24-year-old Tkachuk signed a eight-year, $76 million contract. That’s not the only big cost that the Panthers had to agree to while executing the trade; they also sent Jonathan Huberdeau, the franchise’s all-time scoring leader, and defenseman MacKenzie Weegar to the Calgary Flames in exchange for a left wing who had career bests of 42 goals, 62 assists and 104 points last season.

    “I wish all the best to Huby and Weegs,” Barkov said. “They’re great. Everyone loved them. Only good things to say about them. It happens, and for sure, it was best for the team and organization to do this. We move on, and we’ll get ready for a new season.”

    BOBROVSKY’S SUMMER

    Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky is Russian, still makes his home in St. Petersburg, and went there for the bulk of his offseason.

    He said it was not logistically difficult to travel there (or return to the U.S.) this summer, even as the war that started when Russia invaded Ukraine continues. Bobrovsky said last season that he was not trying to focus on anything but hockey, and when asked if it was difficult to be back in Russia as war continues he kept the same approach.

    “I had a good summer,” Bobrovsky said. “I saw friends, I saw family. It’s all been fine. I don’t want to talk about what’s going on. I’m not involved in that stuff.”

    CAMP ROSTER

    Florida is opening camp with 56 players – 31 forwards, 19 defensemen and six goalies. That group includes brothers Eric Staal and Marc Staal; Marc Staal signed as a free agent in July; Eric Staal is with Florida on a tryout contract.