NHL COVID news: Evander Kane, Tyler Bertuzzi, Devils’ Blackwood

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In mid-September, NHL executive Bill Daly estimated the number of unvaccinated players at 15 or less. With the preseason in motion, there’s been more COVID-related news around the NHL. Here are some of the most noteworthy COVID-related stories, covering Evander Kane (Sharks), Tyler Bertuzzi (Red Wings), Mackenzie Blackwood (Devils), Josh Archibald (Oilers), and Zach-Aston Reese (Penguins).

Possible COVID protocol violation among investigations regarding Sharks’ Kane

The Sharks began training camp without Evander Kane. It’s unclear if, or when, he might play for the Sharks again.

On Sept. 22, the NHL concluded its investigations into claims that Evander Kane gambled on Sharks games. The league announced that “there was no evidence to support the allegations.” In that same announcement, the league noted an additional investigation. In that same release, the NHL stated that it’s investigating sexual assault and domestic violence allegations.

Tuesday (Sept. 28) presented further investigations regarding Evander Kane. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports that Kane is also being investigated for violating NHL COVID protocols.

Additional details haven’t been revealed — including when the alleged COVID protocol violations may have occurred.

The Mercury News’ Curtis Pashelka reports that Sharks coach Bob Boughner and GM Doug Wilson declined to comment on Evander Kane possibly violating COVID protocols.

While the NHL’s gambling investigation is closed, the NHL indicated that other investigations remain ongoing. They didn’t give a timetable regarding when those might be complete. The Sharks begin their regular season on Oct. 16.

Red Wings’ Bertuzzi, Devils’ Blackwood among NHL’s unvaccinated players

NHL COVID protocols are worth noting in many of these cases. For one thing, an unvaccinated player who contracted COVID could be suspended. On the other hand, a vaccinated player who contracted COVID would be treated the same as a player who was injured.

Crucially, Bill Daly noted to Josh Clipperton that the NHL won’t seek a National Interest exemption for unvaccinated players hoping to enter Canada. So, unvaccinated players either would need to change their minds before their teams travel to Canada, or miss whatever time.

[Click here for more on the NHL’s COVID restrictions/protocols for the 2021-22 season.]

  • MacKenzie Blackwood confirmed that he’s the lone unvaccinated Devils player. Blackwood told ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski that he needs more time to decide if he’ll get vaccinated.

Wyshynski notes that the Devils’ first game in Canada is on Dec. 3 in Winnipeg against the Jets.

  • While Blackwood indicated he might get vaccinated, it sounds like that isn’t happening with Red Wings forward Tyler Bertuzzi. (Unless he changes his mind in a significant way?)

Bertuzzi is the only Red Wings player refusing to get vaccinated. Bertuzzi explained it as a “life choice” and a “personal decision” last Thursday. Teammates like Dylan Larkin voiced their support for Bertuzzi, while Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman said they couldn’t force him to get vaccinated.

“It’s his decision,” Yzerman said, via the Detroit Free Press. “I am not in a position to force anyone. We can’t force anyone to get vaccinated. I personally am vaccinated, my family is vaccinated. I’ll leave it at that.”

If nothing changes, Bertuzzi would miss the Red Wings’ eight games in Canada. The Associated Press’ Stephen Whyno estimates that if that happened, it could cost Bertuzzi at least $450K.

More NHL COVID news: Archibald, Aston-Reese

  • In the cases of Bertuzzi and Blackwood, you have players who are established on the Red Wings and Devils, respectively. Each player is under contract for two more seasons. Josh Archibald’s situation with the Oilers, however, is more tenuous.

Critics are not holding back about Archibald’s current decision to remain unvaccinated.

As Mark Spector noted in that article, Duncan Keith expressed hesitance in getting vaccinated. The veteran defenseman eventually decided to go through with it, though.

The Edmonton Journal’s David Staples wonders if this might open the door for Kyle Turris or someone else to take Archibald’s spot in the lineup.

  • As a reminder, the Blue Jackets decided not to invite Zac Rinaldo to training camp because he opted against getting vaccinated. The Blue Jackets also dismissed a coach for that reason, as did the Sharks.
  • Penguins forward Zach Aston-Reese recently entered COVID protocol after testing positive. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Mike DeFabo notes that Aston-Reese has been vaccinated, and that only one Penguins player needs a second dose for the team to reach a 100-percent vaccination rate. Aston-Reese represents the Penguins’ first in-season positive COVID result since the start of the pandemic. (Sidney Crosby and others entered the NHL’s COVID protocol. In those cases, DeFabo notes that they were either false-positives or high-risk close contacts.)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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    Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

    Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

    Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

    Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

    Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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    Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

    The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

    Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

    After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

    Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

    Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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    MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

    But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

    “I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

    Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

    “I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

    Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

    Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

    Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

    All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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    SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

    Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

    The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

    Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

    Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.