NHL Power Rankings: Oilers, Wild, Maple Leafs keep climbing

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In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings the Carolina Hurricanes regain the top spot in their weekly back-and-forth battle with the Florida Panthers, the Edmonton Oilers inch their way to the top, and the Toronto Maple Leafs continue their recent climb.

At the other end of the spectrum it is a tough week for the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the Vancouver Canucks, while the Arizona Coyotes remain at the bottom.

We take a look at all of those teams and everybody in between.

Where does your team rank?

To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

1. Carolina Hurricanes (Last Week: 2). Have they cooled off a little over the past week-and-half? Maybe. But they still have the league’s best record, best goal differential, and look like a real Stanley Cup challenger.

2. Edmonton Oilers (LW: 3). Still not sure how much I trust this team after the top two guys (Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl) but you can not ignore this start. They are banking points in a weak division. That will help them in the long run.

3. Minnesota Wild (LW: 6). They are off to one of the best starts in franchise history and only getting mediocre goaltending while Kirill Kaprizov has not really gone off yet.

4. Toronto Maple Leafs (LW: 9). With wins in eight of their past nine games that 2-4-1 start already seems like it was an eternity ago.

5. Washington Capitals (LW: 12). Alex Ovechkin is still unstoppable. They are on a roll without Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, and Anthony Mantha in the lineup right now.

[Related: Ovechkin passes Hull for fourth place on NHL all-time goal scoring list]

6. Tampa Bay Lightning (LW: 7). Oh yeah, these guys. They are still pretty good in case you forgot. Even without Nikita Kucherov they are still on a 5-0-2 run over their past seven games.

7. Florida Panthers (LW: 1). Not going to worry too much about the recent losing streak. Every team hits a rut at some point. This is still an outstanding team.

8. St. Louis Blues (LW: 5). Vladimir Tarasenko is back to being an impact player. Being healthy helps.

9. Winnipeg Jets (LW: 11). They made some important additions to their defense and now this team looks like a sneaky contender. Kyle Connor is fantastic and Pierre-Luc Dubois might be having that breakout season.

10. New York Rangers (LW: 14). Their underlying numbers are lousy, but they have a great goalie and a couple of superstars. That will take you somewhere.

11. Vegas Golden Knights (LW: 16). Yeah, they are going to be fine. When they get healthy this will be a top-three roster on paper in the NHL.

12. Anaheim Ducks (LW: 20). John Gibson is having a much-needed bounce back season and Troy TerryTroy Terry?!is carrying the offense for the hottest NHL team right now.

13. Colorado Avalanche (LW: 18). Like Vegas, another contender that got off to a slow start that is starting to get things back on track. Do not worry about this team. At all.

14. Calgary Flames (LW: 4). Goaltending is the story here. Jacob Markstrom and Dan Vladar both have save percentages north of .934 and they have combined for five shutouts this season in only 15 games.

[Related: Are the Flames for real?]

15. Boston Bruins (LW: 17). Still do not like how dependent they are on the top line right now. That will have to change.

16. Nashville Predators (LW: 23). They are exceeding expectations so far. Juuse Saros is a big part of that. Just like he was a year ago.

17. Los Angeles Kings (LW: 23). Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Quick trying to show they still have it. Kopitar’s play this season is not a surprise. Quick’s play is.

18. New York Islanders (LW: 8). They are 27th in goals per game and sixth in goals against per game. Ah, yes. Islanders hockey.

19. Detroit Red Wings (LW: 19). For the first time in five years this team is worth watching. They are getting there.

20. Philadelphia Flyers (LW: 10). They have not had enough consistency from game-to-game. Except for the goalies. They have been great. This is like the bizarro Flyers team.

21. Columbus Blue Jackets (LW: 13). When Elvis Merzlikins plays, they are very good. When he does not play, they struggle. They will go as far as he takes them.

22. New Jersey Devils (LW: 22). It is a shame that Jack Hughes has missed almost the entire season so far because this could be an interesting team with him.

23. Pittsburgh Penguins (LW: 15). Their power play is crushing them. They are just 4-for-46 on the power play this season and have allowed two shorthanded goals.

24. Dallas Stars (LW: 25). Rick Bowness knows what the problem is. He just does not care to tell you.

[Related: Bowness confident he can fix Stars’ early-season woes]

25. Chicago Blackhawks (LW: 31). They are 3-0-0 under Derek King and have allowed only four goals. Quite a change from what we saw under Jeremy Colliton.

26. San Jose Sharks (LW: 26). Logan Couture can still produce at a high level, but this team has quickly fallen off after that 4-0 start to the season.

27. Vancouver Canucks (LW: 24). No excuse for a team with this type of young talent to be this bad with this bad of a salary cap situation. Poster child for poor roster management.

28. Buffalo Sabres (LW: 27). Wow, did that bucket of cold water arrive quickly.

29. Seattle Kraken (LW: 28). Goaltending was supposed to be this team’s strength, and it is the one thing that is absolutely crushing them right now.

30. Ottawa Senators (LW: 29). They have a fraction of a roster right now, which makes that game against Pittsburgh on Saturday night stand out even more.

31. Montreal Canadiens (LW: 31). Nick Suzuki is pretty much the only player playing to expectations right now.

32. Arizona Coyotes (LW: 32). They have played 15 games this season. They have scored zero or one goal in 10 of them. Not going to win many games that way.

Maple Leafs sign defenseman Rasmus Sandin to 2-year deal

Rasmus Sandin
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TORONTO — Rasmus Sandin has signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the club announced on Thursday.

The 22-year-old from Sweden was the 29th overall selection in the 2018 draft. Sandin had 16 points in 51 games with Toronto last season. He’s played in 88 career regular-season games, with six goals and 22 assists, and has one goal in five playoff games.

“Got a great set of tools,” fellow defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “With experience, I think they’re only going to get better.”

The signing comes as the Leafs’ blueliners been hit hard by injuries. Muzzin has been dealing with a back issue, and Timothy Liljegren recently had surgery for a hernia.

Toronto then lost Jamie Benn (groin) and Carl Dahlstrom (shoulder) in Wednesday’s 3-0 preseason victory over the Montreal Canadiens, pressing forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Alexander Kerfoot into defensive roles for two periods.

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.”