Caleb Jones

NHL Training Camp News Day 5: Pastrnak under quarantine; Boyle OK’d to play

While Tuukka Rask returned to practice on Thursday, the Bruins were again missing a pair of wingers. David Pastrnak and Ondrej Kase were again deemed “unfit to participate” with no details about their absences coming from the team.

The lack of information about any player’s status has predictably led to guessing games. Photos of the two Bruins skating at a local Boston rink surfaced this week, leading to head coach Bruce Cassidy being asked if they were being disciplined for something.

It turns out that, according to Pastrnak’s agent, he’s under quarantine after coming into contact with someone who was COVID-19 positive. J.P. Barry told The Athletic that his client has tested negative, but it’s unknown how long he’ll be isolated from the team. The Bruins are expected to fly to Toronto July 26.

Boyle OK’d to play

As of the Monday deadline, we saw six players and one assistant coach opt out of the Return to Play for various reasons. Some had family concerns and others cited personal health issues that will prevent them from playing.

One player who could have fallen into that group is Brian Boyle of the Panthers. Two years ago he beat chronic myeloid leukemia, but he said Friday doctors told him he is not at any risk when it comes to COVID-19.

“I looked into it, of course,” he said. “As far as my health and where I’m at, everything’s been great. Everything’s all zeroes with the testing, but I have to make sure, so I called up to Dana-Farber [Cancer Institute in Boston] and made sure with my hematologist there, and he was very positive and said, ‘However you’re feeling, the numbers show you’re no more at risk.'”

Kaapo Kakko, who is a Type 1 diabetic, was also a player some thought might have to opt out. But the 19-year-old Rangers rookie was cleared to play after speaking with doctors at home in Finland and with the team’s medical staff.

“I want to play, and I’m so young that my diabetes is OK right now,” Kakko said. “Just keep sugars down and it’s going to be OK.”

Caleb Jones reveals COVID-19 diagnosis

The Oilers defenseman told reporters he had a asymptomatic positive COVID-19 test two weeks ago. He’s fully healthy after staying in isolation.

Lightning power play adds Stamkos

Steven Stamkos did not skate in the full-team practice but did participate in power play work in a unit with Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Alex Killorn, and Victor Hedman.

The Lightning captain has yet to practice with the rest of his teammates after he sustained an injury during Phase 2 workouts. At the start of training camp GM Julien BriseBois said he was confident Stamkos would be in the lineup when Tampa takes on the Capitals Aug 3.

Status known for Crawford

There’s been no sign of Corey Crawford as Blackhawks camp got under way. When will he hit the ice? That’s still an unknown, according to head coach Jeremy Colliton.

“We don’t know. For now, that’s how we’re describing it as ‘unfit to participate,'” Colliton told WGN Radio. “We’ll see. There’s still time.”

Crawford also did not skate during the Phase 2 workouts which began June 8. As of right now, the team’s goaltending depth chart features Collin Delia, Kevin Lankinen, Malcolm Subban, and Matt Tomkins. (What, no Scott Foster?)

“For now, there’s no change, but certainly haven’t ruled [Crawford] out going forward,” Colliton said after Friday’s skate.

The Blackhawks play the Oilers in their Stanley Cup Qualifier series with Game 1 coming on Aug 1. They will face the Blues in their only exhibition game on July 29.

A nice sight to see

Flower blooms in Vegas

While Crawford remains out, Marc-Andre Fleury appeared on the ice for the first time this week. After sitting out the first three days with what the team called “maintenance,” the goaltender joined his teammates Thursday.

The Golden Knights are one of those teams that have options in net between Fleury and Robin Lehner. Camp will give head coach Peter DeBoer a good idea of who he’ll go with to start the round-robin.

“I’m not going to be afraid to play either goalie,” he said. “I’m not sure what it’s going to look like. I’m going to keep an open mind with this because we have two great goalies.”

MORE: 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule

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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.

Long-term outlook for Edmonton Oilers: Free agents, prospects, and more

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the long-term outlook for the Edmonton Oilers.

Pending Free Agents

The Core

Is there an NHL team that boasts a better duo than Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl? What if you weigh the future, being that McDavid is 23 and Draisaitl is 24?

Of course, the Oilers pay for the luxury of a duo that carries them to competence.

Now, I’d argue that McDavid + Draisaitl is a combo worth $21M (honestly, McDavid’s probably worth nearly that much alone). Even so, the combo eats up about 25 percent of this season’s $81.5M cap ceiling. Thanks to the COVID-19 pause, it will be a chore to maintain that level, let alone bump it to $82M or higher.

When you begin paying your stars like actual stars, every mistake cuts that much deeper.

About $14.2M of the Oilers’ space will be eaten up by James Neal, retaining some of Milan Lucic‘s salary, Zack Kassian‘s extension, and the questionable Mikko Koskinen extension. Add in dead money like the Andrej Sekera buyout and the margin of error gets even smaller.

Could that force the Oilers to wave goodbye to, say, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins after 2020-21? Rather than landing a big fish in free agency, will Edmonton be stuck searching the bargain bin year after year?

There’s at least an opening to put together a more efficient defense.

Oscar Klefbom‘s had some stumbles, but he’s worthwhile as either a key defenseman or a trade chip at a reasonable $4.167M through 2022-23. Darnell Nurse received a bridge contract to keep him in the fold. Caleb Jones, Evan Bouchard, and/or Philp Broberg could help out with cheap deals through at least 2021-22.

If the Oilers fail to trade them away before their contracts run out, the $8M+ of Kris Russell and Adam Larsson goes off the books after 2020-21.

So, as time goes on, the Oilers could have a decent mix of value and youthfulness on defense. Of course, that’s if Holland makes the right moves, rather than believing too much in the likes of Mike Green.

Holland must answer: who’s going to help McDavid and Draisaitl? Will Andreas Athanasiou be part of the core? Oh yeah, and what about Jesse Puljujarvi?

Long-term needs for Oilers

Even in the optimistic situation where Koskinen persists as a 1A/1B platoon option, the Oilers still need answers in net. Mike Smith hasn’t been effective, and the pending UFA is 38. Koskinen is no spring chicken at 31.

The Oilers could enjoy a less clunky defense in the near future, but if Broberg, Nurse, and Bouchard have limited ceilings, Edmonton would still need a blue-chipper. Maybe two.

And it’s abundantly clear that the Oilers struggle to find help beyond McDavid and Draisaitl.

If there’s any area where Ken Holland can help the organization learn from sins of the past, it’s draft and development. Can they find talent beyond those high first-rounders, as the Oilers so rarely did before? Can they avoid botching development for the closest answers to the next Puljujarvi or Nail Yakupov?

Long-term strengths for Oilers

Because, the thing is, Edmonton still lucked into many key building blocks for a championship foundation.

If everything else is equal, McDavid + Draisaitl are topping most (if not all) other duos. RNH, Kailer Yamamoto, and other younger forwards can help out, just generally not enough.

And, again, help might be on its way on defense.

Through all this turmoil, The Athletic’s Corey Pronman still ranked the Oilers’ under-23 core group as the top one in the NHL back in September (sub required).

Chiarelli and even Holland dug quite a few holes for Edmonton with poor asset management, in trades and otherwise. Yet there’s still a lot to work with, and Holland could very well build a contender if he hits the right buttons.

Really, that’s what’s been frustrating about the McDavid era: you almost need to be creative to find ways to make it all not work. It’s frustrating that Taylor Hall hasn’t been there as McDavid and Draisaitl grew, but that mistake is in the past.

The Oilers can take that next step. They simply made the journey bumpier thanks to taking many wrong turns.

MORE ON THE OILERS

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.