James Reimer

NHL goalies trying to stay sharp during break

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TORONTO — Vancouver Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom is using a tennis ball machine as part of his training to stay sharp.

Columbus Blue Jackets counterpart Joonas Korpisalo doesn’t have that technology at his disposal during the coronavirus pandemic, so a wall has had to do the trick.

Toronto’s Frederik Andersen is self-isolating with teammate and 47-goal man Auston Matthews.

”I have a pretty good shooter here,” Andersen said.

No matter the setup, NHL puck-stoppers are, at least on the surface, at a disadvantage when it comes to maintaining most of their physical skills during the lull since the season was suspended March 12.

Unlike skaters, who might have a net in the driveway or the ability run through a stick-handling drill, goalies are having a hard time mimicking situations that even loosely resemble practice or game situations.

”We’re doing our best and working a lot on hand-eye,” Markstrom said. ”Don’t let your eyes fall asleep is a big thing.”

Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck said:

”No one’s been through this before. There’s really no book, no right way. I’m not able to strap on the pads. That’s the most important part about being dialed in as a goalie, getting a feel and really getting the workload. Going for a run isn’t going to keep me in goaltender shape.”

Many goalies are leaning on their private trainers.

While a team’s strength and conditioning coach has to formulate programs for more than 20 players, people like Adam Francilia, whose NHL clients include the San Jose Sharks, Hellebuyck, Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk and Carolina’s James Reimer, develop plans specifically for netminders.

”In some cases they have really great home gyms at their disposal,” Francilia said. ”And then there’s some guys in a condo with nothing … but I have enough stuff in my repertoire that guys only need their body weight to train.”

John Stevenson, a performance psychologist and former NHL goalie coach, said he always instructs his netminders to work on blocking outside noise.

”The coronavirus is an uncontrollable,” he said. ”We don’t have control over the uncontrollables, but we definitely have control over how we choose to respond.”

PHT Morning Skate: Where will Byfuglien land?; Tarasenko’s return

Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Here’s three potential landing spots for Dustin Byfuglien. (Sportsnet)

• Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko should dominate when he gets back into the lineup. (Bleedin Blue)

• Check out T.J. Oshie‘s draft story from 2005. You’ll get a kick out of it. (The Hockey News)

James Reimer wants to see NHL teams play exhibition games if play resumes. (TSN)

Brad Marchand believes the older teams are going to struggle if the season resumes. (NBC Sports Boston)

Darcy Kuemper explains what it’s like for him to be stuck at home during the pandemic. (AZ Family)

• On the Forecheck did an interview did an interview with SC Bern GM Florence Schelling. (On the Forecheck)

• The covid-19 pandemic is hitting women’s hockey at a pivotal time. (Lethbridge News Now)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Hamilton ready to play for Hurricanes if season resumes

Carolina Hurricanes president and general manager Don Waddell said All-Star defenseman Dougie Hamilton would be ready to play if the season resumes after breaking his left leg in January.

Hamilton needed surgery and had been listed as out indefinitely before the season was suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic. In a video conference with reporters Thursday, Waddell said Hamilton’s rehab has gone well and that he would soon start work on the ice.

Waddell said there was no need for Hamilton to rush back on the ice in his recovery with the season suspended.

“If we were playing today, we would’ve sped up that on-the-ice performance over the last couple of weeks, so he’s ready to go,” Waddell said. “And just a matter of time before we put him on the ice and move forward from there. But yes, he’ll be ready to play when we drop the puck.”

Additionally, Waddell said goaltender James Reimer is healthy again after being sidelined in February with a lower-body injury, noting he was close to returning when the season was suspended.

What is the long-term outlook for the Hurricanes?

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 Carolina Hurricanes.

Pending Free Agents

The Core

This has the potential to be one of the best long-term situations in the league given their collective age (one of the youngest teams in the league), the talent and potential on the roster, as well as the fact that so many of the key players are already signed to long-term deals.

The Montreal Canadiens did them a huge favor this offseason by signing Sebastian Aho to an easily matchable offer sheet, locking him in place for the next five years.

Meanwhile, Teuvo Teravainen, Jordan Staal, Nino Niederreiter, Vincent Trocheck, Jaccob Slavin, Brady Skjei, and Brett Pesce are all signed to long-term deals for at least the next two seasons. Several of them signed beyond that, while only two of those players (Aho and Staal) count more than $5.5 million against the salary cap individually.

Add in the fact that Dougie Hamilton is signed for another year, while Andrei Svechnikov and Martin Necas are both still on their entry-level deals and will not be eligible for unrestricted free agency for another six seasons and all of the most important players are locked in place.

Out of that core group, Staal is the only one over the age of 30 (currently 31), while the majority of them are still age 26 or younger. That means they are all either in the prime of their careers right now, or are just about to reach their prime years in the coming seasons.

Aho, Svechnikov, and Necas are already outstanding players, and all might still have their best days ahead of them.

Long-Term Needs

Goaltending has been the single biggest question mark for this team for almost a decade now, and that still might be the case.

That is not meant to be a knock on the current duo of James Reimer and Petr Mrazek. They have been solid this season when healthy, and a team could certainly do worse than having those two as their regular goalie tandem.

Given the overall strength of the team — and especially the defense when it is healthy — they do not need a game-saving superstar between the pipes to give them a chance. They simply need solid, steady, consistent play. They are getting that.

The question comes from the fact that I just do not know if either one is a true long-term solution in net, and if they have that solution somewhere else in their organization right now.

Both players are signed through the end of next season.

Other than maybe finding a potentially better long-term option in net, there are not a lot of truly pressing needs here. As mentioned above, their core group is locked in place and the addition of Trocheck from the Florida Panthers just before the trade deadline adds what could be an ideal long-term fit in the second-line center spot.

Long-Term Strengths

This current core has been built around its young defense, and that is still by far the team’s biggest strength both now and in the immediate future.

Slavin, Pesce, Skjei, and Gardiner are all signed through at least the 2022-23 season, while the former three all go through the end of the 2023-24 season. Add in Hamilton, who is signed through the end of next season, and that is as good of a top-five as you will find in the NHL right now. They are all in the prime of their careers, they are all outstanding players that fit the modern NHL game with their mobility and puck skills, and they are the backbone of what has been one of the league’s best teams when it comes to limiting shots and scoring chances over the past four years.

If they can manage to get Hamilton re-signed that would be another major piece in place.

Along with the defense, they also have what look to be two of the most important pieces for any contending team already in place with the duo Aho and Svechnikov — impact forwards that can carry the offense.

Aho is already a sensational player and a top-line star, while Svechnikov might end up being the best of the bunch. Aho’s contract could end up looking like a steal over the next four years, while Svechnikov still has one more year on an entry-level contract, giving them a huge advantage when it comes to adding pieces next season.

MORE:
• Looking at the 2019-20 Hurricanes
Hurricanes surprises and disappointments
• John Forslund tells his quarantine story

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Looking at the 2019-20 Carolina Hurricanes

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to take a look at where each NHL team stands at this moment with a series of posts examining their season. Have they met expectations? Exceeded expectations? Who has been the surprise? All of that and more. Today we look at the Carolina Hurricanes. 

Carolina Hurricanes

Record: 38-25-5 (68 games), Fourth place in Metropolitan Division; first Wild Card spot in Eastern Conference
Leading scorer: Sebastian Aho 66 points (38 goals, 28 assists)

In-season roster moves

  • Acquired defenseman Sami Vatanen from the New Jersey Devils for Janne Kuokkanen, Fredrik Claesson, and a conditional 2020 fourth-round draft pick.
  • Acquired defenseman Brady Skjei from the New York Rangers for a 2020 first-round draft pick.
  • Traded for Vincent Trocheck by sending Erik Haula, Lucas Wallmark, Eetu Luostarinen, and Chase Priskie to the Florida Panthers.
  • Veteran forward Justin Williams returned mid-season after using the first half of the season to contemplate his future.

Season Overview

After their surprise run to the Eastern Conference Final during the 2018-19 season, expectations were sky high for the Hurricanes at the start of this season.

The results so far have been a bit of a mixed bag.

At the time of the NHL’s hiatus the Hurricanes occupied the first Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference but were in the middle of an intense fight alongside the Columbus Blue Jackets, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, and Florida Panthers for those two playoff spots. They still seem to have the inside track for one of them, but the overall results may not be exactly as good as they hoped given their success last year and the improvements they attempted to make to the roster in the offseason (additions of Jake Gardiner, Erik Haula, Ryan Dzingel) and internal improvements from young players like Andrei Svechnikov and Martin Necas.

One of the biggest things that has held them back — injuries.

Specifically, the injuries to top defensemen Dougie Hamilton and Brett Pesce.

Prior to breaking a bone in his leg in mid-January, Hamilton was not only having a Norris Trophy caliber season, he may have been the best all-around defensemen in the NHL this season. It was a completely dominant performance and one that was not going to be easy to replace.

When Pesce was injured a month later — along with James Reimer and Petr Mrazek, the teams top two goalies — it put a pretty significant dent in their greatest overall strength.

They attempted to address the defense at the trade deadline by acquiring Vatanen and Skjei in separate trades, while also adding another potential impact forward in Trocheck. The latter joins an already impressive core of forwards that includes Aho, Svechnikov, and Teuvo Teravainen.

Assuming everyone on defense is healthy, that is a potentially imposing roster.

Highlight of the Season

What else could it be other than 42-year-old David Ayres, a zamboni driver by day, entering a game and getting the win against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

MORE:
Hurricanes’ biggest surprises and disappointments
Hurricanes long-term outlook
John Forslund tells his quarantine story

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.