Bob McKenzie

NHL announces 26 players tested positive for COVID-19 since Phase 2 began
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NHL: 26 players have tested positive for COVID-19 since Phase 2 began (June 8)

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The NHL announced that 26 players have tested positive for COVID-19 since the Phase 2 process began on June 8.

To be more specific, the NHL split up the positive COVID-19 test results this way:

  • 15 players involved in Phase 2 (skating in small groups at team facilities) tested positive for COVID-19. The NHL notes that at least 250 players reported to team facilities during Phase 2. During that process, the league administered at least 1,450 COVID-19 tests on those players.
  • Of course, there are also players who haven’t reported to team facilities. The NHL revealed that it is aware of 11 additional players who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 since June 8, the beginning of Phase 2. Note that players outside of Phase 2 aren’t subjected to the same level of oversight as those voluntarily reporting to teams.

The NHL added that all players who tested positive have self-isolated and are following CDC/Health Canada protocols.

Here’s the full NHL release on 26 players testing positive for COVID-19:

 

On June 19, the Lightning shut down their team facilities after three players and multiple staff members tested positive for COVID-19. That only represented a brief pause, though, as the Lightning jumped back into Phase 2 on June 24. Around that time, Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun also reported that Auston Matthews tested positive for COVID-19. The Toronto Maple Leafs didn’t confirm or deny that report.

Pondering what’s next after 26 NHL players test positive for COVID-19 during Phase 2

The Athletic’s Joe Smith recently took a look at the Lightning resuming Phase 2 (sub required). That article conveys the self-quarantine process. Yet, at the same time, Smith also captures the lack of certainty amid this pandemic.

In other NHL return-to-play news, TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports that the league is unlikely to make hub city announcements on Monday:

Various reports indicate that the NHL hopes to transition from Phase 2 to Phase 3 (formal training camps) in mid-July. Earlier, it was indicated that the target date was July 10. That might change thanks to recent events, however. In the latest edition of “31 Thoughts,” Elliotte Friedman reported that the date could be moved by “three to five days, max.”

To get even more hopeful, the aim is for a full NHL return (Phase 4) in late July or early August. Obviously, that’s a work in progress. The NHL would need to clear hurdles to get there, especially if more players test positive for COVID-19.

Positive tests for COVID-19, hub city issues, and more NHL return stories:

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.

Kreider, Panarin push Rangers past Blackhawks

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The New York Rangers don’t want to see key pieces sold off at the NHL Trade Deadline in the coming days.

The Blueshirts have seen impact players such as Ryan McDonagh, Mats Zuccarello, Rick Nash and others shown the door this time of year the past two seasons and hope their 6-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks Wednesday can change Jeff Gorton’s mind.

Chris Kreider had three points and Artemi Panarin recorded his 30th goal of the season in the Rangers’ fourth victory in the previous five games.

“We got to make the GM’s job tough and wins like this will do that,” Ryan Strome told Bryan Boucher on NBCSN following the game.

Dominik Kubalik scored twice and Drake Caggiula added another, but the Blackhawks fell for the second consecutive game and for the seventh time in the last eight games.

Value of Rangers assets keeps increasing

Kreider is the top rental available and the Rangers’ front office hopes a bidding war develops over the next few days. The speedy power forward converted a slick breakaway midway through the third period which turned into the eventual game-winner.

NHL insider Bob McKenzie reported on the pregame show that five teams were interested in Kreider’s services. The Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche, New York Islanders, St. Louis Blues and Washington Capitals have expressed interest, according to McKenzie.

In addition to Kreider, the Rangers have several other commodities that could intrigue playoff contenders. Ryan Strome netted his career high 51st point, Pavel Buchnevich scored, and Tony DeAngelo returned to the lineup.

“Honestly, we have been doing a pretty good job,” Strome said when asked about the potential movement. “We have got some guys that have been around and some young guys that are probably a little bit oblivious. That probably helps a little bit.”

The playoffs are a longshot for New York this season, but the question they need to answer internally is, how far away from the postseason are they?

Keith’s milestone assist

The alternate captain has been the foundation of the Chicago Blackhawks defense since arriving in the NHL for the 2005-06 season.

In the second period against the Rangers, Keith delivered a beautiful no-look, cross-ice pass to set up Kubalik’s game-tying goal. It was Keith’s 500th career assist.

Keith became the seventh player in franchise history to reach that accomplishment and joined Doug Wilson as the only defensemen in that group.

The 36-year-old was rightfully included in the 100 Greatest Players in NHL History announced during the League’s centennial celebration and continues to ensure that his No. 2 will float in the rafters with his three Stanley Cup championship banners at the United Center.

 


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

Penguins bolster depth by acquiring Zucker from Wild

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Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford had his eyes on Jason Zucker this summer and finally pulled off the acquisition Monday evening.

NHL insider Bob McKenzie broke that story and reported that the Pittsburgh Penguins sent Alex Galchenyuk, Calen Addison and a conditional 2020 first-round pick to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Zucker.

The 28-year-old forward has 3 years remaining on his contract after this season with a $5.5 million cap hit. He erupted offensively in the 2017-18 season when he recorded a career high 33 goals and 64 points, but has been unable to replicate that production since.

Pittsburgh hopes to unlock that offensive potential by pairing him with either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. Rutherford was likely not enthused about surrendering a premium draft pick, but the strategy is to extend the Penguins’ championship window for as long as possible.

“Jason Zucker is a top-six forward that we think will be a great fit for our group,” Rutherford said in the team’s press release. “He’s a proven goal scorer, and with three more years on his current contract, he has the potential to make an impact for us moving forward.”

Rutherford originally tried to acquire Zucker this summer in a trade for Phil Kessel, but the deal was nixed due to a no-movement clause.

From Minnesota’s perspective, the team unloads a long-term contract and will see if Galchenyuk can find his stride. He will become an unrestricted free agent when his contract expires at the end of this season.

If Pittsburgh does not qualify for the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, they have the option to move the first-round selection to Minnesota from the 2020 NHL Draft to the 2021 NHL Draft.

Pierre LeBrun reported that no salary was retained in the deal.

Couture out with fractured ankle; Crosby nearing return

Vince Dunn #29 of the St. Louis Blues checks Logan Couture #39 of the San Jose Sharks
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The San Jose Sharks will be without the services of captain Logan Couture for at least six weeks.

During a Wednesday appearance on NBCSN, NHL Insider Bob McKenzie reported that Couture suffered a fractured ankle in the second period of the Sharks’ game against the Blues Tuesday. (UPDATE: The Sharks confirmed the report on Thursday.)

Couture currently leads San Jose with 36 points this season.

The Sharks are in danger of missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second time in the previous 16 seasons and have already fired their coach in December.

Crosby getting close

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has been skating on his own and is close to returning to action according to McKenzie.

“Maybe within the next week but nobody is putting a hard date on it,” McKenzie said.

“Problem is the Penguins’ schedule,” McKenzie continued. “Getting a contact practice has been problematic for Crosby. He needs to do that before coming back to the lineup.”

Jake Guentzel’s long-term injury was not a positive for the Penguins but GM Jim Rutherford will now have a little extra salary cap space to work with as the trade deadline approaches.

“He likes to make moves and he likes to make moves early,” McKenzie said of Rutherford. “He is swinging for the fences. This is not somebody who wants to hit singles, he wants to add as many major pieces as he possibly can. … Anything is on the table.”

Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

McKenzie on Devils-Hischier contract talks, health of Flyers’ Patrick

Hockey insider Bob McKenzie stopped by the NBCSN studio during the first intermission of Devils – Flyers on Tuesday (a 4-0 win for Philadelphia), providing some interesting updates on the top pick of the 2017 NHL Draft (Nico Hischier) and Nolan Patrick, who went second that same year.

Devils aim for extension with Hischier

McKenzie brought up some interesting comparables for Hischier, including Arizona Coyotes winger Clayton Keller (eight year extension with $7.15M AAV begins next season) and Winnipeg Jets forward Kyle Connor (signed for seven years, $7.14M AAV this summer). McKenzie explains that, while Hischier might not have reached the same production heights as Connor or Keller when those two had been at their best, Hischier’s all-around game makes up some of the difference.

The Devils have some reason to show some haste. While there might be some sticker shock at being in that $7M stratosphere, Hischier could really drive up his perceived value if he enjoys a huge season with Taylor Hall on his wing. McKenzie wonders if Hischier might even push for a Mikko Rantanen-type deal ($9.2M AAV) if he has a big enough 2019-20.

With Hall in a contract year, the Devils could also get some cost certainty if they hash something out sooner, rather than later.

Of course, McKenzie describes this opportunity as a “platform year” for Hischier, who might benefit from waiting things out.

Migraine issues still fuzzy for Patrick

The Flyers are hoping to have impressive depth down the middle once Patrick can join Sean Couturier and Kevin Hayes.

While McKenzie reports that there has been progress – Patrick didn’t travel overseas with the Flyers, but is expected to travel with the team in North America – it sounds like this is still a week-to-week thing for the 21-year-old.

MORE:
• Pro Hockey Talk’s Stanley Cup picks.
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.