Ilya Sorokin

NHL Training Camp News: Crosby skates; Toews reportedly voted against Return to Play

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The 10th day of NHL training camp news includes an update on Sidney Crosby, an interesting report regarding Jonathan Toews‘ view of the Return to Play, and much more.

Crosby headlines good NHL training camp news for Penguins

Rank the Pittsburgh Penguins among the teams that enjoyed the best news among NHL teams in training camps on Wednesday.

The biggest involves their biggest star. Sidney Crosby missed a few practices since leaving a Saturday scrimmage, but he was back on the ice on Wednesday. If there’s one bit that dampers that news, it’s that Crosby skated before Penguins practice, rather than with teammates. So we’ll see if Crosby suffers any setbacks.

Crosby grabs the headlines, but the Penguins also saw Patric Hornqvist and Juuso Riikola in action.

Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan gushed about Hornqvist upon his return to the fold.

“The bounce in our step is different when he’s on the ice with us and he’s on the bench with us or in the locker room,” Sullivan said.

[2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers scheduleHow to watch on NBCSN, NBC, and USA Network]

Flyers’ Hart, Avs’ Makar and other NHL training camp news updates

Along with Crosby getting back in action, the biggest NHL training camp news was that David Pastrnak may not practice with the Bruins until the team reaches Toronto. There were plenty of other interesting returns and absences from NHL training camps on Wednesday, though:

  • Like Crosby, Steven Stamkos got some skating in, but not with his Lightning teammates. Stamkos is reportedly dealing with a lower-body injury.
  • After leaving a Tuesday scrimmage, Carter Hart missed Flyers’ practice on Wednesday as well. The most comforting thought is probably that Hart has some time to heal up, as the Flyers merely battle for seeding in the Round Robin portion of the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers.
  • The bad news is that Max Pacioretty missed a second straight Golden Knights practice. The good news is that Peter DeBoer said it’s just a minor issue.

“I told you guys a couple of days ago [it wasn’t a positive COVID-19 test], and it still isn’t that,” DeBoer said, via NHL.com’s Danny Webster. “He’s dealing with a minor issue. I anticipate he’ll be on the ice with us here before we leave for Edmonton (on Sunday).”

So … it at least seems like COVID-19 isn’t Pacioretty’s issue. (It feels safest to caveat almost everything right now, though.)

In other Golden Knights news, we have a “best shape of his life” sighting! Kinda feels cozy to enjoy a training camp trope in July.

  • Cale Makar missed weekend scrimmages, and also Wednesday’s action for the Avalanche. Here’s hoping it’s just a minor issue.
  • The NHL overturned recent decisions to let prospects like Alexander Romanov skate with the Canadiens, and Ilya Sorokin to participate with the Islanders.
  • Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad is another player filed under “unfit to play.” George Richards reports that Joel Quenneville isn’t too concerned about Ekblad, who may practice on Friday.
  • The Oilers are taking defensive prospect Philip Broberg to the playoff bubble. Could he end up making a big difference for the Oilers? He seems to be making an impression, at least.

This list isn’t comprehensive, so hit Rotoworld’s NHL News section for even more.

Report: Blackhawks’ Toews voted against NHL Return to Play

Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews frequently comes as one of the league’s most thoughtful players. You could see that, for example, when Toews shared his thoughts on protests following George Floyd’s death.

So maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that Toews ranked as one of two NHLPA executive board members who voted against the NHL Return to Play, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

“I have been told by many, many, many players that one of the most vocal players during the process of coming back to play was Jonathan Toews, that he asked a lot of questions,” Friedman said during his “31 Thoughts” podcast. “And other players really defended him. They said he was great, he asked relevant questions, he challenged whether or not this was really safe to play.”

(Friedman reports that Jordan Martinook represented the other vote against the NHL Return to Play plan on behalf of the Hurricanes.)

Toews has missed some training camp time for the Blackhawks, for whatever that’s worth.

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.

NHL Training Camp News and Notes: Carter Hart hurt; Bruins, Blackhawks updates

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Let’s rummage through news and notes from around the NHL during day nine of formal training camps.

Flyers’ Carter Hart leaves practice on a goalie-heavy day of news from NHL training camps

Tuesday presented a fairly goalie-heavy slate of news and notes from around NHL training camps.

[NBC and NBCSN TV schedule for the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers]

Carter Hart hurt, Flyers teammates indicate it might not be serious

If you’ve followed coverage of NHL training camp news at PHT, you realize that teams aren’t being forthcoming with injury updates. Chalk that up to the culture of the league, and even NHL mandates, but it leads to “COVID-19, injury, or restroom run?” debates. None of this is fun.

So we can only speculate about Hart. According to NBC Sports Philly’s Jordan Hall, Hart left quietly during the first period of a Flyers scrimmage. Hall notes that it was unlikely to be an equipment issue, being that Hart did not return.

For fans hoping for optimism, Kevin Hayes‘ comments bring a mixed bag. He seems upbeat about it … but Hayes also didn’t notice that Hart left. Maybe he’s not totally clued-in, yet any insight is welcome as NHL teams prefer the “keep everyone in the fog” approach.

“I think it’s nothing too serious,” Hayes said, via Hall. “Obviously it’s important to get into shape and get game-ready, but if you have something that’s minor that you don’t want to push, it’s not a big deal to get off the ice like that. We’d rather have him be 100 percent than pushing hard at like 85, 90 percent. Probably a smart decision by him. I don’t think it’s anything major.”

Flyers such as Sean Couturier said all the right things about Brian Elliott being capable if Hart is unavailable, but if we’re being honest, it’s tough to be too confident in Elliott at this point in his career.

(Then again, goalies are unpredictable, and the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers may end up even more difficult to forecast.)

Latest round of Bruins updates, including troubling Tuukka news

Being that the Bruins boast plenty of veterans, it’s not that surprising that they’ve been a team to watch for training camp news. Even so, it might be getting a little exhausting for fans, players, and staff alike to try to parse details as David Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy and others miss training camp activities.

Apparently there was even a Brad Marchand scare on Tuesday.

Marchand and others seem to shake off worries about Pastrnak missing opportunities to shake off rust. Similarly, Tuukka Rask didn’t seem too concerned despite admitting that he suffered a fractured finger while training.

Hmm, none of this seems ideal. At least the Bruins are merely fighting for seeding during the Round Robin portion of the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers, eh? Also … at least Jaroslav Halak puts up starter-quality numbers too, right?

(Insert cringe emojis where applicable.)

Blackhawks optimistic about Crawford, Toews still missing time

After trading away Robin Lehner, the defense-optional Blackhawks’ ability to upset the Oilers may hinge on whether Corey Crawford can play. That remains unknown, as Crawford hasn’t been involved in Phase 3 yet. When speaking to the media, Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman seemed hopeful about Crawford being available.

“We are hopeful on that,” Bowman said, via NBC Sports Chicago. “We’ll be able to give you a better idea toward the weekend. Something we’re still shooting for, but I don’t have any definitive comment. Still hoping that’s the case.”

Jonathan Toews recently joined Crawford in the mystery training camp absence zone. After Toews left team activities early on Monday, Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton insisted that the team is merely trying to keep Toews fresh. Toews missed Tuesday’s training camp action too, though, and this time Colliton defaulted to “unfit to play.”

Hmm.

Other NHL training camp news and notes from day nine

  • Here’s one for the “Thank Goodness” files: Jay Bouwmeester is in Canada, but won’t join the Blues. Considering what Bouwmeester went through, and what he’s accomplished during his lengthy NHL career, it’s probably wisest to hang them up altogether. For now, we’ll settle for cooler heads prevailing in at least this case.
  • Zach Hyman returned to action for the Maple Leafs, who deployed him with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. Toronto is rolling with a lot of interesting looks during this stretch of NHL training camps. Selfishly, I’d love to see mad scientist combinations like Matthews, Marner, and John Tavares more often.
  • Speaking of mad science, the Stars continue to flirt with the good (Tyler Seguin with Denis Gurianov and Roope Hintz) and the bad (Corey Perry on the second line, while Joe Pavelski and Alexander Radulov languish on the fourth). Maybe it will be more situational, and thus more logical, than those designations look on paper? Either way, I wouldn’t be thrilled if I was Jamie Benn possibly being saddled with a dramatically declining Corey Perry.
  • Agent Dan Milstein notes that Ilya Sorokin (Islanders) and Alexander Romanov (Canadiens) are both Toronto-bound. Nice news, even if they can’t help their teams until 2020-21 at the earliest.

More on NHL return to play, CBA extension, COVID-19:

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.

NHL Training Camp News Day 4: Pastrnak ‘unfit to participate,’ Stars’ do-over

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Thursday was a bit of a quiet day around NHL training camps. Many teams either used it to give players rest or had them do off-ice workouts. After four months off time will be needed to get players back up to speed. Given the short window of camp before heading to their respective hub cities, keep rosters healthy is of paramount concern. Let’s take a quick skate around camps with NHL Training Camp News Day 4:

Koivu still debating future

Wild captain Mikko Koivu is in the final year of his contract and isn’t sure what he’ll do next season. The 37-year-old played 55 games this season and saw his lowest ice time (15:34) since 2005-06, his rookie year.

“I feel really good,” he said. “As of right now, I’m just really trying to enjoy every minute of it on the ice and the preparation part. Once we get to Edmonton and start playing again, trying to take it as a new experience. I think we all realize right now that anything can happen, so you just want to have fun with it and at the same time prepare the right way and make sure that we do our part as good as we can.

“Once the games are done then I’ll look at the future and that’s going to be up to [how I feel] mentally, physically, and trying to do the right thing in my mind about the future. For the final decision, I don’t think it’s the time to make that call as of right now.”

When he spoke during the NHL pause, Koivu left the door open for a potential return home to Finland.

Stars with a do-over

Displeased with how training camp went in September, Stars interim head coach Rick Bowness sees this as a chance to get off on the right foot … or skate. Teams aren’t coming out of camp now playing lackluster October regular season games. Every game will be meaningful, something he’s trying to stress.

“You’re going right into it and you’re not going to have time to find your game,” Bowness said. “That’s why it’s important our practices are upbeat, our tempo is good, and we’re working on the things we know we have to work on. The players have to bring a good attitude every day and we can’t waste a day — there’s just not enough time.

The Stars play their only exhibition game on July 30 against the Predators before an Aug. 3 round-robin date with the Golden Knights.

‘Stache in he front, party in the back for Werenski

As training camp opened this week, Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski returned sporting a fresh look. How do you like the mullet and mustache combo?

Zach Werenski
Blue Jackets TV

John Tortorella noticed and was sure to volley a few chirps Werenski’s way. How did Werenski explain the new look?

“What’s there to defend, I like it,” he said.

It has a real 1980s action movie villain look.

Pasta missing from Bruins practice

A day after making his debut at Bruins camp David Pastrnak was nowhere to be seen Thursday. Head coach Bruce Cassidy deemed him “unfit to participate” and given the NHL’s new injury disclosure policy we have no idea what that really means.

Ondrej Kase, who’s yet to skate with the regular group, was also missing.

RELATED: More NHL training camp news

“Am I thinking ahead to being without those guys in the round-robin or playoffs? No. That would be speculating,” said Cassidy. “Obviously missing two guys that play up in your lineup and a guy like David that’s your League-leading [goal] scorer, you want him in there, you want him getting back into condition, you want him returning to the ice, and being with his teammates. But he’s not.”

Another issue to deal with was Tuukka Rask leaving practice early. The netminder was stung by a shot on Tuesday, but Cassidy was unsure if it was related to today’s exit.

Gritty break

Yana Tarasenko gets in on Vlad’s workout

Vladimir Tarasenko is healthy and ready to play again for the Blues after suffering an October shoulder injury. He’s been out since Oct. 24 and used the pause to keep in shape in case the NHL did resume.

It was during the break Tarasenko showed off a unique workout via his Instagram.

“Yeah, it’s like a special workout,” he said. “It’s something fun you have to do through quarantine. It’s not my everyday routine, but sometimes you can do this.”

Tarasenko was also asked about upcoming life in the hub city of Edmonton. He said he’s going there to focus on hockey, not feel like he needs to be at a vacation resort.

“I don’t need much to live,” he said. “I just need a bed and food.”

Waiting for Sorokin

Ilya Sorokin won’t be able to play for the Islanders against the Panthers, but the newly-signed goaltender can skate with the team and join them when they head to Toronto. For now, the 24-year-old and the team must wait on immigration paperwork to be filed in order to allow him to travel over from Russia.

“Ilya will come as soon as he’s allowed,” Sorokin’s agent, Dan Milstein told AMNY.

The Islanders were able to sign Sorokin this week six years after drafting him. One day after inking a deal to join the team the rest of the 2019-20 season, he signed a one-year, $2 million extension for next season.

Skjei’s motivation

Hurricanes defenseman Brady Skjei can’t wait to face his old Rangers teammates in their Stanley Cup Qualifier series. Following the February trade to Carolina, he’s eager to send them back home.

“I’ve got a ton of motivation,” he said Thursday. “I really enjoyed my time in New York and I loved every part of it. But now I have a ton of motivation, a little chip on my shoulder, going into this playoff series.”

Rod Brind’Amour did say on Thursday that the coaching staff planned to talked with Skjei to get information about the way the Rangers like to play.

“We’ll definitely use him as a resource here as we start dialing up more talking about our opponent,” he said. “Starting next week we’ll definitely pick his brain because he was just there, he’s been in their system a long time. It’s in the works.”

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.

Islanders sign goalie Sorokin to $2M deal for next season

The New York Islanders on Tuesday signed goaltender of the future Ilya Sorokin to a $2 million contract for next season.

The deal includes $1 million in salary and a $1 million bonus. A day earlier, the Islanders signed Sorokin to an entry-level deal for the remainder of this season even though he’s not eligible to play.

Sorokin, 24, is considered one of the top prospects at any position not currently in the NHL. A third-round pick of the Islanders in 2014, he was among the Kontinental Hockey League’s best goalies this past season with a 1.50 goals-against average and .935 save percentage.

Two other teams signed Russian prospects Monday who can’t compete in the resumption of this season. The Montreal Canadiens signed defenseman Alexander Romanov for three years, and the Minnesota Wild signed forward Kirill Kaprizov for two years.

All three players are burning a year by signing for this season, a way of getting to more lucrative contracts sooner in the future.

The Islanders are one of several teams going into the NHL’s expanded 24-team playoffs with a goaltending competition. Coach Barry Trotz said he’ll let it play out between Russian Semyon Varlamov and German Thomas Greiss to determine who might start Game 1 of the qualifying round against the Florida Panthers on Aug. 1.

While Varlamov is under contract for three more seasons — perhaps in later years to mentor Sorokin — Greiss is a pending free agent. Sorkin backed up for the gold medal-winning Olympic Athletes from Russia at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games and showed his NHL potential over several KHL seasons and world championships.

Wild sign Kaprizov; Canadiens ink Romanov; Both can’t play in NHL until 2020-21

The NHL opened a window for teams to sign certain prospects from Monday to Wednesday (at 5 p.m. ET), and some teams wasted little time in making signings official. The Wild finally signing Kirill Kaprizov ranks as the biggest headliner, while the  Canadiens also finalizing terms with defenseman Alexander Romanov is big, too. Those aren’t the only signings, though, and other news should trickle in early in the week.

It’s crucial to note that Kaprizov and Romanov won’t be able to appear in games for the Wild or Canadiens respectively in 2019-20. The same goes for other prospects signing in similar situations.

It does, however, appear that Kaprizov can participate in Wild training camp, and the Canadiens confirmed that Romanov will be doing the same.

Via the Habs, here is the process for Romanov:

  • Romanov is not eligible to participate in the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers.
  • He can, however, get acquainted with teammates. Not only can Romanov take part in training camp, but he’ll also be permitted to travel with the team to Toronto (the Eastern Conference hub city).
  • Of course, this assumes that all is clear. The Canadiens announced that Romanov will undergo a seven-day quarantine before he can participate in training camp.

Again, expect more news to trickle in between Monday and Wednesday (at 5 p.m. ET).

For instance, the Blues signed Alex Perunovich to a two-year contract as well on Monday.

Update: The Islanders signed goalie Ilya Sorokin. Interestingly, it’s really just a formality, as it would only cover 2019-20 (which he can’t compete in).

Some details on contracts for Kaprizov (Wild) and Romanov (Canadiens)

As a reminder, these signings burn the 2019-20 season off of these prospects’ contracts, even though they aren’t suiting up during actual 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers.

In the case of Perunovich and Kaprizov, two-year contracts are really one-year auditions before second, presumably much richer contracts. Romanov’s is a three-year deal, thus covering him through 2021-22 (instead of just 2020-21 for Kaprizov).

The Athletic’s Michael Russo went into quite a bit of detail on the structure of Kaprizov’s contract (sub required). CBA quirks limit Kaprizov’s ability to earn typical signing bonuses; ultimately, Kaprizov’s cap hit is expected to be $925K. Russo reports that Kaprizov would not be able to receive offer sheets during the 2021 NHL Free Agency summer, either.

For Kaprizov, the upside is clear. He can race through one season at a low rate, then cash in on his second contract. Even with less leverage than other potential RFAs, the 23-year-old could still rake it in if he lives up to the hype. Russo notes that Kaprizov is eligible to become a UFA as early as the summer of 2024, so while the Wild earn short-term gains, Kaprizov could set himself up for a lucrative stretch in the not-too-distant future.

(Maybe most importantly for the Wild, they lock down Kaprizov, rather than risking him staying in the KHL for 2020-21, and possibly even beyond that.)

The Canadiens spelled out the contract for Romanov, 20, in their release. His cap hit will be just under $900K through 2021-22, with an AAV of $1.17M. You can bet he won’t want to fall to the AHL, as his salary plummets to $70K at that level.

A quick look at what Kaprizov, Romanov may bring to their teams

Kaprizov signing with the Wild ranks as the biggest news. It might be a bigger deal that the team removing the “interim” tag for head coach Dean Evason.

The glowing reports on Kaprizov can flirt with hyperbole — or maybe he’s just that good. Scouts raved to The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy that Kaprizov has Artemi Panarin‘s “mind” and the sturdy body of a Vladimir Tarasenko.

Patrick Kane says this all the time: ‘Yes, the game is faster, but you still have to be able to slow it down,’” TSN’s Craig Button told Kennedy. “The only way you can slow it down is by having a fast brain. It sounds counterintuitive, but that’s what Kaprizov does. He’s got a magnificent, magnificent hockey mind.”

While Romanov produces more mixed reviews about his true potential — some see him as top pairing, others in more of a supporting role — teams like the Wild and Canadiens would love to have these prospects in the lineup now, not later. It made sense for the NHL to worry about a bumpy process regarding getting these players overseas (or north of the border), but with Kaprizov allowed to practice with the Wild and Romanov the same with the Canadiens, it seems a bit baffling that they can’t take that extra step. But oh well.

To reiterate, there are likely to be other signings, both on Monday and through Wednesday. Sorokin could very well have a big impact on the Islanders once he’s actually allowed to play, for example.

Even so, these are already big steps. The Wild and their fans have been waiting for this moment for years. Sure, it would be better if Kaprizov could jump right in — as he would during normal years — but it’s better than wondering if things would fall apart.

More on NHL return to play, CBA extension:

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.