Juuso Riikola

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.

What is the Penguins’ long-term outlook?

Pittsburgh Penguins
Getty

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 Pittsburgh Penguins.

Pending Free Agents

The Core

The Penguins’ core is mostly the same as it has been for the past 15 years, and it is the trio of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang.

They are all into their 30s at this point, and there will come a time in the not-too-distant future that they really start to slow down, but for now they remain the foundation of a Stanley Cup contending team.

Along with them there is a pretty strong supporting cast in place, and one that is probably a lot younger than you might realize. Even though they have made a habit of trading draft picks and prospects to strengthen their championship chases (as they should have) they have done a nice job replenishing the cupboard around their superstars. Especially over the past year.

Jake Guentzel (signed for five more years at $6 million per season) has become a star and one of their best home-grown players in years, while John Marino, Marcus Pettersson, and Jared McCann have been strong additions from the outside.

Bryan Rust has shown what he is capable of in an expanded role and carries a very affordable salary cap hit for the next two years, while Jason Zucker seems like an outstanding fit in their top-six while also being signed for three more full seasons after this one.

Brian Dumoulin remains a perfect complement for Letang on the top defense pair (while also being signed for three more seasons) while they have two very good young goalies in Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry that are still under team control for the next few years.

Long-Term Needs

They have some long-term salary cap restrictions, but that has been a constant theme for them for the better part of the Crosby-Malkin era. It just comes with the territory of being a contending team with superstar players. They do have a couple of contracts that will probably get dumped one way or another before they expire (Jack Johnson, Nick Bjugstad, maybe even Brandon Tanev a couple of years down the line).

The salary cap crunch could also create a little headache this offseason as they work to re-sign some key restricted free agents like McCann, Murray, and Jarry.

The latter two also create an interesting situation because both have the potential and ability to be outstanding goalies in the NHL. They also have both showed it (Murray more than Jarry). But juggling that contract situation is going to be interesting, especially as they figure out what sort of financial commitment to make with Murray.

He is a two-time Stanley Cup winner. But he has had some ups and downs over the past two seasons. How much can they commit to him, and for how long?

While they have done a great job of having a steady pipeline of talent come through their system to complement the stars, there is going to come a point where they will need to develop another truly high-end player when Crosby and/or Malkin are no longer able to carry the team. That time is not yet here, but it will eventually arrive.

Long-Term Strengths

The bottom line is the Penguins still have a couple of Hall of Famers and All-Star level players on their roster. They are still players that can take over and dominate games. As long as they have that, they have the most important ingredient for contending.

Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and Jake Guentzel are the type of players you win championships with. The Penguins have won multiple championships with them and been one of the league’s most successful teams by every objective measure. There will come a time when the window really does close on this core and a rebuild is needed, but that time is not here just yet. It may not be here for a couple of more years.

For as much money as they have committed to their core, and for as tight as their salary cap situation may be, they do have some pretty significant long-term contracts that are team-and cap-friendly. The trio of Guentzel, Rust, and Dumoulin is an outstanding secondary group of stars, and together they account for less than $14 million against the cap for the next couple of years. Even Crosby and Malkin are making far less than they could be. Every little bit of savings counts and helps make the rest of the team that much stronger.

They also have Mike Sullivan behind the bench who has done some of his best work this season.

MORE Penguins:
 Looking at the 2019-20 Pittsburgh Penguins
Penguins biggest surprises and disappointments so far

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.