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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.

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.