Training camps open around NHL after another short offseason

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Training camps open around the NHL after another short offseason, a third in a row squeezed by the pandemic. That doesn’t bother Colorado Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon one bit.

For one of hockey’s best players and his teammates, it’s already time to get back on the ice and defend their Stanley Cup title, less than three months since they knocked off the back-to-back champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

“I still feel like I just was playing,” MacKinnon said. “I took two weeks off, and then I started skating again. It’s just fun. I enjoy it, and I like the short summer. It feels like the season’s just kind of rolling over again.”

The NHL rolls into fall coming off an entertaining playoffs and final with the chance to finally get back on a normal schedule. That means full camps for teams that got new coaches and the benefits of a regular routine.

That means a mere 88 days between Game 6 of the final and the first-on ice practice sessions.

“We’re kind of used to it now,” Tampa Bay goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy said after he and the Lightning lost in the final for the first time in three consecutive trips. “It’s a little harder, of course, because you don’t have that much time to rest. It’s basically a few weeks and you have to get back at it. But, yeah, I can’t complain. You want your summers to be short every year.”

It was a little longer for Connor McDavid and the Oilers after losing to Colorado in the West final. Despite the lack of downtime, McDavid “wouldn’t trade that in for anything” and aims to make it even further since Edmonton shored up its goaltending situation by adding Jack Campbell.

A few spins of the goalie carousel ended with the Avalanche acquiring Alexandar Georgiev from the New York Rangers and Cup winner Darcy Kuemper landing with Washington. Joining new teammates, many of whom hoisted the Cup in 2018, Kuemper is not worried about less time off.

“It was definitely a very unique summer,” Kuemper said. “With how short it was, you start getting back into the gym and you’re kind of a little bit worried that your training’s going to be so short. But you kind of felt like you weren’t getting back into shape. You were already there.”

NEW COACHES

The Oilers are one of several teams settling in for training camp under a new coach. Jay Woodcroft took over as interim coach in February but has the full-time job now.

“Looking forward to a camp with him,” McDavid said. “He did a great job coming in during the middle of the season, but it’s never easy on a coach, for sure. I’m sure there’s things that he wanted to touch on that you wasn’t able to kind of in the middle of the year, so he’ll be able to to touch on all of it this year.”

The same goes for Bruce Boudreau in Vancouver, 11 months since being put in charge of the Canucks. Philadelphia’s John Tortorella, Boston’s Jim Montgomery, Vegas’ Bruce Cassidy, Dallas’ Peter DeBoer, Florida’s Paul Maurice, Chicago’s Luke Richardson, Detroit’s Derek Lalonde and the New York Islanders’ Lane Lambert are all starting the job fresh.

CAMP TRYOUTS

Roughly 40 players are attending a camp on a professional tryout agreement with the chance to earn a contract for the season. James Neal has that opportunity with the Blue Jackets, and Derek Stepan returned to Carolina to seek a job with the Hurricanes.

The most intriguing situation involves 37-year-old center Eric Staal, who agreed to the tryout with Florida the same time brother Marc signed a one-year contract. Younger brother Jordan was with Eric and Marc on the 18th green at Pebble Beach to witness the occasion.

“They’re both just super pumped, as was I,” said Jordan Staal, who is the captain of the Hurricanes. “Eric is excited about the opportunity and Marc, as well. Really cool. Really cool thing.”

EARLY START

Before the puck drops on the NHL season in North America on Oct. 11, the Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks play twice in Prague on Oct. 7 and 8. And those are not exhibitions.

“We still play two important games,” said Sharks forward Tomas Hertl, who is a native of Prague. “It’s not just preseason where you coming here to warm up.”

Colorado and Columbus will also play two games in Tampere, Finland, on Nov. 4-5 as part of the NHL’s Global Series.

And just as the league gets used to a regular schedule, work is ongoing between the league and NHL Players’ Association to stage a World Cup of Hockey in February 2024, which is popular among players even if it knocks the calendar off kilter again.

“I think they missed out on a huge, huge portion of the international game that’s really going to be missed,” McDavid said. “We need to figure out a way to get an international tournament in as quickly as possible.”

Nazem Kadri signs 7-year, $49M deal with Calgary Flames

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CALGARY, Alberta — Nazem Kadri is going to the Calgary Flames, leaving the Colorado Avalanche after helping them win the Stanley Cup for the first time since 2001.

Calgary announced a $49 million, seven-year contract Thursday, meaning Kadri will count $7 million against the salary cap through 2029. The move came shortly after the Flames traded forward Sean Monahan to the Montreal Canadiens to free up space under the salary cap.

Landing Kadri is the second big deal Calgary has made this offseason, coming about a month after the team acquired Jonathan Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar and a conditional first-round pick in a trade that sent Matthew Tkachuk to Florida.

“Nazem is a highly competitive top-six player who makes our center ice position deep,” general manager Brad Treliving said. “He brings a high skill level and determination to our group combined with his recent experience of a Stanley Cup championship.”

The Pacific Division-winning Flames have had to restock their lineup after also losing Johnny Gaudreau in free agency this offseason.

Kadri, who turns 32 before opening night, had arguably his best NHL season in his third year with Colorado. He set career highs with 59 assists and 87 points in 71 games, and that success continued into the playoffs.

The gritty center from London, Ontario, had seven goals and eight assists during the Avalanche’s Cup run, sandwiched around a broken thumb he played through in the final against Tampa Bay.

“This is an exciting day for my family,” Kadri said. “I couldn’t be more thrilled to join such a passionate fan base and organization. I’ve always loved the city of Calgary and I look forward to giving everything I have to this team.”

Kadri was considered the second-best NHL free agent available after Gaudreau, who signed for $68.25 million with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Avalanche prioritized bringing back high-scoring winger Valeri Nichushkin, who re-signed for $49 million over eight years, and big defenseman Josh Manson, who got a four-year deal worth $18 million. General manager Chris MacFarland told agent Darren Ferris to keep him in the loop but seemed willing to let Kadri go if he got a better offer elsewhere.

It took him significant time for Kadri to find a destination after the market opened on July 13, which is unusual for top free agents in hockey.

Drafted ninth by Toronto in 2009, Kadri has 556 points in 791 NHL regular-season and playoff games with the Maple Leafs and Avalanche.

Monahan heads to Montreal after spending his first nine seasons with the Flames, during which he has 212 goals and 462 points in 656 games. The 27-year-old has one year left on his contract and represents a $6.375 million cap hit.

Jonathan Huberdeau gets 8-year, $84M extension with Flames

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CALGARY, Alberta — The Calgary Flames and recently acquired forward Jonathan Huberdeau agreed to an eight-year, $84 million contract extension.

The 29-year-old Huberdeau came to Calgary from the Florida Panthers with defenseman MacKenzie Weegar, forward Cole Schwindt and a conditional 2025 first-round pick last month for star forward Matthew Tkachuk.

Calgary announced Huberdeau’s new deal.

“I’m thrilled to be part of the Calgary Flames organization long-term,” Huberdeau said in a statement. “I’m excited for this new chapter and I am committed to this team. I’ll give everything I have, on and off the ice and I can’t wait to play in front of the passionate Flames fans.”

Huberdeau finished last season with 30 goals and 85 assists for 115 points. His point total had him tied for second in the NHL, while his 85 assists were a league best.

“We are excited to extend Jonathan long term in Calgary,” Flames general manager Brad Treliving said. “He is an elite player, one of the premier forwards in the league who makes players around him better. We look forward to welcoming Jonathan to our community and his contributions to our team’s success.”

The Saint-Jerome, Quebec, native had spent his entire 10-year career with the Panthers after being drafted third overall in 2011.

He has recorded 198 goals and 415 assists for 613 points over the course of 671 career games.

Panthers welcome Matthew Tkachuk, the latest big move of the summer

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SUNRISE, Fla. — The easiest thing for the Florida Panthers this summer would have been to maintain the status quo, especially after posting the NHL’s best record.

The Panthers went a different way.

Matthew Tkachuk was introduced as the team’s newest addition, three days after the Panthers and Calgary completed a trade that sent Jonathan Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar, prospect Cole Schwindt and a conditional first-round draft pick to the Flames.

It was the latest big move for Florida, which earlier this summer hired Paul Maurice to take over for Andrew Brunette – a coach of the year finalist as an interim for the Panthers this past season – and now parts ways with both the franchise’s all-time leading scorer in Huberdeau and a defenseman in Weegar who led the team in skater minutes over the past two seasons.

“The changes we’ve made were made with the team and organization’s best interest at heart,” Panthers general manager Bill Zito said. “And all for different reasons in each instance. In each instance, to be honest, we’ve acquired somebody who’s extraordinary.”

The Panthers believe extraordinary is the right word for Tkachuk, a 24-year-old coming off his first 100-point season. The organization will never speak in anything but superlatives with regard to Huberdeau – Zito made sure to laud both him and Weegar in his opening remarks Monday – but Tkachuk brings a different style, one that Florida thinks it may have been lacking.

“I bring a certain swagger,” Tkachuk said.

He had Florida at the top of his list of preferred destinations when deciding that he wouldn’t sign a long-term extension with Calgary. The Panthers were a top pick for many reasons: young core, the chance to play alongside Florida captain Aleksander Barkov (“top-two player in the NHL, and that’s a fact,” Tkachuk said), and even the chance to wear flip-flops to work most days.

Barkov is under contract for eight years. So is Tkachuk.

“I don’t think it’s a secret that obviously some of the attributes that Matthew brings are areas of the game that we could really use collectively in our group,” Zito said. “So, when that materialized as a reality, then rather quickly, we had to decide that this was something to pursue.”

Tkachuk had career bests of 42 goals, 62 assists and 104 points for Calgary. Huberdeau tied a career best with 30 goals for Florida, plus set marks with 85 assists and 115 points – both of those being franchise records for the Panthers.

The trade was agreed to Friday afternoon in principle and was completed late Friday night, leading to some surprise phone calls.

“It was a big shock for me,” Huberdeau said Monday when he and Weegar were introduced by the Flames. “It’s part of life. Now we have to go forward.”

Weegar had similar emotions: “I get the part of the hockey business and that side of it.”

Zito said the Panthers clearly understood that they had to give something – a lot, in this case – to get something. Tkachuk is five years younger than Huberdeau, which made some sense from planning out where the franchise will be years down the line.

And he immediately began making fans in Florida. With Calgary, Tkachuk embraced an all-Alberta rivalry with Edmonton. Now with the Panthers, he becomes rivals with the Tampa Bay Lightning, the team that swept Florida from the second round.

“I hate Edmonton,” Tkachuk said. “But I hate Tampa more now.”

Matthew Tkachuk gets to Florida, says trade left him ‘very ecstatic’

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SUNRISE, Fla. — Only a couple days after being traded, Matthew Tkachuk already feels at home in Florida.

The newly acquired Florida forward’s parents are building a home about an hour from where the Panthers play their home games. He has familiarity with the Panthers, is already friends with some of his new teammates, is working on quickly building relationships with head coach Paul Maurice and general manager Bill Zito.

For the first time, Tkachuk – whose father Keith was a longtime NHL star and brother Brady plays for Ottawa – began explaining why he believes leaving Calgary for Florida is the best move for him right now.

“It was just kind of putting myself in a position to reevaluate everything – life, on-ice, off-ice, the future and I came to the decision that I was going to look elsewhere and have a change,” Tkachuk said in an interview with Sportsnet’s Ryan Leslie, streamed on Instagram. “And Florida kind of fell right into my lap within the last week or so. So, very happy with a very tough process. Hard, mixed emotions, sad, happy, everything, but very ecstatic to be ending up in Florida.”

The Panthers will formally introduce the 24-year-old Tkachuk at their arena. Tkachuk plans to spend the next few days in South Florida, looking for a place to live and starting to truly get settled in an effort to have as few loose ends as possible to deal with when training camp begins in September.

He was traded in exchange for fellow left wing Jonathan Huberdeau – Florida’s all-time scoring leader – and defenseman MacKenzie Weegar, along with prospect Cole Schwindt and a lottery-protected 2025 first-round draft pick. As part of the deal, Tkachuk agreed to an eight-year, $76 million contract with the Panthers, days after telling the Flames that he would not be signing an extension with them.

“I was kind of seeing how I envisioned my life going for the next eight-plus years,” Tkachuk said. “I’m here in Florida now, not for an eight-year contract, hopefully for a lot longer than that. I plan on playing, hopefully 15, however many years, and this is where I want to be. I want to be at this part of my life in Florida. That’s just the way it goes. But it’s got nothing to do with my time in Calgary. That was the most special six years of my entire life by far.”

Tkachuk had career bests of 42 goals, 62 assists and 104 points this past season for Calgary. Huberdeau tied a career best with 30 goals for Florida, plus set marks with 85 assists and 115 points – both of those being franchise records for the Panthers as well.

The trade means Calgary is now without its two leading scorers from this past season. Johnny Gaudreau, who led the Flames with 115 points, signed a seven-year deal with Columbus as a free agent earlier this month.

Florida won the Presidents’ Trophy this past season for the first time and won their first playoff series since 1996, but got swept by Tampa Bay in the second round of the playoffs.

“I think that I’m a guy that can go in there and help a lot,” Tkachuk said.