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.”

P.K. Subban announces retirement after 13 NHL seasons

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
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Defenseman P.K. Subban announced his retirement from the NHL following 13 seasons playing for the Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators, and New Jersey Devils.

The 33-year-old former Norris Trophy winner shared the news on social media.

Subban, who is from Toronto, registered 115 goals and 467 points in 824 regular-season games. The 43rd overall pick at the 2007 NHL draft added 62 points (18 goals, 44 assists) in 96 postseason games. The flashy blue liner won the Norris Trophy in 2013 with the Canadiens.

Subban, who was an unrestricted free agent this summer, has done television in the past and hinted at new opportunities in his retirement post.

“I never looked at myself or ever felt I was ‘just a hockey player,’” he wrote. “I always looked at myself as a person who happened to play hockey.

“Having that perspective allowed me to enjoy every shift like it was my last, celebrate every goal with emotion and play every game as if someone paid to watch me who had never seen me play before.”

Devils avoid arbitration with Miles Wood with 1-year, $3.2M deal

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NEWARK, N.J. — The New Jersey Devils avoided arbitration with Miles Wood, agreeing to a one-year, $3.2 million deal with the forward.

General manager Tom Fitzgerald announced the signing two days before the two sides were scheduled to go to arbitration. Wood will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the upcoming season.

The 26-year-old Wood, selected by the Devils in the fourth round of the 2013 NHL Draft, was limited to three games last season due to surgery on his left hip and the ensuing recovery.

The 6-foot-2, 195-pound forward has totaled 65 goals and 56 assists in 326 games over seven seasons with New Jersey.

Wood, an assistant captain parts of the last two seasons, had career highs of 19 goals, 32 points and 76 games played in 2017-18. He also led the Devils in penalty minutes in three straight seasons from 2016-19.

Devils avoid arbitration, sign Jesper Bratt to 1-year, $5.4M deal

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NEWARK, N.J. — The New Jersey Devils avoided arbitration with Jesper Bratt, signing the up-and-coming Swedish forward to a one-year, $5.45 million contract.

General manager Tom Fitzgerald announced the signing before the two sides were scheduled to go to arbitration. Bratt will be a restricted free agent at the end of the upcoming season and again have arbitration rights.

The 23-year-old Bratt set career highs last season in goals (26), assists (47), shots (197), power-play points (18), time on ice (17:26) and points (73). His goal total tied with Jack Hughes for the team lead, while his assist, shots, PP points and points totals all ranked first for New Jersey.

Bratt’s six game-winning goals also led the club and were a career-high.

In 307 career contests, Bratt has 70 goals and 133 assists, which are the most earned by an NHL player who was selected after the second round of the 2016 NHL Draft. The sixth-round pick became the first Devil since Taylor Hall in 2017-18 to record 70 or more points in a single season.

Devils sign D Jonas Siegenthaler for 5 years, $17 million

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NEWARK, N.J. — The New Jersey Devils have signed defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler to a five-year, $17 million contract extension starting next season.

General Manager Tom Fitzgerald announced the signing on Tuesday, saying the Swiss defenseman would make an annual average of $3.4 million with the two biggest paychecks in the first two years of the extension.

Siegenthaler, 25, set career highs last season in games played (70), assists (13), points (14), shots (92), and in all-time, on-ice metrics. He led all New Jersey defensemen in hits, ranked second on the team in blocked shots, and was third in short-handed time on ice/time on ice.

Prior to the start of the 2021-22 season, Siegenthaler signed a two-year contract worth $2.25 million.

Siegenthaler was acquired from Washington in April 2021 in exchange for a conditional third-round draft pick that year.

In four NHL seasons, Siegenthaler has appeared in 175 games and has three goals and 24 assists. He was Washington’s second-round selection in the 2015 NHL Draft.