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.”

Edmonton Oilers giving Jake Virtanen a tryout

Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports
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EDMONTON, Alberta — The Edmonton Oilers signed Jake Virtanen to a professional tryout agreement two months after the former Vancouver forward was found not guilty of sexual assault.

Virtanen was charged in January in connection with an incident in a downtown Vancouver hotel room in September 2017. He was with the Canucks when the allegations surfaced in May 2021 and the team placed him on leave and bought out his contract the following month. He was found not guilty in July.

Virtanen, 26, appeared in 36 games for Spartak Moscow of the Kontinental Hockey League last season, scoring nine goals and adding seven assists. Selected by the Canucks sixth overall in the 2014 NHL draft, Virtanen has 55 goals, 45 assists and 219 penalty minutes over six NHL seasons.

The Oilers also announced that 34-year-old defenseman Jason Demers had signed a PTO with the team. Demers, of Laval, Quebec, played five games in the KHL last season and had two assists in five games for Canada at the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

Demers was selected by San Jose in the seventh round of the 2008 draft. He has 45 goals, 169 assists and 407 penalty minutes over 699 games with San Jose, Dallas, Florida and Arizona. He had four assists in 41 games for the Coyotes in 2020-21.

Sharks, Kane reach settlement on termination grievance

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SAN JOSE, Calif. — Evander Kane and the San Jose Sharks reached a settlement Friday on the grievance he filed over the termination of his contract last season.

The Sharks announced the agreement that they said was approved by the NHL and the Players’ Association.

“We are satisfied that its terms will not adversely impact the team, either financially or competitively, in this or future seasons,” the team said in a statement.

The Sharks terminated Kane’s contract in January for violating virus protocol while with their top minor league affiliate, the American Hockey League’s San Jose Barracuda. The contract termination cost Kane just under $23 million from the $49 million, seven-year contract he signed in May 2018.

Kane and the NHL Players’ Association filed a grievance contending the Sharks didn’t have sufficient grounds to make that move. While that process was ongoing, he signed for the remainder of the season with the Oilers and re-signed for $20.5 million over four years in Edmonton.

The 31-year-old is with his fourth NHL organization after being drafted by Atlanta, going to Winnipeg when the Thrashers became the Jets and getting traded to Buffalo and then San Jose. He fit in well with the Oilers, helping them reach the Western Conference final.

Seattle Kraken promote Alexandra Mandrycky to assistant GM

Seattle Kraken promoteAlexandra Mandrycky to assistant GM

SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken have promoted Alexandra Mandrycky to assistant general manager after three years as director of hockey strategy and research.

Mandrycky was one of the first front-office hires by the Kraken after the expansion franchise was awarded by the NHL. She becomes the sixth female assistant general manager currently in the NHL.

“I am extremely honored to step into this role with the Kraken,” Mandrycky said in a statement. “I’d like to thank my team, who have been an essential part of the day-to-day success of our department and organization. I appreciate the trust Ron and Tod Leiweke have shown in not only me, but our whole department, and I’m excited to continue to grow with this team.”

Mandrycky will join Ricky Olczyk and Jason Botterill as assistant general managers working alongside GM Ron Francis. Mandrycky will continue to lead Seattle’s research and development team but also oversee amateur scouting as part of her promotion.

Mandrycky spent four seasons as an analyst for the Minnesota Wild before joining the Kraken.

Canucks sign J.T. Miller to 7-year, $56 million contract

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The Vancouver Canucks signed forward J.T. Miller to a seven-year, $56 million contract Friday.

The 29-year-old Miller was Vancouver’s leading scorer last season with 99 points on 32 goals and 67 assists in 80 games. He was set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2022-23 season.

The Canucks acquired Miller from the Tampa Bay Lightning at the 2019 NHL draft for goalie Marek Mazanec, a third-round pick in the 2019 draft and a conditional first-round pick in the 2020 draft.

Drafted 15th overall by the New York Rangers in 2011, the 6-foot-1 American has 169 goals and 285 assists in 637 regular-season games with New York, Tampa Bay and Vancouver.