While the irony of the situation was clear all along, the assumption was that there was no issue with the Washington Capitals’ trade of Brooks Orpik to Colorado earlier this off-season, the Avalanche’s subsequent buyout of Orpik’s contract, and then the veteran defenseman re-signing with the Caps. However, GM Brian MacLellan told The Associated Press’ Stephen Whyno that the team actually underwent a thorough investigation from the NHL. The league questioned Washington executives about the team’s trade and later signing of Orpik to a lesser salary than the one bought out. It is illegal for a team to re-sign any player they themselves initially bought out, but Orpik was bought out by Colorado. As such, the investigation did not uncover any conspiracy; the league found that the Capitals conducted themselves “above board”, as MacLellan put it. He stated that there would be no further repercussions from what seems to just be an honest coincidence. Whyno reached out to NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, who confirmed that the Capitals were cleared of any alleged wrongdoing. The Capitals are now set to save significant cap space on the same services. Had they held on to Orpik this summer, he would be making $5.5MM against the cap. Instead, they were able to sign him to a $1MM deal with incentives that is much kinder to their salary cap crunch. It’s fair to be skeptical of that circumvention, but MacLellan affirms that the team “did everything by the book”, making it simply shrewd business management on their part.
- One player who wasn’t as fortunate as Orpik following his buyout is forward Tyler Ennis. After injuries forced Ennis out of Buffalo last summer, with the Sabres trading him to the Wild, Minnesota also couldn’t get the former rising star going and bought out the remainder of his contract earlier this summer. Ennis’ value has plummeted so far over the past three seasons that it completely overshadowed the fact that he recorded 212 points in 345 games in the five seasons prior. Ennis could only manage to land a one-year deal worth the minimum salary, a $650K pact with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and that only came after a series of meetings with GM Kyle Dubas in which he had to sell himself to the young Toronto executive. Yet, TSN’s Kristen Shilton writes that this has done nothing but motivate Ennis. Speaking with determined veteran at the start of Leafs training camp, Ennis said “Absolutely, I have something to prove. There are a lot of people that doubt me, there are a lot of people that have written me off and I’m just here to show them I have a lot left to give… My goal is to show people that I can play, that I have a lot of talent still and I’m ready to work.” With William Nylander still unsigned and not in camp, Ennis has had the good fortune of filling his spot on a line with Matthews and Patrick Marleau thus far in camp, which is a good way for him to impress the Maple Leafs’ brass. Shilton notes that he has already impressed teammates and coaches alike thus far and could be well on his way to a key role in Toronto this season. It would be quite the rebound story for a player who is correct in his opinion that many people have counted him out, but those same people could soon be forced to change their minds.
- Believe it or not, the NHL preseason kicks off in just over six hours. The Boston Bruins and Calgary Flames are set to square off in Shenzen, China at the Universiade Sports Center in the first of two match-ups of the 2018 O.R.G. NHL China Games. Despite the odd timing for fans in North America, both the NHL Network and Sportsnet will air the contest, which begins at 2:30 AM Boston time and 12:30 AM Calgary time. For those staying up for the first game of the 2018-19 season, both the Bruins and Flames have released their split squad rosters who have made the trip and will compete in the series. Tonight’s game marks the beginning of Boston’s evaluation of several young forwards fighting for a top-six right wing spot and third-line center spot, while Calgary must determine both who their primary backup goaltender and how the bottom-six will work out.