Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt is still weeks away from making his season debut, but he’s taking his first step toward returning to normality. Schmidt, who was suspended 20 games for testing positive for a banned substance in violation of the NHL’s PED policy, opted to spend the early season in Europe. Schmidt has been practicing with the Vienna Capitals of Austria’s EBEL this month, but is now wrapping up his time with the team. Sports Illustrated’s Alex Prewitt reports that Schmidt plans to return to North America in the next week as the month of October comes to an end. With close to a month still remaining before his 20 games are up and he can return to game action with Vegas, Schmidt will not go right back to his current squad. Instead, Prewitt adds that he will join his former team at the University of Minnesota as a practice participant for a short period of time. However, Prewitt notes that the CBA allows Schmidt to join the Golden Knights in a limited capacity beginning on November 8th. At that time, he can join in team meetings and practices. November 18th, a road game against the Edmonton Oilers, will mark Schmidt’s official return to the team. While the defense has held up in Schmidt’s absence, the defending Western Conference champs are only a .500 team through eight games and the third-worst offense in the league. Schmidt, who was second among defensemen and ninth overall in points for Vegas last year, will be a welcome addition to a team that needs a spark early this season.
- Kris Versteeg’s season overseas was short-lived. The veteran winger was unable to find NHL employment this off-season and ended up signing with the KHL’s Avangard Omsk in early September. However, NHL.com’s European insider Igor Eronko reports that Versteeg is leaving the team to return to North America. Eronko did not have any more information on the reasoning behind Versteeg’s early exit, but this isn’t the first time that the 32-year-old forward has backed out of an opportunity abroad. Versteeg signed in Switzerland back in the summer of 2016, only to terminate his contract before ever playing with the club, the NLA’s SC Bern, allegedly due to medical insurance issues. He soon after committed to a PTO with the Edmonton Oilers that turned into a contract with the Calgary Flames. Perhaps Versteeg again senses an opportunity back in the NHL and has found a way out of his KHL obligations. For his part, TSN’s Darren Dreger states that Versteeg has been sick with shingles and proffers this could be the primary reason for the departure. One way or another, Versteeg’s time with Avangard is over after just 11 games and we will soon know about about his immediate plans.
- One player not returning to the NHL, despite some speculation, is forward Wojtek Wolski. Wolski recently terminated his contract with KHL club Mettalurg Magnitogorsk and was seeking a new place to play. That appears to be limited to either remaining in the KHL or moving to the NLA in Switzerland, rather than a return to North America, per a report from a Swiss news source. A return to the NHL for the 32-year-old Wolski, now six years separated from his last action at the highest level, was always a stretch, but many fans would not have minded seeing the Polish-Canadian star try his hand at a comeback.