The Carolina Hurricanes really don’t like the NHL’s Return to Play plan. After Jordan Martinook and the ‘Canes were one of just two teams to vote against the initial postseason format last month, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports that Martinook was also one of the two NHLPA representatives who voted against ratifying the Return to Play plan and CBA extension. Martinook has previously stated that he and his teammates felt that the expanded playoff structure was a disadvantage to teams who were safely in the postseason picture, but not within the top four in their conference. It is a fair opinion for Carolina to have; the team has the second-best record of qualifying round contenders and almost certainly would have made the playoffs. Their reward for those regular season efforts? A five-game series match-up with a New York Rangers team that was playing their best hockey down the stretch and has been a tough match-up for the Hurricanes all season. As a result, Martinook tried not once but twice to change the league’s plan, but to no avail. They will face the Rangers in just over a week’s time with a playoff berth on the line.
The other “no” vote against the Return to Play plan was reported to belong to Chicago Blackhawks representative Jonathan Toews. However, Toews has come out today and refuted that report. There is no doubt that Toews asked hard questions about health and safety protocols and gameplay logistics and made the case for why his peers should consider voting against the plan, but he tells Ben Pope of the Chicago Sun Times that at the end of the day he voted “yes”. In fact, he said that he always planned to vote yes but wanted to make sure that there was a thorough conversation before a decision was made. There is no word on who the mystery second “no” vote came from, but it was not the Blackhawks captain.
- Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella might be re-thinking his teams approval of the expanded postseason plan. While a standard 16-team format would have excluded his team, which was in ninth in the Eastern Conference at the time of the league’s pause, their preparation for the knockout round is not going according to plan. Tortorella told NHL.com’s Craig Merz outright that he does not like what he has seen from his best players. “My concern is some of the people that we are going to need to make a difference for us to win a series, I don’t think they’re ready right now,” the Jack Adams finalist stated. “I don’t think they’re doing the things they need to do right now to get ready for that series… This isn’t getting ready for the regular season and then trying to find your game in 15 games during the regular season. This is a sprint… I don’t want us to fall into this trap of wading in. We need to be ready to go.”
- Anton Khudobin and the Dallas Stars have some extra time to get ready for the postseason as they are one of the four top seeds in the West and will have four round robin games ahead of them before the real competition begins. Although Khudobin may only see action in the round robin and not in the Stars’ postseason series, as starter Ben Bishop will get the nod unless his play warrants a change, Khudobin’s value to Dallas cannot be understated. One of the best backups in the NHL, Khudobin recorded a .930 save percentage and 2.22 GAA in 30 games this season. While these numbers are outstanding, even better than Bishop’s, it doesn’t appear that Khudobin is looking to move on from Dallas to a greater role. He tells Matthew DeFranks of The Dallas Morning News that his preference is to remain with the Stars for a while longer. However, the impending UFA admits that he will let his agent work out the details and find the best opportunity. Khudobin is certainly comfortable and thriving in Texas, but the Stars’ limited cap space and the presences of Bishop and top prospect Jake Oettinger may mean that his current team cannot offer him top dollar. On the other hand, a potentially strong goalie market and Khudobin’s age, not to mention a flat salary cap, may mean that there won’t be the demand on the open market that Khudobin’s performance would normally command. This seems to be the case with another elite backup, Boston’s Jaroslav Halak, who recently signed a one-year extension for less guaranteed money despite another stellar season as the Bruins’ backup after replacing Khudobin himself. Perhaps Khudobin will have to settle for the same fate, especially if he wants to remain in Dallas.