It appears that the Oilers will be without a pair of forwards to start the season. Head coach Dave Tippett told reporters Friday, including Reid Wilkins of 630 CHED (Twitter link), that he doesn’t expect winger James Neal or center Gaetan Haas to be available anytime soon. Neal is skating while Haas hasn’t started to do so.
Neal had somewhat of a bounce-back year in 2019-20, notching 19 goals in 55 games. While that’s not great production for a $5.75MM AAV, it was still certainly a step up from his seven-goal output the year before while finishing fourth on the team in that regard. Haas, meanwhile, spent most of last season on Edmonton’s fourth line, tallying five goals and five assists in 58 games and was going to be in a battle for one of the final spots up front had he been healthy.
Elsewhere in the North Division:
- The Canucks have yet to engage in extension talks with Elias Pettersson, reports Rick Dhaliwal of TSN 1040 and The Athletic (Twitter link). He’s entering the final year of his entry-level deal and with two straight 66-point seasons under his belt already, he will be in line for a huge raise on his current $925K price tag (before bonuses). Today’s agreement with Mathew Barzal, a three-year, $21MM deal that guarantees a qualifying offer of $8.4MM at its expiration, could very well be used as a comparable whenever negotiations get underway. While Vancouver has roughly $25MM in cap room for next season, more than half of that will be eaten up by new deals for Pettersson and Quinn Hughes.
- Last season, defenseman Ville Heinola made Winnipeg’s roster out of training camp but it appears unlikely he’ll be able to do so this season, especially since he’s in quarantine until Thursday. Jets head coach Paul Maurice acknowledged to Ted Wyman of the Winnipeg Sun that he’s unsure of what the plans will be for the 19-year-old. It looks like the team could enter the season with eight blueliners on the active roster which would make it difficult for Heinola to earn a spot and it may not be ideal for him to hang around on the taxi squad either although Maurice stated that keeping him up with that group is being considered.
- Although he has resumed skating, Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe noted that Alexander Kerfoot’s availability for Wednesday’s opener against Montreal remains uncertain, relays TSN’s Kristen Shilton (Twitter link). The 26-year-old had a career-low nine goals and 19 assists in 65 games with Toronto last season and will likely reprise his role as their third-line center when he is cleared to return.