Training camp is well underway but the Vancouver Canucks are still awaiting the arrival of veteran defenseman Travis Hamonic. Now, with the deadline to opt out of the coming season arriving on Friday, the team is left to wait to see if they will have the reliable blue liner back after extending him this off-season. Yet, it appears that they will remain patient and calm with Hamonic, who has family concerns to take into account with his decision. Hamonic previously opted out of the 2020 playoff bubble due to his daughter’s respiratory infection and with the NHL returning to a full slate of travel this season, he may be concerned about potential exposure to the Coronavirus and bringing that home. GM Jim Benning tells Postmedia’s Ben Kuzma that he is “confident” that Hamonic will arrive to camp and play this season, but also notes that “he’s dealing with a personal issue and I think everybody should just leave it alone.” Benning did however speak to the team’s COVID vaccination status when discussing Hamonic, which may also imply that he is unvaccinated, adding another layer to his decision. Whatever the cause, time is running out for Hamonic to make his decision, but the Canucks hope the veteran defenseman will be back in the fold as soon as possible.
- Just a few years after being one of the cornerstone prospects in the Ryan McDonagh trade return, Libor Hajek’s job with the New York Rangers could be in jeopardy. The New York Post’s Larry Brooks writes that sources believe Hajek has slid outside a starting job on the Rangers’ depth chart and possibly even outside of a roster spot. Behind established 23-year-old Ryan Lindgren, 21-year-old rising sophomore K’Andre Miller, and 20-year-old rookie Zac Jones, the 23-year-old Hajek has not done enough to assert himself as a roster lock and can no longer depend on his upside with so much talented youth around him. Lindgren and Miller both greatly outplayed Hajek last year and Jones came in late in the season, after a long college season that ended in a National Championship with UMass, and proceeded to match Hajek’s season point total in just ten games. Beyond just the youngsters, Brooks reports that veteran free agent addition Patrik Nemeth is also above Hajek on the depth chart. With four lefties seemingly locked into roster spots, Hajek would have to unseat a righty to make the team – and that certainly won’t be Adam Fox or Jacob Trouba – or hope that New York opts to carry eight defenseman, five of which are lefties. Another promising rookie, Nils Lundkvist, is currently penciled in for the final spot on the right side, while a potential fifth lefty spot would also be open to competition from veterans Jarred Tinordi and Anthony Bitetto and promising prospect Matthew Robertson. This all goes to show that there are a lot of defensemen in the mix for the Rangers and Hajek no longer has the shine of a budding star. Even though the likes of Miller, Jones, Lundkvist, and Robertson are all waiver-exempt, don’t be surprised to see New York subject to Hajek to waivers anyhow in order to ensure the best players are on the NHL roster. Whether that decision ultimately means Hajek’s days in the Big Apple are numbered remains to be seen.
- The Arizona Coyotes have announced that Kyle Capobianco is currently sidelined with a knee injury, which is exactly what the young defenseman did not want in training camp this year. Though PHNX Sports’ Craig Morgan writes that he is only considered day-to-day, this is a critical preseason for Capobianco. The left side of the Coyotes blue line was obliterated this off-season with the trade of Oliver Ekman-Larsson, free agent departures of Alex Goligoski and Jordan Oesterle, and retirement of Niklas Hjalmarsson. Even with the addition of Shayne Gostisbehere to a left side now led by Jakob Chychrun, Capobianco flew up the depth chart into a top-three slot. This was his chance to finally secure an NHL starting job, but he risks missing out with a surplus of right-handed defensemen also jockeying for position. If youngsters like Victor Soderstrom, Conor Timmins, and Ty Emberson all prove they should be on the NHL roster while Capobianco sits out, he could lose his starting job, especially with veterans Ilya Lyubushkin and Anton Stralman able to play their off-side.