Although Devante Smith-Pelly’s absence from Washington’s lineup so far this preseason has been conditioning-related, Isabelle Khurshudyan of the Washington Post reports that the Capitals won’t be taking the same route that Tampa Bay did with Jake Dotchin by seeking to terminate his contract. GM Brian MacLellan noted last year that Smith-Pelly’s conditioning level wasn’t ideal in his first training camp with the team but the 26-year-old wound up being an important contributor for them in the postseason. It certainly appears that his second campaign with the team will start in a similar manner.
Sept. 24: The Caps have officially announced the deal and revealed that the contract will carry an AAV of $925K.
Sept. 23: The Capitals have inked their top pick from the draft back in June, signing defenseman Alexander Alexeyev to a three-year, entry-level contract. The blueliner announced the contract himself via his Instagram page. Financial terms of the deal are not yet known.
The 18-year-old was the final pick of the first round (31st overall) of the draft following an impressive season with Red Deer of the WHL. Injuries limited him to just 45 regular season games but he still led the Rebels in scoring from the back end with 37 points (7-30-37) while collecting five more (2-3-5) in three postseason contests.
Alexeyev has already been returned to Red Deer for the upcoming season so it’s extremely unlikely that he will reach the ten NHL games required to actually start the contract in 2018-19; he can now only be recalled under emergency conditions. Accordingly, his deal will slide a year and will still have three years left on it starting in 2019-20. He’s already off to a good start to his junior campaign with a pair of goals in as many games with the Rebels.
Plenty of players were cut from training camps around the league yesterday and today will probably be no different, especially with the waiver wire now open. We’ll keep track of all the cuts here and will update this post throughout the day.
Note that this list does not cover players placed on waivers today. Those players can be found here.
Anaheim Ducks (per team release)
D Terrance Amorosa (to San Diego, AHL)
G Lukas Dostal (to SK Horacka Slavia Trebic, Czech league)
F Alex Dostie (to San Diego, AHL)
D Hunter Drew (to Charlottetown, QMJHL)
F Justin Ducharme (released from ATO)
G Olle Eriksson-Ek (to BIK Karlskoga, SHL)
D Chris Forney (to San Diego, AHL)
F Benoit-Olivier Groulx (to Halifax, QMJHL)
D Scott Moldenhauer (to San Diego, AHL)
F Antoine Morand (to Halifax, QMJHL)
F Julius Nattinen (to San Diego, AHL)
F Kyle Olson (to Tri-City, WHL)
F Tyler Soy (to San Diego, AHL)
F Ben Thomson (to San Diego, AHL)
Buffalo Sabres (per team release)
F Eric Cornel (to Rochester, AHL)
F Vasily Glotov (to Rochester, AHL)
G Michael Houser (to Rochester, AHL)
F Kevin Porter (to Rochester, AHL)
D Zach Redmond (to Rochester, AHL)
D Devante Stephens (to Rochester, AHL)
G Adam Wilcox (to Rochester, AHL)
Calgary Flames (per team release)
G Nick Schneider (to Stockton, AHL)
Chicago Blackhawks (per team Twitter)
F Radovan Bondra (released from PTO; to Rockford, AHL)
F Alex Broadhurst (released from PTO; to Rockford, AHL)
D Andrew Campbell (to Rockford, AHL)
D Dennis Gilbert (to Rockford, AHL)
F Matheson Iacopelli (to Rockford, AHL)
F Graham Knott (to Rockford, AHL)
F Anthony Louis (to Rockford, AHL)
F Jordan Schroeder (to Rockford, AHL)
F Tyler Sikura (to Rockford, AHL)
D Luc Snuggerud (to Rockford, AHL)
G Matt Tomkins (released from PTO; to Rockford, AHL)
Edmonton Oilers (via team Twitter)
G Shane Starrett (to Bakersfield, AHL)
Florida Panthers (per team release)
F Jonathan Ang (to Springfield, AHL)
D Ludwig Bystrom (to Springfield, AHL)
G Chris Driedger (released from PTO, to Springfield, AHL)
F Sebastian Repo (to Springfield, AHL)
F Paul Thompson (to Springfield, AHL)
D Kyle Bauman (released from PTO)
F Jamie Devane (released from PTO)
F Mike Eyssimont (to Ontario, AHL)
D Stepan Falkovsky (to Ontario, AHL)
F Sam Herr (released from PTO)
F Boko Imama (to Ontario, AHL)
G Cole Kehler (to Ontario, AHL)
F Matt Luff (to Ontario, AHL)
F Philippe Maillet (released from PTO)
F Brad Morrison (to Ontario, AHL)
D Jacob Moverare (to Ontario, AHL)
D Chaz Reddekopp (to Ontario, AHL)
F Sheldon Rempal (to Ontario, AHL)
D Matt Roy (to Ontario, AHL)
F Drake Rymsha (to Ontario, AHL)
D Austin Strand (to Ontario, AHL)
F Brett Sutter (released from PTO)
D Sean Walker (to Ontario, AHL)
F Spencer Watson (to Ontario, AHL)Read more
The Washington Capitals have four goaltenders under contract for the coming season, Vezina Trophy-winning starter Braden Holtby and three unproven young backups: Pheonix Copley, Vitek Vanecek, and Ilya Samsonov. The defending Stanley Cup champions do not necessarily need to make any changes to their current depth chart and would most likely be fine this season with a tandem of Holtby and the hot hand among the three prospect keepers, with Copley getting the job initially.
However, championships are built on being prepared to handle the worst. This current iteration of the Capitals, while almost identical to the team that hoisted the Cup just months ago, is not. The only major departure out of D.C. this off-season was backup Philipp Grubauer, who was traded away to the Colorado Avalanche where he could compete for the starting job. Grubauer was far from a typical backup last season; the 26-year-old made 35 appearances, including 28 starts, which was tied for 37th-most in the league, among the NHL’s most active backups. When Holtby went through a rough patch down the stretch, Grubauer took over the reins as the starter and even got the call in the Capitals’ first two postseason contests. His 2.35 GAA was fifth among goalies with 30+ appearances, while his .923 save percentage was eighth among the same group. Grubauer was as solid as they come last season. Meanwhile, Holtby quietly had the worst season of his NHL career. His .907 save percentage and 2.99 GAA were a major deviation from his career performance, as he struggled with streaky play all year long. Without Grubauer, the Capitals likely would have had a worse playoff seeding and potentially would not have won the Stanley Cup.
So what happens if Holtby struggles again? Normally, it would be easy to say that the star goalie will regress positively back to the numbers that made him a top ten NHL stopper. However, after a deep playoff run added 23 appearances to his workload and significantly shortened his summer, it is hard to imagine that Holtby is fully refreshed and ready to be back in Vezina shape. His play last year may not be an indication of what is to come, but it may be a more accurate comparison for Holtby’s probable performance in 2018-19 than would his three prior seasons of dominant play. Without a reliable backup, the Capitals may be hesitant to lessen Holtby’s workload, but if they don’t they could risk another breakdown. Either way, the Washington backup goalie will not be a non-factor this season.
The first option behind Holtby will likely be Copley. Copley, 26, is a career minor leaguer with just two NHL appearances. In contrast, every team in the NHL last season began the year with a backup goaltender that had more than two previous appearances. Copley is also far from a prodigy; his numbers with the AHL’s Hershey Bears last season were poor and he only returned to Washington as nothing more than a toss-in to the Kevin Shattenkirk trade. So far in the preseason, Copley has made 41 saves on 46 shots for a paltry save percentage of .891. While the Capitals have put their faith in Copley to this point to be a serviceable backup, the undrafted free agent out of Michigan Tech has never been considered anything but minor league depth before now. Jumping to a primary backup for a goalie who may need substantial assistance is quite the task. Next up would likely be Vanecek, the Captials’ 2014 second-round pick who has not yet lived up to expectations. Vanecek is still only 22 and has room to improve, but since coming to North America three years ago, he has impressed at the ECHL level and failed to do so in the AHL. Vanecek’s numbers while splitting time with Copley on the Hersey Bears last year were even worse; Copley had an .896 save percentage and 2.91 GAA, while Vanecek had an .888 save percentage and 3.04 GAA. Vanecek has potential, but is not ready to be an NHL backup. Samsonov, in his first season in North America, is easily the most talented of the group. A 2015 first-round pick, Samsonov has been playing significant minutes in the KHL since he was 18. In three seasons with Metallurg Magnitogorsk, Samsonov was the primary backup to Vasili Koshechkin and posted a .925 save percentage or better each year. Some hope that young Samsonov can step in and immediately provide that same level of support for Holtby. However, the adjustment to the NHL – and even AHL – can be a difficult one when coming over from Europe. There is no guarantee that Samsonov’s performance will immediately translate. There is also a question of whether Washington will want to harm their heir apparent’s development by costing him starts as the NHL backup. As such, the Capitals are likely to play it safe with Samsonov this season.
Washington’s in-house options to back-up Holtby are not inspiring. The team could absolutely move forward with this group and hope that Holtby can make 65+ starts without a hitch, but there is ample risk involved with that strategy. Normally, it would be tough to significantly upgrade the goaltender position at this time of year, but not this season. Intriguing names are already available and more soon will be. On the free agent market, veterans Kari Lehtonen and Steve Mason remain unsigned. The Capitals do not have much cap space, but if either is willing to take a show-me deal, they would become a massive improvement on the team’s goalie depth. However, both players have been available for much of the off-season and the Caps have yet to pull the trigger. They may instead have their eye on younger, more affordable options. Michael Hutchinson, a free agent signing of the Florida Panthers this summer, is one possibility, as he was already placed on waivers at the earliest possible time. St. Louis’ Jordan Binnington and Vegas’ Oscar Dansk are other waiver options who may have slightly more upside than Copley. That is just the first subset of the backup goalie market though. Teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs (Curtis McElhinney, Garret Sparks, Calvin Pickard), Philadelphia Flyers (Michal Neuvirth, Anthony Stolarz, Alex Lyon), and Los Angeles Kings (Peter Budaj, Jack Campbell, Cal Petersen) have major logjams in goal that are prime for a trade or waiver claim. Washington could also wait to target one of a number of third-string goalies trying to be slipped through waivers, such as Al Montoya, Eddie Lack, Andrew Hammond, Anton Forsberg, Zane McIntyre, Jared Coreau, or J-F Berube. The opportunities are out there to upgrade at backup goalie. The only question is whether the Capitals make the move before it’s too late and those opportunities have disappeared.
Although the injuries have not been reported as anything major, fans of the Arizona Coyotes can’t help but feel nervous that two players expected to be major additions to the team’s forward corps this season – trade acquisition Alex Galchenyuk and top prospect Dylan Strome – are currently sidelined with injuries. The Athletic’s Craig Morgan reports that Galchenyuk is currently out with a lower-body injury and has yet to be evaluated and cleared by the medical staff, per head coach Rick Tocchet. Tocchet did not relay when and how the injury occurred and the Coyotes will have to wait for him to be examined to determine the severity and recovery time. Galchenyuk has been a very durable player to this point in his six-year career, but did struggle to return from a knee injury in 2016-17, which ended up costing him 21 games over two stints on the injured reserve. An extended absence to begin his tenure in Arizona would be an unfortunate start for Galchenyuk, who seemed primed to embrace his change of scenery. As for Strome, Morgan writes that he is considered day-to-day with an upper-body injury. One of the knocks on Strome, the third overall pick in 2015, is that he has struggled to fill out his 6’3″ frame. The lanky forward can be pushed around – and thus susceptible to injury – far too often for a player of his stature. Arizona needs Strome to get healthy and toughen up if he wants to be an impact player this season.
- The quantity, not quality, of injuries for the St. Louis Blues is starting to become a concern. With starting goaltender Jake Allen still not ready for game action due to back spasms and Nikita Soshnikov out indefinitely with a concussion, the team also has three key forwards on the sidelines with minor injuries. The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford updated the statuses of David Perron, Tyler Bozak, and Robby Fabbri today. Fabbri’s injury history is well-documented; the undersized winger has had back luck with his knees, missing the final 30 regular season games and all 11 postseason games of the 2016-17 season, only to tear his ACL last preseason and miss the entire 2017-18 season. While Fabbri’s knees seem to be back at full strength, his current injuries could be related to getting back to a game level of skating. Rutherford states that Fabbri did not practice today due to a sore back and hip flexor. Fortunately, these are conditions that the young forward should be able to bounce back from very soon. Meanwhile, veteran free agent additions Perron and Bozak also missed practice today and were pulled from tonight’s preseason roster with matching groin injuries. The experienced forwards, who added significant depth for St. Louis with their signings this summer, have no previous lower-body injury history and should hopefully be back on the ice soon.
- The Capitals have just three players who have yet to suit up for a preseason game so far: defenseman John Carlson, center Lars Eller, and winger Devante Smith-Pelly. While Carlson and Eller had documented lower-body injuries and are simply being eased back into game action, NBC Sports Washington’s J.J. Regan points out that Smith-Pelly’s absence has been more curious. In speaking with new head coach Todd Reirden, Regan discovered that Smith-Pelly’s conditioning has been an issue and he has been working toward getting back in game shape. Reirden states that the physical forward is not dealing with any injuries, but simply not yet at a level where he would benefit from playing. A short and celebratory summer likely has Smith-Pelly slightly out of shape and fatigued, but it is not an issue that seems likely to impact the regular season and certainly not a Jake Dotchin-type scenario.
- Injury-prone Buffalo Sabres defenseman Zach Bogosian is taking it easy this preseason. Beat writer Bill Hoppe says that the veteran blue liner is being eased into camp to ensure that he is fully healthy for the start of the regular season. Bogosian has yet to skate in a preseason game and may not see much exhibition action at all. While Bogosian has a lengthy injury history that features IR stints for knees, ribs, groins, wrists, and more, it was his hip that cost Bogosian all but 18 games last year. He missed the final 39 contests after undergoing hip surgery in January. With the Sabres already fighting the injury bug, it is important that Bogosian be given the time he needs to start the season off on the right foot. Hoppe adds that while Conor Sheary appears ready to re-join the team next week, his former Pittsburgh Penguins teammate, defenseman Matt Hunwick will not. Hunwick will not be ready for the start of the regular season due to a neck injury, making Bogosian’s availability all that more important.
NHL regular season action is just a few weeks away, and as the preseason schedule gets started teams are reducing their training camp rosters. We’ll keep track of all the cuts right here:
Arizona Coyotes (per team release)
F Tyler Steenbergen (to Tucson, AHL)
F Kelly Klima (to Tucson, AHL)
D Jordan Gross (to Tucson, AHL)
D Jacob Graves (to Tucson, AHL)
D Jalen Smereck (to Tucson, AHL)
D Kevin Ekman-Larsson (to Tucson, AHL)
F Liam Kirk (to Peterborough, OHL)
F Nate Schnarr (to Guelph, OHL)
D Kevin Bahl (to Ottawa, OHL)
D Dennis Busby (to Flint, OHL)
D Noel Hoefenmayer (to Ottawa, OHL)
G Ivan Prosvetov (to Saginaw, OHL)
G David Tendeck (to Vancouver, WHL)
F Jan Jenik (to Liberec, Czech Rep.)
Boston Bruins (per team release)
F Austin Fyten (to Providence, AHL)
F Brett McKenzie (to Providence, AHL)
F Tanner Pond (to Providence, AHL)
D Olivier Galipeau (to Providence, AHL)
D Joel Messner (to Providence, AHL)
D Wiley Sherman (to Providence, AHL)
G Alex Sakellaropoulos (to Providence, AHL)
F Cedric Pare (to Saint John, QMJHL)
D Daniel Bukac (to Brandon, WHL)
G Kyle Keyser (to Oshawa, OHL)
D Mark Fayne (released from tryout)
F Marcel Noebels (released from tryout)
Chicago Blackhawks (per team release)
Colorado Avalanche (per team release)
F J.C. Beaudin (to Colorado, AHL)
F Matthew Boucher (to Colorado, AHL)
F Josh Dickinson (to Colorado, AHL)
F Grayson Downing (to Colorado, AHL)
F Julien Nantel (to Colorado, AHL)
D Turner Ottenbreit (to Colorado, AHL)
D Kevin Davis (to Colorado, AHL)
D Nolan De Jong (to Colorado, AHL)
F Nick Henry (to Regina, WHL)
F Brandon Saigeon (to Hamilton, OHL)
Columbus Blue Jackets (per team release)
Dallas Stars (per Mark Stepneski of NHL.com)
F Riley Damiani (to Kitchener, OHL)
F Brett Davis (to Kootenay, WHL)
F Ty Dellandrea (to Flint, OHL)
F Curtis Douglas (to Windsor, OHL)
F Liam Hawel (to Guelph, OHL)
F Jermaine Loewen (to Kamloops, WHL)
F Jason Robertson (to Kingston, OHL)
D Dawson Barteaux (to Red Deer, WHL)
G Anthony Popovich (released from tryout)
Edmonton Oilers (per team release)
Los Angeles Kings (per team release)
F Aidan Dudas (to Owen Sound, OHL)
F Nathan Dunkley (to London, OHL)
G Jacob Ingham (to Mississauga, OHL)
D Michal Ivan (to Acadie-Bathurst, QMJHL)
D Markus Phillips (to Owen Sound, OHL)
F Mark Rassell (released from ATO)
F Akil Thomas (to Niagara, OHL)
G Matthew Villalta (to Sault Ste. Marie, OHL)
Tampa Bay Lightning (per team release)
F Gabriel Fortier (to Baie-Comeau, QMJHL)
F Jackson Leppard (to Prince George, WHL)
F Mathew MacDougall (to Windsor, OHL)
F Chase Wouters (to Saskatoon, WHL)
F Walter Flower (to Halifax, QMJHL)
D Montana Onyebuchi (to Everett, WHL)
D Radim Salda (to Saint John, QMJHL)
Vegas Golden Knights (per team release)
Washington Capitals (per team release)
F Eric Florchuk (to Saskatoon, WHL)
F Kody Clark (to Ottawa, OHL)
F Riley Sutter (to Everett, WHL)
F Alex Kannock-Leipart (to Vancouver, WHL)
D Alexander Alexeyev (to Red Deer, WHL)
D Martin Fehervary (to HV71, SHL)
G Logan Thompson (released from tryout)
The biggest news out of Washington Capitals’ training camp is that there isn’t any news. As the defending Stanley Cup champs face the Boston Bruins in the second meeting of the two teams already this preseason, there simply isn’t much to watch for in terms of camp battles and roster spots. GM Brian MacLellan and the Caps front office succeeded in keeping their championship roster together as well as any Cup winner in recent memory and are prepared to go for another title in 2018-19.
Of the 25 players who took the ice in the postseason for the Capitals, 21 return this season. The glaring absence is obviously backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer, who was traded away to the Colorado Avalanche early this off-season. Another name who Washington fans were upset to see go was career Capital Jay Beagle, who signed with the Vancouver Canucks after ten seasons in D.C. Outside of that duo, the other two players who saw playoff action for the Cup winners were defenseman Jakub Jerabek, who played in two postseason games, and forward Alex Chiasson, who saw less than nine minutes of ice time in the playoffs. The team also lost regular season contributors Taylor Chorney, Tyler Graovac, and Anthony Peluso.
When any team can return 21 players to a roster limited to just 23, the result of few departures is few opportunities in camp. Rather than sign or acquire a backup of similar pedigree to Grubauer to backup starter Braden Holtby, the team seems content to let veteran minor leaguer Pheonix Copley try his hand at the job. With only youngsters Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek, neither of whom have made an NHL appearance, also under contract, there really is not much of a competition to replace Grubauer. On the blue line, the top-four will line up exactly as they did in the postseason and Christian Djoos will pair with either his postseason partner, veteran Brooks Orpik – who was traded away and then re-signed this summer, or his frequent regular season partner, Madison Bowey. Orpik versus Bowey is one situation that could potentially be defined as a camp battle, although both are guaranteed roster spots. Up front, the top-nine is also locked in as the same group who dominated in the playoffs, leaving only fourth line and an extra skater spot or two up for grabs. The team has shown a commitment to Devante Smith-Pelly and Chandler Stephenson and the pair are almost certainly the energy liners on opening night. The one true position battle is at the final spot, where Travis Boyd and free agent addition Nic Dowd will fight it out to skate on that fourth line. The loser is likely to begin the season as an extra skater beside import winger Sergei Shumakov.
If you’ve been keeping count, that’s the entire roster: almost all familiar names and only one or two spots up for grabs. There won’t be many questions in need of answering out of Capitals camp, but the big question remaining is whether failing to insert some fresh legs or properly replacing Grubauer will come back to bite Washington in their attempt to repeat.
The Washington Capitals can’t be happier with one of their top players in Evgeny Kuznetsov, who took that next step last year when the won the Stanley Cup, putting up career highs in goals scored and points with 27 goals and 83 points. However, general manager Brian MacLellan feels that he can do even more this year — help out on the penalty kill, according to the Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan.
That’s not a role that Kuznetsov has played much of over the course of his career. The 26-year-old has played a grand total of just 11 minutes over the last four years, which averages out to two seconds per game. However, while new head coach Todd Reirden probably won’t make too many changes to the team’s lineup after last year’s success, he has made it clear that he wants to make changes to their penalty kill, which was 15th in the league last year at 80.8 percent. One way to do that would be to inject more speed into it. That’s where Kuznetsov comes in, who could add a new element to their shorthanded line and perhaps improve his own defensive play at the same time.
“It’s a situation where we are going to try any option we can,” Reirden said. “We want to get better in that area, we need to get better in that area, and we’re going to be more aggressive, and if we’re going to be more aggressive then we have to have guys that can skate and think the game at a high level. He’s certainly one of many options we’re considering right now and he certainly seems to be up to the challenge.”
- The Capitals are without recent signee Sergei Shumakov so far in training camp, according to NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti. The 26-year-old winger who has spent his entire career in the KHL, signed a one-year, entry-level contract worth $925K. Shumakov posted 17 goals and a career-high 40 points last year for CSKA Moscow. He is expected to arrive from Russia today.
- Josh Yohe of The Athletic (subscription required) analyzes the play of Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin, who had a breakout season for Pittsburgh and who was arguably the team’s best player in their five-game series against the Washington Capitals in the playoffs last year. Domoulin, who partners with oft-injured Kris Letang, seemed to take off last year. Always a top defender, he even has started to show a little offense as he scored five goals. That may not sound like much, but considering his career-high had previously been one goal, that’s a big improvement. The team hopes he continues to get more involved in the offense this season.
- In the same article, Yohe reports that head coach Mike Sullivan will miss a few days after the death of his father, George Sullivan. Assistant coach Jacques Martin will take over for Sullivan until he returns.
- Sam Donnellon of Philly.com examines Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Anthony Stolarz, who just two years ago was looked at as a big part of the Flyers future. Fast forward to today and Stolarz is the fifth wheel in a goaltending system that already has too many goaltenders. Assuming things go as expected, the Flyers will be keeping Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth on their big-league club and will send Alex Lyon and top prospect Carter Hart to the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms. That leaves Stolarz, who missed most of last year after undergoing a second knee surgery. Donnellon writes while injuries are an issue amongst the veteran goalies, the likelihood that Lehigh Valley will institute a three-goalie system is unlikely, especially considering that the team needs to further develop Hart, their goalie of the future.
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.
When the Los Angeles Kings begin training camp tomorrow, they will be without three notable players. The team announced today that starting defenseman Derek Forbort, top prospect Gabriel Vilardi, and first-year pro Austin Strand will not be full participants when camp opens. Forbort, who is entering his fourth season as a Kings regular, is the least concern. A back injury will keep Forbort from taking part in team drills, but he is well enough to skate and is considered day-to-day. Regardless, Forbort has his top-six role locked in to begin this year and will likely resume playing with Dion Phaneuf after the two found chemistry late last year. The same can’t be said for Vilardi and Strand, who are fighting for roster spots in camp but at this point are considered week-to-week. Vilardi, the eleventh overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, is also suffering from a back injury and is completely sidelined for now. The young center could play a major role for L.A. this year, but has to first get on the ice this month and prove he is ready for the NHL. Strand, an undrafted free agent inked by the Kings last season, is hoping to get a shot on the blue line at some point this season. However, the standout from the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds must first get over the concussion symptoms that are currently keeping him from practice and game action. In the meantime, the Kings revealed their camp roster with some extra bodies invited to perhaps make up for these injuries. Junior players Nathan Dunkley, Mark Rassel, and Michal Ivan – one from each of the three CHL leagues – are set to join the team on tryouts.
- The New York Islanders weren’t willing to give Stephen Gionta a contract extension last summer, but the team ended up re-signing the veteran forward in December. This time around they are still unwilling to give Gionta a guaranteed contract, but they are willing to give him a shot at earning a spot in camp. The Athletic’s Arthur Staple reports that Gionta will join the team on a PTO in camp as he works to play a 13th pro season. Gionta, the younger brother of Brian Gionta, played for the New Jersey Devils organization for parts of eleven seasons, but has suited up for the Islanders and their AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, for the past two years.
- Gionta and the Kings’ junior tryouts are far from the only camp invitees across the league. As teams have announced their camp rosters, many previously unannounced PTO’s have been revealed. The defending champion Washington Capitals have invited Canadian collegiate forward Mark Simpson and WHL goalie Logan Thompson to camp. Their Stanley Cup competitors, the Vegas Golden Knights, will have junior forwards Raphael Harvey-Pinard and Ryan Chyzowski among their participants. The Anaheim Ducks will take a look at QMJHLers Justin Ducharme and Simon Benoit. The Edmonton Oilers add yet another PTO in former Detroit Red Wings prospect forward Luke Esposito. The Nashville Predators have just one additional skater in camp in WHL center Alex Overhardt. The Montreal Canadiens bring in some nearby QMJHL talent with keeper Samuel Harvey and forward Joel Teasdale. The New Jersey Devils will give ECHL goaltender Colton Phinney a shot, as well as junior blue liner Jeremy Groleau. The Detroit Red Wings host six junior players, as well as two of their ECHL affiliate’s players: defensemen Mackenze Stewart and Brenden Kotyk. The Minnesota Wild will also have a large group of tryouts, including twin forwards Drake and Darian Pilon. Finally, the Calgary Flames have invited surprise undrafted OHL defenseman Merrick Rippon to camp, while the Chicago Blackhawks will evaluate his Ottawa 67’s team mate, forward Shaw Boomhower.