As we look ahead to the start of the shortened 2020-21 NHL season, we’re collecting news and notes from training camps around the league.
Blue Jackets sign Bjorkstrand
The Columbus Blue Jackets opened up Wednesday’s events with the announcement that they’ve signed forward Oliver Bjorkstrand to a five-year extension worth $27 million. The 25-year-old, who was slated to be a restricted free agent after this upcoming season, will now remain in Columbus through the 2025-26 campaign. Bjorkstrand led the Blue Jackets in goals last season, tallying 21 in 49 games.
Goals were tough to come by for Columbus last year — the team ranked 28th league-wide in goals scored in 2019-20, with 180. Drumming up more offence this year will be a major point of focus this season and securing Bjorkstand is a step in that direction, especially as management embarks upon what could be a tough season of navigating the Pierre-Luc Dubois situation.
The Buffalo Sabres welcomed captain Jack Eichel to the ice Wednesday, his first time practising with the team since training camp opened. Eichel was listed as day-to-day last week after sustaining a minor injury while training.
GOOD MORNING JACKpic.twitter.com/m4sQ7IzU3r
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) January 6, 2021
This means we’ll finally get to see Eichel and Taylor Hall practise together, getting the wheels in motion on what is expected to be a lucrative partnership between the dynamic offensive stars in Buffalo. With Eichel sidelined and Victor Olofsson also out (he’s back Wednesday, too) the Sabres can finally makes some strides building chemistry amongst their top forwards.
Sabres’ Girgensons sidelined for season
It looks like Zemgus Girgensons’ season is over before it even started. The forward went down awkwardly during Monday’s intrasquad scrimmage, and on Wednesday the Sabres announced he’ll be sidelined about six months following successful surgery on his hamstring. A tough blow for the club, and a heartbreaking development for Girgensons, who hasn’t played since March and will now have to wait much longer to return to play.
Here’s the incident:
Can Anderson find fit with Washington?
Craig Anderson signed a PTO with the Capitals on Dec. 27, a few months after his decade-long tenure with Ottawa ended with the rebuilding Senators letting him walk in free agency.
The Capitals came calling after Henrik Lundqvist, the veteran netminder they initially signed to complement first-time starter Ilya Samsonov, announced he was stepping away from the game due to a heart condition.
Anderson, 39, spoke with reporters on Wednesday about his extended off-season and the opportunity to join the Capitals:
Chara embracing fresh start with Capitals
Another new Capitals veteran also spoke with the media on Wednesday. Newcomer Zdeno Chara, who hit the ice for the first time with Washington on Tuesday and joined the main group on Wednesday, told reporters it was “exciting” to put on the Capitals sweater and was embracing the opportunity to get to know his new teammates — including stars and longtime Eastern Conference foes like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and John Carlson.
“We know each other well, playing against each other. We had some good battles, obviously the two teams the last few years always battled for top spots in our conference.”
“It’s been very exciting to be around them,” Chara continued. “Looking forward to playing with them.”
So far, Chara has been skating alongside defenceman Nick Jensen — an opportunity that had Jensen a little awestruck.
No timeline for Kerfoot’s return
The Toronto Maple Leafs hit the ice Wednesday for their first intrasquad scrimmage, and did so without the injured Alex Kerfoot. Kerfoot left Tuesday’s practice after being “banged up” but few details were released about his status. Head coach Sheldon Keefe told reporters the forward is “doing well” and is listed as day-to-day without a timeframe set for his return just yet.
Rask has ‘no intention’ of leaving Bruins
Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask has one thing on his mind as he prepares for the upcoming season: Playing hockey.
In other words, the fact that his eight-year deal is about to come to an end — it expires at the end of 2020-21 — isn’t top of mind.
During his media availability on Wednesday, Rask acknowledged that Bruins GM Don Sweeney “has a lot on his plate right now” as the team prepares for the shortened season, and said he’s comfortable with where he stands.
“I’m comfortable with where we are right now. I just want to go out there and start the season off right and kind of get on a good groove and play good hockey personally and as a team. And then if the contract talks happen during the season then so be it. If they don’t, then we’ll just wait it out and see what happens,” Rask told reporters.
“I have no intention of playing anywhere else than the Bruins,” Rask said, when asked about his desire to stay. “So if I’m good enough to play one, two, three more years then so be it, and if not then so be it. So, that’s where my head’s at.”
Schmidt bringing the jokes at Canucks camp
Nate Schmidt is looking right at home in Vancouver, already laughing and pushing a few buttons — jokingly, of course — with teammates and coaches at Canucks camp.
— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) January 6, 2021
Hellebuyck ready to add more hardware to his trophy cabinet
Fresh off his first Vezina Trophy victory, Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck is focused on his next goal:
“Now the only one that matters is the Stanley Cup,” he told reporters during his training camp media availability on Wednesday. “I’d love to win another Vezina, that would be great, but it’s time. I’m in my prime, this team’s in its prime — it is time to win a Stanley Cup and everyday has to be building towards that. It doesn’t have to happen today, but tomorrow’s gotta be a better version of yourself than you are today.”
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