Let’s begin with the defending Stanley Cup Champions Chicago Blackhawks as they made a couple of moves this week. They sent forward Kris Versteeg to the Carolina Hurricanes in a multiplayer deal. Versteeg was a two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Blackhawks. He was a 2004 fifth round pick of the Boston Bruins.
Right after the Blackhawks made this transaction, they re-signed forward Marcus Kruger to a one-year extension. The Blackhawks have made a bunch of moves over the summer in order to become salary cap compliant. Versteeg joins Patrick Sharp and Johnny Oduya as notable Cup-winning Blackhawks who are now playing for new clubs this season.
On Saturday, the San Jose Sharks announced that they named Evgeni Nabokov goaltending development coach and special assignment scout. Known around San Jose as “Nabby,” the former Sharks goaltender will work with the organization’s goaltending prospects. He will help their techniques to ensure that they receive proper development. Nabokov’s accomplishments as a goaltender are phenomenal. He has every goaltending record for the Sharks – games played (563), wins (293), shutouts (50). Nabokov is a great addition for the Sharks and it is nice to see their organization reward former players who were great for them.
Former Los Angeles Kings forward Mike Richards’ court case has been moved to December 8. Richards faces a charge that includes a possession of a controlled substance while he was attempting to enter Canada. The Kings terminated his contract earlier this summer and the NHLPA filed a grievance regarding the termination. This case will play out for a while and it will be interesting to see how it all unfolds.
Sticking with the Kings, defenseman Slava Voynov could be facing a possible deportation. He was released from prison last week. He had been serving a three-month jail sentence after he was arrested for domestic violence.
Earlier this week, the Colorado Avalanche and Arizona Coyotes made a quiet trade with each other. The Avalanche acquired defenseman Brandon Gormley from Arizona, while the Coyotes acquired free agent defenseman Stefan Elliott. These two players are both similar in their developments as they are both young depth players.
The Vancouver Canucks are back in the news this week as they announced that Head Coach Willie Desjardins will miss the entire training camp. He had recent hip surgery, but he is expected to be back for the Canucks season opener in Calgary on October 7. Willie will be entering his second season in Vancouver and he is coming off a solid first season with the Canucks. The Canucks finished second in the Pacific Division with 101 points in 2014-15.
The Dallas Stars announced that forward Brett Ritchie underwent wrist surgery and will miss the next 3-4 months. Ritchie, 22, is a 2011 2nd round pick of the Dallas Stars. The big winger played in 31 games for the Stars in 2014-15 and registered 6 goals and 9 points.
All eyes are on Oilers forward Connor McDavid in the Young Stars Classic Tournament in Penticton, B.C. McDavid had a good first game against the Vancouver Canucks on Friday as he registered a goal and an assist. McDavid is the first overall pick of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft and he is expected to become the next generational player around the NHL. The Young Stars Classic Tournament in Penticton includes four clubs and their prospects as they all play each other – Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Winnipeg Jets.
With less than a month to go before the season starts, the news coming out of the Eastern Conference isn’t slowing down. The Maple Leafs are planning a special event to honor Mats Sundin, former New York Ranger Chris Drury has taken on a new role, The Senators Chris Phillips has encountered a setback in his return to the NHL, as well as Max Pacioretty of the Canadiens, and Cody Franson finds a home in the most unlikely of teams in Buffalo.
The Toronto Maple Leafs announced that Mats Sundin and Borje Salming will be honored by having a likeness of them added to Legends Row in Toronto. Only five other players in the Leafs storied history have had this honor bestowed upon them. These five players are: Ted Kennedy, Darryl Sittler, Johnny Bower, Syl Apps, and George Armstrong. It goes without saying that both Sundin and Salming are in rare company in Leafs history and have left an impression on them enough to immortalize them.
Another Original Six team in the news is the New York Rangers. The Rangers announced that former Ranger Chris Drury will be returning to the team in a new role as Director of Player Development. In this role, Drury will be assisting the in the growth of prospects in the Rangers systems and will also be working with the Rangers’ AHL affiliate in Hartford as well. He will also have a hand in supervising and assessing talent at the college level. This is a great move on the Rangers part, as Drury may know a thing or two about evaluating possible prospects. This is a testament to the fact he was a Hobey Baker Award winner while playing for Boston College, and won the Calder trophy when he played for the Colorado Avalanche. He has the skills to find talented standouts such as himself and is more than qualified to do so.
But all the news for some teams in the East isn’t good. Especially for the Ottawa Senators. Reports are coming out of Ottawa that Chris Phillips has encountered a setback in his recovery from back surgery in April. CBC is reporting that he has suffered a cracked vertebra, and will need an additional month to recover. His absence will be felt by the Senators, and if they are wanting to return to the playoffs again this season, the Senators will need Phillips’ veteran influence to help them reach the next level. It is noted that Phillips is the leader in games played with the Senators with 1,179 and expressed that retirement did cross his mind during his recovery. “It got to the point where it goes beyond hockey and whether you can play again. It’s whether you can walk upright, or have a game of catch with your kids and stuff like that. That was hard on me.”
Max Pacioretty is also stating he is not sure if he will be ready to play when the Canadiens open their season on October 7th. Pacioretty fractured a small portion of his knee while participating in off-season conditioning in Florida. Doctors have stated that he needs a 12-week recovery period, which would put him on pace to play by that October 7th date, but recent reports, and even Pacioretty himself have put that date in question. Pacioretty stated, “I’m trying to ramp up every day and more intense every day. Even if I’m not out there with the team at first, I think I’m able to do a lot on my own with the trainers to maybe even be more beneficial for what I’m going for right now. I haven’t skated in so long, some of that fine-tuning you kind of have to do on your own out there, and it’s not exactly stuff you pick up in drills.” His leadership will be missed by the Habs if they don’t start the season off on the right foot.
Leadership is what Buffalo has been gaining in this off-season. After drafting Jack Eichel, they’ve added several other players to help solidify their line up while Eichel matures. Not only did they trade to acquire Ryan O’Reilly, and David Legwand to help with this, but they recently signed veteran Cody Franson from Toronto to a 2-year contract.
With all of these acquisitions, they are making strides to make sure they are not the laughing-stock of the league this season. Buffalo will be a team to keep an eye on when the season starts in just 3 weeks.
That has been this week’s Eastern Conference rewind, where next week will be only 2 weeks to puck drop.
By Andrea Sobolik and Geroge Foussekis