Training Camp Storylines 2

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The App is Back! Don’t forget to download the NBC Sports EDGE app to receive real-time player news, mobile alerts and track your favorite players. Plus, now you can check out articles and player cards. Get it here!

With training camps getting underway, there will naturally be a lot happening all at once. To help navigate through it we’ll be releasing columns that highlight some of the biggest current storylines and dive into each one.

Don’t forget, for everything NHL, check out NBC Sports EDGE's Player News, and follow @NBCSEdgeHK and @CoreAbbott on Twitter.

1. Evgeni Malkin to miss two months of the season following knee surgery.

Malkin underwent knee surgery on June 4 and it was anticipated that he wouldn’t be ready for training camp. Penguins GM Ron Hextall announced just over a week ago that Malkin was likely to end up on long-term injured reserve. After the team reported for medicals at training camp, Hextall stated that Malkin would miss at least two months of the 2021-22 campaign. That is another big hole up front for Pittsburgh entering the year, as Sidney Crosby will also be out when the season begins after he had a procedure on his wrist on September 8.

This will result in a big shakeup for Pittsburgh on the top-two lines and it opens the door for others to step up. Jeff Carter is in the driver’s seat to be the number one center out of the gate. Carter skated between Jake Guentzel and Danton Heinen on Thursday during the team’s first practice of camp. Radim Zohorna, who is worth keeping an eye on, was flanked by Kasperi Kapanen and Jason Zucker. This will be an interesting situation to monitor as camp progresses.

2. Buffalo strips Jack Eichel of captaincy, move him to injured reserve.

The relationship between Eichel and Buffalo became more contentious on Thursday when the team stripped him of the “C” and put him on injured reserve after he failed his physical. Eichel failing his training camp medical and starting the year on injured reserve were expected. Taking away the captaincy isn’t a surprise either with both sides ready to move on from one another. The problem has been moving him because of Buffalo’s high asking price and Eichel’s injury.

That brings us to the other part of the conversation that Sabres GM Kevyn Adams had with the media on Thursday. The two sides still disagree over the type of procedure that Eichel should have, with the team favoring fusion surgery and Eichel seeking artificial disc replacement. It is unclear if the two sides will come to an agreement before he is traded or if this situation will need to be settled with his new organization.

3. Tyler Bertuzzi refuses to get the COVID-19 vaccine

The list of unvaccinated players is small in the NHL, with the league projecting that 98-99 percent of final rosters will be vaccinated. The identities of some players, including Josh Archibald, Bode Wilde and Zac Rinaldo, have been revealed at training camp and Bertuzzi has been the highest profile one so far. Unlike some other players, he was not barred from attending training camp. However, he will miss some games this season because of his decision. As of now, he won’t be permitted to play in matches that take place in Canada. He could miss additional time if he tests positive or if other travel issues arise.

Teams cannot mandate a player be vaccinated, but he could be suspended without pay if he misses hockey activities. He will also have to their stricker protocols throughout the season. Bertuzzi was limited to just nine games last season because of a back problem. He was viewed as a strong bounce-back option going into the 2021-22 campaign, but this will complicate projections and adds some additional uncertainty to the equation.

4. Evander Kane excluded from San Jose’s training camp

The NHL’s investigation found no evidence to support allegations that Kane bet on NHL games and found no evidence to corroborate allegations that he conspired to lose games intentionally. However, the report stated that "two additional matters were brought to our attention which we feel require further investigation and study. Both allege potential wrongdoing by Mr. Kane, one involving serious accusations relating to his past behavior toward Ms. Kane and the other involving allegations of inappropriate behavior potentially jeopardizing the health and safety of Club members.”

The Sharks responded shortly afterward with a news release that stated that Kane would not be participating in training camp “until further notice.” It is unclear what happens next for Kane and San Jose because the team won’t be discussing the matter much until the additional investigations are completed. In the meantime, the Sharks will have to prepare to potentially play without him. Logan Couture skated between Jonathan Dahlen and Timo Meier during Thursday’s practice, while Nick Bonino was flanked by Rudolfs Balcers and Kevin Labanc. Additionally, Tomas Hertl centered a line with Alexander Barabanov and Noah Gregor. Clearly, the team is spreading out players early at camp, but Dahlen is someone to watch out for as a potential sleeper.

5. More (very early) line combinations

Don't read too much into lines during training camp. Some teams have several different groups, which will be consolidated as the start of the regular season draws closer. Additionally, coaches often do plenty of experimenting at camp. Still, there are some intriguing combinations which were exhibited on Day 1 of on-ice sessions and those will be highlighted here:

Edmonton - Zach Hyman - Connor McDavid - Jesse Puljujarvi

Carolina - Jesperi Kotkaniemi - Vincent Trocheck - Teuvo Teravainen

Chicago - Alex DeBrincat - Tyler Johnson - Patrick Kane

Columbus - Patrik Laine - Cole Sillinger - Jakub Voracek

Dallas - Joel Kiviranta - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov

Montreal - Jonathan Drouin - Christian Dvorak - Josh Anderson

Calgary - Matthew Tkachuk - Elias Lindholm - Blake Coleman

Los Angeles - Viktor Arvidsson - Anze Kopitar - Dustin Brown

Philadelphia - Oskar Lindblom - Derick Brassard - Cam Atkinson

Seattle - Jaden Schwartz - Jared McCann - Jordan Eberle

NY Islanders - Anders Lee - Mathew Barzal - Anatolii Golyshev

NY Rangers - Barclay Goodrow - Filip Chytil - Vitali Kravtsov

Vancouver - Conor Garland - J.T. Miller - Vasily Podkolzin

Florida - Carter Verhaeghe - Aleksander Barkov - Sam Reinhart

Tampa Bay - Mathieu Joseph - Ross Colton - Corey Perry

St. Louis - Brandon Saad - Robert Thomas - Vladimir Tarasenko

6. Injury News

Carey Price (knee) and Mike Hoffman (lower body) failed their training camp medicals and both players are uncertain for the start of the 2021-22 season. Montreal hopes that Price will be ready by then, but Hoffman is considered to be doubtful.

Phil Kessel may also miss the start of the year because of a foot injury. The Coyotes forward hasn’t missed a game in the regular season for the past 11 years.

Jonathan Toews hopes to play in Chicago’s season opener, but he knows he has to be patient and the Blackhawks do not plan to not rush him back. He missed the entire 2020-21 season because of chronic immune response syndrome. Toews was on the ice for Thursday’s practice. He skated between Dominik Kubalik and Brandon Hagel.

Nicklas Backstrom is listed as week-to-week with a hip injury. It was a problem for him last season, but the Capitals believe he is improving. Backstrom hasn’t been ruled out yet for the start of the year.

Devon Toews is expected to miss some games at the start of the year after he had offseason shoulder surgery. He has been skating during training camp, but he hasn’t been cleared for contact.

Cal Foote is slated to be out for two-to-four weeks of the regular season after he had surgery on his hand to repair a tendon in his pinky. He was viewed as a strong candidate for a top-six defense spot with the Lightning going into the 2021-22 campaign.

Alex Stalock is unlikely to be able to play this season because of a COVID-related heart condition.

Ben Bishop hasn’t been cleared for games yet, but he has been skating at training camp and he intends to return to the crease this season. He missed the entire 2020-21 season after he had knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus.

7. Some key restricted free agents remain unsigned as camps open

Kirill Kaprizov’s five-year, $45 million contract with the Minnesota Wild and Rasmus Dahlin’s three-year, $18 million deal with the Buffalo Sabres were agreed to this week. They are both expected to be on the ice as early as Friday,

Meanwhile, Vancouver is still trying to work out agreements with Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes. Kaprizov and Dahlin could be used as comparables for those deals. There have been reports of short-term agreements for the Canucks’ young stars and the situation is not expected to linger much longer. According to The Athletic, Pettersson and Hughes are training in Michigan together.

Brady Tkachuk also remains unsigned by the Ottawa Senators and he is apparently in Michigan as well. The Senators have indicated that negotiations are moving along, but it’s unclear if anything has changed or intensified with training camp already underway.

8. Seattle Kraken open training camp

The NHL’s newest franchise was on the ice for practice for the first time on Thursday. The Kraken had few hundred fans in attendance for the event.

The big news for Seattle was that Yanni Gourde appears to be ahead of schedule in his recovery from offseason shoulder surgery. He was sporting a non-contact jersey during the session and may be ready to play games at some point in November.

McCann centered the top line in the first group, while Alexander Wennberg skated between Marcus Johansson and Calle Jarnkrok on an all-Swedish line during the second session. McCann and Wennberg provide the team with some depth down the middle until Gourde is able to return. Morgan Geekie was also in the first skate, flanked on the wings by Ryan Donato and Joonas Donskoi.

On the defense corps, Mark Giordano and Jamie Oleksiak made up what looks like the team’s top pairing, while Vince Dunn was alongside Adam Larsson. Jeremy Lauzon and Will Borgen could form the third combination on what appears to be a solid top-six group.