NHL suspends Capitals’ McIlrath, Senators’ Greig

The NHL handed out two suspensions related to preseason games on Monday.

  • The biggest punishment went to Capitals defenseman Dylan McIlrath. McIlrath was suspended four games (two in the preseason, two in the regular season) for an illegal hit to the head on Bruins forward Steven Fogarty.

You can watch McIlrath’s hit on Fogarty in the video above, which also includes the NHL’s explanation for the four-game suspension. During the preseason game itself, McIlrath received a match penalty for that hit on Fogarty.

  • Senators forward Ridly Greig received a two-game suspension (one preseason, one regular season) for cross-checking Jets forward Pierre-Luc Dubois.

Here’s the explanation video for Greig’s suspension:

Sportsnet notes that Dubois needed 15 stitches from that Greig cross-check. Even so, Dubois understood why it happened.

“I don’t think he did it on purpose,” Dubois said. “I think he just got scared, threw his stick up. He saw me coming and threw his stick up to defend himself, which is obviously against the rules for an obvious reason. It is what it is.”

Luckily, Dubois was able to return to the Jets’ preseason game against the Senators.

It’s worth noting that the NHL hopes to address cross-checking during the 2021-22 season, and that include an increase in related suspensions. For more details on how that may change, check out this deep dive by Scouting the Refs.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Can Armstrong keep Blues’ Stanley Cup window open?

For ages, the St. Louis Blues have been all about stability.

From their inception in 1967-68 through a long playoff run that ended in 2003-04, the Blues only missed the playoffs three times.

Have they always been a serious contender during those runs? Not necessarily, but few sports franchises would dream of the Blues’ remarkable consistency.

In most ways, Doug Armstrong’s carried over that legacy as Blues GM. For all of the highs of that Stanley Cup win, there have also been a lot of smaller and medium-sized victories.

It’s not that surprising, then, that the franchise rewarded him with a contract extension on Sunday. He’s been one of the NHL’s best GMs, especially considering that the Blues aren’t merely built off of draft lottery luck.

It wouldn’t be surprising if Armstrong found ways to keep the Blues competitive for most of his latest extension (again, through 2025-26). But is Armstrong right in believing that the Blues’ Stanley Cup window is still open?

Let’s look at the situation in front of them.

Solid (but unspectacular) outlook for the Blues in 2021-22

In short order, PHT will delve deep with a preview of the Blues 2021-22 season. (On Monday, PHT covered the Rangers.)

The short version: it’s not that difficult to picture the Blues making the playoffs. If they get hot again, they could go on a solid run — as long as they avoid the best of the West.

It’s not just that the Blues got swept by the Avalance; it’s that most of those games weren’t even close. The Blues have to hope that they’re closer to that championship team than the 2020-21 version.

Maybe things will break better this season. Consider some of their even-strength stats from Natural Stat Trick,and you’ll realize that things definitely need to be different.

  • They were in the bottom-half of the NHL in volume stats like Corsi For (48.23-percent, 10th-worst) and scoring chances for (48.73-percent, 13th-worst).
  • It’s not something you can explain away as quality over quantity. Their expected goals for percentage was 46.01-percent, seventh-worst in the NHL. Only the leaky Blackhawks’ control of high-danger chances (43.04-percent) dipped below the Blues’ 43.88-percent.

Will the Blues age well, or fall off the map?

Yes, the Blues aren’t that far removed from that Stanley Cup run. Life can come at you fast in sports, though, and it’s possible this is their new reality.

If you want to scare Blues fans and management, merely utter the phrase: “Look at the Sharks.”

Like the Blues, the Sharks consistently ranked among the NHL’s better teams with unusual consistency. While risky, you could talk yourself into Doug Wilson investing in older players, culminating with the Erik Karlsson contract.

Even Wilson likely expected things to eventually sour — but just about no one expected the Sharks’ downfall to be so immediate, and chilling. Now the Sharks’ front office only ranks ahead of the Sabres in fan confidence. Few teams feel more “stuck” than the Sharks.

So, the fear is that the Blues will get stuck much like the Sharks — with things falling apart in a sudden and shocking way.

[2021 NHL Free Agent Tracker]

The sheer number of long-term contracts, and ones that look dubious, should be troubling for the Blues. Consider $6.5M the magic/poison number.

  • Brayden Schenn, 30, carries that cap hit through 2027-28.
  • Justin Faulk, 29, and Torey Krug, 30, both cost that much through 2026-27.
  • Colton Parayko, 28, costs $5.5M in 2021-22. Parayko ranks among the biggest risks, as his extension (again, $6.5M) expires after the 2029-30 season.

Look, it’s great to have a plan. When you zoom out on how the Blues are built, is it possible that Armstrong sometimes jumps the gun?

The entire Justin Faulk situation revolved around preparing for Alex Pietrangelo‘s likely departure. In the long run, though, the Blues doubled the risks of aging defensemen (Faulk and Krug), are paying $13M combined for the two, and took a step back on defense.

Schenn’s fine, but considering his rugged style, that contract might age poorly. Jordan Binnington costs slightly less ($6M), but is 28, and who knows what kind of value he’ll bring through 2026-27?

For every player the Blues wisely walked away from (David Backes, Kevin Shattenkirk), they’ve made risky investments in solid-but-unspectacular players. Each of these moves add more risks to the Blues roster, and makes them less flexible.

Which makes two upcoming decisions all the more important.

Two keys: ROR and Tarasenko

Ryan O’Reilly, 30, seems headed for a raise from that $7.5M after 2022-23. Meanwhile, it seems like a matter of time before Vladimir Tarasenko, 29, gets traded.

Theoretically, the Blues could picture Pavel Buchnevich (26, $5.8M through 2025-26) as a Tarasenko replacement. (By that logic, Brandon Saad slots into Jaden Schwartz‘s spot.) In some scenarios, ROR simply gets a small raise, and the puzzle pieces fit.

It’s key for the Blues to be flexible here, though.

In a lot of ways, they’ve boxed themselves into committing to O’Reilly. After all, this is an aging roster, and ROR is their most obviously great player.

Again, though, he’s already 30. If the Blues sink like the Sharks, would they be honest enough to acknowledge their situation?

Will Armstrong & Co. be willing to admit they’ve made mistakes, and switch gears? Or will they dig in, and make matters worse if things go south?

Can they innovate if needed?

And, really, are they equipped to rebuild/reload if their window truly closed? The makeup of their front office makes that seem dubious.

The rise of Peter Chiarelli doesn’t inspire maximum confidence.

Granted, you could joke that the Blues don’t even have Tyler Seguin/Taylor Hall-type players to trade away for pennies on the dollar. Elite Prospects ranked the Blues’ pool at 26th, while The Athletic’s Corey Pronman placed them 24th.

But it’s still unsettling if Chiarelli hasn’t learned from mistakes. It’s not just about the meme-generating blockbuster gaffes, either.

Chiarelli consistently made groan-inducing value judgments. Forking over two first-round picks for Griffin Reinhart? Rough. Seeing one of them pan out to be Mathew Barzal? Almost art.

(The parting gift of Mikko Koskinen‘s brutal contract seems like trolling as much as anything else. Are we sure that wasn’t what he was doing?)

[PHT’s Power Rankings]

All ribbing aside, Chiarelli brings a wealth of experience. Ideally, the Blues form a sage-like front office with Chiarelli, Armstrong, and Ken Hitchcock.

Is that really a group that would be agile enough to change course if the Blues underwhelm, though? Chiarelli and Armstrong are both 57, and Hitchock turns 70 in December.

From the look of their front office, there isn’t much interest in analytics, either. At least publicly.

In a way, the Blues’ front office echoes their roster. You can find good in both, but each group could also age very poorly. Every sports team battles Father Time. The Blues, though? They’re hiding Father Time’s newspaper, and stealing his slippers. The backlash could be severe.

None of this means the Blues are doomed, mind you. Doug Armstrong just might need to pull off his best work yet.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

NHL Power Rankings: Top storylines for 2021-22 NHL season (Part 2)

In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we continue counting down the 30 biggest storylines to watch across the league for the 2021-22 season.

We are looking at 10 storylines each Monday until the start of the season. We continue today with storylines 20-11, including looks at the Philadelphia Flyers, Montreal Canadiens, the top rookies, pending free agents, the salary cap, and new Stanley Cup contenders.

[You can read Part 1 here]

What stories make the list this week?

To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

20. The Philadelphia Flyers offseason. Now this is the type of offseason you expect from the Flyers. Big moves! Bold moves! Maybe even crazy moves! The trades for Ryan Ellis and Cam Atkinson have the potential to be huge additions, but the Rasmus Ristolainen trade is a little difficult to figure. Do they think they can turn his career around? Of course, all of these moves will be rendered pointless if Carter Hart does not play better in goal this season.

19. What do the Montreal Canadiens do for a repeat? The Canadiens shocked the NHL by making a stunning run to the Stanley Cup Final. Carey Price found the fountain of youth and helped lead them to upsets over Toronto, Winnipeg, and Vegas before running into the Tampa Bay Lightning buzzsaw.

They are bringing back a very different roster, however. Phillip Danault and Jesperi Kotkaniemi are gone, Tomas Tatar left in free agency, Shea Weber will not play this season, while Mike Hoffman, Christian Dvorak, and David Savard join the team. They are also getting Jonathan Drouin back after he missed most of the 2020-21 season and all of the playoffs. They also have potential breakout seasons for Nick Suzuki and Cole Caulfield to look forward to. But is this roster good enough to even get back in the playoffs in a tough division?

18. The salary cap situation in the NHL. We are still looking at a situation in the league where salary cap increases are going to be minimal in the coming years. There are obvious ramifications for contending teams close to the cap and with pending free agents to sign. It could also make more players available in trades and allow teams with excess salary cap space to utilize that in trades.

17. Potential unrestricted free agents. A lot of significant players are entering the final year of their contracts this season with Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Alexander Barkov, Filip Forsberg, Tomas Hertl, John Klingberg, Johnny Gaudreau, Morgan Rielly, Ryan Pulock, Patrice Bergeron, Claude Giroux, Mattias Ekholm, P.K. Subban, Marc-Andre Fleury, Darcy Kuemper, and Mika Zibanejad leading the way. Many of those players will re-sign with their current teams. Some might even retire (Fleury? Bergeron?). But there are a few players that they could end up changing teams, including Forsberg, Hertl, Gaudreau, and maybe even Rielly.

16. The rookie of the year race. Always one of the more intriguing individual award races because it highlights new stars coming into the league. This year’s favorites have to include Caufield in Montreal, Spencer Knight in Florida, Moritz Seider in Detroit, Quinton Byfield in Los Angeles, and Vasili Podkolzin in Vancouver.

[NHL Power Rankings: Calder Trophy candidates for 2021-22 season]

15. Can Islanders break through to the Stanley Cup Final? It has been three decades since the New York Islanders played in a Cup Final, but they are getting closer every year. They just can not seem to get over the final hurdle that is the Lightning, having lost to them two years in a row in the Eastern Conference Final/Semifinal round. They are bringing back mostly the same roster, but will have a full season of Kyle Palmieri, a returning Anders Lee, and the offseason additions of Zach Parise and Zdeno Chara. Not to mention one of the league’s best coaches and a sensational goalie duo with Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin.

Their regular season performances never look impressive. But they are probably one of the last teams you want to see in a best-of-seven series in the playoffs.

14. New York Rangers changes. The Rangers’ rebuild was not going fast enough for ownership, so a lot of changes were made this offseason in the front office, coaching staff, and even on the roster. Chris Drury takes over for Jeff Gorton in the GM chair, Gerard Gallant replaces David Quinn behind the bench, and the team attempted to get tougher this offseason by trading Pavel Buchnevich, while also acquiring Ryan Reaves, Patrik Nemeth, and Barclay Goodrow. It is the Tom Wilson impact. The Rangers can say it is not all about Wilson all they want, but it is pretty clear that is what this is about. Is that the right step for a team that has a Hart Trophy candidate (Artemi Panarin), a Norris Trophy-winning defender (Adam Fox), and an impressive collection of young talent? We are about to find out.

In the end, though, the success or failure of this season will depend on the development of Alexis Lafreniere, Kaapo Kakko, Vitali Kravtsov, and Igor Shesterkin. If that quartet becomes impact players, the Rangers will be very good. If they do not, the Rangers’ rebuild will remain stuck in neutral.

13. Panthers becoming a Cup contender. This might be the first time ever that the Florida Panthers are entering a season with real, championship level expectations. This is a really good roster with a couple of All-Stars at the top of it (Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau) coming off the best regular season in franchise history They also added Sam Reinhart to the mix this offseason. If Spencer Knight can take over the goaltending job and play to his potential this could be a sleeper Cup team.

12. Can Avalanche get through Second Round ceiling. On paper the Colorado Avalanche might have the best team in the NHL. They are loaded from top to bottom with a deep, talented group of forwards, an excellent defense with young stars, and a strong goalie with the offseason addition of Kuemper. They have been Cup contenders and favorites for a couple of years now. But they remain stuck in the Second Round, having lost their three years in a row.

When a team like this can’t get through a particular round, or can’t take that next step, it is easy to get frustrated and think that some kind of change needs to happen. We heard it constantly with the Washington Capitals and how they needed to change and who they needed to trade. We heard it all the time with the Lightning. Eventually talent breaks through and wins. The Avalanche have the talent to get there. They just need to be patient and stick with the process and talent they have. It is championship caliber, and still has its best days ahead of it.

11. Can the Oilers finally take advantage of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. McDavid and Draisaitl are the two best offensive players in the world. They are both league MVPs, winning the award in three of the past five seasons. Most teams will go decades, maybe even their entire existence to this point, without getting one player like this, let alone two of them together at the exact same time. You can not waste that luck. The Oilers are wasting it. Badly.

They made some significant changes this offseason with the additions of Zach Hyman, Warren Foegele, Duncan Keith, and Cody Ceci. But even with that depth still looks suspect, as does this defense (largely due to the changes there with an aging Keith and Ceci replacing Ethan Bear and Adam Larsson), and they are counting on a 39-year-old Mike Smith to have another strong year when he has only had one good season in the past three seasons. Still a lot that can go wrong here, even with two megastars at the top of the lineup.

Kraken released: Seattle opens preseason topping Vancouver

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — The concourses of the Spokane Arena were jammed. The merchandise lines snaked through the crowds, causing bottlenecks as fans filed in for their first glimpse of the Seattle Kraken.

There seems to be little doubt about the popularity and reach of the NHL’s newest franchise, even when playing 300 miles away from home.

“It was unbelievable to be honest. I mean, I’m from the East Coast so I’ve never been out here. It just goes to show how exciting hockey is, how much it’s growing,” Seattle’s Ryan Donato said. “Coming in here and seeing all the Kraken jerseys and how everything’s growing so fast, it’s truly awesome to be a part of.”

Seattle made its debut on Sunday night with a 5-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks in the preseason opener for both teams. With Seattle’s home arena putting the finishing touches on its construction, the Kraken have taken their first preseason on the road to three junior hockey venues in the state.

Spokane was first up, and the 10,208 fans were treated to the Kraken rallying from a 2-0 deficit thanks to three goals in the second period and Morgan Geekie’s two goals in the third period.

Riley Sheahan scored the first preseason goal in Kraken history at 2:32 of the second period off an assist from Nathan Bastian. Jared McCann and Donato added power-play goals in the second period for Seattle.

It wasn’t quite like the preseason debut Vegas had in 2017, when it scored nine goals against Vancouver. But the “home” fans went home happy.

“It’s great to be back in a full building,” Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said. “We’ve all missed that for a long time. To be able to do it here was great.”

There was necessity related to Seattle’s decision to trek across the state for its first game. The home arena for the Kraken — Climate Pledge Arena — is still a couple of weeks from completion and Seattle’s first home game is Oct. 23 against the Canucks.

But there was also a specific outreach behind the decision to play in Spokane rather than keeping all their preseason games in the Puget Sound region. The Kraken envision themselves a brand for the entire Pacific Northwest and their regional broadcasts will have games being shown throughout Washington, but also into slivers of Northern Idaho and Western Montana.

Playing in Spokane was a way to acknowledge that segment of the fan base, and a way to help establish a connection with the area.

“Tonight is validation that our market isn’t just the Seattle DMA. The amount of people wearing Kraken merchandise, the sincere enthusiasm, there couldn’t be a better place to start,” Kraken CEO Tod Leiweke said shortly before puck drop. “This is just magnificent. It’s heartwarming. It’s stirring and I feel emotional just walking that concourse.”

While the Kraken will play their final two home preseason games in the Puget Sound area, there could be opportunities in the future for Seattle to take its product on the road in the preseason. Alaska has been a market the Kraken have specifically focused on — including promoting donations to help reinstate the men’s hockey program at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Kraken games will be broadcast throughout Alaska and landing that territory as part of their broadcasting rights was a big win for the franchise.

“We hope that through these three games that our partners and us raise, targeting the half a million dollars, that’s how you build relationships. Going up to Alaska and supporting the effort to save the Seahawks hockey program that’s how you build support,” Leiweke said. “Easiest way to do it is winning but there’s other things that are also fundamental to the mission.”

For the first night, the focus was on Spokane and giving a jolt to a normally sleepy Sunday night in the Lilac City. At Lord Stanley’s, a recently opened hockey bar downtown, fans packed every table of the restaurant several hours before the game. While there were NFL games on the TVs and a handful of fans in Seahawks jerseys, Kraken logos and gear dominated — with the exception of two fans in Red Wings jerseys. And even in the midst of a Sunday afternoon filled with NFL games, TVs were also tuned to the Boston-Washington NHL preseason game.

“Just kind of crazy seeing people for the first time again,” McCann said. “Some of us haven’t seen them in a long time. So it’s great.”

Former Blackhawks player participates in assault investigation

CHICAGO — An attorney who represents a former Chicago Blackhawks player who alleges he was sexually assaulted by a then-assistant coach in 2010 said Friday her client has been interviewed as part of the team’s review of the accusations.

A former federal prosecutor has been hired by the Blackhawks to conduct what the team says is an independent investigative review of the allegations in a pair of lawsuits filed against the franchise. In an internal memo sent on June 28, CEO Danny Wirtz said Reid Schar and Jenner & Block LLP “have been directed to follow the facts wherever they lead.”

The first suit alleges sexual assault by former assistant coach Bradley Aldrich during the team’s run to the 2010 Stanley Cup title, and the second was filed by a former student whom Aldrich was convicted of assaulting in Michigan.

Susan Loggans, an attorney who represents the former player and student, had cast doubt on the possibility of the former player participating in the review by Jenner & Block. She said they wanted to know more about the parameters of the investigation, and wanted the opportunity to conduct their own interviews of key former and current team executives.

Asked what had changed, Loggans said: “We agreed we wouldn’t talk about it.”

“But I would just say that I felt as though the investigation was becoming aware of what the real facts were,” Loggans continued, “and I felt more confident that, since they had already heard what happened, that they would, this would just be more of the same of what they already heard.”

The Blackhawks promised in August to release the findings of the review. Asked Thursday when it night be completed, a spokesman for Jenner & Block declined comment.

Aldrich was employed by Miami University from June 2012 to November 2012, and the Ohio school released a report Friday that concluded it had responded properly when it learned of allegations that Aldrich had sexually assaulted two men while employed there as director of hockey operations.

There also is “no evidence that Miami was negligent in screening Mr. Aldrich prior to his employment,” according to the report by Barnes & Thornburg, a law firm that conducted an investigation for the school.

The accusers didn’t pursue criminal charges, according to the report.

In the former player’s lawsuit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, he says Aldrich assaulted him, and that the team did nothing after he informed an employee. The suit also alleges Aldrich assaulted another Blackhawks player, also unidentified. The former player who sued and is seeking more than $150,000 in damages is referred in the document as “John Doe.”

The lawsuit says “in or around May 2010” — right before the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup — Aldrich, then a video coach for the team, “turned on porn and began to masturbate in front of” the player without his consent. When the player attempted to leave Aldrich’s apartment, according to the suit, Aldrich grabbed a souvenir Chicago Cubs bat and threatened to hurt the player if he “did not engage in nonconsensual sexual activity” with him.

According to TSN, two Blackhawks players told then-skills coach Paul Vincent in May 2010 of inappropriate behavior by Aldrich. Vincent said he asked mental skills coach James Gary to follow up with the players and management.

Vincent was called into a meeting with then-team President John McDonough, general manager Stan Bowman, hockey executive Al MacIsaac and Gary the next day. He said he asked the team to report the allegations to Chicago police, and the request was denied.

Vincent told the AP in an email that he stands by everything he told TSN.

An attorney for Aldrich told Chicago public radio station WBEZ that his client denies the allegations in the lawsuit. In a May statement to the radio station, the Blackhawks said the allegations directed at the team were groundless.

After leaving the Blackhawks, Aldrich was convicted in 2013 in Michigan of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a high school student and is now on that state’s registry of sex offenders.

The former student filed a separate lawsuit against the Blackhawks on May 26, saying the team provided positive references to future employers of Aldrich despite allegations from at least one player and took no action to report the matter.

That suit says the student was a hockey player at Houghton High School near Hancock in 2013 when Aldrich sexually assaulted him at an end-of-season gathering.

NHL says it will have ‘tighter standard of enforcement’ for cross-checking this season

The NHL has had a cross-checking problem for some time now. Not just the fact that it happens on a consistent basis and can result in injury, but that it has not been consistently enforced by the league’s on-ice officials. Especially when it comes to battles for positioning in front of the net.

The league claims it is looking to change that this season.

As the 2021-22 season approaches, the NHL has said there will be a tighter standard for the enforcement of rule 59 (the cross-checking rule) in the hopes of calling more penalties and giving offensive players a better opportunity to shine.

On Friday, the league sent out a video highlighting some of the plays that will be penalized this season.

By the wording of the rule, all of them should have been penalized in previous years.

The NHL has seemingly always operated under the assumption that cross-checking is just one of those things that happens around the net. While it does get called fairly regularly, there are probably even more infractions that go uncalled over the course of any random game.

In previous years the NHL has tried to crack down on other infractions and call them more frequently, including interference and most recently slashing.

There is no doubt that early in the season we will see an increase in cross-checking calls and more power plays.

They key is going to be how long that continues.

Seguin, Bishop among recovering Stars back on ice in camp

FRISCO, Texas — Tyler Seguin figures he is at a point in his career when he will never be fully healthy again. The Dallas Stars 29-year-old forward is about as close as he can get to that after missing all but three games last season during his rehab and recovery from hip surgery.

“When you’re on the back nine of your career, I don’t know if 100% is ever going to be legit, but definitely high 90s. I’m feeling great, I’m really excited,” said Seguin, a six-time All-Star going into his 12th NHL season. “It’s hard not to have a smile on my face every day at training camp, being a part of the team again.”

When the Stars opened training camp Thursday, exactly one year to the day after they were playing Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final for the pandemic-interrupted 2020 season, Seguin wasn’t the only Stars player back from injury. Goaltender Ben Bishop and top-line forward Alexander Radulov were also on the ice.

Bishop didn’t play at all last season after twice having knee surgery. The 35-year-old Radulov, who was primarily on the top line with Jamie Benn and Joe Pavelski, had 12 points in 11 games before surgery to repair a core muscle injury that had bothered him for several seasons.

“Bish looked fantastic, Seggy was skating well, and so was Rads. They know their bodies, and they seemed to handle it OK,” coach Rick Bowness said. “Are they 100%? No. But hopefully by Oct. 14th, they all will be.”

Missing that trio for most or parts of the condensed 56-game season certainly contributed to the Stars missing the playoffs only six months after their first Stanley Cup Final appearance since 2000 ended with a Game 6 loss to Tampa Bay. The Stars had an NHL-high 14 overtime/shootout losses in the second consecutive season altered by the pandemic.

Roope Hintz had 43 points in 41 games but is healthy after that point-a-minute season while playing through a lingering groin injury. General manager Jim Nill said Hintz is on schedule to be ready for the season.

Bishop’s status is still uncertain, though he skated throughout the summer and hopes to play in a preseason game. The goalie said he “absolutely” expects to play this season.

“It feels unbelievable to be back practicing with the guys. I think that’s my first full practice by myself since pre-COVID. So it’s been a long time coming,” Bishop said. “It’s still a building process. We’re still trying to get better every day as far as myself and the knee. So just kind of take it day by day right now and see where it goes.”

Bishop had his first knee surgery in May 2020 and didn’t play after the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The knee bothered him throughout that postseason run, which was followed by another surgery to repair torn meniscus.

Seguin, who also had arthroscopic knee surgery while out, made his season debut May 3, six months and a day after surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip. He scored two goals in his three games, including a third-period goal to force overtime in his first one, before Dallas was knocked out of playoff contention. He also had a bout with COVID-19 over the summer despite being vaccinated.

“I never wanted to have this reset, but having it has been a blessing physically and, honestly, mentally,” Seguin said. “You’re remembering how much you love this game, and how much I love the routine of it and the lifestyle of an NHL player, being on the plane, and being a part of something bigger than yourself. It was dark days not being a part of that.”

Radulov, going into the final season of his five-year deal with the Stars, said everything seems to be back to normal after having surgery for the first time in his hockey career. He said he went three months off the ice before starting to skate again in mid-July.

“At some point, you realize you’re not getting young. It’s tough, but I still feel I can play, and it’s good to be back and feel 100%,” Radulov said. “I tried to manage it. At some point, it was getting worse and worse, and then it was chronic.”

Sharks open training camp without Evander Kane

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — The San Jose Sharks opened training camp with a big void at forward with Evander Kane not participating and little idea of when or if he will come back.

The Sharks took the ice for the first time this season Thursday, a day after Kane was cleared by the NHL of gambling allegations. But with the league still looking into allegations of physical and sexual abuse made by his estranged wife, Kane and the Sharks decided he will not take part in practice until further notice.

“It’s not ideal, but there is an ongoing investigation from the NHL,” general manager Doug Wilson said. “The focus has to be on our group here, the guys that are here today and the things that we can control, but also respect the process of dealing with some very serious allegations and some things that need to be addressed with the right process.”

The Kane saga has been hanging over the Sharks for weeks after Anna Kane alleged in an Instagram post this summer that Kane bet on NHL games and was “obviously throwing games to win money.”

That launched a probe by the league and the NHL said Wednesday there was no evidence to back up those charges and that the investigation “raises doubts about the veracity of the allegations.”

But Anna Kane also made additional allegations this week of sexual and physical abuse in a restraining order application filed in Santa Clara County Family Court.

Kane’s attorney denied those charges but the team said it came to an agreement with Kane that he won’t participate in camp until further notice while the league looks into those charges.

None of the players made available to the media would comment on the specifics.

“No one knew about anything and no one still knows about anything,” defenseman Erik Karlsson said. “We’re here to focus on the things that we can control and everything other than that is out of our hands.”

There was also a report this offseason from The Athletic that there was a rift between Kane and his teammates, many of whom don’t want him back on the team.

Kane’s teammates said any issues would be dealt with privately in the dressing room and they were happy with the mindset of the group who was on hand for the start of camp.

“I thought today was a real good day,” captain Logan Couture said. “When you get to the rink, you show up, you play hockey, you work hard. You play for the guy next to you. Everyone that’s here is proud to be a San Jose Shark and we want to win for this organization.”

Kane’s absence will be felt on the ice as he was the team’s most consistent forward last season, when he led the Sharks with 22 goals and 49 points.

If Kane can’t play, they will have a hard time reversing the dramatic fall the team has taken the past two seasons after making it to the Western Conference Final in 2019.

“We all just play,” defenseman Brent Burns said. “It’s no different than anything else. At the end of the day, we just make coffee in the morning, come to the rink, get ready to play and you do it. I don’t think it’s any different than guys getting hurt, not being there for lineup. We don’t worry about that stuff. We can’t. There’s too much other stuff.”

The Sharks finished last in the Western Conference in 2019-20 when coach Peter DeBoer was fired in December and took only small steps forward last season when they finished near the bottom of the West Division with 49 points in the first full season under Boughner.

They made few big moves in the offseason outside of buying out ineffective goalie Martin Jones and acquiring Adin Hill from Arizona in a trade and signing James Reimer for a second stint with the organization. The Sharks’ .891 save percentage over the past three seasons is the lowest in the NHL.

They also added some depth forwards in Nick Bonino and Andrew Cogliano but there will still be questions about whether there’s enough firepower on the top two lines, which will only be a greater concern if Kane doesn’t play.

Blues’ Tarasenko keeping focus on hockey following summer trade request

Any hope that there would be clarity into Vladimir Tarasenko‘s summer trade request from the Blues was dashed when he met the media for the first time on Thursday.

The Blues forward would not explain why he wanted out of St. Louis, saying “it’s all behind” and he did not want to be a distraction for the team.

“My mindset is good,” he said. “Happy to be with the guys. I have good relationships with the guys. It’s been a weird summer, but it’s kind of between us, between me and Doug. I’m here to work. As long as I play here, I will work 100 percent. I’m 100 percent healthy. [We’ll] go from here.

Tarasenko missed the opening two months of last season while recouping from shoulder surgery. He’s had three such operations on his left shoulder since 2017. He was limited to only 28 regular-season and playoff games in 2020-21, scoring six goals and recording 16 points.

The 29-year-old forward’s contract carries a $7.5 million cap hit through the 2022-23 season and a no-trade clause. He was left exposed for the NHL Expansion Draft in July, but the Kraken decided to select defenseman Vince Dunn.

No distraction to team

Whatever feelings Tarasenko has towards the organization, his coach and teammates are not worried it will affect the season.

“I really don’t believe it’s a distraction at all,” said head coach Craig Berube. “He’s been here for a while, skating with the guys, being with the guys, hanging out with the guys. I thought he looked excellent out there today. He’s been part this team for a long time. Yeah, things happen in the summertime or things are said. I don’t go into all that, I don’t worry about that. He’s here playing hockey for us, so I coach him. That’s it. It’s not a distraction in my opinion.

“I don’t believe it’s an issue at all. If he wasn’t bought in, I don’t think he’d have been here a month early skating with the guys and working out with the guys and being around. He’s obviously bought in. He’s part of this team. He’s been part of this team his whole career, NHL career. I don’t see a buy-in problem.”

“I think he’s here and he’s a Blue,” said Ryan O’Reilly. “That’s a great thing for us. He’s a great player and we’ve all seen it. He looks very healthy, and he’s been back for a month now skating with guys. He’s here and he’s ready to go. That’s the plan. I think we’re a better team with him, what he can bring. I think it’s going to be good.”

The Blues selected Tarasenko 10th overall in 2010 NHL Draft. In 531 regular season games he’s scored 218 goals and recorded 442 points. Injuries have limited him to only 34 games over the last two seasons.

Tarasenko emphasized that as long as he remains with the team he will continue to be a good teammate and not allow the business-side of things to affect his play.

“As long as I play for the Blues I will work hard and play for the win. We’ve been here for nine years,” Tarasenko said. “We always love [the] St. Louis community. We always try to help the community as much as we can, and like me and my family, we are always grateful to those people who support us these past nine years, especially this past summer. We received a lot of support. We’re really grateful to have this. This is our home. I’m happy to be with the guys. Like I said before, I’m healthy and I’m happy to work.”


Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Time to get Kraken: Seattle opens first NHL training camp

SEATTLE (AP) — It didn’t take long for Mark Giordano to get years of seeing red out of his system. The former longtime Calgary Flames defenseman didn’t even flinch Thursday while pulling on the jersey of a different team for the first time in his career.

Give an assist to his wife for making sure Seattle Kraken blue has been the dominant color for him ever since Giordano was selected by the NHL’s newest franchise in the league’s expansion draft over the summer.

“My wife’s done a good job of surrounding my family with Kraken T-shirts and now we can get some jerseys that they’re for sale,” Giordano said.

Giordano and the rest of the Kraken’s roster hit the ice for the first time as a team with the start of training camp Thursday. It was the first step toward Seattle’s debut on Oct. 12 at Vegas and came exactly a month before the Kraken open their home arena against Vancouver.

While Seattle’s roster is a mix of veterans and some young talent looking for an opportunity, no one on the roster comes close to Giordano’s years on the ice.

After 15 years in Calgary — the past eight as the Flames’ captain — coming to Seattle is a fresh opportunity for the nearly 38-year-old veteran.

And nothing is more exciting than the first day of camp.

“It wasn’t light out for a little while but I wasn’t first at the rink, I can tell you that,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “Everyone was here earlier, everybody was excited to get going. Overall, it was a good first day for everybody to get under their belts.”

Giordano was in the first group to take the ice shortly after 9:30 a.m. They were greeted by applause from fans who showed up at the team’s $80 million practice facility for a glimpse of Seattle’s players.

Most of the team has been in town for a couple of weeks having informal workouts.

“All the guys were here earlier than I’ve seen groups on other teams come in,” forward Jordan Eberle said. “We were all here for two weeks in advance to camp. I think that was just everyone wanted to get here, get settled obviously being new, getting a chance to meet the guys, joke around in the locker room, start some camaraderie within the group. That bonding is huge.”

Seattle plays the first of six preseason games Sunday against the Canucks in Spokane, Washington. Because the team is entirely new both Hakstol and some of the players said they would like to keep the pairings from the first day together for a bit to see how it develops.

“We’ve only got a certain amount of time so what we would like to do is put some combinations together and see what that looks like,” Hakstol said. “In order to see that you have to give it two or three days to build together, possibly even leave it together through one exhibition game and then we have the opportunity to look at a different combination.”

One unexpected sight was forward Yanni Gourde working with the second practice group, albeit wearing a red no-contact jersey. Gourde had shoulder surgery in July shortly before the expansion draft and was expected to miss the first two months of the regular season.

While that still might be the case, general manager Ron Francis said Gourde is ahead of schedule in his recovery.

“We’re finding out he’s a tough guy to hold back,” Francis said. “He’s really worked hard.”

NOTES: Francis said Seattle’s entire roster has received its COVID-19 vaccinations. … One noticeable absence on the first day was center Colin Blackwell, who is day-to-day with a lower body injury, Hakstol said.