09/21 13:44 CDT Training camps opening after NHL's shortest offseason
Training camps opening after NHL's shortest offseason
By STEPHEN WHYNO
AP Hockey Writer
Every offseason feels short to Philipp Grubauer, though this one was a doozy.
After playing the most games of his NHL career, the German goaltender saw his
season end with Colorado in June, waited for a new contract and, by the end of
July, joined the expansion Seattle franchise. He had new Kraken gear before a
new place to live.
"Training camp comes around, it's like, ?Oh, I guess it's time to go back
now,'" Grubauer said. "It was an incredibly busy summer: still looking for a
house, still moving. But we love playing."
Training camps open around North America this week after the shortest offseason
in NHL history. It has been less than 80 days since the Tampa Bay Lightning
hoisted the Stanley Cup --- their second title in 10 months --- and the league
is now 32 teams strong, with everyone jumping back on the ice to do it all over
"It's been short, that's for sure," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. "But
I think when you win, you don't complain about it as much because you won and
you're just kind of celebrating all summer."
The summer of celebration started July 7 when the Lightning wrapped up the
final by beating the Montreal Canadiens in Game 5. By the time the calendar
flipped to August, Seattle picked players in the expansion draft and added
Grubauer in free agency, while Tampa Bay's roster was hit because of the salary
Coming off a 105-point season in just 56 games, reigning MVP Connor McDavid did
not waste time getting back on the ice to train for another shot at the
playoffs. Honing his game was more important than an extra bit of rest with an
eye on Edmonton making a deep run.
"Obviously the important thing is being on the ice and skating and feeling good
out there, so I try to put a lot of focus on that," McDavid said.
McDavid and the Oilers were swept by Winnipeg in the first round, so they had
more down time than others. Like McDavid, Florida Panthers captain Aleksander
Barkov would prefer less time off.
"I wish we could do that every year: going as far as possible," Barkov said. "I
had enough rest --- mental rest, physical rest --- and ready to get back to
Veteran general manager Chuck Fletcher, who last week said Flyers players were
relatively healthy after last season, announced three significant injuries
Tuesday. Center Kevin Hayes is out 6-8 weeks after undergoing abdominal
surgery, defenseman Samuel Morin is expected to miss the same amount of time
after having surgery to remove particles in his right knee, and prospect Wade
Allison is out indefinitely with a sprained right ankle.
While Stamkos and the Lightning could hope that drinking from the Stanley Cup
heals their playoff wounds, Montreal players who fell just short refused to
wait to get back on the ice to take another shot at it. Nick Suzuki got up to
speed quickly because the guys he trains with were already in midsummer form,
and fellow Canadiens forward Tyler Toffoli talked himself out of a long break.
"When I got home, I started working out like a week after, where normally I
would probably take three weeks-ish before I started getting back into it,"
Toffoli said. "I was basically right back in the gym."
Those workouts complete, players report for physicals Wednesday, with the first
practice sessions scheduled for Thursday. Ahead is what's set to be the first
82-game regular season since 2018-19 before the pandemic derailed the NHL and
the rest of the world, and the schedule will also be condensed to fit in an
Olympic break in February so hockey's best can go to Beijing.
With that in mind and with the NHL still planning to hand the Cup out again by
the end of June, players understand camp this year is about preparing for the
next grind, as much as coming back from the last one.
"I think you're going to have to ease into it a little bit this year," Vegas
captain Mark Stone said. "I don't know if the bodies are going to be quite
where they're supposed to be yet, but we're pretty excited to get back."
At least one player won't be back in the NHL any time soon. The Columbus Blue
Jackets are not inviting forward Zac Rinaldo to camp because he is unvaccinated
and said he'd attend the one run by the American Hockey League's Cleveland
Rinaldo and any other unvaccinated player not welcomed to camp must be paid his
salary --- in his case his $300,000 minor league guarantee. The league and
Players' Association each signed off on virus protocols for the season.
AP Hockey Writer John Wawrow and AP Sports Writer Dan Gelston contributed.
Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno
More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports