By Lori Bennett
NHL Rookie Camps are getting underway, and that officially signals the shift from the off-season into the 2022-23 hockey year. Time is getting short for teams to put the finishing touches on the group they will ice, and that means we can expect some signings and trades before tween now and when final rosters are posted.
What finishing touches should we be watching for in the coming days for teams north of the border?
The Vancouver Canucks are hoping to have a bounce back season, but their activity during the off-season was quite modest. All eyes are on J.T. Miller, who has one year left on his contract. Depending on the tone at training camp, and whether there has been progress in contract talks, a move may come on this front before the regular season opens.
In Edmonton, the Oilers still have cap space with Mike Smith and Oscar Klefbom bound for long-term injured reserve (LTIR). They might be inclined to strengthen their forward depth or to try and move defenceman Tyson Barrie. Forward Jesse Puljujarvi has been in trade rumours for months, so a little action in Edmonton is still a possibility before training camp is done.
All eyes have been on the Calgary Flames this summer, watching them recover from the loss of Johnny Gaudreau, and the subsequent announcement from Matthew Tkachuk that he would not re-sign in Calgary next summer. GM Brad Treliving has been a rock star, replacing them with Nazem Kadri and Jonathan Huberdeau, players who are arguable improvements, while also gaining additional assets. Treliving is all in now, and the trade deadline should be exciting. But don’t be surprised if there is another summer trick up the wily GM’s sleeve.
The Winnipeg Jets have all their money matters sorted. Their cap situation is solid and they have no outstanding contracts to address, but their forward group is a little thin even if they want roster spots for youth to step into. Of course, we can hardly forget that one key forward, Pierre-Luc Dubois, has indicated he will not re-sign in Winnipeg when his contract ends in the summer of 2024. The potential for a trade will be in the back of everyone’s minds until that situation is resolved.
The salary cap is a considerable source of annoyance for GM Kyle Dubas and the Toronto Maple Leafs. RFA blue-liner Rasmus Sandin remains unsigned, and something else has to give before the Leafs can attend to that. Questions remain about whether Jake Muzzin can stay healthy, and if he cannot, how will the hole on defence be addressed. With two years remaining on Auston Matthews’ contract the pressure is on for the Leafs to get it together.
In Ottawa, the Senators are in excellent shape after an exceptional off-season. They have plenty of cap space available to sign RFAs Alex Formenton and Erik Brannstrom. Beyond that, they don’t really need to do a thing, but my crystal ball is leaning toward one more move from GM Pierre Dorion before all is said and done.
The Montreal Canadiens have two RFAs they need to sign. Newly acquired Kirby Dach is a priority, and a new contract should be imminent. With Carey Price and Paul Byron expected to be on LTIR, salary cap concerns are all but addressed. The Habs have too many NHL-quality forwards with some kids knocking on the door, while lacking depth at right-side defence. A trade or two before opening day would not be a surprise.
Puck drop is just around the corner!
Blue Jays Babble
Last weekend the Toronto Blue Jays welcomed the Los Angeles Angels and one of the phenoms of professional baseball, Shohei Ohtani. Ohtani is one of those rare birds that is both an ace pitcher and a successful batter at the professional level. When he is not the starter in any given game, Ohtani can be seen in the line-up as the designated hitter, and occasionally in the outfield. Fans were excited for the opportunity to watch Ohtani in action, but the buzz wore off when the Jays were swept in the three-game series.
On Monday, the Chicago Cubs arrived for a three-game series, and the Blue Jays were in desperate need of a win. In the first game of the series, Toronto fell behind 4-0, but in the seventh inning the Jays bats were finally resuscitated. A three-run homer from Danny Jansen had the Jays back in the game. An RBI single from Matt Chapman in the eighth inning tied the game, and a walk-off single from Jansen in the eleventh inning sealed the 5-4 win for the Jays to break the losing streak.
Tuesday’s game featured some defensive heroics from both teams, but it was the Blue Jays coming out on top in a 5-3 win. Then on Wednesday, the Jays got behind early again, giving the Cubs a 5-0 lead. A two-run homer from Cavan Biggio got them back in the game but the Jays were unable to complete the comeback, dropping this one 7-5.
The Jays had Thursday off before heading to Pittsburgh for a three-game weekend series against the Pirates. A baseball season is a marathon, and a team is served well to not get too high or too low through the ebbs and flows of a summer on the diamond. With just 33 games remaining heading into the weekend, and a wild card spot nowhere near certain, the Jays needed to find some sprint-level urgency.