As NHL Training Camp Start Dates Loom, Questions Remain

The summer is almost over (my apologies to teachers and students who are still in denial) and that means that the NHL training camp start dates are less than a month away. And while some teams are pretty much set going into camp (Anaheim Ducks, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Washington Capitals to name a few) there are many NHLers who are currently out of jobs and numerous teams that still have a lot of work to do before the regular season begins.

Who will be left jobless?

So let’s start with the currently unemployed. We all know the market is tough and I guess the NHL is feeling the squeeze too? General managers are just not biting with some of these players. They are staying stingy and not giving anyone more than they deserve (or that their team can afford). Looks like GMs don’t want to go through a similar situation that is currently plaguing the 2015 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks.

That leaves good players like Cody Franson and Christian Ehrhoff in a lurch.

Counting a few injured players, there are 60 NHLers who made $1 million or more last season who currently don’t have NHL contracts. [USA Today]

It seems more and more teams are giving young players in their farm systems a chance, which also helps them stay within their means. I believe GMs are realizing that depth is a key to winning the Stanley Cup. A good mix of speed, youth and veteran presence seems to balance a team out.

It’s not only that, but GMs are also holding out for the best value.

Shero said the marketplace is made more complicated by the reality that teams are still trying to move some higher-salaried players off their roster for cap reasons. Some are holding onto cap space to see if the Blackhawks might move another veteran or some other team indicates it is willing to trade a player more desirable than those on the free agent list. [USA Today]

And lastly, the NHL has expanded in 15 years. Many GMs have stated the talent pool has grown, so younger players are coming in and older players are having a tougher time finding a place on a roster.

So, for all these reasons, decent NHL players, even ones that could fill a top-six or four spot, are currently without a job. Will it last that way? I don’t believe so. So many things change during training camp. Sometimes injuries occur (which is really unfortunately) and sometimes those young players don’t live up to expectations. I’m sure we’ll see Franson and Ehrhoff in hockey sweaters next season; I just don’t know who they’ll be playing for.

What’s to become of the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs?

OK, so aside from the unemployment issue, I am wondering what is to become on the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins. To me, these two teams have a tough road ahead going into camp.

First, the Maple Leafs are in a rebuild. We all know this and we all know the rebuilding process takes awhile to fully turn a team around. But I guess I was expecting some sort of fire sale this summer in terms of the team’s roster. Sure, their coaching and management staff changed and the team unloaded Phil Kessel, while also adding P.A. Parenteau, Shawn Matthias and Daniel Winnik via free agency, but other than that the team still has a ways to go. As of now, Tyler Bozak and Dion Phaneuf are still Leafs, but will it stay that way?

The Maple Leafs are in need of a top-two defenseman, and a first-line center and right wing. Can they fill those positions with players in their farm systems? Ehh, I don’t think so, which means they may have to bolster their roster as training camps begins and the regular season grows closer.

And finally, what is Don Sweeney’s plan for the Boston Bruins?

I still don’t have any clue where he is going with this team? I understand that some of his moves were motivated by salary cap issues, but I don’t feel as if he replaced the missing pieces this offseason. Again, does he have those pieces in the farm systems? Well, he’ll get a better look at some young players during training camp. He could find players to make his defense stronger and fill in the missing holes in the offense.

He’s revamping the team because the Bruins didn’t make the playoffs last season. But, as of right now (again things will change as the season opener nears), I don’t believe the Bruins are in a spot to compete as they have in the past. Their captain is aging and wasn’t himself after a knee injury, and the team is going on without Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton. I believe their biggest concern is defense. 

The Bruins have Zdeno Chara, Adam McQuaid, Dennis Seidenberg, and Torey Krug who will likely take the top four spots, but that’s the extent of their defense. They do have about seven prospects that can fill the last two spots. We’ll see how they fare in training camp.

I just assumed that Sweeney’s moves had a different intention? Again, I don’t know what he’s thinking and he could pull off something nobody saw coming. But right now I am just wondering what he is planning to do with this team. In my mind, they are no better than they were before. Albeit, they may have a little more wiggle room with the cap to make some moves in the beginning of the season to fill their needs.

There are plenty of teams in the NHL that still need to rework and adjust their rosters, I just don’t believe many (of the more competitive teams in the League) are in the position the Leafs and Bruins are.

Which 2015 NHL Drafees will make their respective teams’ roster?

Outside of Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, who are practically shoo-ins to making the NHL debut either at the start of the season or sometime in the first few months, I want to know which other draftees will make their presence known this upcoming season.

Really, it isn’t just their performance in training camp that will influence management’s decision. It is also a question of the team’s needs. Some of these players will be better suited to start in the AHL. It gives them time to develop and have a bigger impact on their team.

But others will make the team straight out of camp. Mitch Marner and Dylan Strome are two players I expect to see donning NHL sweaters in the beginning of the season. I can also see Noah Hanifin, Pavel Zacha and Ivan Provorov making it to the NHL as they are part of teams that are in desperate need of fresh blood to rejuvenate their struggling clubs.

This daft was deep and talented players landed everywhere. It will be fun to see who can break out immediately and which players will need more time before making it big.

Training camp dates are set, which means the fun is just starting. Players are going to move, impress and disappoint, and rosters will be set. We’re just getting warmed up!