Maple Leafs Among Four Intriguing NHL Training Camp Stories

Toronto Maple Leafs v Boston Bruins - Game Seven
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Training camps around the NHL open Thursday, and barring a massive rush to put their signatures on extensions an All-Star team’s worth of unsigned restricted free agents will not be reporting to their teams’ camps.

You want big names? How about Toronto’s Mitch Marner, Tampa Bay’s Brayden Point, Philadelphia’s Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny, Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen and Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor, to name a few.

This is not the way the NHL wants to a start a season, and one would think that all negotiations will be finalized well in advance of the Dec. 1 deadline for these players to sign and be eligible to play this season. But it’s still not a great look to have so much star power on the sidelines.

There are also ongoing negotiations over the collective bargaining agreement, with the NHLPA facing a Sept. 15 deadline to opt out of the current deal after the 2019-20 season. The NHL always decided not to opt out earlier this month.

With so much going on off the ice, it might be difficult to concentrate on the actual action between the boards. But here’s a look at four teams that are the most intriguing stories entering training camp 2019:

Toronto Maple Leafs

Any story about the upcoming season has to start with the Maple Leafs, and focus on more than just Marner’s situation. There’s no telling how that bargaining is going to be resolved considering the numerous deals Marner has reportedly turned down, according to many insiders.

Obviously Marner is a huge part of what the Maple Leafs want to accomplish this year after losing in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs each of the past three seasons. They went all in on upgrading their defense corps by swapping center Nazem Kadri for defenseman Tyson Barrie from Colorado. They seem committed in getting goaltender Frederik Andersen more rest this season, and playing center Auston Matthews more.

The Maple Leafs are at a crossroads, considering that beyond Marner’s situation this year, they have Barrie and fellow defensemen Jake Muzzin and Cody Ceci up for unrestricted free agency in 2020, and Andersen up in 2021. With uncertainty about how high the cap ceiling will rise, general manager Kyle Dubas is almost going to face an impossible task of keeping this team together. How quickly they can get Marner into the fold and how quickly this team gels will determine all the work Dubas and the Maple Leafs organization has done the past few years to build an elite team will pay off before it has to be broken up.

Carolina Hurricanes

Consistent success has been elusive for the Hurricanes, who reached the Eastern Conference final last spring. Previously they hadn’t been in the postseason in 10 years, and of course before that they made the playoffs and won the Cup in 2006.

The difference this time around may be that owner Tom Dundon is willing to spend to keep the Hurricanes in contention. After Carolina signed unrestricted free agent Jake Gardiner to a surprisingly palatable four-year, $16.2 million contract, the Hurricanes actually crept above the salary-cap ceiling. It seems Justin Faulk, who’s scheduled to be a UFA next summer, will be the cap casualty that leaves via trade. The Hurricanes are young and have a star in Sebastian Aho to build around, and training camp will be a big chance for them to reward Dundon for his investment.

Edmonton Oilers

The Toronto media had fun reading Connor McDavid’s body language during interviews about the Oilers’ recent struggles last month.

Although they were clearly off base in their conclusions that the 22-year-old superstar is unhappy, one has to wonder how much more losing the best player in the game can take. He’s set financially entering the second year of his eight-year, $100 million contract, but combined with teammate Leon Draisaitl’s eight-year $68 million contract – not to mention a handful of mistake contracts to lower-level players former GM Peter Chiarelli handed out – new GM Ken Holland isn’t in much of a position to improve the supporting cast.

Holland is banking on James Neal, acquired in a swap of bad contracts from Calgary for Milan Lucic, to find his scoring touch, and for Mike Smith to regain his form in net at 37. New coach Dave Tippett has this training camp to get this team to play a brand of hockey that might help it overcome the talent disadvantage its at once you get past the McDavid-Draisaitl combo, and that starts at the defensive end.

New York Rangers

The rebuild ended in a blink of an eye. It lasted about a little more than one season.

Then Artemi Panarin picked the Rangers as a UFA this summer for a surprisingly fair $81.5 million spread out over seven years. The Rangers then committed $56 million over eight years to defenseman Jacob Trouba. Suddenly the stakes rose, and coach David Quinn is no longer in a situation where he can slowly develop the kids the way he did in college.

No one’s predicting the Cup to return to the Big Apple next June, but teams that spend the way the Rangers did this summer are expected to take a major step toward that ultimate goal. And the road to doing that will start in this Rangers’ camp, where Quinn and several players that have flown under the radar will suddenly be facing real expectations.

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Training camps around the NHL open Thursday, and barring a massive rush to put their signatures on extensions an All-Star team’s worth of unsigned restricted free agents will not be reporting to their teams’ camps.

You want big names? How about Toronto’s Mitch Marner, Tampa Bay’s Brayden Point, Philadelphia’s Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny, Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen and Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor, to name a few.

This is not the way the NHL wants to a start a season, and one would think that all negotiations will be finalized well in advance of the Dec. 1 deadline for these players to sign and be eligible to play this season. But it’s still not a great look to have so much star power on the sidelines.

There are also ongoing negotiations over the collective bargaining agreement, with the NHLPA facing a Sept. 15 deadline to opt out of the current deal after the 2019-20 season. The NHL always decided not to opt out earlier this month.

With so much going on off the ice, it might be difficult to concentrate on the actual action between the boards. But here’s a look at four teams that are the most intriguing stories entering training camp 2019:

Toronto Maple Leafs

Any story about the upcoming season has to start with the Maple Leafs, and focus on more than just Marner’s situation. There’s no telling how that bargaining is going to be resolved considering the numerous deals Marner has reportedly turned down, according to many insiders.

Obviously Marner is a huge part of what the Maple Leafs want to accomplish this year after losing in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs each of the past three seasons. They went all in on upgrading their defense corps by swapping center Nazem Kadri for defenseman Tyson Barrie from Colorado. They seem committed in getting goaltender Frederik Andersen more rest this season, and playing center Auston Matthews more.

The Maple Leafs are at a crossroads, considering that beyond Marner’s situation this year, they have Barrie and fellow defensemen Jake Muzzin and Cody Ceci up for unrestricted free agency in 2020, and Andersen up in 2021. With uncertainty about how high the cap ceiling will rise, general manager Kyle Dubas is almost going to face an impossible task of keeping this team together. How quickly they can get Marner into the fold and how quickly this team gels will determine all the work Dubas and the Maple Leafs organization has done the past few years to build an elite team will pay off before it has to be broken up.

Carolina Hurricanes

Consistent success has been elusive for the Hurricanes, who reached the Eastern Conference final last spring. Previously they hadn’t been in the postseason in 10 years, and of course before that they made the playoffs and won the Cup in 2006.

The difference this time around may be that owner Tom Dundon is willing to spend to keep the Hurricanes in contention. After Carolina signed unrestricted free agent Jake Gardiner to a surprisingly palatable four-year, $16.2 million contract, the Hurricanes actually crept above the salary-cap ceiling. It seems Justin Faulk, who’s scheduled to be a UFA next summer, will be the cap casualty that leaves via trade. The Hurricanes are young and have a star in Sebastian Aho to build around, and training camp will be a big chance for them to reward Dundon for his investment.

Edmonton Oilers

The Toronto media had fun reading Connor McDavid’s body language during interviews about the Oilers’ recent struggles last month.

Although they were clearly off base in their conclusions that the 22-year-old superstar is unhappy, one has to wonder how much more losing the best player in the game can take. He’s set financially entering the second year of his eight-year, $100 million contract, but combined with teammate Leon Draisaitl’s eight-year $68 million contract – not to mention a handful of mistake contracts to lower-level players former GM Peter Chiarelli handed out – new GM Ken Holland isn’t in much of a position to improve the supporting cast.

Holland is banking on James Neal, acquired in a swap of bad contracts from Calgary for Milan Lucic, to find his scoring touch, and for Mike Smith to regain his form in net at 37. New coach Dave Tippett has this training camp to get this team to play a brand of hockey that might help it overcome the talent disadvantage its at once you get past the McDavid-Draisaitl combo, and that starts at the defensive end.

New York Rangers

The rebuild ended in a blink of an eye. It lasted about a little more than one season.

Then Artemi Panarin picked the Rangers as a UFA this summer for a surprisingly fair $81.5 million spread out over seven years. The Rangers then committed $56 million over eight years to defenseman Jacob Trouba. Suddenly the stakes rose, and coach David Quinn is no longer in a situation where he can slowly develop the kids the way he did in college.

No one’s predicting the Cup to return to the Big Apple next June, but teams that spend the way the Rangers did this summer are expected to take a major step toward that ultimate goal. And the road to doing that will start in this Rangers’ camp, where Quinn and several players that have flown under the radar will suddenly be facing real expectations.

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I write about the Bruins and the NHL, and the Red Sox and MLB. I have covered the Bruins and tne NHL since 2005 for a number of entities, most recently for WEEI.com and

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