Nick Wass/Associated Press
Monday was a noteworthy day around the NHL, as the 24 teams that will be in action when the 2019-20 season resumes began training camp in their respective cities.
It’s the start of Phase 3 of the league’s return-to-play plan, which is scheduled to lead to the qualifying round of the playoffs beginning Aug. 1.
As the return of hockey gets closer, the anticipation will continue to build for the qualifying round of the playoffs, which will feature 16 teams facing off in best-of-five series. And as that gets closer, there’s sure to be rumors and news about injuries, the upcoming offseason and more.
Here’s some of the latest buzz from around the NHL.
DeMelo top priority for Jets in offseason
The Winnipeg Jets have four defensemen who are under contract for the 2020-21 season. This offseason, it appears they’ll try to make sure Dylan DeMelo joins that group.
According to Murat Ates of The Athletic, the 27-year-old will be the Jets’ “No. 1 priority” among their players who are set to become unrestricted free agents following the season. He is currently in his fifth NHL season and could improve in the years to come.
DeMelo has played only 10 games for Winnipeg after being acquired in a trade with the Ottawa Senators in February. It was the second time he’s been traded in his career, as Ottawa acquired him from the San Jose Sharks in September 2018. He has 10 assists and a plus/minus of plus-4 in 59 games with the Senators and Jets this season.
If the Canadian returns to Winnipeg, Ates envisions he, Joshua Morrissey, Neal Pionk and Tucker Poolman having guaranteed spots on the Jets’ defensive lines next season. Ates has Carl Dahlstrom battling for “depth work,” with Ville Heinola and Dylan Samberg trying to make the roster.
The latest on Seabrook’s potential return for Chicago
David Banks/Associated Press
Will defenseman Brent Seabrook be back on the ice for the Chicago Blackhawks this season? That’s still to be determined.
The Athletic’s Scott Powers and Mark Lazerus noted that while “a source recently indicated that Seabrook was going to try to come back this season,” there are “still a lot of hurdles for him to clear in the coming weeks.
The 35-year-old, who has recovered from surgery on his right shoulder and both hips, joined the Blackhawks on the ice during Phase 2 of the NHL’s return-to-play plan, per Powers and Lazerus.
While it’s still unclear whether he will play, it’s possible he might not even be among Chicago’s best defensive options on the ice. The 15-year veteran had three goals and an assist in 32 games earlier this season, as he didn’t play as well as he did earlier in his career, all of which has been with the Blackhawks.
Now that Chicago’s training camp is underway, there should be a better indication over the next few weeks whether Seabrook will be healthy enough to play and what the Blackhawks should do with him.
Upcoming plans for Wild’s coaching staff
Tom Olmscheid/Associated Press
On Monday, the Minnesota Wild announced they were making Dean Evason their full-time head coach. The 55-year-old had served as the team’s interim head coach after Bruce Boudreau was fired in mid-February.
For now, the Wild’s focus will be on their upcoming qualifying-round series against the Vancouver Canucks. But in the offseason, they will have some other decisions to make regarding their coaching staff, and it appears Evason will have a hand in doing that.
According to The Athletic’s Michael Russo, sources have said Evason “will be able to choose his own coaching staff in consultation with Guerin during the offseason.”
Russo also noted assistant coach Bob Woods and strength and conditioning coach Sean Skahan are “believed” to have one year remaining on their contracts, but assistant coach Darby Hendrickson, goaltenders coach Bob Mason and video coach Jonas Plumb are in their final years.
That means Evason could have three positions to fill, potentially more if he and the Wild decide to part ways with either Woods or Skahan.
This will be Evason’s first head coaching role in the NHL after previously working as an assistant for the Washington Capitals and Minnesota.