Canucks return to play roster, schedule, Baertschi opt-out & signing period
As I'm sure you've heard by now, the NHL Players' Association and the League's Board of Governors ratified the tentative agreement covering Return to Play and the extension to the Collective Bargaining Agreement on Friday evening.
Key details align with the nuggets that were leaked out earlier in the week: Hub Cities are in Edmonton and Toronto, preliminary-round games will begin on August 1, and official Phase 3 training camps open on Monday.
The Vancouver Canucks released their 34-player camp roster on Saturday:
There is one change in that roster from the names we'd heard previously: Sven Baertschi announced on Saturday that he has decided to opt out of the tournament, so Kole Lind has been recalled in his place.
Like all players who choose to opt out, Sven has my full support. It's a highly personal decision and I don't believe players are under any obligation to share their reasons for choosing to opt out. Baertschi may well have medical concerns surrounding himself or his loved ones which have factored into his decision, but given how fractured the relationship between Baertschi and the Canucks became over the past year, I can definitely understand why he would choose not to put himself at risk — especially when he knows he'd be fighting for a spot on the main roster.
That being said, I'm sure it wasn't lost on him that the tournament could have represented an opportunity for him to showcase his skills on a very bright stage. That could have rekindled his career if the situation broke just right for him.
These situations aren't even close to being black and white. I wish Sven and his family all the best.
I also hope that the players who are choosing to report — not just to the Canucks, but to all teams — are kept safe. Same goes for all the staff — the coaches, trainers and medical and administrative staff who will be part of team's 52-person bubble groups that travel to Edmonton and Toronto.
The opt-out window officially lasts for 72 hours from the time that the deal was ratified. By my math, that takes us to Monday night.
In addition to the handful of other players besides Baertschi who have already opted out, there's a clause in the return-to-play plan which says that players who are deemed to be medically at risk may be forbidden from playing. I mentioned in a previous blog that Max Domi always seems to the the poster child for this concern, because he's so public about his Type 1 diabetes.
Officially, Domi and the Canadiens announced Sunday that they will wait 7-10 days before deciding whether or not he'll join the club for Phase 3 and Phase 4. I imagine that some medical and legal conversations will happen during that time.
The Canucks' first-round opponents, the Minnesota Wild, also announced their training camp roster on Saturday. Luke Kunin, who is also a Type 1 diabetic, is on it.
I'll have more on the Wild roster and the matchup in the coming days. For now, two quick items:
1) KHL phenom Kirill Kaprizov will not be permitted to play for the Wild this summer.
There's a brief window between Monday and Wednesday where teams can ink unsigned prospects to deals which would get them under contract and allow them to burn the 2019-20 year of their contracts. The Wild could aim to do that with Kaprizov, but he would still be ineligible to play or even participate in training camp this summer.
Wild beat reporter Mike Russo has more details on just how complex this scenario actually is.
The Canucks also have a player in this same situation: defense prospect Jack Rathbone. Now that Harvard and the rest of the Ivy League have announced that there will be no sports in their conference until at least the new year, that may encourage Rathbone to go ahead and turn pro now, so that he can at least continue his development over the next six months.
2) It seems pretty clear that the Canucks have the edge in goaltending in this series. Veteran journeyman Alex Stalock had basically taken over the net for Minnesota before the pause, after Devan Dubnyk faltered over the course of the season.
Where it gets interesting is with Minnesota's No. 3 guy. Twenty-three-year-old Kaapo Kahkonen was named the AHL's goalie of the year thanks to a 25-6-3 record with a .927 save percentage and 2.07 GAA with the Iowa Wild this season. Kahkonen also played his first five games for Minnesota in November and December, going 3-1-1 with a .913 save percentage and a 2.96 GAA.
If Dean Evason doesn't get what he's looking for from Stalock or Dubnyk early on in the series, I wonder if Kahkonen will end up being a wild card in the series?
A couple more details to wrap up today.
First — the Canucks' qualifying-round schedule — with start times.
The timing is pretty reasonable. Just one back-to-back on the schedule, and that's an "early" 3:30 game on Thursday followed by a 7:30 game on Friday, for a 28-hour turnaround.
Looking at that graphic, I'm reminded that while 'home-ice advantage' won't be what it normally is, the Canucks will get the last change if the series goes to a winner-take-all Game 5.
And second, some followup on a tempest that brewed on Friday night, from wording under the "Statistics" heading in one of the league's press releases.
As you can see, I was worried. Though I am definitely not #TeamTank, I was tantalized by the idea that if the Canucks lose their series against the Wild, they'll get that one-in-eight chance at the first-overall draft pick and the chance to select Alexis Lafreniere.
I guess I've been conditioned to look for the loophole in every NHL labour agreement that puts the Canucks in a hole (see Luongo, Roberto: cap recapture). But at this point, it sounds like I can stand down:
Earlier documents surrounding the draft lottery certainly did suggest that for purposes of trade conditions, only the 16 teams that advance past the qualifying round will be considered to have made the 'real' playoffs, so I can buy the idea that the phrase which was worrying me on Friday is supposed to relate to playoff statistics only. They had to put the stats from the qualifying round and round-robin games somewhere. That seems to be all that this is about.