September 20 — Final Offseason Weekend & PTOs

Days until start of 2021-22 NHL Season22 days

Friday’s Forecheck

ANNUAL BLOOM: Marc-André Fleury said this season could be his last, but it is likely that he will take it one season at a time. In order for Vegas to clear cap space, the 37-year-old backstop was shockingly traded to the Chicago Blackhawks after a dominant 2020-21 campaign that earned Fleury his first Vezina Trophy.

NO HARD FEELINGS: St. Louis Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly isn’t dwelling on Vladamir Tarasenko’s trade request this offseason. Following a brief discussion, the pair put it behind them and are focused on winning games.

Saturday’s Snipes

FULL CIRCLE: Veteran defenseman Zdeno Chára is officially returning for his 24th NHL season. He put pen to paper on a one-year deal with the New York Islanders, the team that selected him 56th overall in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft.

CAP-FRIENDLY: Over the weekend, the Edmonton Oilers re-signed forward Kailer Yamamoto to a one-year contract worth $1.175 million. After posting 21 points last season, the 2017 first-round draft pick will need to improve offensively to secure a bigger contract next year.

WHAT’S UP DOC: Jack Eichel will attend his pre-training camp physical this week. If the Sabres captain fails the physical, the team could put him on injured reserve. Dealing with a herniated disk since March, Eichel’s treatment and future with Buffalo is still up in the air.

Sunday’s Cellys

LEAD BY EXAMPLE: New York Rangers forward Artemi Panarin doesn’t want to be the team’s next captain as he feels that he isn’t up to the task. Panarin also noted that his lack of proficiency in English would be a problem but plans to motivate the team through his play.

HAVE YOUR CAKE: Nolan Patrick celebrated his 23rd birthday in style by signing a two-year, $2.4 million contract with the Vegas Golden Knights. Patrick recorded four goals and five assists in 52 games with the Philadelphia Flyers last season prior to being involved in a three-team trade with Vegas and Nashville on July 17.

Pick Yourself Up and Try Again

A “professional tryout” (PTO) sounds like an opportunity for some young minor leaguer to finally get his shot at the big leagues and earn a spot on an NHL team. In some cases, that’s true, but in a cap-based league where roles are hard to come by, we have increasingly seen a number of established players who have gone the PTO route. While the tryout presents little risk for the club offering the opportunity, the stakes are high for these players. Let’s look at some PTO-bound players and what’s on the line for them this upcoming season:

James Neal – St. Louis Blues

Best Case: While far removed from his 40-goal campaign during the 2011-12 season, the 34-year-old could still display the scoring touch that helped him pot 19 in 2019-20.

James Neal with the Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Worst Case: Neal’s tryout confirms that he’s still old and slow and St. Louis’ power play—ranked sixth in the league last season—doesn’t really need another specialist on the man advantage.

Nikita Gusev – Toronto Maple Leafs

Best Case: The Maple Leafs get 2019-20 Gusev! That was when the skilled Russian winger recorded 13 goals and 44 points for New Jersey.

Nikita Gusev with the New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Worst Case: Toronto gets 2020-21 Gusev! That was the guy who managed only four goals in 31 games across stops in New Jersey and Florida, looking like a shell of his 2019-20 self.

Tyler Ennis – Ottawa Senators

Best Case: This PTO validates Ottawa’s pre-existing love for Ennis and, perhaps most importantly, offers a fresh start after a brutal stint in Edmonton.

Tyler Ennis with the Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Worst Case: Ennis’ return to Ottawa feels nice but doesn’t change the winger’s downward trajectory. Ultimately, the Sens decide that young prospects in their system can offer just as much with more upside.

Spotted 👀

The boys are back in town—well mostly. This past weekend, players were spotted in and around their hockey cities enjoying time off before training camp begins. September is the perfect month for outdoor adventures, one last beach trip, and of course football. Let’s check in:

Ready for Some Football

In the fall, Saturdays and Sundays are for football, as hockey players around the league were spotted taking in a game. Members of both the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils were seen at MetLife Stadium to root for the New York Jets. Across the country, members of the Anaheim Ducks, including Adam Henrique, Josh Mason, and Derek Grant, settled in to see the Los Angeles Chargers.


Kevin Fiala of the Wild and his fiancé Jessica spent time in Malibu before heading back to Minnesota for training camp. They were spotted with Kings forward Viktor Arvidsson and his family, soaking up the last days of summer in the California sunshine.

September in Seattle

Seattle Kraken players have been exploring the NHL’s newest city, as defenseman Connor Carrick and his family stopped by Finnriver Farm & Cidery after exploring Washington’s natural wonders. Forward Nate Bastian spent his Sunday at Lumen Field watching the Seahawks, while Yanni Gourde brought his daughter to the Kraken Community Iceplex for some fun on the ice.

Eight-Second Ride

Devils’ defenseman Damon Severson was at the Prudential Center on Saturday night when the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) tour stopped in Newark. Severson’s agent, Jason Davidson, was a past wrangler who corralled bulls during events and furthered Severson’s interest in the sport.