Unfortunately, we have reached the point where the mere mention of Omicron or COVID brings fear or anger. The IIHF is not having a good week, and they surprisingly pulled the plug on the World Junior Championships after a couple of round-robin games before there was an outbreak. Carolina Hurricanes GM Don Waddell addressed Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s near-invisible start with Carolina, the NHL trade winds are breezing through Vancouver, and Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin cracked the line of the year during his first presser in six months.
I suppose we’ll start with Malkin before I get to a WJCs rant.
Pittsburgh Hockey Now: Full video included. Evgeni Malkin had some fun with us–the jovial big guy said he’ll be back in seven to 10 days. It was his choice to rest and come back for the playoffs instead of having surgery last season, and he’s not thinking about money, “I’m a pretty rich guy,” joked Evgeni Malkin.
He was a lot of fun yesterday.
PHN+: The Penguins wanted to have an up-tempo, 5v5 practice as they did on Tuesday, but the COVID absences and Sam Lafferty’s illness were too much. So, head coach Mike Sullivan adjusted his plans but kept the tempo and battle levels high for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The NHL shortened the COVID protocol stays to five days but attached some conditions. The Penguins’ asymptomatic players could be ready for Sunday, but there are the conditions for the new NHL COVID protocol.
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NHL Trade Talk, News, and National Hockey Now:
Sportsnet: The World Juniors are canceled. All dressed up and no place to go, the teams played a couple of games, but a draconian rule set forth by Alberta provincial health authorities forced teams to forfeit if even one player tested positive. Here’s the full story.
Teams were confined to their hotels and further confined to their floor. To borrow a phrase from Dennis Miller, I don’t mean to get off on a rant here, but a total of four players tested positive. Two Americans testing positive forced a forfeiture against Switzerland. The tinfoil hatters denying COVID or vaccines are as irritating as rough-knit wool underwear, but so are the Chicken Littles peeking out from under the bed who think life must stop. Four players tested positive, and the entire thing got shut down. Good grief, Charlie Brown. Rant over.
Arpon Basu of That Athletic Montreal did have THE best idea. Why not take the teams to the Olympics and have a re-do? Do it!
The Vancouver Canucks will have some salary cap issues this offseason. Big ones, actually. Something has to give. Ian MacIntyre circle Brock Boeser as the most likely trade candidate.
Vancouver Hockey Now: The Canucks did win their seventh in a row, all under new head coach Bruce Boudreau. The Vancouver Canucks can win eight in a row and set the record for a new coach.
Bruce, there it is!
Vegas: The Vegas Golden Knights need to free up cap space for Jack Eichel. Here are the five candidates on the NHL trade block.
Metro Division and the Wild Card:
NYI: The Islanders could also move players on the NHL trade market. Could the struggling Semyon Varlamov be a trade piece for the New York Islanders?
Washington: Evgeny Kuznetsov was clutch, and the Pittsburgh Penguins rival Washington Capitals got to play actual hockey. The Washington Capitals beat Nashville 5-3.
TSN: The Carolina Hurricanes ruffled feathers and made waves in the offseason when they overpaid Jesperi Kotkaniemi to lure him from the Montreal Canadiens. However, Kotkaniemi is having an awful season. GM Don Waddell had to talk about it.
Florida: The Penguins did get some help. Mackenzie Weegar scored. The New York Rangers lost to the Florida Panthers, 4-3.
Detroit: The team closest to the Penguins in the wild-card race is the Red Wings. Kevin Allen lays out five storylines affecting the Detroit Red Wings.