Lots going on today!
Let's start with Monday morning's waiver wire, which includes six Vancouver Canucks:
• Justin Bailey
• Sven Baertschi
• Guillaume Brisebois
• Loui Eriksson
• Tyler Graovac
• Ashton Sautner
Obviously, the big name there is Eriksson — demoted off the big club despite two more years on his contract at a cap hit of $6 million per season.
I went to the scrimmage on Saturday night, and thought Bailey played pretty well. He scored a brilliant penalty-shot goal in the first period — the only puck of the night that got past Braden Holtby.
As for Sven Baertschi — he was fighting long odds on earning a roster spot on the main club. I feel bad for him, but I don't think he has done enough during camp to change anybody's mind.
Centre Tyler Graovac and defensemen Guillaume Brisebois and Ashton Sautner are now victims of the numbers game. I'd say Graovac has been bumped down the depth chart by newcomer Marc Michaelis, who has been steady, but the defensemen could still get a crack at the taxi squad.
After they (presumably) clear waivers, all six of these players can either be assigned to the Utica Comets or to the taxi squad — assuming space is available. Teams are permitted to carry between four and six players on the taxi squad, and one must be a goalie.
Last week, Lukas Jasek took Mitch Eliot's training camp roster spot when Eliot was loaned to Utica. So the Canucks were still sitting at 36 skaters in camp, plus four goalies.
Monday's waiver assignments get them down to 30 — and when Travis Hamonic is added to the roster, they're back up to 31, or 35 when the goalies are included.
According to CapFriendly
, 14 players who are still in camp are waiver exempt, so the club should have no problem getting down to the 29-player maximum roster without putting anyone else on waivers.
That suggests that Jalen Chatfield and Jordie Benn, who are both waiver eligible, will start the season on the main roster — even if they don't play every night.
At the end of his rundown of Saturday's scrimmage, Sportsnet's Iain MacIntyre
says he expects the team to run with 10 defensemen and 16 forwards across the main roster and the taxi squad.
The core eight blueliners on the main roster would be Edler, Myers, Schmidt, Benn, Hamonic and Chatfield, who are all waiver eligible, plus Quinn Hughes and Olli Juolevi, who are exempt.
That leaves two taxi squad slots up for grabs between Brisebois and Sautner, assuming they clear, and Rathbone, Rafferty, Woo and Teves, who are all waiver exempt.
Teves did not play in the scrimmage on Saturday. No word on why.
On Saturday, I discovered that my brain has some trouble distinguishing Rathbone from Rafferty in real time, which is unfortunate. Making matters worse for me, they were paired together, too.
The scrimmage proved to be a challenge as far as player analysis goes. A 2-1 win for Team Blue, the only goal that was scored during regular play was a rebound try by Brandon Sutter. The scoring opportunity arose after Jake Virtanen felled Rathbone at the point with a shot that hit him below the belt. Jake then skated around the crumpled rookie and, having created an odd-man opportunity, took the puck to the net.
The only other goal in regulation was Bailey's penalty-shot try. Three minutes of 3-on-3 overtime solved nothing — but the first shift was mighty fun to watch. Quinn Hughes dictated play with the puck on a string, playing with Horvat and Hoglander, while the Petey-Miller-Schmidt trio chased him unsuccessfully.
In the shootout, Elias Pettersson had no trouble beating Demko for what proved to be the winner.
All told, a much stronger performance for both netminders than at the first scrimmage on Wednesday. But nothing too earth-shattering from the skaters.
I will mention that Tyler Motte was up to his usual tricks, hitting everything in sight. But he was part of a mid-ice collision about halfway through the game that sent an injured Jayce Hawryluk to the locker room. And Adam Gaudette came up swinging after it looked like he was slew-footed by Motte near the boards.
Also worth noting — while there has been discussion about getting Mikey DiPietro more playing time by sending him back to Utica this season, MacIntyre states that the 21-year-old will start the season on the taxi squad, as the third goalie.
This makes sense to me. He's waiver exempt, which would mean he's safe all season, whether he's needed or not. If a veteran backup gets called up and spends any amount of time on the main roster, he'd need to clear again before being re-assigned to the taxi squad — and could get snatched away by another desperate team. For Canadian clubs in particular, that hole could be difficult to fill quickly.
Following Saturday's scrimmage, the original plan was to have two groups practice on Sunday, with another scrimmage in between. That schedule had to be scrapped, however. "The decision was made out of an abundance of caution due to potential exposure of COVID-19," said the club on its Twitter feed.
Monday was originally scheduled as a day off. It seems promising that the club *is* now practicing at 11 a.m., though it looks like it's just one group. When the players hit the ice, we'll see if there are any notable absences but at this point, it seems like the club should be good to go for opening night on Wednesday in Edmonton.
And to close today — I was surprised to see Twitter blow up on Sunday with chatter about some sort of rift between Vasily Podkolzin and his KHL club, SKA St. Petersburg, after he was scratched for a game.
It's highly unlikely that anything will happen that impacts Podkolzin's contract status until it expires. Typically, KHL clubs will keep trying to entice young players to stick around until the last possible moment — and players know better than to say anything about their NHL plans until they're free and clear to sign on the dotted line.
TSN's Rick Dhaliwal spoke with SKA president Roman Rotenberg on Monday, who said there's no truth to the rumours that Podkolzin was going to be dropped to the minor-league VHL.
Rotenberg also told Dhaliwal that Podkolzin had been offered a contract extension this season, and that he was aware of the talk (from Jim Benning) that the Canucks planned to sign Podkolzin as soon as his KHL deal expires on April 30. "We are focusing on the playoffs right now." He said.
The KHL regular season is scheduled to conclude on Feb. 27. SKA is currently battling Lokomotiv for second place in the Western Conference. The top eight teams in each conference will make the playoffs, so a postseason berth is already all-but-assured.