Training Camp Eve, Kaprizov Returns to the Wild, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

We are less than 24 hours away from the opening of training camp for the Chicago Blackhawks. Thus, we are also less than 24 hours away from what I am considering the official start to the 2021-22 season. Oh, and today is the first day of Fall, so it’s all perfect timing, right?

•   There’s a lot of intrigue heading into training camp for the Blackhawks. What will the new guys bring to the table? How healthy is Jonathan Toews? Will the breakout stars from last year continue to grow? Lots to keep an eye on this season, both on and off the ice for better or worse. One of the biggest keys to success or failure this season will be the play of the Blackhawks goaltenders, most notably Marc-André Fleury.

•   Fleury comes into this season as the assumed starter after winning the 2021 Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goaltender. He comes to Chicago for what will seemingly be a one-year, “going for it” type of season. If the 2020-21 Fleury shows up in Chicago for 2021-22, there might be a chance that the “going for it” ends up being a “got it” season.

•   But it’s not just all on Fleury’s shoulders. The Blackhawks have a decent amount of roster decisions to make during training camp. There are locked-in players, of course, but not every position is set in stone. We’ve looked at a few already leading up to training camp like the backup goaltender spot and who will end up playing as the top-line center. Yesterday, we took a look at the players in line to make up the bottom-pair on the blue line.

•   Later today, we’ll round out the position battles to watch, talking about the forward’s group and which of the many complimentary players that the Blackhawks have will fill out the middle of the lineup.

•   One of the prominent players in that group for Chicago is Brandon Hagel. After a breakout rookie season in the NHL last year, Hagel will be a key complementary player for the Blackhawks in 2021-22 and for some time to come after signing a three-year extension this summer.

•   Ah yes, “sandpaper grit,” hockey terms are in mid-season form already.

•   And on the opposite side of sandpaper grit, Kane and Fleury were looking GQ-ready after the NHL/NHLPA Media Tour last week.

•   Look good, play good. Play good, pay good. Pay good, live good. That’s the life, right?

•   Speaking of “pay good,” the Minnesota Wild backed up the truck for 2021 Calder Trophy winner Kirill Kaprizov.

•   The 24-year-old Russian signed a five-year, $45M contract extension last night after just 55 NHL games last season. But they were a helluva 55 games for the Wild.

•   Kaprizov out here thinking he’s MJ…🙄

•   With the addition of the Seattle Kraken, the ever-popular blog from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman needed a name change. The latest version of the now known as ’32 Thoughts’ was posted last night. After the Kaprizov domino fell yesterday in the restricted-free agent market, Friedman looks at the remaining RFA’s without deals heading into training camp and much, mooch more.

•   One interesting note Friedman expands on regarding new Blackhawks defenseman Seth Jones, is that before Jones decided to come to Chicago, he had an offer to come to the Colorado Avalanche but they were only going for a one-year deal. Meaning, Jones would have gone to the Avalanche, but without a long-term commitment, which is not what he was looking for and ended up getting with the Blackhawks. I think that was a good decision for him to bet on himself and his future. Hopefully not pans out for both sides, too.

•   Speaking of good decisions, it looks like the nearly-unanimous majority of NHL players are getting the message from the league and their team front offices’ regarding COVID-19 vaccinations.

•   Following the actions of the Columbus Blue Jackets and New York Islanders, the league might be looking at those “10-15” unvaccinated players numbers being close to zero when the puck drops on October 12th.

•   Better late than never, right? Duncan Keith and William Nylander are two notable names that are late arrivals to the vaccine party in the NHL ahead of the season.

•   San Jose Sharks forward Evander Kane has not had a good offseason. Following allegations of gambling on NHL games, including games he was playing in (which he denies doing), Kane now is facing horrific sexual assault and domestic violence allegations from his ex-wife Anna as the two are going through a divorce. (CONTENT WARNING: This report contains disturbing details of sexual assault and domestic violence)

•   Just awful.

•   Changing gears to end on a better note today, anyone up for chicken wings out of the Stanley Cup?

•   Smart move: not putting the wings directly into the Cup. Makes for a much easier cleanup.

•   Raise your hand if you were ever this kid! 👋🏻

•   A valiant effort.

•   Not the same can be said from Conor McGregor at Wrigley Field last night, though.

•   And it wasn’t over there, either.

•   And the game wasn’t much better for the Cubs, too.

•   Just a night you’d like to forget, but a night I’m sure that will be featured on every “worst fitch pitch” YouTube video for the rest of time.

•   That will do it for today. Hope you all have a great Wednesday!

written by

Mario Tirabassi is a writer for Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Mario_Tirabassi.

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