The official start of the 2021-22 NHL season is still 60 days away as the league and those who follow it wade through the doldrums of the offseason.
For their opening night, and return to the ESPN airwaves, the league has a doubleheader scheduled on October the 12th. First, the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning will raise their banner in front of the last team to win back-to-back Cups, the Pittsburgh Penguins at 7:30 pm EST. Then, the league’s 32nd franchise, the Seattle Kraken will take the ice for the first time against the leagues’ 31st franchise, the Vegas Golden Knights in the desert at 10 pmEST. If the season goes off without a hitch, the final day of the regular season would fall on April 29th.
In addition, although still under negotiation, if the NHL decides to participate in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, the league would break between February 7th and the 22nd with the league resuming play on the 23rd. However, at this moment, no agreement has been reached and with the current state of the pandemic, there is no guarantee this will happen.
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Auston Matthews Has Wrist Surgery
Despite a shortened season, Leafs forward Auston Matthews notched his second-consecutive 40-goal season and third in five years. His 41 goals a year ago led the entire league and he did it while nursing a significant wrist injury that required surgery. That surgery happened on Friday and is expected to keep the former first overall pick out for up to six weeks which would likely prevent him from being on the ice when Toronto opens training camp in late September.
“We all know he’s been dealing at different times with injury situations that have directly impacted his ability to shoot and handle the puck, and so that makes you wonder what could have happened had [he] been healthy all the way through,” said Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe back in May.
Joe Thornton Joins Florida Panthers
Joe Thornton is taking his talents to South Beach. On Friday, Jumbo Joe reached an agreement on a one-year, $750K contract with the Florida Panthers. The 24-year veteran will play on his third team in three seasons as he continues to chase that elusive Stanley Cup. Last year, in his only season with the Maple Leafs, Thornton notched five goals and 15 assists in 44 games, averaging 13:43 in ice time, the lowest of his career.
Prior to his one-year stint in Toronto, Thornton spent the previous 15 seasons with the San Jose Sharks after being acquired in a trade with the Boston Bruins, the team that drafted him way back in 1997. During his career, Thornton has 425 career goals, good for 7th most among active players. In addition, his 1,104 assists are the most among active players by a decent margin and ranks him seventh all-time among every player.