Ontario premier supports bodychecking in OHL’s return-to-play

Ontario premier Doug Ford has weighed in on the OHL potentially banning bodychecking in the league's return-to-play plan.

"We are engaging with the OHL to create a safe return-to-play plan, which will need to be approved by health experts," Ford tweeted Saturday. "To date no decisions have been made. I would like to see the OHL return as normal as possible with bodychecking."

Ford's statement contradicts one of his own cabinet's ministers. Lisa MacLeod, Ontario's minister of sport, said on Friday that "prolonged or deliberate contact while playing sports is not permitted," and the government will continue to work with the OHL on a safe return-to-play plan.

MacLeod was adamant that removing purposeful contact from the sport is necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19. On Friday, she tweeted that she hoped "this matter is now settled."

The OHL is targeting a December start date for its 2020-21 season.

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Report: Hoffman receiving only bargain offers

Mike Hoffman remains a free agent, and the offers he's receiving aren't blowing the winger away.

Several teams have expressed interest in the 30-year-old, but the offers have been "bargain city," according to The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun.

The sniper led the free-agency class in goals this past season, and he's been one of the NHL's best scorers since stepping into the league, notching 169 goals in 464 games over six campaigns. That's good for 29.87 goals per 82 contests, and only 15 players have registered more markers than Hoffman since 2014-15.

While many teams surely desire the forward, agent Rob Hooper says his client is willing to wait to get the money he deserves from a club the veteran fits with.

"Very patient,’’ Hooper said to LeBrun. "Mike has been one of the most consistent goal-scorers the last six seasons and the last two were his best. More importantly, Mike, like every great scorer, is willing to be patient and look for the right opportunity."

Hoffman spent the last two seasons with the Florida Panthers, scoring a career-high 36 goals and 70 points in 2018-19, and then producing 29 goals and 30 assists in just 69 games this past campaign.

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Galchenyuk ‘hungrier than ever’ to bounce back with Senators

Alex Galchenyuk is confident he'll find his game with the Ottawa Senators this coming season.

"I'm definitely hungrier than ever and motivated," Galchenyuk said, according to NHL.com. "My body feels great. I feel great. Obviously, there's been a lot of time off and I used that time well. To get better, I think, obviously, my foot speed, my explosiveness, and it's my consistency, and I know what I need to do to get that. I went through a really tough year ... and learned a lot about myself as a hockey player and what I need to do. And I'm really confident I can fix those parts of my game."

Galchenyuk was an unrestricted free agent for the first time this offseason and signed a one-year, $1.05 million contract with the Senators after he spent 2019-20 split between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Minnesota Wild.

The 26-year-old struggled in the shortened campaign, managing just 24 points in 59 games. He put up a career-low 0.41 points per game, but Galchenyuk believes his difficult year has given him a better understanding of the type of player he can be.

"Sometimes you need a year like this to center yourself and to love yourself, and to really understand what you want to become and how you want to play," Galchenyuk said. "It was a big moment for me to realize that. I have a lot to prove to myself, to other people, and it felt like Ottawa was the right fit. Obviously, I was traded two times last year and so I have not been happy with how things went.

"I'm just looking to bounce back. I'm going to elevate my game even more and I just can't wait to start already."

The Montreal Canadiens drafted Galchenyuk third overall in 2012. His 320 career points are the second-most of all players in his draft class.

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Trick or Treat: Which team’s offseason moves are for real?

Halloween arriving in the middle of the NHL's offseason may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Let's look at how a handful of teams have fared so far this fall, evaluating each squad's moves using a theme connected to Saturday's holiday.

Trick = A team that's either further removed from contender status than before this offseason, or isn't as close to contending as the club's splashy moves seem to indicate.

Treat = A team that's vaulted closer to contention thanks to its offseason moves.

Bruins: Trick 👻

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Key arrivals: Craig Smith
Key departures: Torey Krug, Zdeno Chara (unsigned), Joakim Nordstrom

Boston entered the offseason fresh off an underwhelming showing in the playoffs, and with ample cap space to make an impact in free agency. But surprisingly, the Bruins were just passengers throughout the frenzy.

Smith is a nice addition, especially at $3.1 million per season. But only making one signing after another campaign in which an aging core didn't yield a championship is curious, to say the least.

The Bruins also let Krug walk, and they didn't bring anyone in to replace him. There are still strong pieces on Boston's blue line, but without Krug - and Chara still unsigned - the unit is looking thinner than ever before. Tie all that in with long-term surgery recoveries for superstars David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand, and Boston's immediate future after a bland offseason seems precarious.

Canadiens: Treat 🍬

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Key arrivals: Josh Anderson, Tyler Toffoli, Joel Edmundson, Jake Allen, Alexander Romanov
Key departures: Max Domi

Montreal's biggest issue last season was scoring, as the Habs were possession darlings, but they often struggled to finish. Adding Toffoli and Anderson should help in a big way.

The Canadiens can now roll out three potent lines next year, and young centers Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi will also provide a boost after making strides during the team's impressive playoff showing. Montreal lacks star power up front, but the club boasts quality depth.

Edmundson's contract (four years, $3.5M AAV) could come back to haunt general manager Marc Bergevin. But the squad's blue line should improve overall, especially if the 20-year-old Romanov can make the leap from the KHL to the NHL with ease.

Allen, meanwhile, is one of the NHL's best backups, and he'll help to keep Carey Price fresh - which will be crucial during a potentially condensed schedule.

Sabres: Trick 👻

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Key arrivals: Taylor Hall, Eric Staal, Cody Eakin, Tobias Rieder
Key departures: Marcus Johansson, Jimmy Vesey, Johan Larsson, Dominik Kahun (unsigned)

The Sabres have enjoyed a great offseason - we're not arguing that. Hall and Jack Eichel will be one of the league's scariest offensive duos, and Staal fills a massive hole as a second-line center.

However, there are still far too many question marks for this team to contend. The bottom-six forward group is a mess. There are some nice blue-line pieces in Buffalo, but the group is unbalanced and lacks a reliable shutdown pair. And the team's goaltending is suspect, despite some encouraging signs from Linus Ullmark a year ago.

Maple Leafs: Treat 🍬

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Key arrivals: TJ Brodie, Zach Bogosian, Mikko Lehtonen, Joe Thornton, Wayne Simmonds, Jimmy Vesey, Joey Anderson
Key departures: Andreas Johnsson, Kasperi Kapanen, Tyson Barrie, Cody Ceci

After a disappointing defeat to the Columbus Blue Jackets in this summer's qualifying round, Kyle Dubas got busy addressing some of the Maple Leafs' clear needs. Toronto became tougher and more experienced throughout its lineup, and adding Brodie gives the Leafs their strongest group of blue-liners in recent memory.

While the Maple Leafs appear deeper after their bevy of additions, the most impressive aspect of Toronto's offseason could be its salary-cap navigation. Dubas not only bolstered each position, but he also retained restricted free agents Ilya Mikheyev and Travis Dermott at discounted rates, and without going over the stagnant cap.

Islanders: Trick 👻

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Key arrivals: Ilya Sorokin
Key departures: Devon Toews, Derick Brassard (unsigned), Thomas Greiss

New York has been silent so far this offseason and unable to build on the momentum from a surprising run to the Eastern Conference Final. Recouping two second-round picks in the Toews deal is a decent haul, but it's hard to understand why the young, dynamic blue-liner needed to be the Islanders' cap casualty. The club also hasn't signed a single free agent yet.

Lou Lamoriello has always been one to wait, and he's sure showcasing his patience when it comes to locking down two key RFAs. Foundational pieces Mathew Barzal and Ryan Pulock need new deals, and the Islanders only hold $8.9 million in available cap space. The final prices of those two contracts will define New York's offseason, either bailing out Lamoriello after his inactivity, or further crippling the club's financial future.

Avalanche: Treat 🍬

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Key arrivals: Brandon Saad, Devon Toews
Key departures: Nikita Zadorov

The Avalanche are enjoying yet another solid offseason. GM Joe Sakic didn't go big-game hunting with his cap space, but he continued his trend of acquiring strong two-way players cheaply. Adding Saad to one of the NHL's deepest forward groups is scary for Colorado's Western Conference opponents, and Sakic even managed to convince Chicago to retain some of the veteran winger's salary.

Toews essentially replaces Zadorov on the blue line after the latter went to the Blackhawks in the deal, which is a major upgrade. The 26-year-old is one of the NHL's best puck-moving defensemen, and the four-year, $16.4 million contract he signed after the trade could become a highly team-friendly deal.

He joins a promising defensive corps that already features Cale Makar and Samuel Girard, along with prospects Bowen Byram and Conor Timmins waiting in the weeds. The rich get richer.

Canucks: Trick 👻

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Key arrivals: Nate Schmidt, Braden Holtby
Key departures: Jacob Markstrom, Chris Tanev, Tyler Toffoli, Josh Leivo, Troy Stecher, Oscar Fantenberg

We love adding Schmidt, especially at the cost (third-round pick). But there's no denying the Canucks became worse.

Schmidt replaces Tanev, which is an upgrade, but GM Jim Benning hasn't added anyone to fill Stecher's spot, and he doesn't hold the cap space to make that move. Is Olli Juolevi ready? Tyler Myers playing heavier minutes could be a spooky reality.

Losing Toffoli hurts, too, especially after how well he meshed with Vancouver's top-six forwards. Benning may have been able to keep Toffoli around if he didn't allocate so much money to uninspiring veterans like Brandon Sutter ($4.38 million), Micheal Ferland ($3.5 million), Antoine Roussel ($3 million), and Jay Beagle ($3 million). Not bringing back Leivo, who only received $875K from the Calgary Flames, is questionable too.

Holtby, who's posted three straight poor seasons, is a definite downgrade from Markstrom. Thatcher Demko had better be ready to play at least half of the Canucks' games. He certainly looked like a No. 1 netminder in the postseason.

Golden Knights: Treat 🍬

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Key arrivals: Alex Pietrangelo, Carl Dahlstrom
Key departures: Nate Schmidt, Paul Stastny

Is upgrading from Schmidt to Pietrangelo worth the cost of trading away Stastny? We think so. That's Vegas' offseason in a nutshell. The Golden Knights have now assembled one of the league's best blue lines, and they were able to re-sign goalie Robin Lehner.

Center depth beyond William Karlsson is the club's biggest weakness, but 2016 No. 6 pick Cody Glass provides plenty of upside, and veteran Chandler Stephenson fit in with Vegas extremely well after being acquired in a midseason trade last year from the Washington Capitals.

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Stars sign Honka to 1-year contract

The Dallas Stars have signed defenseman Julius Honka to a one-year, two-way contract, the team announced Friday.

Honka posted 15 points in 46 games in Finland last season. The 24-year-old went overseas after being unable to work out a deal as a restricted free agent with the Stars.

Dallas drafted Honka 14th overall in 2014, but he's only played in 87 NHL games. He's spent the majority of his career in the AHL or as a healthy scratch with the big club.

Honka previously requested a trade out of Dallas but nothing ever materialized.

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Bodychecking prohibited in OHL this season

The Ontario Hockey League will not have bodychecking during its upcoming campaign.

The province's minister of sport, Lisa MacLeod, confirmed the decision Friday afternoon, according to The Canadian Press.

MacLeod believes removing purposeful contact is a necessary step in preventing the spread of COVID-19. The QMJHL, which has already had several outbreaks, influenced her decision.

"It would be safe to say that body contact unless it's incremental, will not be permitted as a result of COVID-19," MacLeod said earlier this month. "That would pose a challenge in terms of how they amend their play."

The OHL announced Thursday that it plans to run a shortened 40-game season beginning Feb. 4.

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Maple Leafs sign Joey Anderson to 3-year extension

The Toronto Maple Leafs signed forward Joey Anderson to a three-year contract, the team announced Friday.

Anderson's deal is a two-way contract in the first two years and carries an annual cap hit of $750,000.

Toronto acquired Anderson in the trade that sent Andreas Johnsson to the New Jersey Devils earlier this offseason. New Jersey selected Anderson in the third round of the 2016 draft, and he's tallied 13 points in 52 career NHL games.

The 22-year-old has earned comparisons to Maple Leafs forward Zach Hyman.

"That's something I strive to be ... a guy that does things the right way, plays hard, he's in the right spots, doesn't take short cuts," Anderson told TSN's Mark Masters after the trade. "Definitely a player I would like to follow in the footsteps of."

Anderson may compete for a job with the Maple Leafs this upcoming season, but his two-way contract indicates he'll likely start the year with the AHL's Toronto Marlies.

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