NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 24, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 24, 2020

The 2020-21 schedule is released, Nikita Kucherov sidelined for the season, plus a roundup of the latest notable signings and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The league released the schedule for the 2020-21 season. It begins on Jan. 13 with five games, including the Tampa Bay Lightning raising their 2020 Stanley Cup championship banner before facing off against the Chicago Blackhawks at Amalie Arena.

The other four games see the Pittsburgh Penguins visit the Philadelphia Flyers, the Montreal Canadiens face off against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Vancouver Canucks squaring off against the Edmonton Oilers, and the St. Louis Blues tangling with the Colorado Avalanche.

The league also announced the postponement of the 2021 Stadium Series slated for Feb. 20, 2021, featuring the Carolina Hurricanes.

Hip surgery will sideline Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: All timings for those games have yet to be announced. Those will likely be revealed after the locations for the Canadian games are determined.

TSN reported last night the five Canadian provinces hosting NHL teams released a letter calling for increased testing of players, staff and close contacts as well as enhancing the schedule to group game into blocks to reduce inter-jurisdictional travel. The other option is reinstating a bubble model similar to the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, which the league and the NHLPA aren’t keen to implement.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov has hip surgery scheduled for next week and is expected to be sidelined for the entire regular season. The club hopes to have him back in time for the 2021 playoffs beginning in May.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is a big blow to the Lightning’s scoring punch but they will receive $9.5 million in salary cap relief by placing the former Art Ross Trophy and Hart Trophy winner on long-term injury reserve. That should free up sufficient cap space to sign restricted free agent Anthony Cirelli. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t need to make a cost-cutting deal. I’ll have more about that in the Rumors section.

The Lightning also signed forwards Mathieu Joseph and Alex Volkov to short-term, one-way contracts. Joseph inked a two-year deal worth $1.475 million while Volkov inked a one-year, $700K deal.

NJ.COM: The New Jersey Devils signed goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood to a three-year, $8.4 million contract. The annual average value is $2.8 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: An affordable deal for the Devils. Blackwood will be their starting goaltender entering this season. A solid performance on his part over the course of this deal will ensure more lucrative terms on his next contract.

SPORTSNET: The Nashville Predators signed forward Erik Haula to a one-year, $1.75 million contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This signing comes on the heels of the Predators bringing back winger Mikael Granlund. It’s a good, cost-effective depth addition. Haula has an injury history but when healthy is a speedy, versatile two-way forward with a decent scoring touch who can skate on the wing or at center.

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: Goaltender Ryan Miller is returning for another season with the Anaheim Ducks, inking a one-year contract worth $1 million. He’s served as their backup netminder for the past three seasons.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No surprise here. Miller and his family live in the Anaheim area and he doesn’t want to relocate at this stage of his career.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens added more experienced depth to their forward links by signing winger Michael Frolik to a one-year, $750K contract.

WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres signed center Casey Mittelstadt to a one-year contract worth just over $874K.

SUN-SENTINEL.COM: The Florida Panthers inked goaltender Sam Montembault to a one-year, two-way deal.

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: Blackhawks forward Kirby Dach suffered an apparent injury to his right wrist during Canada’s 1-0 win over Russia in a tune-up game for the upcoming 2021 World Junior Championship in Edmonton. Dach left the game, underwent X-rays and is undergoing other tests to determine the severity of the injury.

Meanwhile, Blackhawks forward Alex Nylander recently underwent knee surgery and is expected to be sidelined for four-to-six months.

SPORTSNET: The Vancouver Canucks hired Jason King as their new assistant coach and Chris Higgins as their new skills and development coach.










NHL Rumor Mill – November 17, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 17, 2020

Some recent Leafs speculation and a look at Dougie Hamilton’s contract situation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: In a recent mailbag segment, Luke Fox was asked what might happen if the Toronto Maple Leafs miss the playoffs or are eliminated in the opening round. He believes team president Brendan Shanahan, general manager Kyle Dubas and head coach Sheldon Keefe should be granted one more shot in 2021-22. However, it could spell the end of the “Core Four” of Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner and William Nylander.

Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fox noted Dubas has resisted breaking up that core, pointing out the moves made during this offseason doesn’t project a sense of hot-seat panic. Nevertheless, a shakeup could be in store if the Leafs make another early playoff exit or miss the postseason entirely.

Matthews, Tavares and Marner each earn over $10.8 million annually. Tavares has a full no-movement clause. It could be difficult moving one of them under a flattened cap for 2021-22, Nylander could be the more likely trade chip. His annual average value ($6.96 million) is more affordable and he lacks no-trade protection.

Fox believes the Leafs are done for the offseason. He doesn’t rule out professional tryout offers (PTO), noting Dubas said he’s open to anything. However, the club’s lack of cap space makes it unlikely they’ll sign another UFA or go the PTO route.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs are above the $81.5 million cap by just over $1 million according to Cap Friendly. They have no room for other additions unless Dubas acquires a player on permanent long-term injury reserve for additional salary-cap wiggle room or makes a cost-cutting trade.

NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien believes Dougie Hamilton’s next contract is among several big decisions facing the Carolina Hurricanes in 2021. GM Don Waddell is interested in negotiating a new deal with him before the start of the season.

O’Brien speculates Hamilton will want security after being traded twice. While the 27-year-old rearguard could find next year’s UFA market challenging, O’Brien notes high-end defensemen like Alex Pietrangelo and Torey Krug received lucrative deals this year. Even lesser blueliners like Chris Tanev, Dylan DeMelo and Joel Edmundson were among those receiving significant terms.

The Hurricanes must also re-sign rising star Andrei Svechnikov plus goaltenders James Reimer and Petr Mrazek will become UFAs next summer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s understandable that Waddell would be interested in signing Hamilton before this season opens. The puck-moving blueliner is in the final season of a six-year deal with an AAV of $5.75 million. Hamilton was in the running for the Norris Trophy last season until sidelined by a broken leg. Another Norris-worthy performance in 2020-21 could push his asking price to between $8 – $9 million annually.

The Hurricanes have over $52 million invested in 12 players for 2020-21. Big raises for Hamilton and Svechnikov could use up a combined $15 million. Given the uncertainty over next season and another flattened salary cap, the Hurricanes might not spend to the ceiling for 2021-22. The longer Hamilton goes unsigned, the more his name will surface in the rumor mill during 2020-21.










NHL Rumor Mill – November 16, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 16, 2020

A recent survey of player agents revealed which high-profile players they expect to be traded and which teams they feel still need to make a significant move. Check it out in today’s NHL rumor mill

THE ATHLETIC: A recent survey of 21 player agents conducted by Craig Custance revealed Winnipeg Jets winger Patrik Laine, Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel, and Toronto Maple Leafs forwards Mitch Marner and William Nylander topped their list of high-profile players who could change teams in the next year.

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner (NHL Images).

One agent pointed to the recent trade speculation surrounding Laine in recent weeks. Another feels Eichel will tire of losing in Buffalo. Another feels Marner could become a trade candidate if the Leafs decide to move one of their expensive forwards.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’m also leaning toward Laine because of the ongoing trade chatter and the uncertainty over his future beyond this season when he’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. Eichel could decide he’s had enough in Buffalo if the Sabres fail to improve but I don’t think he’s reached that point yet.

Moving Marner and his $10.8 million annual average value will be more difficult to trade than Nylander’s $6.96 million under the current economic climate. I know Dubas reportedly said Nylander wouldn’t be traded as long as he was general manager, but that doesn’t mean he can’t change his mind, especially if the Leafs make another early playoff exit.

The Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Edmonton Oilers topped their list of teams they feel still need to make a significant offseason move.

One agent believes the Bruins must figure out what direction they’re going in. Another felt they’re still a Stanley Cup contender but must find a suitable defenseman to replace the departed Torey Krug

One agent said the Lightning need to get out of their salary-cap hell. Another believes the Oilers must get better faster or they’ll run into a problem.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some of the Bruins offseason speculation suggests they’re waiting to re-sign restricted free agent winger Jake DeBrusk until after they’ve sorted the left side of their blue line. DeBrusk has also been mentioned as a possible trade chip to address that need.

The Lightning’s cap issues are well known and dominate the offseason rumor mill. They must free up sufficient cap space to re-sign RFAs Anthony Cirelli, Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak. Forwards Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn are oft-mentioned as trade candidates.

Goaltending remains the Oilers’ Achilles heel but they couldn’t or wouldn’t invest in an upgrade over the current tandem of Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith. They’re just over the $81.5 million salary cap but could get some relief by placing defenseman Oscar Klefbom and his $4.167 million cap hit on long-term injury reserve if he should undergo season-ending shoulder surgery. That could provide a little wiggle room for other moves during the season.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 31, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 31, 2020

Could the Coyotes make some big changes? Are the Hurricanes interested in Frederik Andersen? What’s the latest on Alex Pietrangelo, Jonas Brodin, and Phillip Danault? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill

HIGHLIGHTS FROM FRIEDMAN’S LATEST “31 THOUGHTS”

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the Arizona Coyotes’ goal will be to cut payroll and rebuild. They face a tight salary cap for 2020-21 but then it eases. With no picks in the first three rounds of the 2020 NHL Draft and no first- or third-rounder for 2021, they could try to restock that.

Arizona Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson (NHL Images)

Friedman suggests there could be a market for goaltender Darcy Kuemper and they would like to test defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson‘s trade value. Ekman-Larsson has seven years left on his contract with an annual average value of $8.25 million and a full no-movement clause, but he could be open to waiving it depending on the destination. They also have four defensemen (Jason Demers, Alex Goligoski, Jordan Oesterle and Niklas Hjalmarsson) with a year remaining on their contracts. Friedman claims Hjalmarsson remains much-loved around the league.

AZCOYOTESINSIDER: Craig Morgan considers Kuemper, Ekman-Larsson and Jakob Chychrun as the Coyotes’ most marketable assets if they decide to rebuild. Kuemper has two years left on his contract ($4.5 million AAV) and lacks no-trade protection. Chychrun has five years left ($4.6 million AAV) with a modified no-trade in the final two years. He also considered those other blueliners on one-year deals as tradeable assets, though he thinks they could retain Oesterle.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Just because those names are being bandied about doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be moved in the off-season. The Coyotes still haven’t decided on a full-time general manager and it remains to be seen if they’ll make any drastic moves. Nevertheless, their situation will be worth monitoring.

Friedman said team owner Alex Muerelo’s casino business is getting hammered by COVID-19, resulting in business layoffs and players complaining of late per diem payments. If the goal is to cut payroll and rebuild with affordable players, veterans like Kuemper, Ekman-Larsson and Hjalmarsson could be on the move. It will also mean they won’t be re-signing Taylor Hall, who becomes an unrestricted free agent on Nov. 1.

Friedman reports the Carolina Hurricanes have an interest in Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen. However, the Leafs aren’t keen to make a change just for the sake of doing so. Friedman feels if they make that move it’ll be for an upgrade, suggesting they could wait to see how this year’s goaltending free-agent market shakes out.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Perhaps the Leafs could pursue someone like Vegas’ Robin Lehner if he hits the open market. Or maybe they make a trade for someone like Darcy Kuemper and then peddle Andersen to the Hurricanes. If they go the UFA route they’ll be paying more than Andersen’s $5 million AAV. The Canes would also have to dump either Petr Mrazek or James Reimer as both have a year left on their contracts.

Speaking of the Leafs, Friedman doesn’t think William Nylander is going anywhere without a legitimate top-four right-hand shot defenseman coming in return.

SPECTOR’ S NOTE: I think they’d prefer that defenseman to be a top-two right-side guy. It would take someone like Nylander to fetch that type of return, especially with John Tavares, Auston Matthews, and Mitch Marner considered untouchable.

Friedman also mentioned Alex Pietrangelo met last week with St. Louis Blues management to discuss a new contract. He feels the Blues captain wants to stay in St. Louis but cited a couple of sources suggesting it hasn’t been easy for Pietrangelo to see teammates like Justin Faulk, Marco Scandella and Brayden Schenn get contract extensions while his talks stalled.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Blues have $79.4 million invested in 21 players, with defenseman Vince Dunn also to be re-signed. The additions of Faulk and Scandella were likely insurance in case Pietrangelo departs via free agency. If the Blues hope to re-sign him, they must shed two or three contracts to make it work. There’s plenty of time for both sides to get a deal done. The tip-off will be how quickly Blues GM Doug Armstrong sheds salary once the playoffs are over.

The Montreal Canadiens are getting asked about their plans for Phillip Danault, who’s a year away from UFA status. His comments following the Habs’ playoff elimination about his future being a bit unclear drew attention.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Danault’s role as solely a defensive center against the Penguins and Flyers and the rise of promising centers Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi is stoking speculation about his future in Montreal.

As for his comments, Danault said he wasn’t ready to be solely a defensive forward, adding he enjoyed producing offensively and his role as a two-way forward. He acknowledged his role for next season would determine if he re-signs with Montreal. However, he also indicated that by what he’s proven in the last few years, his role shouldn’t change in Montreal.

The Canadiens could move him if they feel Suzuki and Kotkaniemi are now ready as full-time centers on the top two lines. However, I think they prefer keeping Danault around in case one or both struggle to adjust over the course of a long season. 

One of the Minnesota Wild’s priorities is figuring out the cost of extending Jonas Brodin. The 27-year-old defenseman will become an unrestricted free agent next year.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Michael Russo suggested the blueliner could also be used to acquire a starting goaltender like Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray or to acquire a center. 

The Columbus Blue Jackets could consider moving a goalie for some scoring. Friedman notes Joonas Korpisalo and Matiss Kivlenieks aren’t exempt from next year’s expansion draft. Meanwhile, he reports the Pittsburgh Penguins is testing the trade market on third-line center Jared McCann.










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 30, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – August 30, 2020

In the Sunday NHL rumor roundup, there’s more fallout from last week’s Kasperi Kapanen trade, including speculation the Leafs could take a run at Alex Pietrangelo in free agency. Read on for the latest.

SPORTSNET: Luke Fox suggests the Toronto Maple Leafs shipping Kasperi Kapanen last week to the Pittsburgh Penguins is one factor that could make it possible for them to sign Alex Pietrangelo via free agency in the offseason.

Could the Toronto Maple Leafs pursue Alex Pietrangelo if he tests the UFA market? (NHL Images)

Fox points out Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas traded Kapanen to clear salary-cap space, speculating he might not be done making cost-cutting moves. He also observed St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko won’t be reevaluated for his latest shoulder surgery for at least five months, suggesting it could give Blues GM Doug Armstrong pause to make another major investment in his blueline by re-signing Pietrangelo.

Pietrangelo indicated he wants to stay in St. Louis and Armstrong said he wants to keep him. However, Fox reminds us that the Blues GM also acquired and re-signed defensemen Justin Faulk and Marco Scandella this season.

Fox thinks the Blues will make an offer to Pietrangelo but it’ll be lower than what he could get on the open market. Maybe the defenseman takes the hometown discount, but perhaps he’ll go elsewhere if he wants to maximize his contract. 

Dubas likes big-game hunting (signing John Tavares) and making bold moves (the Nazem Kadri trade) and is backed by the deep pockets of MLSE. Such a move, however, could mean shedding someone like William Nylander and signing the 30-year-old Pietrangelo to more term than makes sense. Still, Fox feels Dubas should at least look into it.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Of course Dubas should look into signing Pietrangelo if the Blues captain heads to free agency. Any GM worth his salt should do so. Freeing up the cap space to sign him without weakening the roster, however, is another matter.

The Leafs need for a top-four, right-side defenseman is well-documented. Yes, Dubas is known for making big signings and creative trades. But how well did the Tavares signing and the Kadri trade work out for the Leafs? Tavares is a great player, but the Leafs didn’t need him, and the $11 million they’re paying him for the next five years should’ve been put into shoring up the defense. That’s what led to the Kadri trade, which didn’t pan out as Dubas hoped. 

Pietrangelo would address that glaring blueline need for the Leafs. Freeing up sufficient cap room to land him, however, will hurt their depth elsewhere, not to mention they’ll be tying up far too much cap payroll in a handful of players. That’s not a wise move given the current economic landscape.

TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons isn’t ready to declare the Leafs the winners of the Kapanen deal until he sees what the Leafs do with the first-round pick (15th overall) they received in the deal. It depends upon who they select with that pick and how that player pans out, whether they trade the pick, and what they do with the money they free up by sending Kapanen to Pittsburgh.

Simmons also touched on the recent trade speculation regarding Toronto goaltender Frederik Andersen. He doesn’t feel Andersen is the Leafs biggest problem but the feeling around the hockey world is his time in Toronto is coming to an end. Trading him won’t be easy in a flooded goalie market but there are many options to replace him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: But will those options be better than Andersen? He’s played well behind one of the league’s worst defensive teams over the past four years but has become a scapegoat for the club’s recent woes for some Leafs fans. If you can land someone like Robin Lehner, it might be worthwhile. If it’s someone whose stock has declined like Braden Holtby, it might be wiser to stick with Andersen. 

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: In a recent mailbag segment, Mike DeFabo was asked what other moves he sees the Penguins making after acquiring Kapanen. He feels either Matt Murray or Tristan Jarry could be traded. Both goaltenders are restricted free agents and GM Jim Rutherford indicated he’s likely to move one of them.

Murray could be the likely trade candidate because he’d be more expensive to re-sign. The Chicago Blackhawks, Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, and Calgary Flames could be in the market for a goaltender.

As for the potential return, DeFabo indicates the third-line center position has been an issue for the past several years. He also expects changes are coming to their blueline as they need a better right-shot defenseman.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Murray seems to be the guy Rutherford is shopping but he could be getting more interest in Jarry. He’s younger, more affordable, and doesn’t have Murray’s injury history.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Eric Stephens believes the Anaheim Ducks interest in Kapanen before he was shipped to the Penguins suggests GM Bob Murray isn’t interested in a roster tear-down. He could instead be looking for players who can provide immediate help. Possible targets could include more affordable options like Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen, Columbus’ Josh Anderson, or Edmonton’s Jesse Puljujarvi.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kapanen might’ve ended up with the Ducks had Murray been willing to part with his first-round pick (sixth overall) in this year’s draft. If that was Dubas’ asking price, Murray was wise to pass.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 27, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 27, 2020

The latest on Frederik Andersen and Corey Crawford plus updates on the Rangers in today’s NHL rumor mill.

ANDERSEN AND CRAWFORD

TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan reports Claude Lemieux, the agent for Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen, understands the recent trade speculation about his client is part of the territory when a team with high expectations like the Leafs suffers an early playoff exit. Lemieux also indicated Andersen has not requested a trade.

There’s media chatter suggesting Andersen is being shopped by the Leafs. Lemieux said the club hasn’t spoken to him about a trade. He also stated he hasn’t had contract extension talks for his client, whose contract expires at the end of next season. Rumors have linked the Leafs to Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray, a restricted free agent with arbitration rights.

Corey Crawford hopes to return with the Chicago Blackhawks (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs need a better goalie than Murray if they’re thinking about moving Andersen. While Murray has two Stanley Cups (2016 and 2017) on his resume, Andersen has had better health and better stats since 2017 with a heavier workload.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Ben Pope recently reported Corey Crawford wants to stay with the Blackhawks. The 35-year-old goalie will become an unrestricted free agent on Nov. 1. He’d consider a three- or four-year deal if the Blackhawks prefer, but would also accept a short-term deal.

Crawford also indicated playing time matters more than his next salary. “I don’t want to play half the games and sit on the bench for stretches at a time,” he said. “I’m way more valuable playing games and playing consistently.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Despite his age (35) and injury history, Crawford proved his value as a starting goalie this season to the Blackhawks. His next deal won’t be worth $6 million annually like his current contract. I’ll be surprised if the Hawks commit to anything over two years.

Crawford’s age would allow him to sign a one-year, bonus-laden deal with a low base salary that could take him up to $5 million if he meets all bonus requirements. It would provide him with an opportunity to finish the season with a significant salary while giving the Blackhawks some cap flexibility. That depends, of course, on whether he would accept a one-year deal.

RANGERS

LOHUD.COM: Vincent Z. Mercogliano recently looked at several possible off-season trade targets for the New York Rangers. He believes they need a center and a left-handed defenseman.

Centers include Calgary’s Sam Bennett, Ottawa’s Logan Brown, Tampa Bay’s Anthony Cirelli, Montreal’s Phillip Danault, San Jose’s Tomas Hertl, and Toronto’s William Nylander. His defense options include Minnesota’s Jonas Brodin, Vancouver’s Olli Juolevi, and Anaheim’s Hampus Lindholm.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Mercogliano lists his targets in descending order and explores the pros and cons of each player and the potential cost to acquire them. Follow the link above to get the details. I’m just going to briefly add my two cents.

The Flames won’t part with Bennett as he’s a versatile forward who always elevates his game in the playoffs. He’s among the few Flames who could hold his head high over his performance in this year’s postseason. I don’t believe the Senators will give up on Brown. The Bolts intend to re-sign Cirelli. Danault is the Habs’ best two-way center so he’s not going anywhere.

Hertl is very talented but his injury history makes him a risky acquisition. Nylander’s cap hit ($6.9 million) makes him too expensive for the Blueshirts under a flattened salary cap.

I believe the Canucks will remain patient with Juolevi. Brodin and Lindholm might be available but the asking price for Brodin could be a center (which the Rangers need) while the Ducks will likely want a top-six winger for Lindholm.

FOREVER BLUESHIRTS: Anthony Scultore cited Swedish reporter Johan Rylander wondering why Frolunda is one of only two Swedish league teams still holding closed-door practices. “Is it because (Henrik) Lundqvist is training for return? Or is it simply due to fear of covid-19 from two journalists 40 meters from the ice?”

Rylander confirmed Lundqvist is in town and practicing somewhere to stay in shape. Frolunda, meanwhile, issued a statement indicating their closed-door sessions are to protect their players as much as possible from the virus. The team stated it had no information on Lundqvist other than he is not a member of their roster or their team.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The report indicates Lundqvist is allowed to practice with the club as per IIHF rules. He spent several seasons with Frolunda before joining the Rangers in 2005-06. Perhaps he’s considering NHL retirement and finishing his career with his old team. Or he could simply be staying in shape before training camp opens later this fall.