The start of the 2021-22 NHL regular season is still a little more than two months away, and while the offseason news has slowed a bit of late, there will be more to come before the beginning of the new campaign on Oct. 12.
Some key players are still either unrestricted or restricted free agents and will need to work out deals with a team. Several of them are older players who are contemplating their futures. Plus, trade discussions are likely still taking place.
Here's some of the latest buzz from around the NHL at this point in the offseason.
Will Tkachuk Sign Long-Term Deal With Ottawa?
Brady Tkachuk is currently a restricted free agent, so the Ottawa Senators will be able to prevent him from signing with another team because they control his rights. There's no reason to think he won't be back in Ottawa for the 2021-22 season.
But how long could he play for the Senators? He's a 21-year-old forward who is already a strong scorer and an alternate captain. It wouldn't be surprising if Ottawa wants to sign him to a long-term deal.
However, it's possible that's not something of interest to Tkachuk quite yet. Shawn Simpson of TSN 1000 recently reported that while he "loves the crew in Ottawa," he's "waiting to see if ownership is willing to spend what it takes to deliver a Cup team."
Simpson added that it "was made very clear that [Tkachuk] would be all in long term if ownership does the same."
The Senators have added some talented young players in recent years, but they've missed the playoffs four consecutive seasons and haven't won more than 29 games in a season during that stretch. So they need to take greater strides forward in order to get back to the postseason.
Tkachuk was taken by Ottawa with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2018 NHL draft. Over his first three seasons, he has 60 goals and 65 assists in 198 games.
If the Sens can ink him to a long-term contract, perhaps he'll play a key role in helping them get back to the playoffs.
Thornton Aiming to Return for Another Season?
In 23 NHL seasons, Joe Thornton has never won the Stanley Cup. He even came up short this past season after he signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who were expected to be a top contender, last October.
Although Thornton is 42 and has played 1,680 career NHL games, he may not be done quite yet. And that's surely because he wants to win the Cup before hanging it up for good.
According to Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun, the Canadian has been skating while in Europe and is "hoping to still play" during the 2021-22 season. He's an unrestricted free agent after signing a one-year deal with Toronto last offseason.
The four-time All-Star and former Hart Trophy winner isn't the top scorer he once was. However, he can bring veteran leadership to a team, and he still tallied five goals and 15 assists in 44 games for the Maple Leafs last season.
That was Thornton's first year in Toronto after he spent the previous 15 seasons with the San Jose Sharks. He began his career by playing with the Boston Bruins for eight seasons.
Considering Thornton wants to win the Stanley Cup, it's likely he's only looking to sign with a team that has championship aspirations for next season, much like he was when he joined the Leafs. It's unknown whether Toronto has interest in bringing him back, or which other teams could have interest in the player.