Maple Leafs goalie Freddie Andersen is confident the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association will be able to work out a deal on COVID-19 protocols and collective bargaining issues in time for the opening of the league’s summer camps on July 10.
Andersen, back in Toronto after spending part of the NHL’s coronavirus pause in Arizona with Auston Matthews, cautioned though that the “whole thing” has to make sense before he would lend his personal vote of support to any agreement.
“Safety, the future CBA stuff, the whole thing, and if we can agree on it with the league, I’m confident we can have a vote. I want to play, I don’t want to sit and waste the summer,” Andersen said on the Leafs conference call Tuesday afternoon.
The NHL remains in Phase 2 of its four-phase return-to-play protocols. Andersen and the Leafs have been able to work out in smaller groups since early June, with Phase 3 — a shift to larger groups and full team practices — scheduled for July 10.
The NHL is expected to resume its season in early August after a league-ordered pause March 12. The Leafs are scheduled to face the Columbus Blue Jackets in a five-game play-in round when the schedule does resume with a 24-team playoff based out of two yet-to-be-announced hub cities.
The NHL and NHLPA are still ironing out some of the details on a return to play, including the identities of the two hub cities, as well as CBA details like the timing of signing bonuses, free agency, cap ceilings, and other issues.
“There’s a few things that need to be figured out,” Andersen said. “Once the hubs are figured out, and everything is a closed event, we should be alright.”
Toronto and Edmonton remain in the race to be named as one of the two hub cities; Las Vegas, Chicago and Los Angeles are the others.
Toronto has seen reductions in the number of coronavirus cases and deaths, while Edmonton has also been praised for its handling of the pandemic. Reports suggested Tuesday that Edmonton’s relevance as a hub city has risen in the past several days within discussions between the NHL and NHLPA.
Andersen, meanwhile, is looking forward to facing Columbus when the time comes and feels he’s been able to retain his fitness levels despite not having played a game in more than three months.
He spent part of the pause with Matthews at his home in Arizona — the two were shown having fun in a pool, with Andersen setting up Matthews with an alley-oop for a dunk — and said both he and Matthews were able to skate during his stay in there.
Andersen refrained from commenting on the report Matthews had tested positive for COVID-19, but did say he was not in Arizona during a recent spike in coronavirus cases in the state.
“I was in California to see my trainer, I wasn’t around for any of that,” Andersen said. “With Auston, we tried to share the fun we had down there. We get along great and we tried to make the best of it (pause). His mom has a great place there, and I’m lucky to be able to visit a place like that.”
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Andersen added he’s been back in Toronto “for quite a bit,” and is preparing for the return of the NHL season.
“We can get work in now and I feel I have been able to keep my shape, but my timing, that’s the one thing that makes a difference. When we get the guys back to a normal pace, that will be the biggest thing for me,” Andersen said.