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Ryan Mantha's potential Oilers career never had a chance – Edmonton Sun

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Defenceman Ryan Mantha’s contract with the Edmonton Oilers ends June 30, and sadly, we hardly knew you because your career was derailed by a fluke blood clot in your eye.

He only played 43 games in Bakersfield, his sight damaged in his left eye during a Feb. 2, 2018, AHL game against the Iowa Wild. He hasn’t played since.

Mantha, whose uncle Moe played 25 games here in 1988, was a unique story in March 2017, when the Edmonton Oilers signed the 20-year-old to a three-year free-agent contract. They out-bid several NHL teams because he was a right-shot defenceman, six-foot-five and 229 pounds and he could pound the puck. He was the captain of the Niagara IceDogs on a junior team with current Oilers farmhand winger Kirill Maksimov. He was a very intriguing pickup after being originally drafted by New York Rangers in the fourth round in 2014, but they didn’t see a need to keep him.

“He really found his stride upon not signing with the Rangers and his overage junior prior to signing with the Oilers was very good,” said Craig Button, the NHL draft prospect expert. “He settled into his game and was very effective in many facets.”

Unfortunately, Mantha suffered the blood clot after taking a drop pass from current Oilers winger Patrick Russell and trying to unload a shot as an opposing player from Iowa went to poke-check him. All of a sudden, he couldn’t see as he tried to defend an ensuing three-on-two breakout with his partner, Keegan Lowe. He retained his peripheral vision the next day but not his straight-away sight because of damage to the central retinal artery, which carries oxygen-rich blood to the retina.

Mantha turns 24 in two months. His promising pro career never had any chance of gaining steam because of a medical situation that came out of nowhere during a harmless play that happens countless times during a game.

“I thought, ‘What the hell is going on?’ I didn’t feel a thing,” said Mantha, in a story a few months after the blood clot.

This wasn’t taking a puck in his eye or a stick under his visor. It was a play two-thirds of the way into his first pro season. And with the big kid out of the lineup, the organization became much deeper in young defencemen with the additions of Evan Bouchard, Dmitry Samorukov and Philip Broberg.

It wasn’t like ex-Oilers defenceman Ryan McGill, currently an assistant coach in Vegas, who took a puck in his left eye April 5, 1995, in Anaheim, six weeks after turning 26. He never played another game. McGill, legally blind in his left eye, at least got into 151 NHL games, though.

“Ryan (Mantha) had a solid developmental season in the AHL before the blood clot. He was showing all the signs of being a good, solid player who was steady, not flashy, but consistent. For me, that was a positive signal as an NHL prospect,” said Button. “He’s a terrific young man.”

When Oilers general manager Ken Holland was Detroit’s GM, the Red Wings were one of the NHL teams interested in signing Mantha, who is from Clarkston, Mich., 45 minutes away from Detroit. It’s also where Kid Rock’s from.

This ’n’ that: The Oilers have signed Swedish draft pick defenceman Filip Berglund but he’s going to stay with his club team Linkoping for this upcoming season and he may come over in 2021 … The Oilers are still mulling over whether to re-sign Swiss free-agent centre Gaetan Haas (10 points, 58 games) as a depth forward. If it’s for the same $875,000 one-way that Joakim Nygard got, they may well do so …The Oilers kicked the tires on centre/winger Mikhail Grigorenko but the free-agent forward signed a one-year deal in Columbus. Interestingly, he signed for $1.2 mil, very close to what the Oilers were offering Anton Slepyshev, Grigorenko’s CSKA teammate for a possible return from Russia but he re-upped with CSKA … Vegas team president George McPhee’s winger/son Graham, who is graduating from Boston College this year after the Oilers drafted him in the fifth-round in 2016, is still on their radar to sign. But more than likely it is just for an AHL contract, not an NHL deal … With Scott Howson officially starting his duties as AHL president May 1, the Oilers are now looking for a new director of player development. Wonder if they would consider ex-Oilers winger Dan Cleary, who is Shawn Horcoff’s assistant in player development with the Red Wings? Holland certainly knows Cleary from his Detroit days.

E-mail: jmatheson@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @NHLbyMatty

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NHL to allow teams to reopen training facilities on June 8 – Sportsnet.ca

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The NHL will allow teams to reopen their training facilities on June 8 as it transitions to Phase 2 of its return-to-play plan, the league announced Thursday night.

When facilities are reopened, players will be allowed to participate in individualized training activities — both on and off the ice — with no more than six players taking part at one time (plus a limited number of team staff).

Players who participate will be doing so on a voluntary basis.

The return-to-play plan consists of four phases (Phase 3 is opening training camps, Phase 4 is playing). Last week, players were informed that Phase 3 will not begin until at least July 10.

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TFC's Michael Bradley says Trump doesn't have 'a moral bone in his body' – CBC.ca

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Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley pulled no punches Thursday, lamenting the “zero leadership” south of the border as the U.S. is ravaged by racial unrest.

The longtime U.S. skipper took square aim at president Donald Trump.

“We have a president who is completely empty. There isn’t a moral bone in his body,” Bradley told a media conference call.

“There’s no leadership. There’s no leadership from the president, there’s no leadership from the Republican senators who have sat back and been totally complicit in everything he’s done for the last 3 1/2 years.”

Bradley urged his fellow Americans to speak with their ballot in November, saying it was “impossible to overstate” the importance of the coming election.

“I just hope that people are able to go to the polls in November and think about more than just what is good for them, more than what is good for their own status, their own business, their own tax return. I hope that people can go to the polls and understand that in so many ways, the future of our country and the future of our democracy is at stake.

“We need as many people as possible to understand that at a real level, to think about what four more years with Trump as president, what that would mean, how terrible that would be for so many people.”

‘We all have to be part of that fix’

Referencing racial inequality and social injustice, Bradley added: “If we want any chance to start to fix those things, then Trump can’t be president, it’s as simple as that.”

The 32-year-old Bradley has run through the gamut of emotions while watching the violence and unrest unfold in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis while three police officers restrained him — one with his knee on Floyd’s neck.

“I’m angry, I’m horrified, I’m sad and I’m determined to do anything and everything I can to try to be a part of the fix,” he said. “Because it has to end. And we all have to be part of that fix.”

He acknowledged that while he has much to learn on the issues, politicians, policy-makers and businesses have to be held accountable.

“My man Mike is a as real as they come. Nothing but the truth here,” teammate Joze Altidore tweeted

Bradley has criticized Trump before. In January 2017, he said he was “sad and embarrassed” by Trump’s travel ban aimed at citizens of predominantly Muslim countries.

Absence of dialogue with league ‘frustrating’

The TFC captain, while happy to see the MLS labour impasse over, noted there had been “some real difficult moments along the way.” That included a threat of a lockout from the league.

Such tactics “did not sit well with the players,” he said.

He also said there had been a frustrating absence of dialogue right from the beginning of talks, which he acknowledged played out against an unprecedented global threat.

“This, at a certain point for me, was about what’s right and what’s wrong in the middle of the pandemic. And the way to treat people and the way that you look after people. I kept coming back to that idea. That we have all put so much into growing the game in North America, at all levels — ownership, league office, executives coaches, players, fans.

“Everybody is important to what we’re trying to do. To try to dismiss any of the entities that I just named would be short-sighted and disrespectful because the game is about everybody.”

WATCH | MLS players ratify new agreement, return-to-play plan:

MLS players have ratified a new collective bargaining agreement that includes a return to play plan. 1:25

He said he would have loved to have seen everyone get on the same page early on and find a way “to cut through the [bull].”

“To just say ‘This is where we are right now. Nobody has a playbook. Nobody has any answers but how are we going to come out better and stronger from all of this? … I think conversations would have carried so much more weight and I think we would have been able to avoid so much of the way certain things played out.”

Training after ankle surgery 

Bradley underwent ankle surgery in January to repair an injury suffered in the MLS Cup final loss in Seattle on Nov 10. His rehab over, he was part of a small group training session Thursday.

“I’m doing well,” he said. “I’m continuing to make progress … At this point physically I feel really good. My ankle feels really good. And now it’s just about training. Getting back into real training in a way that now prepares me for games.”

Toronto FC midfielder Michael Bradley says a compressed schedule at the Florida tournament won’t help injury fears. (Mary Altaffer/Associated Press)

Still, he said injuries are an issue in the league’s return to play given the time that has passed since the league suspended play March 12.

“That is a big concern,” he said. “And it’s not a big concern only amongst players. I know that has been a real topic amongst coaches and sports science staff and medical staff.”

While teams will do everything possible to get the players ready, a compressed schedule at the Florida tournament that awaits teams won’t help injury fears, he said.

“That certainly is a big question. Maybe the biggest question when you get past the initial health and safety stuff of COVID, among players and coaches and technical staff,” he said.

“How are we going to give ourselves the best chance to win, but also do it in a way where guys are at their highest level both technically and physically”

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NHL announces transition to Phase 2 of Return to Play Plan – NHL.com

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NEW YORK – The National Hockey League announced today that it will transition to Phase 2 of its Return To Play Plan effective Monday, June 8.

Beginning June 8 – subject to each Club’s satisfaction of all of the requirements set out in the Phase 2 Protocol – Clubs will be permitted to reopen their training facilities in their home city to allow players to participate in individualized training activities (off-ice and on-ice). Players will be participating on a voluntary basis and will be scheduled to small groups (i.e., a maximum of six Players at any one time, plus a limited number of Club staff). The various measures set out in the Phase 2 Protocol are intended to provide players with a safe and controlled environment in which to resume their conditioning. Phase 2 is not a substitute for training camp.

All necessary preparations for Phase 2, including those that require Player participation (education, diagnostic testing, scheduling for medicals, etc.), can begin immediately. The NHL and the NHLPA continue to negotiate over an agreement on the resumption of play.

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