Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin abided by the code of silence imposed by the NHL, declining to comment on a report about potential positive COVID-19 cases on his club.
On Sunday night, The Athletic reported at least three players on the team had tested positive in recent days. On Monday, they reported via sources that two of the cases were false positives.
There were three players absent on the ice at the club’s suburban training facility: defencemen Josh Brook, Brett Kulak and Xavier Ouellet.
Asked about the report, Bergevin remained mum as training camp for all 24 teams in the NHL’s return started Monday.
“You are all aware of the NHL’s policy concerning players who are not on the ice and I will ask you to respect it,” Bergevin said.
The NHL announced over the weekend that it would handle announcements regarding injuries and COVID-19 cases, without identifying the players or teams.
Despite this, the Pittsburgh Penguins, who will face the Canadiens in the qualification round in Toronto starting Aug. 1, announced nine players were removed from camp because they had potentially been in contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19.
Domi and the club announced on Sunday a seven-to-10 day waiting period before making a call on whether he’ll return to play in the midst of the pandemic.
“I started having discussions with Max and his agent two weeks ago,” Bergevin explained, adding a decision will be taken based on the medical opinions of experts and Domi himself.
“We want to choose what’s best for him.”
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The season is scheduled to restart with a best-of-five qualifying round beginning Aug. 1 in Toronto and Edmonton.
“We’re all subject to any type of outbreak, but the NHL… has worked very hard to put everything in place [along with] a safety protocol [so] that we are able to get to our hub cities,” Bergevin said, adding he addressed players on Monday. “They are all aware to be safe and the protocol put in place by the NHL.”
Bergevin reiterated his desire to see his team have a long playoff run, even knowing that one of the eight teams eliminated during the qualification round will earn the right to choose first overall at the 2020 NHL Draft, where Quebec-born star Alexis Lafreniere is projected to be the top pick.
With an interesting collection of prospects, Bergevin doesn’t see the downside of participating in the tournament and said he is hopeful the experience will prove beneficial, despite the unusual context of playing in an empty arena.
“Playing against a team who has playoff experience, a team we had some success this year and it’s a short series, anything’s possible,” Bergevin said. “It can only help moving forward for years to come, I can’t see the bad side of going to this little tournament and gaining some experience.
“We will face a team which has more experience in the playoffs, but against which we have had some success this season.
The Canadiens also formally announced the arrival of defenceman Alexander Romanov on Monday.
Romanov will join the club for training camp — Phase 3 of the NHL return-to-play plan. But he must undergo a quarantine of seven days before taking part in drills.
He will also be permitted to travel with the club to Toronto to continue training during Phase 4, but he won’t be allowed to play.
Still, it will allow Romanov to acclimatize himself to his new environment and burn the first year on his rookie contract.
Bergevin said as a former player, there’s a huge difference between your first and second camp.
“In the long run, I think it’s going to help him tremendously,” he said.