Washington Capitals star Braden Holtby is expected to enter free agency, according to general manager Brian MacLellan.

Holtby is coming off the final season of his five-year, $30.5million contract in Washington, where the goaltender helped the Capitals win the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup.

A five-time All-Star and 2016 Vezina Trophy winner, Holtby made 56 appearances in the regular season and playoffs in 2019-20 as the Capitals bowed out in the first round of the postseason.

"I would expect him to go to free agency," MacLellan said on Tuesday. "The goalie market is probably a little unusually deep this year.

"I talked to his agent last week briefly about where he's at and the kind of opportunities he's looking for.

"I would assume he goes to free agency, and we'll keep in contact with him throughout the free-agency period to see if he's getting what he wants.''

Holtby has called Washington home since he was drafted by the Capitals in 2008

The 31-year-old has a 282-122-46 record with the Washington franchise.

Barack Obama, Billie Jean King and LeBron James led rallying calls on a seismic day in American sport, as games were called off in protest at racial injustice.

In a forceful message, athletes and teams downed tools in North America as they boycotted scheduled fixtures following the shooting of Jacob Blake, a black man, by police in the state of Wisconsin.

Blake was shot several times in the back, prompting nationwide protests.

All three NBA playoff games set for Wednesday were postponed, and it was reported widely that players from the Los Angeles Clippers and the Los Angeles Lakers were in favour of boycotting the rest of the season.

The NBA board of governors were set for a Thursday meeting, with players also reportedly due to hold a follow-up to their Wednesday get-together.

Major League Baseball saw three games postponed, namely those between the Milwaukee Brewers and Cincinnati Reds, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants, and Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres.

Five of six Major League Soccer games also did not go ahead, while Thursday's play at the Western and Southern Open tennis tournament in New York was suspended, with Naomi Osaka pulling out of the tournament after reaching the semi-finals.

Former US president Obama saluted the Milwaukee Bucks for boycotting Game 5 in their series against the Orlando Magic.

Milwaukee is the nearest major city to Kenosha, where Blake was shot. Obama also saluted Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who criticised President Donald Trump when he spoke powerfully on Tuesday. Rivers accused the Republican Party of "spewing this fear".

Obama wrote on Twitter: "I commend the players on the @Bucks for standing up for what they believe in, coaches like @DocRivers, and the @NBA and @WNBA for setting an example. It's going to take all our institutions to stand up for our values."

Speaking earlier in the day, Lakers superstar James wrote on Twitter: "F*** THIS MAN!!!! WE DEMAND CHANGE. SICK OF IT".

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer added: "I am again angry over the shooting of a black man #JacobBlake. @DocRivers and The @Bucks players said it well, we need real police accountability. Give citizens data to do so. Let's have criminal justice reform that keeps all people safe but not senselessly imprisoned or afraid."

Tennis great King, who has fought for the growth of women's sport and for social justice, praised Japanese player Osaka's decision to abandon the Western and Southern Open in her individual protest.

King wrote: "A brave and impactful move by @naomiosaka, in support of the protest movement moving through the sports world. She was to play in the semis. Athletes using platforms for good means so much. Don't remain silent. #BlackLivesMatter"

Fellow tennis Hall of Famer Martina Navratilova added: "An amazing stance Naomi ... well done, nothing but respect!!!"

The NHL faced criticism, however, for a perceived lack of response as the Stanley Cup playoffs continue.

Canadian star Evander Kane, who plays for the San Jose Sharks, tore into the league by saying: "Actually it's incredibly insulting as a black man in hockey the lack of action and acknowledgement from the @nhl, just straight up insulting."

St Louis Blues star Vladimir Tarasenko will undergo shoulder surgery for the third time in less than three years, putting his availability for the start of next season in question, general manager Doug Armstrong revealed on Wednesday.

Armstrong said NHL Stanley Cup champion and three-time All-Star Tarasenko will have another procedure on his troublesome left shoulder next week and will be re-evaluated after a five-month period. 

The NHL has tentatively scheduled the 2020-21 season to begin on December 1, though that start date could be pushed back by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

Tarasenko was limited to only 10 regular-season games in 2019-20 after undergoing a second surgery in October. 

The 28-year-old did return when the NHL resumed play earlier this month, but did not record a point in four games and was sent back to St Louis from the Edmonton bubble following Game 2 of the Blues' first-round playoff series against the Vancouver Canucks. 

"He was very limited [when he returned]," Armstrong said. "He rehabbed, he came back, we had to do another MRI. He wasn't feeling good. That [second] surgery didn't take the way that we had hoped, it wasn't successful. 

"It's certainly not a positive that we're going through right now. We just know he prepares and trains hard and needs to get back and play well for us. It's a concern in the sense that he's going to have three surgeries." 

Meanwhile, Tarasenko insisted his career is not over, saying: "To take some speculation away, no, I'm not done, my career is not done. Now I am more motivated than ever to finally get healthy and play."

Tarasenko's first shoulder operation occurred in April 2018. He returned to score 33 goals in 76 games during the 2018-19 regular season, then added 11 more goals in 26 postseason games to help the Blues win their first Stanley Cup championship. 

Heading into the 2019-20 campaign, Tarasenko was one of only two players to record 30 or more goals in each of the five previous seasons along with fellow Russian Alex Ovechkin.  

Tarasenko's injury is one of several issues facing Armstrong this offseason. He reiterated his desire to re-sign captain Alex Pietrangelo – who is set to be an unrestricted free agent – but the Blues currently have little financial flexibility with the salary cap expected to remain flat in 2020-21. 

"I think the first phase is going to be find out if we can find common ground with Alex," he said. "If we can, then we go to work to move other pieces. If we can't find common ground with Alex, then there's really no need to do anything." 

The New York Rangers are set to pick top prospect Alexis Lafreniere in the 2020 NHL Draft and winning the second phase of the lottery.

The first phase of the lottery failed to reveal the team with the number one selection in June, but the Rangers secured the first pick on Monday.

New York franchise the Rangers were one of the eight teams eliminated from the Stanley Cup qualifiers – finishing 18th in the NHL standings.

Now, the Rangers – set to pick first for the second time after drafting Andre Veilleux in 1965 – are poised to bring in high-scoring forward Lafreniere when the draft takes place across October 9 and 10.

"Really good news; the Rangers are an unreal team with really good players," Lafreniere said. "Really nice city, so for sure, it's really good news and I'm really happy."

Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton added: "Anytime you can pick first, especially this year, it's a special year, we all know that.

"It was tough up in the bubble [in Toronto, the Eastern Conference hub city]. Those three games, Carolina gave it to us pretty good, but surely excited to have this happen to us tonight."

The Los Angeles Kings have the second pick, with the Ottawa Senators third and Detroit Red Wings fourth.

The NHL announced there were no positive tests returned for coronavirus in its latest round of testing.

Hockey is planning to return on August 1 with the expanded 24-team Stanley Cup playoffs amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

All 24 teams are now in the 'bubble' city hubs of Edmonton and Toronto, where players and staff will be tested on a daily basis.

And there was positive news from the league on Monday as the results of tests between July 18 and 25 were revealed.

There were no positive tests among the 4,256 administered to more than 800 players, the NHL said.

This came after the previous week's testing saw two cases of coronavirus.

Arizona Coyotes general manager John Chayka abruptly resigned on Sunday, one week before the franchise are to open their first playoff series in eight years.

The Coyotes confirmed Chayka's decision in a brusque statement in which the team announced that assistant GM Steve Sullivan will fill the position on an interim basis.

"John Chayka has quit as the general manager and president of hockey operations of the Arizona Coyotes," the statement read. "The club is disappointed in his actions and his timing as the Coyotes prepare to enter the NHL's hub city of Edmonton, where the team will begin post-season play for the first time since 2012.

"Chayka has chosen to quit on a strong and competitive team, a dedicated staff, and the Arizona Coyotes fans, the greatest fans in the NHL."

Chayka, the youngest GM in professional sports history when he was hired by the Coyotes at age 26 in May 2016, had signed a contract extension in November that was to run through 2024. Under his direction, Arizona improved from 70 points in 2017-18 to 86 last season, and the Coyotes went 33-29-8 during the abbreviated 2019-20 campaign to earn the number 11 seed in the expanded Western Conference playoffs.

Arizona last qualified for the postseason in 2011-12. The Coyotes will face number six seed Nashville in the Western Conference qualifying round in the Edmonton bubble, with the best-of-five series scheduled to begin on August 2.

As the team got better on the ice, however, Chayka's relationship with owner Alex Meruelo and upper management apparently was deteriorating. According to Sportsnet.ca, the source of the friction was over the Coyotes refusing to grant permission for him to speak with another organisation about a potential opportunity.

Chayka issued a statement about his departure to AZ Coyotes Insider, but did not offer specifics about his reason for leaving.

"I love our players, coaches and fans and I very much wish I could be with the team in Edmonton. Sadly, the situation created by ownership made that an impossibility," he stated. "That's all I intend to say on this matter for now. A fuller, more detailed explanation may be necessary in the near future."

Chayka also gave his support to Sullivan, a former Coyotes player who has been in the team's front office since 2014.

"Also, I want to congratulate Steve Sullivan as he steps into a new role. We've worked side-by-side for years. He is a great person and a terrific hockey mind," he said.

The team name for the new Seattle NHL franchise has been revealed as the Seattle Kraken.

The chosen moniker was announced on Thursday following a long wait that has generated heated debate among fans.

The franchise says inspiration was taken from sea-faring folklore and "the vast expanse, the impermeable deep" of the ocean on Seattle's doorstep.

The Kraken, a fictitious sea creature usually depicted resembling a giant squid, became popularised in 19th and early 20th-century poetry and fiction and featured in the second Pirates of the Caribbean film, which was produced by NHL Seattle owner Jerry Bruckheimer.

"The Kraken represents the fiercest beast in all the world," the franchise said. "Too large and indomitable to be contained by man [or finned mammal]. It instils one message in all opponents whether in our waters, or theirs… Abandon all hope."

The Puget Sound on which the city of Seattle sits in the Pacific Northwest is also home to the world's largest octopus, the Giant Pacific octopus.

"If you encountered that in the depths of our Sound, you'd tell tales of one thing… You just saw the Kraken," said the team.

The Seattle Kraken was the favoured name among the fans, with 215,000 supporter votes, over 50 fan forums and 12 months of social media chat shaping the final decision.

The jerseys will come in 'deep sea blue', 'ice blue', 'boundless blue' and 'shadow blue', as well as 'red alert'.

The stadium is described as "the subterranean lair of the Seattle Kraken".

The team are due to compete in the NHL from the 2021-22 season.

The Edmonton Oilers' Leon Draisaitl, the Colorado Avalanche's Nathan MacKinnon and Artemi Panarin of the New York Rangers were on Tuesday named the 2019-20 finalists for the Hart Trophy, awarded to the NHL player deemed "most valuable to his team" by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

The winner will be announced during either the conference finals or before the Stanley Cup final, which is tentatively scheduled to begin September 22.

The trio are also the finalists for the Ted Lindsay Award, which is given to the league's most outstanding player voted for by members of the NHL Players' Association.

The two awards have had different winners in four of the previous 10 seasons, most recently in 2017-18 when the New Jersey Devils' Taylor Hall won the Hart Trophy and Edmonton's Connor McDavid won the Ted Lindsay Award.

The 24-year-old Draisaitl has already secured the Art Ross Trophy as the league's points leader with 110 this season, tallying 43 goals and 67 assists. A first-time finalist for the Hart Trophy, Draisaitl also led the NHL with 44 power-play points, had a league-best 33 multi-point games and is seeking to become the first German-born player to win the award.

MacKinnon finished fifth in the league with 93 points and helped propel the Avalanche to the Western Conference's second-best record, tallying 43 more points than his closest Colorado team-mate. The runner-up to Hall in Hart Trophy voting in 2017-18, the 24-year-old Canadian is also a Lady Byng finalist for sportsmanship.

Panarin set career highs this season with 32 goals and 63 assists, and his 95 points tied the Boston Bruins' David Pastrnak for third in the league. In his first season with the Rangers, the 28-year-old from Russia led the NHL with 71 even-strength points and his plus-36 plus-minus rating ranked first among all forwards. The first-time Hart finalist was the NHL rookie of the year in 2015-16 for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Draisaitl, MacKinnon and Panarin will all be a part of the league's 24-team expanded playoffs that is scheduled to begin on August 1.

The NHL revealed the coronavirus test results from the first five days of team training in the league's restart plan, showing just two new cases of COVID-19.  

Due to league policy, the names and teams of the players who have tested positive have not been made public.  

Since teams arrived for camps last Monday, the NHL had administered 2,618 tests to over 800 different players through Friday, the league said in a statement.  

The players who tested positive have self-isolated and are adhering to all U.S. and Canadian government regulations, the statement said.  

The results are an encouraging sign as teams prepare to move to the next phase of the NHL's restart plan: flying to either Toronto or Edmonton within the next week.  

Teams will resume playing games on August 1 within a 24-team expanded playoff structure. The first round of the 16-team Stanley Cup playoffs is scheduled to begin on August 11.  

Nathan MacKinnon, Leon Draisaitl and Artemi Panarin have been named as finalists for the 2019-20 Ted Lindsay Award, given to the NHL's most outstanding player.

MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche is a finalist for the second time, while the Edmonton Oilers' Draisaitl and New York Rangers' Panarin are first-time finalists for an award voted for by players.

The winner will be announced during the conference finals of the Stanley Cup playoffs, which are tentatively scheduled for September 8.

The award is separate from the Hart Memorial Trophy, an MVP award voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association.

The two awards have had different winners in four of the previous 10 seasons, most recently in 2017-18 when Taylor Hall won the Hart Trophy and Connor McDavid won the Ted Lindsay Award.

Draisaitl has already secured the Art Ross Trophy as the league's points leader with 110 this season, tallying 43 goals and 67 assists. He and McDavid are the league's most potent scoring duo and have largely been responsible for Edmonton's 37-25-9 record, fifth in the Western Conference.

MacKinnon has helped lead the Avalanche to the second-best record in the West this season. The former first overall draft pick has 35 goals and 58 assists this season and has outscored every other forward on his team by at least 48 points.

Panarin set career highs this season with 32 goals and 63 assists, and he led the NHL with 71 even-strength points. Panarin leads all NHL forwards in plus-minus this season at plus-36 while playing for a Rangers team that has a plus-13 goal differential.

Draisaitl, MacKinnon and Panarin will all be a part of the league's 24-team expanded playoffs that is expected to begin on August 1.

The top four teams in each conference – including MacKinnon's Avalanche – are guaranteed a spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs and will play a round-robin to determine seeding. Colorado will face the St. Louis Blues, Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars once each for a chance at the West's seed.

Teams currently fifth to 12th in each conference – including Draisaitl's Oilers and Panarin's Rangers – will play a best-of-five qualifying series for a spot in the 16-team Stanley Cup playoff bracket. The Oilers will face the 12th-seeded Chicago Blackhawks while the Rangers will play the sixth-seeded Carolina Hurricanes.

Eastern Conference games are scheduled to take place in Toronto, while Edmonton will host the Western Conference matchups. 

The Minnesota Wild made Dean Evason their full-time head coach, removing the interim tag from his title and giving him a two-year contract extension.

Wild general manager Bill Guerin announced the news on Monday in a statement.  

Evason was named interim coach on February 14 after the club fired Bruce Boudreau. Evason led the Wild to an 8-4-0 record before the NHL season was paused due to the coronavirus pandemic.  

"Dean has done a fantastic job as our interim head coach and deserves this opportunity," Guerin said. "I look forward to watching our team under his leadership going forward."

The Wild are scheduled to begin their best-of-five series against the Vancouver Canucks on August 2, in Edmonton, Alberta, with the winner qualifying for the standard 16-team Stanley Cup playoffs bracket.  

Evason joined the club as an assistant coach before the 2018-19 season after spending the previous six seasons as a head coach in the American Hockey League. Before that, he was a long-time assistant with the Washington Capitals.  

Evason skated in 803 career NHL games as a forward from 1983-96, playing for five franchises but spending his most productive years with the Hartford Whalers.  

He reached career highs with 22 goals and 37 assists with Hartford in 1986-87 and finished his career with 139 goals and 233 assists.  

The Montreal Canadiens have agreed with star forward Max Domi to wait between seven and 10 days before deciding if he will join the team for training camp amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Domi has Type 1 diabetes and faces a higher chance of experiencing serious complications from COVID-19, according to the American Diabetes Association. 

The NHL is set to return on August 1 with a 24-team playoff format following the coronavirus-enforced break and the Canadiens are taking a cautious to Domi's health.

"Considering Max's health condition, both parties have agreed to take this responsible approach and to take this time to evaluate the ongoing situation, in order to make the best decision for Max's health at the end of this period," the Canadiens said in a statement on Sunday. 

Domi is in his second season with Montreal and ranked third for the Canadiens with 44 points (17 goals, 27 assists) during the regular season.

He played in all 71 games for the Canadiens before the NHL shut down on March 12 due to the coronavirus crisis. 

Montreal will open against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a best-of-five qualifying round play-in series in the Eastern Conference hub city of Toronto. 

The winners of the eight qualifying round series will move on to the first round of the playoffs. 

Shortly after the NHL and NHLPA announced a ratified return-to-play plan and CBA extension, Calgary Flames defenseman Travis Hamonic became the first player to opt out of the season.

Hamonic said that concerns about his young children contracting COVID-19 prompted his decision. His daughter was hospitalised with a respiratory illness last year.

"I wish I could lace up my skates and be out there battling, blocking a shot and helping my team win, but my family has and always will come first," Hamonic said.

"Being my little kids' dad every day is the most important job I have."

Hamonic had three goals and nine assists in 50 games before this season was put on hold on March 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Flames will face the Winnipeg Jets in the qualifying round of the playoffs.

Training camps open across North America on Monday, which is also the deadline for players to opt out of participating with no penalty.

The NHL's expanded 24-team playoff format is scheduled to begin without fans on August 1 in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta.

The NHL's Board of Governors and the NHL Players' Association (NHLPA) approved a plan to resume the season with games in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, on August 1, in separate votes announced on Friday.

Training camps are scheduled to begin on Monday across North America for the expanded 24-team playoff format involving the top 12 teams in each of the Eastern and Western Conferences.

Monday is also the deadline for players to opt out of participating in the season with no penalty.

Both sides also reached an agreement on a four-year extension to the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that will run through 2025-26 and ensure 14 years of labor peace since a lockout shortened the 2012-13 season.

The current CBA was due to expire in September 2022. The new agreement would overwrite the CBA for the 2020 and 2021-22 seasons while adding another four seasons.

The CBA includes language that would allow players to return to the Olympics in 2022 and 2026 – pending an agreement with the IIHF and IOC.

"This agreement is a meaningful step forward for the players and owners, and for our game, in a difficult and uncertain time," NHLPA executive director Don Fehr said. "We are pleased to be able to bring NHL hockey back to the fans."

There will be no fans at the games in Toronto and Edmonton and the plan is to play five or six games a day to start – up to three at each site.

There will be personnel limits, quarantining restrictions and daily tests for players, coaches, management and team, arena, hotel and restaurant staff at the hub cities. Players families will not be able to join them until the conference finals, which will take place Edmonton.

Those who test positive or develop symptoms will be placed in isolation for a minimum of 10 days and must twice test negative before being allowed to rejoin the team.

If all goes according to schedule, the Stanley Cup Final would begin in late September in Edmonton, with the 2020-21 season targeted to start on December 1.

The NHL hopes to complete a season that was shut down on March 12 due to the coronavirus pandemic with 189 games and the playoffs remaining.

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