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Kelly McCrimmon says Golden Knights healthy as camp nears

The players are back, the opponents are set and the schedule is out.

The Golden Knights are ready to get rolling with the 2020-21 season. The Jan. 3 start of training camp is on the horizon, and the team will open the 56-game season Jan. 14 against the Anaheim Ducks at T-Mobile Arena.

“We’ve got a real good sense of closure on our offseason,” general manager Kelly McCrimmon said. “We’re really happy with the makeup of our team and extremely excited to get playing.”

McCrimmon spoke at a virtual news conference Wednesday to wrap up the offseason and preview the upcoming season. Here are three takeaways:

1. Team is healthy and ready

Good news for the Knights entering training camp: McCrimmon said the team will have everyone healthy and available. All players — except for potential camp invitees Peyton Krebs and Kaedan Korczak, who are at the World Junior Championship — are participating in informal workouts at City National Arena.

“We won’t have players that are quarantining right up until camp begins and haven’t been on the ice for seven days,” McCrimmon said. “We’ll have everybody in a groove that’s been practicing regularly.”

The news in particular is positive for goaltender Robin Lehner, who had shoulder surgery in October, and center Cody Glass, who had right knee surgery in March.

Glass, the team’s first-ever draft pick, gained 13 pounds in the offseason in the hopes of filling the void left by the departure of center Paul Stastny. Left wing Max Pacioretty and right wing Mark Stone have sung the 21-year-old’s praises at recent charitable appearances.

“He’s healthy, excited, ready for camp and has really matured,” McCrimmon said. “He’s a bigger, stronger man, and that’s really going to help his confidence and, in turn, his game.”

2. Krebs will get a chance

Krebs will arrive to camp late after playing for Team Canada. But once he does, McCrimmon said the Knights will “give him an opportunity to be evaluated.”

That could mean big things for the 17th overall pick in 2019. In Krebs’ first NHL camp, he impressed the team enough to earn a spot on the expanded postseason roster last summer. The 19-year-old even got a chance to warm up with the Knights in the playoffs.

Now, the forward, who can play center or wing, can show he’s worth a spot on the NHL club or the four- to six-man taxi squad.

A lot of factors will go into that decision. The Western Hockey League, where Krebs’ junior team plays, doesn’t have a start date and the Knights don’t want him idle.

“We need him playing,” McCrimmon said.

Keeping Krebs in the NHL could affect his contract status, however. He can play up to six games before burning a year on his three-year, entry-level deal.

3. Taxi squad will churn

The taxi squad, which will be allowed to practice and travel with the NHL team but not play in games, was added this season so teams could have players on hand in case injuries or illnesses arise.

McCrimmon, for now, doesn’t anticipate naming a set of players to that group and leaving them there all season. Instead, he expects to cycle through players on the taxi squad to ensure they have the opportunity to play games.

“There will be benefits to being on the taxi squad,” McCrimmon said. “You’re going to practice with NHL players. You’re going to be doing things at a high pace. But I don’t know in terms of the overall development piece that a player wouldn’t be better served by a little bit of both (practices and games).”

Rotating through players on the taxi squad could potentially help the Knights’ salary cap situation. Sending a player up and down from the taxi squad will function similarly to recalling or demoting a player to the American Hockey League. Players who require waivers have to clear before going down, but if they do, the first $1.075 million of their cap hit doesn’t count.

That means the Knights can shuffle waiver-exempt players such as Glass, Krebs and defensemen Nic Hague and Dylan Coghlan on and off the taxi squad as often as they want. They could potentially send them down on off days and promote them for games, much like they did with several players in the AHL last season — most notably rookie Nicolas Roy — to gain incremental cap savings.

The Knights, if they begin the season with a 20-man roster that includes Glass, are projected to be $124,104 over the $81.5 million upper limit.

“We’re right tight against the cap, (and) we will be all year,” McCrimmon said. “We’re a little bit over the cap right now. There’s a number of different ways that we can sort this out, but by the 12th of January, we’ll be cap compliant.”

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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