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Tim Stuetzle is on the road to recovery.
The Ottawa Senators’ top prospect, selected No. 3 overall in the NHL draft held Oct. 6, broke a bone in his hand during training camp Oct. 12 with Mannheim in the Deutsch Elite League. He is recovering from surgery that is supposed to keep him sidelined six to eight weeks.
After having the procedure on Oct. 15 in Germany, the 18-year-old Stuetzle is waiting to get the green light to get back on the ice and start shooting pucks. He has been getting regular treatment at the rink.
Mannheim Eagles general manager Jan-Axel Alavaara told Postmedia in an email Wednesday morning that Stuetzle, a centre who will start his NHL career on the wing, is right on track with the timetable set out to have him back playing.
“The recovery is going according to plan and Tim is waiting for a brace (for the hand) so he can go skate,” Alavaara said. “He’s in the gym and doing rehab every day.”
Alavaara said he’s not sure when Stuetzle will be able to start shooting pucks.
The break may not be the worst news for Stuetzle. Before the injury he suffered during a drill in practice, he had been on the ice every day with the Eagles to prepare for the start of the DEL season. Unfortunately, as a result of the threat of the novel coronavirus, it has been pushed back.
The plan right now is to begin play in mid-December. The league will decide next week how many of the 14 teams are actually going to participate. Without a big television contract, some have opted not to suit up and, at this point, about 10 have agreed to play.
That means if Stuetzle is given the green light by Mannheim and the Senators to play for Germany at the world junior championships from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5 in Red Deer and Edmonton, then he may have already suited up for his final game with the Eagles when last season was put on pause.
Last year, Stuetzle had five assists in five games with the German team that took part in the tourney in Vancouver, so if he does play for the country this year he’d have the opportunity to dominate.
“Hopefully he’ll be ready to play in the world junior championships,” Alavaara added in the email.
Much of that decision could depend on what happens with talks between Alavaara, Stuetzle’s Minneapolis-based agent Ben Hankinson and Senators general manager Pierre Dorion, along with assistant GM Peter MacTavish, to get an agreement in place to bring him overseas to the NHL.
Naturally, Alavaara likely isn’t in a hurry to sign off on Stuetzle’s release because he wants to see if the DEL is even going to get off the ground this season, especially if there are no fans in the building.
Yes, the NHL signed an agreement in the summer that stated players who weren’t signed by the league before Aug. 15 would remain in Europe until next season, but all three parties involved can make an agreement that would allow Stuetzle to begin his NHL career this year.
Those discussions are taking place right now and are expected to reach a successful conclusion.
“We’ve had dialogue and discussions with (Alavaara),” Hankinson said Wednesday. “I’ve had talks with (Mannheim) and so have the Senators.”
Of course, the Senators also need to get Stuetzle signed to a contract, but that shouldn’t be an issue and those talks will likely take place once a release has been secured.
The salary is capped at $925,000 for the first three years of an entry-level deal and the market for bonus structure has been set by No. 1 pick Alexis Lafrenière signing with the New York Rangers. Quinton Byfield, the No. 2 selection by the Los Angeles Kings, has also agreed to a deal.
Right now, there’s no rush because there’s no official timetable for the NHL to make its return, but we could know more in the near future if the league does decide to set Jan. 1 as a start date.
Like anybody else coming from Europe, Stuetzle would be subject to a 14-day quarantine when he arrives and the Senators may be granted an extra week of camp. If that’s the case, then camp will get underway in early December and if Stuetzle is going to be a participant he may have to be on a flight here in the next couple of weeks.
The good news is it sounds like Stuetzle is headed in the right direction as far as injury is concerned.
“He’s progressing well,” said Hankinson. “He’s very close to getting on the ice.”
And the expectation is that when he’s fully healthy he’ll be pulling on that No. 18 jersey for the Senators whenever the season gets underway.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020