Was Thursday the start of Marc-Andre Fleury's last NHL training camp?
The goaltender is waiting until after the season to determine that.
"I just told myself I would give myself a season, see how it goes, see how I feel physically, mentally, if I still can stop the puck, and just make a decision at the end," Fleury said after practice at Tria Rink in St. Paul.
This is the beginning of the 38-year-old's 20th season in the NHL and the final season on his two-year, $7 million contract with the Wild.
A lock for the Hall of Fame, the three-time Stanley Cup champion is at 544 wins and needs just eight more to pass Patrick Roy for the second-most all-time. While sharing the crease with Filip Gustavsson, Fleury posted 24 victories in 2022-23, his first full season with the Wild after they acquired him at the previous trade deadline.
Gustavsson is also back, re-signing for three years and $11.25 million, and the Wild plan to dole out starts based on performance.
"I like to play," said Fleury, who's at 985 career games (44 behind Roy for third place). "It's always fun, more fun than sitting. But Gus likes to play, too. So, whatever the coach says, I'll do my best to help the team if it's on the bench or in the net."
Hartman leaves early
Ryan Hartman made a scheduled early exit from practice.
The center recently sustained an upper-body injury, what coach Dean Evason described as "nothing serious," and the team doesn't want Hartman participating in contract drills yet.
Frederick Gaudreau occupied Hartman's usual spot up the middle between Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello.
Marco Rossi skated with Marcus Foligno and recent pickup Jujhar Khaira, while Joel Eriksson Ek reunited with Marcus Johansson and Matt Boldy. As for offseason addition Pat Maroon, he teamed up with Connor Dewar and Brandon Duhaime.
On defense, Jake Middleton and captain Jared Spurgeon remained together, while Brock Faber debuted alongside Jonas Brodin as expected. Calen Addison, Alex Goligoski and Jon Merrill were in another group.
Around the rink
• Eriksson Ek said it took around a month after he returned home to Sweden following last season until he could use his left leg "the way I wanted to."
A shot block last April broke Eriksson Ek's left fibula, sidelining him for the rest of the regular season and all but 19 seconds of the playoffs before he underwent surgery.
"On the ice I don't feel anything," he said. "Off ice I don't feel anything, either. So, it's good to go."
• Rossi added 10 to 15 pounds of muscle over the offseason, an uptick he feels hasn't compromised his speed.
"It gives you more confidence when you're stronger on the puck, when you hold the puck longer," said Rossi, who made the team out of camp last year before eventually getting sent to the minors. "So, I feel very comfortable right now."
• Said Khaira on dealing with the uncertainty of being unsigned late into the offseason, "I wouldn't recommend it." The Wild added the former Oilers and Blackhawks player on Sunday, signing the gritty center to a one-year, two-way contract.
"Playing hockey is something I care about, and the unknown is always a scary thing," Khaira said. "It's finding that mind-set to kind of overcome that and just be prepared for whatever opportunity arises."
• Foligno crossed an item off his bucket list when he threw out the first pitch at a Twins game last month, a toss he practiced at home.
"I threw it against the fence in my backyard because my daughter is not capable of catching it yet," he said.
• Asked how his Swedish is, Brodin's new defensive partner Faber said, "I don't have any under my belt. I'll have to work on that."