If times were normal, Joakim Nordstrom would be an unrestricted free agent as of noon Wednesday, what would be the traditional July 1 start of the NHL’s summer swap meet.
Instead, Nordstrom, 28, spoke to the media via Zoom Tuesday as he finishes a two-week COVID-19 quarantine period after returning here from Sweden, and he hopes to join a few of his Bruins teammates Monday at a voluntary practice in Brighton.
Normal is not coming back for quite some time, if it does come back at all. Meanwhile, the speedy Bruins winger is hopeful that the season will resume soon, with his eye on the chance to win a Stanley Cup and also land a new contract, albeit amid the anxiety related to working in a coronavirus environment.
“Of course I worry a little bit,” said Nordstrom, his play limited during the season by injury and illness. “I mean, this pandemic and this virus is new. I don’t think anyone knows for sure how it’s going to affect you, whether you get really sick right away or what the long-term consequence is going to be.
“But what I can do is trust that our team, the Boston Bruins, the NHLPA, and the league and all the doctors are taking the precautions in and making sure that we are going to be as safe as possible.
“Of course I worry, but you can worry all you want — you don’t know what the future’s going to be — but I just put my faith into the doctors.”
Nordstrom, originally a Blackhawks draft pick, signed here July 1, 2018, as an unrestricted free agent, a two-year deal worth a total $2 million.
That deal now expired, he is free to negotiate an extension with the Bruins, or wait until later in the year, likely the end of October, for the league to open its free agency period. Free agency could trigger sooner, but only if the league’s current return-to-play plan were to collapse, be it because of failed negotiations between owners or players, or if the sides agree the ongoing pandemic makes playing too risky.
If he does get to play in the coming weeks, Nordstrom, perhaps more than ever, will be playing for his next contract.
“That’s definitely something that’s crossed my mind,” said the reliable winger, who has been a valuable bottom-six contributor and a superb penalty killer since arriving here. “With the season that I had, too, with injuries and sickness, if we get to play now, that’s a positive for me in terms of putting myself in better position for free agency or what happens for next year.
“A little bit different than years past, but this is probably the new normal.”
Nordstrom and his girlfriend bolted back to Sweden within a couple of weeks after the NHL went on lockdown March 12. He was there until returning a couple of weeks ago to his downtown high-rise apartment.
“The decision happened and we left the next day,” recounted Nordstrom. “We got on the first possible flight, because flights were getting canceled. We weren’t even sure we were going to be able to leave, so I brought only carry-on luggage and the dog.”
In his eagerness to get out of Dodge, Nordstrom left all of his hockey equipment here, though he spent much of the last two-plus months working out outdoors with his personal trainer. By the time his gear was shipped to Sweden, he was about ready to get back on a plane.
On Friday, said Nordstrom, he’ll undergo his fourth COVID-19 test since returning. If it is negative, like the others, he plans to hit the ice Monday at Warrior Ice Arena, where a smattering of teammates have been skating voluntarily the last couple of weeks. Provided the league and players finalize a deal in the next few days, formal training camp will begin July 10 and games approximately Aug. 1.
In Sweden, Nordstrom stayed almost exclusively at his home some 30 minutes outside of Stockholm. Sweden took a significantly different, more laissez-faire approach toward the coronavirus, opting to try for herd immunity rather than the harsher lockdown protocols imposed here in Boston, New York, and other cities throughout the US.
Nordstrom said he preferred the approach here in the Hub of Hockey.
“It’s been different, for sure,” said Nordstrom. “I went into [Stockholm] once and it was like a different world coming from Boston. Like here, you walk the sidewalk, and you meet someone, and you’re like really keeping the distance — you’re almost walking out in the street to keep 6 feet apart.
“Back home, I could be a little bit frustrated that people didn’t really care about social distancing downtown. So we tried to stay away from the city as much as possible.”
Nordstrom and his girlfriend felt much better, and safer, at home in the suburbs.
“We could see my girlfriend’s grandparents, but unfortunately at a distance,” he said. “There was no coming up and hugging them, even though I haven’t seen them in, like, nine months. Obviously, that is the tough part.
“I don’t know what is the right approach, but for me personally, I don’t want to test positive. I don’t want the virus.
“So for me, I think here in the States, or in Boston, the precaution and how seriously people are taking it, if you ask me, I like it more the way it’s been here, at least with the respect the people have shown to the pandemic and to everyone else. That’s been better.”