Capitals' Lars Eller to leave bubble for birth of child

Washington Capitals forward Lars Eller said he will leave the secure Toronto "bubble" for the birth of his child during the restarted NHL season.

Eller and his wife Julie Eller are expected the birth of their second child together on Aug. 8. That's during the Capitals' round-robin schedule, in which they play the Tampa Bay Lightning (Aug. 3), Philadelphia Flyers (Aug. 6) and Boston Bruins (Aug. 8) for seeding for the next round. The games will be played in Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, where Eastern Conference teams will begin arriving on July 26.

Eller said he considered opting out of the NHL's return-to-play plan this summer.

"A lot of thoughts going into the decision. Weighing the pros and cons. We're going to have a new addition to our family in a couple of weeks. But at the same time, I want to be with my team and win another Cup. We're working on making the necessary arrangements so I can be there for the birth and then come back to the bubble after that," he in a conference call on Tuesday.

In the return-to-play agreement between the NHL and NHLPA, individuals are permitted to leave the Phase 4 Secure Zone for extenuating circumstances like the birth of a child, as long as the team's general manager signs off on it.

But returning to that secure zone is another matter. According to the NHL, individuals who leave the bubble for extenuating circumstances "will be required to return at least four consecutive negative PCR test results over a four-day period, and will be required to quarantine in their individual hotel room until such testing requirements have been fulfilled."

In some cases, based on where the player traveled, how they traveled and with whom they interacted, returning players would be subjected to a regimen of nasopharyngeal testing and a period of quarantine of up to 14 days.

"You're going to have to take a lot of precautions when you leave," Eller said. "Depending on how you're going to travel and who you travel with ... I'll have to serve some time inside the bubble and test a number of times before I could rejoin my team and play games. We're working on trying to figure out how to do this in the best possible way. But that's what's going to happen."

He's not alone in balancing return to play protocols with fatherhood. A handful of NHL players welcomed new children during the season pause, and Eller's teammate Carl Hagelin said he and his wife Erica Hagelin are expected their second child in September, when the Capitals could be playing in elimination series.

"Right now I'm not focusing too much on it," Hagelin said on Tuesday, before adding that he intends to leave the bubble for the birth if necessary.