NHL Rumor Mill – April 2, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – April 2, 2020

The latest on the Golden Knights and Flames, plus some speculation over how the players and teams could cope with revenue losses in today’s NHL rumor mill.

WHAT WILL THE GOLDEN KNIGHTS DO WITH LEHNER?

THE ATHLETIC: What to do with Robin Lehner was among Jesse Granger’s five pressing questions for the Vegas Golden Knights. They acquired the 28-year-old goaltender from the Chicago Blackhawks at the February trade deadline. He’s eligible for unrestricted free agent status at season’s end.

Does Robin Lehner have a future with the Vegas Golden Knights? (Photo via NHL Images)

Granger wonders if the front office views Lehner as a rental or a long-term future in net. If Lehner outperforms starter Marc-Andre Fleury during the 2020 playoffs, it raises the possibility of re-signing him and shopping Fleury, who has two seasons remaining on his contract at $7 million annually.

Lehner will likely depart via free agency, leaving the Golden Knights with an aging Fleury and no real backup plan for next season. They could explore cheaper backup options via free agency or promote Oscar Dansk or Garret Sparks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Lehner were to backstop the Golden Knights into the Stanley Cup Final, moving Fleury could become a serious possibility. After being spurned by the Blackhawks and the New York Islanders over the past year, Lehner will seek the stability of a lucrative long-term deal. He can justifiably claim he’s earned it since turning his life and career around two years ago.

Fleury’s situation is complicated by his age (35) and his 10-team no-trade clause. Even if the Golden Knights wanted to move him, they might not find many takers unless the Golden Knights pick up part of his salary.

FLAMES COULD FACE AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE IN GOAL

SPORTSNET: Eric Francis recently examined the Calgary Flames’ goaltending depth. Where their goalie prospects slot next season will depend on whether or not they re-sign Cam Talbot. The 32-year-old netminder is due to become a UFA after this season.

Talbot’s return seems likely following his return to form this season while David Rittich struggled during the second half. However, his bounce-back season could also entice him to test the free-agent market.

“Will it be status quo, or will the Flames use some of their cap space to chase a significant free agent like Robin Lehner or Jacob Markstrom?”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Talbot walks, the Flames will at least want a reliable backup for Rittich for next season. If they’ve lost confidence in Rittich as a starter, they could pursue a UFA like Lehner or Markstrom.

HOW WILL THE NHL AND NHLPA ADDRESS THIS SEASON’S LOST REVENUE?

SPORTSNET: In his latest “31 Thoughts” column, Elliotte Friedman reported estimates of up to $220 million in lost revenue if the NHL resumes the remainder of the 2019-20 schedule, including an extra four percent of escrow claw-backs from players’ salaries. If the season and playoffs are canceled, the losses are estimated at $1.1 billion and 35 percent escrow.

The teams and players agree to defer money could be one way to address the issue. “For example, a player with a five-year contract at a $5-million AAV would still have that term and cap hit, but could agree to hold some of the payments,” writes Friedman. “Teams would get a break on cash flow, and players could save until escrow was lowered. Don’t know if it will happen, but spitballing never hurts.”

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun cited an anonymous player agent suggesting the NHL and NHLPA should merge the two realities of dealing with lost revenue from this season and their collective bargaining negotiations into a longer-term agreement.

The agent envisions a six-year CBA that sets the salary-cap maximum at $81.5 million with a fixed escrow of 10 percent. “It may take 2-3 seasons for that money to be returned to the owners, consider it a deferred payment,” said the agent. “As a trade-off, perhaps the players agree to receive the AAV of a contract going forward (until the owners are made whole) to avoid front-loaded cash over cap issues.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is merely speculation by Friedman and LeBrun, but it’s undoubtedly based on what they’re hearing from sources within the league and the NHLPA. I believe both sides understand the need for short- and long-term stability coming out of the pandemic season.

The last thing they need is a return to the contentious labor relationship of the past. There’s a real opportunity here for long-term NHL labor peace. Here’s hoping the two sides make the most of it.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 2, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 2, 2020

Four more members of the Senators test positive for COVID-19, plus the latest on Jack Eichel, Jeff Skinner and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

OTTAWA SUN: Three more Senators’ players and one staff member tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total to seven people aboard the club’s charter flight that returned from their California road trip on March 12. The club indicated the five players and the staff member have all recovered. Broadcaster Gord Wilson confirmed a positive test on Friday.

League deputy commissioner Bill Daly said there aren’t any plans to test the entire Senators team. “Everyone who had symptoms was tested,” Daly said.”There really is no reason to test anyone else. No one is symptomatic and no one is sick and they all have been in self-quarantine for three weeks.”

Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators have been hardest hit among the 31 NHL teams by this pandemic. Fortunately, it seems they suffered mild symptoms and most recovered quickly.

THE BUFFALO NEWS: Sabres captain Jack Eichel is partnering with hockey manufacturing company Bauer to donate 5,000 protective shields to Buffalo area hospitals. Teammate Jeff Skinner, meanwhile, is donating $53,000 to a fund created by Pegula Sports and Entertainment to help frontline health care workers and others affected by the coronavirus in Western New York.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins defensemen Brian Dumoulin and John Marino will be ready to go if the NHL season resumes. Dumoulin underwent surgery in December to repair lacerated ankle tendons. Marino missed five games in March before the schedule was paused recovered from broken facial bones.

THE SCORE: Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin said he won’t be interviewing coaching candidates during the NHL’s schedule hiatus. He’s happy thus far with the work of Dean Evason, who took over as head coach in mid-February on an interim basis after Bruce Boudreau was fired. The Wild are 8-4-0 under Evason.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild are one point out of a wild-card berth in the Western Conference. Guerin sounds like he wants to continue evaluating Evason before deciding if he’ll keep him on the job or seek a full-time replacement.

THE DETROIT NEWS: The play of Jonathan Bernier, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Robby Fabbri was among the pleasant surprises in an otherwise disappointing season for the Red Wings.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: The ECHL and Professional Hockey Players’ Association announced a relief fund to help the league’s players and their families left without salaries following the cancellation of the season.

 

 

 










NHL Free Agents & Trade Candidates – Chicago Blackhawks

NHL Free Agents & Trade Candidates – Chicago Blackhawks

 










NHL Rumor Mill – April 1, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – April 1, 2020

No April Fool’s here. Check out the latest on Braden Holtby and Tuukka Rask, plus an update on the Buffalo Sabres in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SHOULD THE SHARKS PURSUE HOLTBY VIA FREE AGENCY?

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks observed this year might not be an opportune time for Braden Holtby to become an unrestricted free agent. The Washington Capitals goaltender has a save percentage of .897 this season.

Would Braden Holtby be a good fit with the San Jose Sharks? (Photo via NHL Images)

Nevertheless, Brooks wondered if the San Jose Sharks might feel differently. He pointed out they’ve been undone by dreadful goaltending over the last two seasons, ranking next-to-last in overall save percentage and last in five-on-five.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree that the decline in Holtby’s stats will hurt his efforts to land a lucrative long-term contract as a UFA this year. I disagree, however, with the premise that Sharks might feel differently.

Not that they don’t need an upgrade between the pipes. That’s obvious to everyone.

Martin Jones‘ performance has declined over the last two years. However, he’s also signed through 2023-24 with an annual average value of $5.75 million and a three-team trade list. Unless Jones’ salary is shed via a compliance buyout (assuming the league goes that route following this season) or the normal buyout route, the Sharks can’t afford Holtby.

UPDATE ON RASK

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Joe Haggerty reports Tuukka Rask sought to clarify his recent comment suggesting he might retire when his contract expires at the end of next season. He claimed he hasn’t made any decisions regarding his future. Given the current situation, it’s not on his mind right now.

“I’m sure we’re going to have good conversations with (Don Sweeney) after this season and go from there,” said Rask during an interview with WEEI’s Greg Hill. “But I’m only 34, so it’s not too old, might play another year or two and go from there. I don’t want to promise anything either way because you never know what’s going to happen.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Rask decides to play beyond next season, he’ll likely be looking at a short-term extension with the Bruins or a short contract with another club. With no immediate replacement for Rask in the pipeline, they could ink him to a two-year deal to buy time to groom his successor or shop for one via trade or free agency..

LATEST SABRES SPECULATION

THE BUFFALO NEWS: Lance Lysowski believes Sabres general manager Jason Botterill needs to make a significant trade to add a second-line center or top-six winger. He doesn’t feel the solution can be found via free agency, noting the Sabres’ haven’t had much luck in that department.

The Sabres aren’t in a position where they can trade away draft picks or prospects. Lysowski suggested peddling a defenseman like Rasmus Ristolainen or Brandon Montour for a talent forward.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Easier said than done. Ristolainen was a fixture in the rumor mill since last summer, but criticism of his play hurt his trade value. Montour could be a better trade option, but there’s no certainty he’ll fetch a scoring forward.

Nevertheless, with over $47 million invested in 10 players, Botterill is well-positioned to target cap-strapped clubs looking to shed salary, or those in need of blueline help. Perhaps he’ll have better luck addressing his needs in the off-season.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 1, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 1, 2020

The NHL extends its self-isolation period, results of the NHLPA poll revealed and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TSN: The NHL extended its self-isolation period for players and staff to April 15 because of the rapidly changing COVID-19 situations.

Darren Dreger believes the league won’t be to return to NHL facilities until local authorities in each market lift the ban on social gatherings. Meanwhile, Pierre LeBrun reports playing a 16-team playoff in four centralized, less-affected locations without fans is among the options under consideration by the league.

SPORTSNET: The city of Toronto yesterday announced a ban on city-led events until June 30. However, it subsequently stated that didn’t prohibit sporting events at private facilities.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That provides a glimmer of hope for those hoping the NHL returns to action sometime in June. However, that’s going to depend on how long this pandemic lasts. If there’s been little or no change, don’t expect a resumption of pro sports in June.

TSN: Darren Dreger reports over $450 million in signing bonus money was to be paid out to players on July 1, which is the traditional start of a new season. That date could be changed to September 1, deferring the bonus money payout. The Toronto Maple Leafs, San Jose Sharks, New York Rangers, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Dallas Stars lead the league in signing bonuses.

Pierre LeBrun suggests the current adversity facing the NHL and NHLPA could have a silver lining if it brings about an improvement in talks toward a new collective bargaining agreement.

LeBrun went into greater detail in his column in The Athletic, pointing out business will suffer for a few years following this pandemic. He believes the league and the PA cannot afford a CBA work stoppage in 2022. He feels the eventual discussions between the two sides over how to transition through the coronavirus pause could lead to long-term CBA stability.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun thinks the two sides will have “transition rules” negotiations on everything from the salary cap to escrow to critical dates like the start of free agency. Out of those could come the framework for working out a new CBA before its expiration in September 2022. As he points out, the league needs stability coming out of this pandemic. Another labor war between the two sides could set the league back for years.

CBA negotiations were already showing progress and a lack of rancor, with the two sides’ mutual agreement not to re-open the CBA last fall as a prime example. If the league and the PA can successfully transition out of this current situation, they should be able to avoid another labor dispute.

LeBrun also reported Seattle is interested in hosting the 2021 NHL Draft in conjunction with the expansion draft.

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid was voted the NHL’s best forward in the NHLPA’s player poll (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think that’s a great idea. Montreal was supposed to host this year’s draft, but they stage the 2022 draft.

NHLPA: Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid was voted the best forward in the NHLPA Player Poll, with Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman the best defenseman and Montreal’s Carey Price the best goaltender. Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby was voted the most complete player and the player they’d want on their team in a must-win game. Boston Bruins winger Brad Marchand was named the best and worst trash talker.

THE SCORE: St. Louis Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said teammate Jay Bouwmeester is feeling better and remains in St. Louis during the league’s hiatus. Bouwmeester suffered a cardiac episode during a Feb. 11 game against the Anaheim Ducks.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers star Leon Draisaitl said his family in Germany is doing well during this pandemic. His home country is the fifth hardest-hit, with 64,000 cases and 560 deaths. “It’s obviously concerning,” said Draisaitl. “My family is doing what they’re supposed to, they’re staying in. So far everyone is healthy. I hope that it stays that way back home. They’re doing what they’re supposed to do.”

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said he hasn’t started contract talks yet with his free agents. The notables include Brian Elliott, Justin Braun, Derek Grant, Oskar Lindblom, and Nolan Patrick.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flyers have over $69 million invested in 13 players for 2020-21. Fletcher could be waiting to find out what next season’s cap numbers will be before opening contract discussions.

SPORTSNET: Arizona Coyotes president and CEO Ahron Cohen and GM John Chayka are donating 20 percent of their salaries to COVID-19 relief efforts.

NJ.COM: Devils owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer made a six-figure coronavirus donation to RWJBarnabas Health’s Emergency Response Fund to aid the health care company’s response to COVID-19. The Devils also donated “7,000 pairs of gloves, 10,000 hand sanitizer units and an assortment of sanitizing wipes and sprays, to RJWBarnabas.” The team also announced it would extend its support of part-time employees to May 15.

ESPN.COM: San Jose Sharks president Jonathan Becher defended the club’s decision to play three home games in early March following a recommendation by Santa Clara county against large gatherings. He claimed the club made Tthe best decision we could with the information we had at the time.”










NHL Up & Down The Boards – Oilers, Lightning Among Favorites on Early Playoff Series Prices

NHL Up & Down The Boards – Oilers, Lightning Among Favorites on Early Playoff Series Prices