Highlights from the NHL Skills Competition, the latest additions to the All-Star Game roster, updates on the 2016 Winter Classic and Stadium Series games, the World Cup of Hockey and more.
CBS SPORTS: Team Foligno defeated Team Toews in the NHL All-Star Skills competition on Saturday. Among the highlights: Shea Weber winning the hardest shot competition with a 108 MPH blast, Jonathan Drouin winning the fastest skater challenge (13.103 seconds) and Patrick Kane winning the accuracy shooting contest.
TSN: With Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson sidelined, Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau will take his place for the All-Star Game.
MIAMI HERALD: Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad will replace sidelined Colorado Avalanche blueliner Erik Johnson in the All-Star Game.
LOS ANGELES TIMES: Helene Elliott believes NHL All-Star Game has lost its meaning over the years.
NBC SPORTS: The NHL yesterday unveiled its Winter Classic and Stadium Series games for 2016. The Boston Bruins will host the Montreal Canadiens in the Jan. 1 Winter Classic at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. The Chicago Blackhawks will visit the Minnesota Wild on Feb. 21 at TCF Bank Stadium at the University of Minnesota. On Feb. 27, the Detroit Red Wings travel to Denver to face off against the Colorado Avalanche at Coors Field.
USATODAY: The NHL also unveiled its dates and format for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, to be played at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre from Sept. 17 to Oct. 1. “Canada, USA, Russia, Czech Republic, Sweden and Finland will compete as they always have, but the seventh team will be a special All-Star team from non-competing European countries and the eighth team will be a 23-and-under North American All-Star team.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’m cheering for the two underdogs, Team Europe and Team Under-23.
SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS: An interesting profile of San Jose Sharks’ defenseman/winger Brent Burns.
THE BOSTON GLOBE: The Bruins may have improved since CEO Charlie Jacobs tore them a new one, but he’s not letting the club off the hook, saying the jury remains out on the club’s performance.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins can save some face by making the playoffs, but an early postseason exit will still cap a disappointing season.
ESPN.COM: Pierre LeBrun reports NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman insists the falling value of the Canadian dollar won’t significantly affect NHL revenue or the salary cap levels for 2015-16. Bettman claims with the “loonie” at .82 cents the cap ceiling will be $72.2 million and at .80 cents $71.7 million. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly admits those figures includes the NHLPA voting for its 5 percent escalator/inflator. The PA usually votes for the escalator, but with growing unhappiness over this year’s escrow payments (currently at 14 percent), the players could opt not to apply the escalator, meaning the cap could come in at $68.4 million instead of $72 million.
THE GLOBE AND MAIL: James Mirtle also reports on the consequences of a stagnant salary cap for next season, including the possibility of teams with plenty of cap space adopting a “vulture strategy” targeting teams with limited cap space seeking to shed salary to become cap compliant.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The anticipation is the players will still vote for the five percent escalator, most likely because a stagnant cap means less money to go around on this summer’s free agents. Still, it only narrowly passed last summer (16-14 among player reps). If they vote against the escalator, it’ll mark the first time since the cap was implemented in 2005 that the ceiling dropped. Even with a cap around $71 million there’s not a lot of wiggle room for teams with limited cap space. The marginal increase in the ceiling also means the cap minimum won’t go up by much, which will be a relief for budget teams.
You’ll notice, of course, Bettman never revealed what the cap ceiling will be if the Canadian dollar plunges into the .70 cents range. Some experts will suggest that won’t happen, but those are probably the same experts who dismissed the notion of the Canadian dollar dropping under .90 cents for a significant period of time. Look, it doesn’t take an economics expert to get a good guess on the current value of the loonie. Simply keep an eye on oil prices, as their recent decline has dragged down the value of the Canadian dollar.