NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 30, 2020
The NHL and NHLPA look ahead to the second phase of transition from the self-quarantine period, plus updates on the Hurricanes, Islanders, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
THE LATEST ON THE POSSIBLE RESUMPTION OF THE NHL SEASON
NHL.COM: The league and the NHL Players Association released a statement indicating they haven’t made any decisions or set a timeline for a possible return to play scenario. However, they are looking ahead to Phase 2 to transitioning out of its current self-quarantine period.
“The precise date of transition to Phase 2, during which Players might return to small group activities in NHL Club training facilities, remains undetermined. However, provided that conditions continue to trend favorably – and, subject to potential competitive concerns as between disparately situated markets – we believe we may be able to move to Phase 2 at some point in the mid-to-later portion of May. Specific guidelines governing Player and Hockey Staff activity would be provided at that time.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The league and the PA are pumping the brakes on recent speculation suggesting they could resume the season in July. That option floated last week by league commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly, sparking the recent media chatter. Although they stressed nothing was set in stone, resuming the schedule in July appears to be their best-case scenario.
Reopening the season still depends upon approval from state and provincial health officials in the cities proposed as hosts for NHL divisional games. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the leading health expert on the U.S. COVID-19 task force, is expressing caution over a possible return of pro sports in North America this season. “If you can’t guarantee safety, then unfortunately you’re going to have to bite the bullet and say, ‘We may have to go without this sport for this season,” said Fauci.
SPORTSNET: Mark Spector reports the planning work by the NHL during this period will allow them to be ready out of the gates if they get approval to resume the schedule. A sticking point is trying to get games back on television without requiring players to be quarantined away from their families for weeks at a time.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Family separation has emerged as a concern for several NHL players. Winnipeg Jets forward Adam Lowry is the latest to speak publicly about this issue. While Lowry is single and doesn’t have any children, he feels it would be unfair to expect married players to spend perhaps up to four months quarantined from their families.
Spector points out fulfilling local television contracts is an incentive for non-playoff NHL clubs to resume the season. If completing the regular season isn’t possible, a popular playoff scenario would see the top six teams in each division meeting in one city.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski pointed out that scenario would mean the Buffalo Sabres and Anaheim Ducks would be playoff clubs, while the New York Rangers (who have a better record) would not.
TORONTO SUN: Joe Warmington believes Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area would be the perfect hub as a neutral-site divisional host city. It has everything the league needs: “NHL and television-ready arenas, and plenty of accommodation for players and team staff.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Toronto is rumored to be among the host city favorites, but that depends upon the approval of Ontario’s health minister.
TORONTO STAR: Kevin McGran recently explored how escrow might help the NHL keep teams intact if the pandemic crashes league revenue, especially for next season. He doubts the players would accept rolling back salaries, while the owners probably wouldn’t go for a system that would accept an exemption to allow players to collect salary outside the cap. Lowering the cap and allowing compliance buyouts would gut rosters, especially those of playoff contenders.
McGran suggests leaving the salary cap at around $80 million and setting escrow at 40, 50, or even 70 percent, thus leaving rosters and contracts intact. Everyone takes a hit, but escrow can be reduced throughout the season as revenues come back.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Higher escrow clawbacks could be among the options whenever the league and the PA discuss next season’s salary cap. It’ll be interesting to see how they address reduced revenue and its effects upon salary cap payrolls.
IN OTHER NEWS…
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: The Carolina Hurricanes could soon be cutting ties with the Charlotte Checkers as their AHL affiliate. It’s believed the Hurricanes could soon have a deal with the Chicago Wolves, while the Checkers could become the new affiliate of the Florida Panthers.
ESPN.COM: Seattle’s NHL expansion franchise is getting close to revealing its name, team colors, and logo.
NHL.COM: “The new arenas for NHL Seattle and the New York Islanders remain on schedule for opening for the 2021-22 NHL season.”