NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 20, 2020

by | May 20, 2020 | News, NHL | 60 comments

Discussions continue over a 24-team tournament format, several cities pushing to become playoff hubs, Canada-USA border closure an issue, and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.


TSN: Darren Dreger reports there is concern within the NHL and the NHL Players Association return-to-play committee over the fairness of returning with a 24-team tournament that would determine a 16-team post-season. Under that format, the Montreal Canadiens (a non-playoff team under normal standards) would face a good playoff club like the Pittsburgh Penguins. “Should they be at an equal position starting at the play-in of the 24-team format?”, asked Dreger, adding this must be resolved before the two sides sign off on this scenario.

Pierre LeBrun reported constant dialogue among the return-to-play committee since Saturday. “The hope is for resolution over the next 7-10 days but no guarantee,” said LeBrun.

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports multiple sources are claiming the remarkable reputation of Canadiens’ goaltender Carey Price among his peers raised concern over the unfairness of facing him in a best-of-three series. He claims there’s growing support for a best-of-five opening-round would temper the impact of a hot goalie in a short series.

Montreal Canadiens’ goaltender Carey Price (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some fans and pundits consider Price past his prime, but the Canadiens goaltender remains highly respected among his peers. He’s probably not the only reason players and general managers aren’t keen for a best-of-three opening-round format, but he’s a good example of the concerns raised about the fairness of the 24-team tournament. 

NATIONAL POST: Michael Traikos wonders if a 24-team playoff format could become the norm following this season. Expanding the postseason would generate more money for the owners, especially since revenue could be lower next season because of the pandemic.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Expanding the playoff format was being bandied about by several pundits before the pandemic. If the proposed 24-team tournament proves popular with fans this summer, the league could consider implementing that format permanently. 


THE SCORE: NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly remains optimistic about the league’s plans to resume play despite the recent 30-day extension of the border closure between Canada and the United States to non-essential travel. “I remain hopeful that today’s announcement will not materially impact our return to play planning,” said Daly. Non-essential travel is considered tourism, recreation, and entertainment.

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the league and the PA aren’t concerned about the border closure extension. They don’t anticipate playing games until mid-to-late July at the earliest. The league’s Phase 2 plan involves players participating in small group workouts on a voluntary basis.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Because the NHL is considered a business, I daresay they’ll receive an exemption from the Canadian government.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Alberta premier Jason Kenney believes Edmonton would be the safest place on the continent for the NHL to play. He points to the low number of COVID-19 cases in the city and the province, as well as the highest per-capita testing in North America. Kenney also touted the Oilers’ state-of-the-art arena and the local facilities to accommodate the players. “All of the services are right there to be safely integrated in a protected zone that would keep the players and staff insulated. So I think we have a very strong pitch to make.”

NBC SPORTS: California governor Gavin Newsom said pro sports could return in his state by the first week of June without fans.

STARTRIBUNE.COM: The Minnesota Wild are interested in St. Paul becoming a host city when the league returns to action.

THE TENNESSEAN: The city of Nashville would also like to become a neutral-site host for NHL games this summer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Several factors will go into determining which cities the NHL selects as neutral-site hosts. Ensuring the health and safety of everyone involved will be the priority.


THE DENVER POST: Tampa Bay Lightning analyst Brian Engblom wonders what will happen if one of the players isn’t comfortable with returning to action and stays home.

“What if it’s a key guy? People are afraid and they have every right to be. If you have one player, and maybe he’s a real key player. What do you do? It’s a free country. That person is allowed to say no. These are unprecedented times. How can you make them do anything? What’s a team going to do? Are they going to fine them? You can’t, in my opinion. This is a person’s choice because of an unreal situation.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s a fair point by Engblom. In all the reports about hammering out a return-to-play format, no one has raised what will happen if a player, especially a superstar, decides he doesn’t want to risk contracting COVID-19 and refuses to report. The players are under contract, but these are extraordinary times. If one star refuses to participate, others could follow his example, creating a potential marketing headache for the league and a contractual standoff between the players and their teams. 

TSN: The NHLPA’s 31 player representatives agreed to further defer a decision on their Apr. 15 paychecks until the end of May.

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports the league and the PA have discussed the possibility of extending the current collective bargaining agreement beyond 2021-22. The main issue could be a cap on escrow payments. Brooks said the players “are currently responsible for making up the 2019-20 carryover escrow next year. The players would obviously prefer to extend the payment over multiple seasons.” The anticipated escrow cap offer would be higher than 25 percent.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the current relationship between the league and the PA is the best he’s seen in his career. Much of that harmony involves the return-to-play committee, which includes Bettman, deputy commissioner Bill Daly, NHLPA executive director Don Fehr, and special assistant Mathieu Schneider, as well as notable players such as Connor McDavid, John Tavares, and Mark Scheifele.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s why we’re hearing so much hopeful speculation suggesting a new era of NHL labor peace could emerge from this current situation. Nevertheless, the escrow cap issue could be the major sticking point. Resolving that will smooth a pathway toward a CBA extension.

THE SCORE: The NHL is unhappy over teams signing players to entry-level contracts with “to be determined” start dates. The league made a rule when this season was paused that such contracts couldn’t have a 2019-20 start date, but some clubs hoped to use “TBD” as a potential loophole. The league isn’t allowing contracts with undetermined start dates to be submitted to Central Registry.

OTTAWA SUN: NHL players in the Ottawa area will be allowed to skate at the privately-owned Minto Arena after receiving approval from the Ontario government. Strict conditions will be in place, such as only five players on the ice at a time and maintaining physical distancing in the building at all times.


NORTHJERSEY.COM: Goaltender Cory Schneider said he hasn’t given any thought to retirement and intends to complete his contract with the Devils. He split his time this season between the Devils and their AHL affiliate in Binghamton.

OTTAWA SUN: Senators winger Mikkel Boedker signed a two-year contract with Lugano of the Swiss league starting next season.

WGR550: The Buffalo Sabres are reportedly close to signing Jesper Olofsson, brother of Sabres winger Victor Olofsson.

NEWSOBSERVER.COM: The Carolina Hurricanes are close to extending their deal with PNC Arena to 2029.


  1. Lol. That Price thing is Priceless! Brooks needs to give it a rest. Price hasn’t even been good enough to be considered mediocre in the last 2-3 years. Never mind have other teams shaking in their skates over facing him.

    I think it’s time to furlough some sports writers at this time. Obviously they’ve completely run out of 💩 to write about worth reading!

    • Nyr4life: Brooks is merely reporting what multiple sources told him. While I have had my issues with Brooks over the years, he’s very well connected with the NHLPA.

      Price remains very highly regarded among his peers, regularly topping or sitting near the top of player polls as the league’s best goalie. He had his difficulties this season but nearly carried them into the playoffs last season. Now healthy and rested, Price has the ability to steal a short series.

      The concern here is facing a hot goalie in a best-of-three format, raising concerns over the fairness of this 24-team tournament, especially if that goalie plays for one of the bottom feeders. Hell, you can even make the case for Corey Crawford getting hot for the Blackhawks and stealing a best-of-three series.

      • I think he is just upset that none of the players are worried about playing the rangers! Haha

      • I guess any hot goalie can steal a short series. I just don’t see Price as a guy that concerns teams. While he may be healthy, (so is every team in the league) he also like many other players is going to have a bit of rust on him. Rhythm , timing etc may be an issue for everyone.

        I don’t think he’s had an elite type season since 14-15? He hasn’t been in the playoffs in 3 years, hasn’t won a round in over 5 years.

        There are a lot more teams / players that would keep me up at night worried about taking a 3 game series than Price and Montreal.

        His playoff numbers and record just don’t warrant that type of onset panic imo.

        Outside of his contract … I just don’t see this guy as the top of anything. It’s a head scratcher why players show him that type of respect. His numbers sure don’t reflect that respect these days.

      • I think the Rangers with Igor+ two consistent scoring lines in a short series want to be avoided way more than the Habs. I think Brooks brings up Price to deflect this ;-0

        So why not just let the top 4 Wild card teams play a 3 game series to determine the last seeds? Because those teams would be more tuned that the 12 waiting

      • As noted earlier, the players have an issue about a hot goalie stealing a best-of-three series. Brooks, who is well-connected with the NHLPA, cited their concern that it would be unfair to face someone like Price in such a scenario. They think very highly of him, as the recent NHLPA player poll indicates.

        Regardless, you could also make the same argument about Corey Crawford and the Blackhawks. I also don’t disagree that a rising young club like the Rangers could pull off an upset with promising Igor Shesterkin.

        Folks are losing sight of the main issue, that being the players don’t want a best-of-three scenario, preferring instead a best-of-five series.

      • Big bear,

        You think so? Lmfao. A team I have maintained should be concerned with development and not playoffs …. now I’m hurt that teams may or may not fear the Rangers? Lmao….. stop.

        Ny beats Montreal in just about every statistical category this year. Except team ga. And that difference is ONE! 222-221. With NY having the game in hand….

        Maybe teams should fear the 2020 Rangers rather than the 2014 Carey Price?

        Don’t get all butt hurt over me pointing out the obvious. It’s not a personal attack… it’s stats and truth!

      • Lyle, I get that players voted him in, but I don’t get why.

        Price may be the most over hyped player in the NHL. If it weren’t for a once in a lifetime global pandemic, and a playoff scenario that allowed 24 teams in to the playoffs… we’d only be discussing Price as a buyout candidate today.

        His play over the last 3-4 years does not warrant that type of respect.

      • I’m not butt hurt by all your comment I think you’re, I’m a fan that believes the season should be cancelled. Do you really think you know more than the players shooting on him? Lmfao price is still a very good goalie numbers are sometimes the team in front of him

      • This blow back is off the mark. Series defining performances are surely not limited to a goalie. Is anyone blase about facing a rested Crosby?

        In any event exceptionally good or bad performances often shape the playoffs.

        Tampa Bay was 21 points better than their closest rival at the end of last year’s regular season and lost 4 straight to be swept in the first round.

        Drama and upsets make the playoffs. Otherwise why have them?

      • We can paint any picture you like of Price Bigbear, the fact is Price is just not that good. And if you’re going to start blaming the team around him…. why would he find more fortune now at 32 than he ever has? It’s still not a good team in front of him.

        I’m not pretending I know more about price than the players in the nhl. However , it’s not like the players in the NHL aren’t scoring on this guy at a better rate than other goalies…

        Hence why I don’t get that respect he’s being shown .

        He’s # 1 in overrated, overPRICEd and overhyped. Other than that he’s been average or worse. He’s never CAREY’d (haha) Montreal before… why now?

        Again, if not for a global pandemic and an unheard of playoff format, we’d be talking about a possible compliance buyout!

        How a playoff record 25-31. 2.53 gaa and .914 sv% not impressive!

        And why would I be hurt? NY knocked Montreal out of the 1st round in Montreal’s last playoff appearance… and knocked them out of the playoffs 2 of their last 3 appearances!

      • Maybe number 2 overhyped just because Lundqvist has been the most overhyped for years and years 😁

      • Lundqvist has never been overhyped by this guy…

        But he ( Lundqvist) does have better career season stats and playoff stats than Price…
        And has many more seasons, wins , playoff appearances, playoff wins, shutouts….

        So if Lundqvist is overhyped…. I guess Price is #1 on that overhyped list? Because it’s brutally obvious that he trails Lundqvist in almost every possible Statistical category. And he did all that surrounded by 2nd , and 3rd round players in front of him .

        Really a horrible , ill timed comparison. What else you got? “ Price could beat up Shestyorkin “ next?

      • I would absolutely love to see you arguing with an nhl player that price is an overhyped goalie! Lmfao his first question would be “ did you eat paint chips when you were a kid “

      • Then I’d ask them to take off the blinders and look at his stats and accomplishments.

        You say in one breath Lundqvist is overhyped then in the next Price isn’t?

        Lmao. Lundqvist has done more on all stages with a lot less around him.

      • It’s so hilarious listening to a guy on a chat forum saying he knows more about hockey than professional hockey players! Lmao

    • Exactly, and Price alone isn’t taking the habs all the way with that team.

      • If you get beat in a best of three against the habs(or any team you don’t deserve to move on. Period.

      • What is everyone’ Problem with Price. The players say he is the best and people who never played in the NHL think they know better incredible

      • And stats say he isn’t as good as players think…. so what exactly are people basing his greatness off ? They really really like him?

      • You still haven’t answered the Price vs. Lundqvist dilemma!

        How is Lundqvist over hyped and Price not… when Lundqvist is better in about every statistical category?

        Oooooops. Bigbear once again chokes on his own words ?


      • 🍿

    • I disagree. Price is still one if not the best goalie in the league.

  2. Engblom raises a very valid point about the possibility of some players saying “no thanks” to a return to action before a vaccine is developed. There are, I believe, a fair number scattered throughout the league who suffer from underlying issues such as diabetes and asthma who would be at far greater risk. And other will no doubt have spouses and children with similar or worse issues.

    Then there’s the extended border closure. No politician in his/her right mind is going to say it’s closed to everyone but pro athletes. Not if they want to continue their political careers.

    Just cancel the bloody thing, hold a virtual draft (with trades allowed) and have done with it and hope for the best for 2020-21.

    • The players will have to return before there is a vaccine. There won’t be one for likely a year at least so if they want to sit out until there is one, they will likely see their contract terminated.

      • Good luck with THAT in the courts.

      • There very possibly could never be a fully effective vaccine. If it follows the similar mutations as the flu it could require continuous attempts to manufacture new vaccines. So sitting out and waiting for something that may never happen seems to be a contractual problem for sure

      • Regardless, it’ll still be a legal dog’s breakfast that will have some lawyers salivating. Being tied up in courts with multiple cases involving athletes with underlying issues is not something in which the NHL (or any other pro league) would like to caught.

    • I agree that hockey is an entertainment business but since entertainment is not an essential service, I doubt hockey players will be exempt from the closed border. Daly’s dreaming in technicolor if he thinks the closed border extension won’t impact all this planning.

      • I believe Trudeau has already said that players coming in to Canada will have to stay self isolated for 14 days.

        And that is the right approach, in my opinion. To do otherwise will foster resentment, the opposite of the reaction the NHL is trying to drum up.

      • There should be an exemption for the teams. From a medical standpoint, they are not typical border crossings. They are individuals that will be undergoing rapid COVID testing daily. They are not some joe-schmoe with unknown health status. I think the NHL can and should make this argument publicly to avoid criticisms but those with political agendas are going to hate anything that doesn’t follow their narrative. Politics represent a significant hurdle with COVID because people (like everything else it seems) have clearly become divided on this issue.

      • LJ, and that would apply EACH time they crossed the border. Marko, any politician who takes that approach can kiss his political life goodbye.

    • Players who don’t want to play should be allowed to sit out. Teams should be allowed to sign players from the chl or ahl or Europe to replace them if needed. There will be plenty of other players chomping at the bit to take their spots.

      And it would be political suicide in hockey crazed and hockey starved Canada to not grant an exemption for the border.

      • Chrisms, you’re making the mistake of assuming that sports fans in Canada outnumber those who don’t give a rat’s patootie about sports and pro athletes. Not even close.

      • It wouldn’t be just sports fans. The ones you specified that don’t give a hoot probably are indifferent if they cross the border or not. What’s it to them?

      • Clearly you don’t live in a city – and a national capital – dominated by politics. Voter perception to them is everything. Grant one group of individuals a freedom not generally extended and they might as well put a noose around their necks. Ain’t – gonna – happen.

      • @Chrisms the government already said that the players would have to go through the 14 day self isolation, same as anyone else crossing the border No exceptions

      • Interesting. I think the yearning for normalcy might trump all that. I guess we shall find out.

      • Bob. Quick search found

        “I think it’s a question we’ll have to look into,” Trudeau said. “Certainly at a strict minimum, anyone who arrives from another country will have to follow all the rules of quarantine in an extremely strict manner, but we’re not there yet in our discussions with the NHL.

        Talk about some beautiful politician double talk.

      • Shouldn’t we wait and see what the plan is before we judge whether it is safe for them to cross?
        If they are self isolating, all tested regularly, fly in on separate charters, and then isolated from everyone but those involved with the NHL and these events, is the risk not diminished?
        I think that is what Trudeau meant when he said we aren’t there yet. He doesn’t have the full picture of what he is being asked to do.
        Cheers to the city of Edmonton and the province of AB, and yes our premier for a job well done so far.

      • I disagree entirely, Chrisms. Giving hockey players an exemption means an increased risk with no way to measure that.

        More important, it means giving exemptions to “special” people in non-essential jobs, while expecting everyone else in the country to follow the rules. The downside is, I though, quite obvious.

        I like hockey. I’m bored at times. But in no way and under no circumstances do I support a special status for a chosen few just for the sake of entertainment.

      • You might not support it lj but this is reality. In this world people get special treatment. How much clout do you think those loaded owners have politically. That nhl itself has politically?

        And it’s beyond just entertainment. It’s economics as well. It’s moral boosting.

        Is there increased risk? Sure. All moves towards reopening these countries will entail that. Is it worth it? I’m not one to say. But I do believe it happens. Way too much clout and pressure from the haves for me not to see it.

        And I doubt many people who protest against it refuse to watch it.

      • Well, Chrisms, today’s CBC web page shows Trudeau wearing a mask cause Dr. Tam says it is important to do so.

        If Trudeau then gives special dispensation for hockey players it will take a special set of political dancing shoes for him to get around the contradiction that even the PM should set a good example, but hockey players, not so much.

      • Those shoes will resemble something like

        After speaking to commissioner bettman, he has assure me all precautions will be taken. The players will be tested routinely, Will socially isolate outside of games, and all safety measures will be observed.

        He won’t say but somehow imply

        Nhl players will be safer than your average young to middle aged person going grocery shopping. All their surrounding human beings are being tested and cleared. There is also the significant monetary and politic clout that the billionaire owners have that could influence my next political move. Not to mention all the disappointed and bored constituents. Game on!

      • Well, they won’t be getting special treatment in Edmonton. Many of the restrictions are being lifted because we test more per capita than any where in NA, isolate the positives and trace their contacts and isolate them, and thus have a low case count. And the numbers are real and can be trusted. In fact we haven’t had any new cases in days. You will be able to get a haircut and sit on a patio and even have a beer with a buddy very little risk. We did what we needed to, so now we can.
        If these guys self isolate, then quarantine, get tested regularly, limit their contacts, they will being doing more than is asked of the average Edmontonian moving forward. So ya they are being treated special, but in a way that is more restrictive.
        We have done a good job here, and if they do too, they are welcome to come on in and play some hockey. At least from my perspective.
        And to Chrisms point, it will be a huge moral boost to watch the boys compete for a cup. I am looking forward to it. Their are other cities where this applies as well. Play in those ones, not in the others.

      • Sold Barky. Edm should host everyone!

        Won’t happen cause us wants a piece of that tuckas. But I’m game.

    • Factoring in players’ individual health is a good point George. I see the possibility (not likelihood) of a star player with a problematic underlying condition refusing to finish this season.

      Next season? The legality aspect is also a good question, though if the league is up and running it can only do so when health experts sign off on it. In that case it would become very debatable that a player had the right to refuse to work.

      Beyond that, how long would they continue to refuse, if a vaccine is 2 years away. Bye bye career.

      • Until the first one gets the virus and croaks. Then ALL bets are off.

    • The players have skin in the game as well. That being money. They wall will come back.

  3. There should be a points system if they are doing a round robin to determine the 16 teams. Otherwise, the regular season meant nothing. If you were a division leader you start with 2 points. 2-3 place teams start with 1 point. Wildcard/bubble teams start at zero. The 6 teams player each other once and the top four get in seeds by points total. (2 points for win, 1 for OT/shootout loss).
    I am a U.S. fan but I must admit that Canadian hubs make the most sense…less COVID cases, no border crossing, no NBA arenas to share.

  4. Play or Not Play
    We are in uncharted waters here. If a player does not want to take a risk by playing then I think there should be a ONE time exemption allowing player to pass on playing BUT only gets paid 25% of his final check ( I am guessing only one check remains this season). Rosters should be increased to 30 players so that teams can have coverage in case of injuries. There players could come from AHL or players who are under contact but were sent back to junior teams. I understand that players are concerned but they get paid big bucks to play a sport where their career could end any day. Jay Boumeister comes to mind. A lot of nurses have died / gotten sick because of this, didn’t hear them complain that they didn’t want to work because it may be more dangerous than usual, they had families to.

  5. If the league is set on the 24 team format they need to play out x amount of games between those teams as to finish off the season and so the top 16 teams qualify for a normal post season. They should go with two hub cities all 12 teams per hotel housing all essential personnel.

    • George O is the only here maintaining the sanest point of the day. Cancel the season. Even if the initial start of the conversation was really about whether or not teams should fear Carey Price. There’s nothing to fear for the remainder of this year. Tear the band aid off and cancel already.

  6. Just do the extra Wild Card
    Carolina vs NYR
    CBJ vs Islanders
    Winnipeg Vs Wild
    Nashville vs Canucks
    the only team in the race not included is Florida…

    though I do agree that adding Chicago and Montreal is good for ratings….

    • Ds,

      We could have an all 90+ women with walkers on ice tournament and people will watch at this point.

      Tv ratings will be off the charts because live events aren’t coming soon.

  7. I think the league needs to think long and hard before expanding the playoff format to 24 teams based solely on the response this year. Fans are so desperate for anything hockey, the response to this year will be inflated. Will that continue after the pandemic or is it just because of the pandemic? That needs to be sort clearly. Personally, the more you expand the playoffs, the less the regular season matters, IMO.

    LJ and Chrisms, I’m with you regarding Brooks and hot goalies, well said.

  8. The English Premier League has begun a return to training and six players have, so far, been identified as Covid 19 positive.
    Just saying.

  9. I know this might sound crazy but I would just have the 4 division leaders play and that’s it. This way the season will be over in a month and next season can start on time

    • It’s a good idea, but won’t get uptake because a prime motive for resuming play is tv revenue. Hence the 24 team playoff talk.