NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 4, 2020
Multiple Blues players test positive for COVID-19 plus the latest return-to-play and CBA extension news in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
MULTIPLE BLUES TEST POSITIVE FOR COVID-19
THE ATHLETIC/STLTODAY.COM: report the St. Louis Blues yesterday canceled practices at the team training facility because multiple players tested positive for COVID-19. It’s estimated at least two-thirds of the Blues players took part in Phase 2 workouts this week.
The names and exact numbers of players testing positive have not been released by the team or the league. It’s believed no staff members were among them.
Small-group workouts were canceled for the weekend, but the club is expected to resume practices on Monday. The Phase 2 workouts are voluntary. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports at least one Blues player won’t be attending over coronavirus concerns.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s the most recent outbreak of positive COVID-19 tests in the NHL since the Tampa Bay Lightning temporarily closed their training facility two weeks ago after three players and two staff members tested positive.
This news comes as the NHL and NHLPA are negotiating the details on Phase 3 and 4 of the Return-to-Play Plan and an extension to the collective bargaining agreement. The plan and extension have yet to be put to a vote by the NHLPA membership. This recent news could influence the players’ vote.
LATEST NHL RETURN-TO-PLAY NEWS
WINNIPEG SUN: The Canadian government provided quarantine exemption to NHL players traveling to the two hub cities later this month for the league’s 24-team playoff tournament. The Public Health Agency of Canada assessed the league’s return-to-play plan and concluded it provided “robust measures” to mitigate the risk of importation and spread of COVID-19 in Canada.
THE SCORE: Toronto mayor John Tory said the NHL provided a thorough plan outlining its safety measures. Toronto and Edmonton are the two host cities for Phase 4 of the return-to-play plan. Tory indicated the league had “incredibly detailed disinfection and public health measures” that met his city’s protocols.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Assuming the league and the NHLPA approve the return-to-play plan, Phase 3 will be the determining factor whether Phase 4 goes off. Under Phase 3, players participating in the 24-team tournament take part in mandatory training camps in their respective NHL cities. While the league claims its health protocols will be much stricter compared to Phase 2, the players won’t be under a quarantine bubble as they will be in Phase 4. That means there’s still a risk of a spike in positive COVID-19 tests.
The plan reportedly allows players to opt-out of the tournament for whatever reason without penalty. If there’s an outbreak among several teams during Phase 3, it could lead to a large number of players dropping out over coronavirus concerns, potentially derailing Phase 4.
LATEST CBA EXTENSION NEWS
THE ATHLETIC: Craig Custance provides some new details:
A source told Pierre LeBrun the extension would be to 2025-26.
The salary cap will remain at $81.5 million until league revenues reach $4.8 billion. After that, a formula for establishing the cap will be employed using hockey-related revenue from the previous two seasons.
The escrow cap will be 20 percent for 2020-21, 14 to 18 percent for 2021-22 pending revenue from the previous season, 10 percent for 2022-23, and six percent for the final three seasons.
An escrow debt of $125 million or more at that time would trigger a one-year extension to the CBA.
Entry-level salaries will be $950K for players drafted in 2022 and 2023, rising to $975K in the next two years and reaching $1 million by 2026. There will also be increases to bonuses for players on entry-level contracts.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman provides further information:
This year’s playoff bonus money will double to $32 million and will reduce to $20 million for next season,
The minimum salary will rise to $750K for 2020-21 and reach $800K by the end of the deal,
No-move and no-trade clauses will travel with the player who agrees to accept a trade, even if that clause hasn’t kicked in yet,
Players 35-and-older can sign contracts that are flat or ascending and there won’t be an ongoing cap hit if they retire,
Six-year front-loaded contracts worth at least 7.5 percent of the salary cap cannot exceed 35 percent between the highest and lowest salary amounts. Rules for other contracts remain the same. Players and teams could consider back-loading new contracts because escrow is capped at a lower number and revenue should increase during that period,
No changes to signing bonuses,
No more conditional draft picks in trades based on a player re-signing with his new team,
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This extension and the return-to-play plan must be ratified by the NHLPA and the league board of governors. Still no word as to when that will take place. With Phase 3 supposedly set for July 13, ratification will have to come soon.