NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 24, 2020

by | Dec 24, 2020 | News, NHL | 13 comments

The 2020-21 schedule is released, Nikita Kucherov sidelined for the season, plus a roundup of the latest notable signings and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The league released the schedule for the 2020-21 season. It begins on Jan. 13 with five games, including the Tampa Bay Lightning raising their 2020 Stanley Cup championship banner before facing off against the Chicago Blackhawks at Amalie Arena.

The other four games see the Pittsburgh Penguins visit the Philadelphia Flyers, the Montreal Canadiens face off against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Vancouver Canucks squaring off against the Edmonton Oilers, and the St. Louis Blues tangling with the Colorado Avalanche.

The league also announced the postponement of the 2021 Stadium Series slated for Feb. 20, 2021, featuring the Carolina Hurricanes.

Hip surgery will sideline Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: All timings for those games have yet to be announced. Those will likely be revealed after the locations for the Canadian games are determined.

TSN reported last night the five Canadian provinces hosting NHL teams released a letter calling for increased testing of players, staff and close contacts as well as enhancing the schedule to group game into blocks to reduce inter-jurisdictional travel. The other option is reinstating a bubble model similar to the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, which the league and the NHLPA aren’t keen to implement.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov has hip surgery scheduled for next week and is expected to be sidelined for the entire regular season. The club hopes to have him back in time for the 2021 playoffs beginning in May.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is a big blow to the Lightning’s scoring punch but they will receive $9.5 million in salary cap relief by placing the former Art Ross Trophy and Hart Trophy winner on long-term injury reserve. That should free up sufficient cap space to sign restricted free agent Anthony Cirelli. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t need to make a cost-cutting deal. I’ll have more about that in the Rumors section.

The Lightning also signed forwards Mathieu Joseph and Alex Volkov to short-term, one-way contracts. Joseph inked a two-year deal worth $1.475 million while Volkov inked a one-year, $700K deal.

NJ.COM: The New Jersey Devils signed goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood to a three-year, $8.4 million contract. The annual average value is $2.8 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: An affordable deal for the Devils. Blackwood will be their starting goaltender entering this season. A solid performance on his part over the course of this deal will ensure more lucrative terms on his next contract.

SPORTSNET: The Nashville Predators signed forward Erik Haula to a one-year, $1.75 million contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This signing comes on the heels of the Predators bringing back winger Mikael Granlund. It’s a good, cost-effective depth addition. Haula has an injury history but when healthy is a speedy, versatile two-way forward with a decent scoring touch who can skate on the wing or at center.

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: Goaltender Ryan Miller is returning for another season with the Anaheim Ducks, inking a one-year contract worth $1 million. He’s served as their backup netminder for the past three seasons.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No surprise here. Miller and his family live in the Anaheim area and he doesn’t want to relocate at this stage of his career.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens added more experienced depth to their forward links by signing winger Michael Frolik to a one-year, $750K contract.

WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres signed center Casey Mittelstadt to a one-year contract worth just over $874K.

SUN-SENTINEL.COM: The Florida Panthers inked goaltender Sam Montembault to a one-year, two-way deal.

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: Blackhawks forward Kirby Dach suffered an apparent injury to his right wrist during Canada’s 1-0 win over Russia in a tune-up game for the upcoming 2021 World Junior Championship in Edmonton. Dach left the game, underwent X-rays and is undergoing other tests to determine the severity of the injury.

Meanwhile, Blackhawks forward Alex Nylander recently underwent knee surgery and is expected to be sidelined for four-to-six months.

SPORTSNET: The Vancouver Canucks hired Jason King as their new assistant coach and Chris Higgins as their new skills and development coach.


  1. To all here who celebrate as I, to you and your families, have a very Merry Christmas

    To all here of other faiths; wishing you and your families a wonderful and festive holiday season

    To all… good health and happiness

    Pengy and family

    • Same to you Pengy. Merry Christmas to all, and Happy Holidays to those who do not celebrate Christmas. Peace on earth, goodwill toward men !!!!!

    • We celebrated Festivus yesterday, wish you guys were there so I could have aired all the grievances I have with you folks.
      Especially Wendel.

      Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays etc boys!

      • Hoping your meatloaf was served to perfection 😄

      • That happens when your holiday dinner doesn’t include alcohol—you need some one to hear you when you complain.

  2. Re “ as enhancing the schedule to group game into blocks to reduce inter-jurisdictional travel. ”

    I fully agree

    I posted about this before…. e.g. Leafs…

    4 games in 6 in Ed (2 B2Bs with two days off in between ) ; boot To Cgy two days off b4 a B2B; 2 days off B2B ; that’s 8 games in 14; then home for 4-5 days off

    Then host Ottw then Mon … same … 8 in 14 …. then 5 days off

    Then off to Van then off to Winn…. same format

    That’s 24 games in 52 days…. almost half the schedule

    Reversing the above pattern (home vs away) with 5 days in between the two reversed cycles….

    48 games in 103-107 days
    Leafs only have taken 9 flights; and have only done 6 separate hotel stays

    Add a game in 2 of those road trips; and 2 games to another road trip; and spread out 4 more games to the 3 long home stands …. in each trip/home stand extend 2 – 4 days timing… gets 56 games in within the window… still only 9 flights ; still only 6 hotel stays…. it’s like 6 mini-tournies ….. weird but mitigates a ton of travel (and cost) and massively reduces exposure

    Just a thought

  3. Kucherov’s surgery does not give the Lightning sufficient cap room to sign Cirelli … do the math … unless he signs for less than he’s worth … and that ain’t happening.

  4. According the Jimmy Murphy of Boston Hockey Now Cam Neely told him a day or two ago the Bruins are ready to jump into the NHL trading frenzy that’s about to begin ….. Who the Bruins could trade and get what they need in return will be interesting…..

    • True that Joe.
      Need to know what’s going on with Chara, is the silence telling?
      If not back would like a veteran LD. Need at least 8 NHL quality D men to get through a season if you want to contend. Zboril will be #7. Vatanen if he is capable playing his off side is an option.

      • I did think at one time Chara signing back with Bruins was a given but that’s seems to fading … Bruins need 2 players a LD and a 2nd line winger with some size even with Brad & Pasta back & with not much cap space it’s going to have to happen thru trades

    • It’s weird how we even haven’t heard from the teams that can weaponize their free cap space. Wonder if prices are being set and time will tell who will be a hero or heel.

      Hey Lyle any changes to your format for the upcoming season?

      PS Happy Holidays

      • Hi, Ron. No format changes planned for now, though that could change over the course of 2021. Right now, the focus is on the upcoming season. Happy holidays!

  5. Merry Christmas everyone, especially to Hab fans who just added another bottom 6 forward in frolic to go with their 10 other ones. Their only 2nd liner Gallagher is gonna have to carry some “heavy water” this year until the Habs pres realizes the disaster unfolding and goes with the nuclear option.