NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 17, 2023

by | Jun 17, 2023 | News, NHL | 25 comments

The Canucks buy out Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Timo Meier seeks a long-term deal with the Devils, the Leafs will discuss a contract extension with head coach Sheldon Keefe, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.

THE PROVINCE/CAP FRIENDLY: The Vancouver Canucks are buying out the contract of defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

The Canucks acquired Ekman-Larsson from the Arizona Coyotes in 2021. He had four seasons remaining on his contract with an average annual value of $8.25 million. Vancouver was carrying $7.26 million while the Coyotes retained the remainder. The buyout will affect the salary-cap payrolls of both clubs for the next eight seasons.

Vancouver Canucks buy out Oliver Ekman-Larsson (NHL Images).

This move was made to free up much-needed cap space for the Canucks, who were sitting above next season’s projected $83.5 million salary cap. It provides $7.1 million in cap room this summer and $4.9 million in 2024-25.

They’ll face a cap hit of over $4.7 million annually in 2025-26 and 2026-27 before dropping to over $2.1 million annually over the remaining four years.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks had no choice. They had to create cap room to become cap compliant at the start of next season and to improve their roster after missing the playoffs over the past three years. They obviously couldn’t find any takers for Ekman-Larsson in the trade market because of his contract and the decline in his performance over the past few years. He now becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

The Coyotes’ cap hit isn’t as harsh. It’s $20K in 2023-24 and $320K in 2024-25, rising to $650K in 2025-26 and 2026-27 and dropping to $290K for the final four years. However, they lose one of their three retained salary slots over the eight-year period of the buyout.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: NHL teams can only have three contracts with salary retained on their books at any one time. The Coyotes now have two slots remaining.

NEW JERSEY HOCKEY NOW: The Devils filed to take Timo Meier to arbitration but the club could soon have an agreement on a new contract with the 26-year-old winger. General manager Tom Fitzgerald indicated that Meier has instructed his agent to negotiate an eight-year contract with the Devils.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Devils filed for arbitration to set a date to reach an agreement with Meier on a new contract rather than have it drag out throughout the offseason. The move also prevents the winger from signing his qualifying offer and prevents a rival team from swooping in with an offer sheet.

This report indicates there’s a mutual desire to get a long-term contract done. Fitzgerald indicated both sides are in constant communication.

The arbitration period is from late July into early August. However, it wouldn’t be surprising if the two sides hammer out a new deal by the end of this month.

TSN: The Toronto Maple Leafs and head coach Sheldon Keefe are expected to discuss a contract extension later this summer. Keefe’s current contract expires at the end of 2023-24.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: So much for Keefe losing his job. It appears the only significant shakeup for the Leafs this summer took place in the management office.

Keefe and Brad Treliving, the Leafs new general manager, are currently interviewing candidates to replace former assistant coach Spencer Carbery, who’s now the head coach of the Washington Capitals.

YAHOO! SPORTS: cited NHL insider Chris Johnston reporting the Leafs are unlikely to re-sign pending unrestricted free agents Michael Bunting, Alex Kerfoot and Justin Holl.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bunting is the most notable of this trio after exceeding expectations on a two-year deal worth $1.9 million. He’s evidently priced himself out of Toronto.

DETROIT HOCKEY NOW: It appears the Red Wings are unlikely to re-sign any of their pending UFAs. They reportedly made contract offers to Pius Suter and Alex Chiasson but both players passed on those offers.

NEW YORK POST: The Rangers re-signed defenseman Zac Jones to a one-year, two-way contract worth $800K in the first season and $825 K in 2024-25.

SPORTS MEDIA WATCH: Game 5 of the 2023 Stanley Cup Final between the Florida Panthers and Vegas Golden Knights was the least-watched Game 5 in 29 years. That game was the Cup-clincher for the Golden Knights as they won the series in five games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Critics of the NHL’s expansion into non-traditional markets have pounced on this as proof that hockey fans don’t want to see Stanley Cup Finals involving Sun Belt teams. UFC president Dana White believes it’s because the league is run by “old dumb f**king people who have no idea what’s going on” when it comes to marketing their product.

White’s salty assessment of NHL marketing isn’t without its merits. However, the ratings for Game 1 of the 2023 Stanley Cup Final saw an increase of 11 percent compared to the average Cup Final viewership from 2017-21 and was the second-most watched Stanley Cup Final game ever on cable.

I’d argue that the low ratings for Game 5 had more to do with how lopsided this series became as the Golden Knights dominated the underdog Panthers. Three of their five wins were by a margin of at least three goals, with Game 5 a 9-3 blowout in which Vegas was up 6-1 by the end of the second period.


  1. my current cable provider stopped their contract with TNT so i had to get an addon service to watch the Cup. terrible tv coverage

  2. Re viewership for SCF game 5

    Definitely arguments on both sides

    Yes…. Marketing of series was crap; but agree with Lyle… blowout series; blowout game 5…. Marginal viewers tune into another channel when they realize the outcome

    That said….. twice as many watched on the big screen OUTSIDE T-Mobile than could ever watch inside the desert barn in Arz….. move the team

    Everybody knows that an all time viewership numbers would be had with Blackhawks v Leafs; 2nd going to BlackHawks v Habs

    Original 6, huge markets

    True hockey fans will watch the full series regardless of which teams play…. No need to market the series for that audience

    NHL does need to market the SCFinals to the younger/newer viewers

    An aside (non Hockey)…, shout out to us in the Great White North for passing 40 (yesterday afternoon) …..Yeah to us

    • 40 million people and roughly 8 available houses for the new folks to not have a chance at buying.

      • So very very true SOP

    • Pengy too funny! How you turned a low viewing game 5 rating into “let’s move Arizona now.”

      • Hi Caper

        I didn’t turn it into that…. It flowed from the post I was referring to (above from today) re “expansion into non-traditional markets have pounced on this as proof that hockey fans …”

        The franchise shouldn’t have gone there in the first place. Should have been relocated first chance….. Gary skipped first chance; second chance; 3rd, 4th…… etc etc etc

        Bad decision then, followed by continued umpteen same bad decisions

        He allowed (to the pain and discontent of all players, 31 owners; fans everywhere; and to the NHL cable and TV partners ) them to play in front of 4,600 fans for 4 years with the “promise” that in 4 years things (attendance and HRR etc) will be like many of the other franchises

        When the politicians of Tempe said they will only allow it if the people of Tempe [referendum] say yes…. Gary said…. “The voters of Tempe will decide if the Coyotes will stay in Arizona”

        Well Gary….. they decided NO…. HELL NO….. No way Jose…. Close to 60% said 👎👎

        But Gary didn’t listen to his advisers when the original move happened

        He wouldn’t listen when every single subsequent economic projection was worse than the previous one

        He made a mistake; won’t admit his mistake; and is costing players and owners $M and $M and $M and $M; and continues to push the atrocity on everybody just because he will not admit his mistake…..and owners can’t fire him…. 8 rule over 24…. And Gary has been tight (personally) with a 1/2 dozen or so ; since he started. They won’t go against their “friend”

        ANY other commissioner would have moved the franchise by now

        And now that Tempe residents have spoken…. Gary needs to let their decision hold (as he promised last fall); move the franchise; let everybody win while subsequently expanding the game

  3. I think fans would have been more interested if Vegas had faced some other team from the east, Florida just have no history, Vegas actually has.

  4. I think fans would have been more interested if Vegas had faced some other team from the east, Florida just have no history, Vegas actually has.

    • Regarding the viewership. Some game will need to be bottom of the pile. Next years could be the most watched ever.

      Lopsided series. Southern teams, small fan bases. (Which grow due to teams appearing in the finals)

      Lack of marketed superstars. J. Eichle isn’t one. Tkachuk is hated more than appreciated haha.

      • Hated … unless he plays for the team of choice.

      • The SCF is between the two teams who WON they’re series matchups, so I don’t pay attention to sour grapes coming from fans who complain about “who was in the final” The solution is if you want your team in the SCF simply WIN your games and stop whining it’s not a popularity contest…@Pengy the owners will let Gary G know where and when they want the Coyotes to move he doesn’t decide that, so complain about the owners they stir the drink.

      • Hi Rob

        Unfortunately that is not true

        8 owners control the whole enchilada

        Gary can’t get fired unless there are 25 (of 32) signing off…. It’s in his contract

        It is him and him alone that wants it to stay in Arz…. And only because moving them means he’d be admitting that he made a mistake …. Which he won’t do. It’s the same with him keeping Paros on. Doing the logical and bringing in a new Head of DOPS would mean Gary admitting he is wrong…, his ego will not allow it

        Even Meureli gains with team moving….

        (A) if he keeps team and pays $400 M in Relo fees; the value of the team automatically increases by more than $400 M; AND he immediately turns annual loses into very large annual profits; OR

        (B) if he sells….. rids all debt from thr franchise; sells at massivd gain over purchase; wipes hands clean; re-invests (proceeds from sale) into something; ANYTHING; that actually has a positive return

        All other owners gain (split relo fees; split (with players) the very large bump in HRR (Houston Yotes vs Temp Yotes);

        All players gain…. More HRR; none have to play in front of only 4,600 (yes Eastern teams only have to do it once.,..but that’s one time too many)

        TV viewership goes up

        Economic spillout …. Positive

        Game grows

        More fans

        So yes, owners want this relo. Gary doesn’t

        It’s completely dusheartening

        I stick by my statement that ig would be better for all owners to pay Gary $50 M right now; to retire

        They pay $50 M but immediately split $400 M (relo fees) when nee commish is sworn in

    • Vegas has existed for 6 years. Florida has existed for 30 years. Who has history and who doesn’t?

  5. Now the questions become, does Ekman-Larsson get a contract offer on or after July 1? And if Bunting is cut loose, where is his most likely destination?

    • Ekman-Larsson can talk with other teams and reach an agreement before July 1. The deal wouldn’t be officially announced until noon ET on July 1.

      • So then the question becomes, when it’s announced shortly after the opening of free agency, which team (if any) will it be … and for how much and how long? He turns 32 in July.

        As for Bunting, if cut loose I can see him signing in Seattle.

      • I would be very surprised if someone doesn’t pick him up George. Still an NHL D-man who played over 20 min last year. The year before he was actually quite good. Just not at over $8M.

        I would think a good team with a cap problem, who wants a vet swiss army knife type of d-man. I think there is a chance he plays very well for a team that doesn’t ask him to do too much.

        Unless he wants to go play back home or something.

  6. For sure a team will take a 1 year flyer on Oliver at around million or less

    • I like him. Sign him on the cheap and flip him at the deadline if nothing else.

  7. SOP

    Someone will probably do just that

  8. Some class act that Dana White is, eh?

  9. Dana hit the nail on the head. The league is run like crap from marketing to players safety (run by a goon). Marketing’ lets cover everything not hockey related and wonder why viewership is down.

  10. Looks like the Canucks are going to go the Re-tool route….
    Now getting some cap space from the OEL buy out,
    with OEL play now on the down slide he will only get a 1 year deal somewhere maybe $750,000 to $1.M range….

  11. OEL for sure will get interest and will sign somewhere… it’s how much and how long; not IF he gets signed

    $1.5 M comes with only cash risk and a measly $0.3 M Cap risk (the rest can be buried); it’ll be more than that

    Those thinking that he won’t get an offer…. Have very short memories…..

    The worst player ever to play D in the NHL was bought out; and was signed as a UFA…. By 3 (Three) different teams ; in subsequent years; one actually trading for him to get him back!!!!

    Now, all 3 of those contracts were between league min and Cap bury level…. But he actually got a contract; AFTER ruining an entire team; personally getting his team defeated in the playoffs; and being bought out

    With that Pedigree and outcome….. for sure OEL gets a contract

    What is the strangest thing…. This costly buyout is done with the blessing of the same guy who continuously lauded and waited way too long (to buyout the other D man) when he was in his previous position/franchise

    Every one of the other 30 (don’t include Yotes) should easily have no issue offering him 2@ $1.2 M…. It can all get buried if needs be

    What he gets for next year is the TBD; not whether he’ll be playing

    He just lost $9.6 M total (gross)…. But would have had to play another 4 years to get that had he stayed

    Setting aside after tax…. 4 @ $2.4 M makes him whole; comes with Cap risk of 4 years at $1.2 M that can’t be buried; if he completely stinks

    Best for him is s 1 year $2 M “show me” contract to play on a team of his liking

    Proves himself…. Then at 33 he can re-up or go UFA and likely get at least 3 @ $4 m (financially better off than if he’d stayed as a ‘Nuck

    Dubas…. Buyout Granlund; Nylander takes his bottom 6 spot (not as a C, just spot); offer OEL 1 @ $2M, bury Rutta; never ever play CR…. Pens net a Cap savings; become better; bigger; faster; stronger overall…… waaaaaaaay better at D. *Note—- this is with the understanding that Dumo is not re-upped

  12. Canucks wanted to buy out OEL, just not this year. He never played like a $7 mil + player for them, but was a decent defenceman his first year. Having his foot broken at the world’s, screwed up the new management’s calculations. Last season OEL was pretty bad, having been brought back to showcase him too early and having exactly the opposite consequences. He should have been returned only when he was fully recovered. Bad, bad decision. Together with not apparently being able to trade Garland, they were left in a narrow box with only one bad choice.