NHL Morning Coffee Headlines and Rumors – July 30, 2023
MORNING COFFEE HEADLINES
ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski interviewed the NHL Player Association’s new executive director Marty Walsh regarding a variety of topics facing PA and the league. Among the highlights:
Walsh is concerned over whether the NHL’s revenue growth is commensurate with the revenues the league is generating. He also wonders if that growth will put the league’s top stars closer to the salaries of comparable stars in other sports leagues or if it will “unsqueeze” the salaries of veterans whose earnings suffer as a result of salary-cap constraints.
“I’m not being critical, but team franchise wealth is certainly growing at a disproportionate rate compared to what the players are making,” Walsh told Wyshynski. He pointed out there will be more teams that will be worth $1 billion USD within a couple of years, and soon there will be teams worth $2 billion USD.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Walsh acknowledged the flattened salary cap since 2020-21 brought about by COVID-19 has affected player contracts. That’s because of the memorandum of understanding extending the CBA to 2026 where the players agreed to a fixed escrow rate. However, that created an imbalance in the 50-50 revenue split leaving an escrow debt to the owners that the players had to repay.
That debt will be fully repaid at the end of 2023-24 when the salary cap is projected to significantly rise by at least $4 million over the current rate of $83.5 million. It could exceed $92 million by 2025-26.
Walsh is also focusing on creating opportunities for players within the current salary-cap system. He would like them to do more “domestically and internationally” to create more relationships and partnerships to grow the game.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, do more to generate more revenue and that will translate into a higher salary cap and thus more money for the players.
There are concerns on the players’ side that the owners will attempt to put the current 50-50 split in league revenue on the table in the next round of collective bargaining when the current agreement expires in 2026. Walsh, however, doesn’t see the benefit for the owners to attempt to change it, believing it’s better for the league to maintain stability.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some team owners could entertain the notion of tipping more of the revenue share in their favor. However, it will be NHL commissioner Gary Bettman who’ll decide if that’s something the owners’ side will fight for in negotiations. He could agree with Walsh that the current split is working fine for both sides.
Walsh also said he’s working with Bettman and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) regarding NHL participation in the 2026 Milano Cortina Winter Olympics in Italy. He also indicated that the players are keen to participate in the next World Cup of Hockey, which he said is a priority for the PA and the NHL. They would also like to find a way to have the league’s Russian players participate in the World Cup “in some credible way.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The COVID-19 pandemic prevent NHL players from participating in the 2022 Winter Olympics and pushed the World Cup ahead to a potential tournament in February 2025. Nevertheless, it’s been seven years since the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, which was the last international tournament with NHL participation.
Walsh said he hasn’t had conversations yet with the NHL regarding a possible expansion of the regular-season schedule and the playoffs. He also believes there soon needs to be clarity regarding the Arizona Coyotes’ arena situation. Despite the recent ban on specialty warm-up jerseys, Walsh believes there’s an opportunity to revisit this issue down the road.
SUNDAY NHL RUMOR ROUNDUP
THE ATHLETIC: Rob Rossi recently noted that the Pittsburgh Penguins is the only club among those reportedly interested in San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson that hasn’t made a major roster move over the past two weeks.
The Carolina Hurricanes added defenseman Tony DeAngelo and re-signed Sebastian Aho to the largest contract in franchise history. The Toronto Maple Leafs placed oft-injured goaltender Matt Murray on long-term injury reserve, perhaps for the entirety of the 2023-24 season. The Seattle Kraken signed blueliner Vince Dunn to a four-year deal.
Rossi acknowledged those moves might not eliminate those clubs from the Karlsson sweepstakes. However, he also thinks the Penguins’ recent lack of activity hints they could know something about the three-time Norris Trophy winner’s situation that nobody else does.
Noting the upcoming arbitration hearing for Penguins forward Drew O’Connor, Rossi indicated that the club will have a 48-hour window to buy out a contract beginning 72 hours after a ruling or a settlement with O’Connor.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My theory is Penguins hockey ops president (and acting general manager) Kyle Dubas will buy out a contract, perhaps that of winger Mikael Granlund. Cap Friendly indicates it will provide the Penguins with over $4.1 million in cap space for the coming season, which could prove invaluable in pulling off what is expected to be a complicated trade to acquire Karlsson.
BALLY SPORTS MIDWEST’s Andy Strickland reported Vladimir Tarasenko had a four-year offer from the Ottawa Senators worth $5.5 million annually earlier in free agency. The 31-year-old winger also received one-year offers worth $5.25 million from the Hurricanes and Sharks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tarasenko signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Senators last Thursday.
WINNIPEG SUN: Scott Billeck recently weighed in on the Jets’ logjam on defense. He doesn’t expect the club to move out a veteran such as Nate Schmidt or Neal Pionk to make room for younger defensemen such as Logan Stanley, Ville Heinola, Kyle Capobianco and Declan Chisholm. That won’t help the club develop those blueliners but it won’t help the Jets in their current “win-now” mode to trade a veteran rearguard.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That could change if the Jets are out of playoff contention by midseason.