NHL Might Have To Bend In Stalemate With Players
A look at the latest speculation involving some of the remaining notable restricted free agents in today’s NHL rumor mill.
SPORTSNET: Luke Fox recently examined the status of several notable remaining restricted free agents following the Tampa Bay Lightning signing Mikhail Sergachev and the Boston Bruins signing Jake DeBrusk last week.
Mathew Barzal remains atop the list. Fox reminds us New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello promised to match any offer sheet for the 23-year-old center.
Lamoriello has limited cap space but will garner some extra wiggle room with defenseman Johnny Boychuk headed for LTIR following a career-ending eye injury. It’s believed the Isles GM prefers locking up Barzal for around $7.5 million annually. Barzal reportedly is considering a team-friendly deal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Like most general managers with key RFAs still to sign, Lamoriello could be waiting for official confirmation of a start date for this season before getting Barzal under contract. It’s not unusual for negotiations with a top RFA to stretch out until the start of training camp and sometimes into the opening days of camp.
Following the Sergachev signing, Anthony Cirelli’s agent said there was nothing new to report on contract talks with the Lightning. The cap-strapped club must shed salary to re-sign Cirelli and fellow RFA Erik Cernak and become cap compliant whenever the season begins.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Lightning are trying to move winger Tyler Johnson and his $5.5 million annual average value. There’s also speculation winger Alex Killorn ($4.45 million) could be a cost-cutting trade candidate.
Contract talks between Pierre-Luc Dubois and the Columbus Blue Jackets have stalled but GM Jarmo Kekalainen isn’t concerned. He pointed out Zach Werenski’s contract was signed right before training camp last year.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $9 million in cap space (stick tap to Cap Friendly), the Jackets have plenty of room to accommodate a new deal for Dubois. That’s without placing injured winger Gustav Nyquist ($5.5 million) on LTIR.
Fox speculates New Jersey Devils goaltender MacKenzie Blackwood may wish to use Columbus’ Elvis Merzlikins’ two-year, $8 million bridge contract as a starting point.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Devils have plenty of cap space to re-sign Blackwood and fellow RFA Jesper Bratt. They’ll get it sorted by training camp.
St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong said he and the Vince Dunn camp intend to wait until close to training camp to sign an extension. Placing sidelined forwards Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Steen on LTIR will free up cap room to sign the 23-year-old defenseman.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: After watching Alex Pietrangelo depart via free agency last month, some Blues fans are concerned over why it’s taking so long to get Dunn signed. Now we know why. They’ll get a deal done.
The Winnipeg Jets have reportedly shopped forward Jack Roslovic during this off-season in search of a top-four, left-side defenseman.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some might scoff at the notion of Roslovic fetching that type of return. However, the Jets could target a club in need of shedding cap space. The Jets are above the cap by $697K but are expected to place sidelined center Bryan Little ($5.29 million) on LTIR, giving them sufficient space to swap Roslovic for a decent rearguard.
The latest on Evander Kane, Tyson Barrie, Austin Watson and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane took to Twitter yesterday to challenge Jake Paul to a fight after Paul knocked out former NBA player Nate Robinson in the undercard of Saturday’s boxing match between aging fighters Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr.
THE SCORE: Kane’s challenge to Paul prompted taunts from Vegas Golden Knights winger Ryan Reaves and his brother Jordan, who plays for the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders. Reaves has a longstanding rivalry with Kane.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sunday was definitely a slow day for hockey news. With the American Thanksgiving weekend now over, here’s hoping we see some definitive news this week on whether the NHL and NHLPA can resolve their escrow and salary deferral differences and reach a decision on a truncated season.
NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz believes Tyson Barrie has a great opportunity with the Edmonton Oilers to bolster his stock after last season’s disappointing performance with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Barrie signed a one-year, $3.75 million contract with the Oilers last month. The puck-moving blueliner will be eligible for unrestricted free agent status next summer. A bounce-back effort will not only improve his free-agent value but could also entice the Oilers into re-signing him.
OTTAWA SUN: Austin Watson is looking forward to a fresh start with the rebuilding Senators. The 28-year-old forward was acquired from the Nashville Predators last month.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Larry Carriere is stepping away from the Canadiens front office after 10 seasons to explore other options. He’s spent 42 years in pro hockey, seven as a player and the rest in scouting, coaching and front-office roles with the Buffalo Sabres, Washington Capitals and the Canadiens.
CTV EDMONTON: The government of Alberta paid $4 million to the NHL during the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs to advertise in the city of Edmonton. It was seen as an opportunity to showcase the province to millions of viewers from outside Alberta.
Updates on the remaining notable unrestricted free agents in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.
SPORTSNET: Emily Sadler recently updated the status of the top remaining NHL unrestricted free agents. She noted the UFA market is at a standstill given the uncertainty over the season.
Mike Hoffman still tops the list of available talent. Sadler noted the Nashville Predators were believed to have an interest in the winger. The Boston Bruins, Columbus Blue Jackets, Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils could use more scoring.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators, Jackets and Devils have the cap space to sign Hoffman to the one-year deal he’s seeking worth between $5.5 million and $6 million. If they are interested in him, however, they’re likely playing the waiting game hoping he’ll lower his asking price. Once we know when (if?) the season will begin, perhaps he’ll sign with one of them.
Sadler believes teams that fail to sign Hoffman could turn their focus toward winger Mikael Granlund. The annual average value on his previous contract was $5.75 million but he’ll have to accept less than that now.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Granlund will likely have to accept a lot less given the current economic situation and the decline in his production over the last two seasons. He could be looking at offers of $2.5 million on a one-year deal.
Travis Hamonic’s Manitoba roots, combined with the Jets’ need for blueline depth, makes Winnipeg a potential match. Sadler also suggested the Calgary Flames could use him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets are above the salary cap by over $697K but could have the wiggle room to add Hamonic (if they wish) by placing Bryan Little and his $5.29 million cap hit on LTIR. I don’t think we’ll see a reunion between Hamonic and the Flames unless he agrees to a substantial pay cut.
Sadler pointed out winger Anthony Duclair is currently training in Arizona with such notables as Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Matt Dumba and Jonathan Toews.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That might help Duclair’s value if he’s training with some of the league’s top stars. As Sadler points out, he appears determined to be at his best for the coming season.
Noting Ilya Kovalchuk’s brief but successful stint with the Canadiens, Sadler wonders if a return to Montreal is possible.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That ship sailed when the Habs acquired Josh Anderson and signed Tyler Toffoli last month.
The Vancouver Canucks could still be searching for a defenseman. Sadler suggested Sami Vatanen as a possible fit.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks are over the cap by $1.5 million but could get some relief if Micheal Ferland’s post-concussion issues put him on LTIR. His annual average value is $3.5 million, giving the Canucks some room to add Vatanen or another defenseman at an affordable price.
The latest on the return-to-play stalemate between the league and the players in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks suggests the NHL should ask the expansion Seattle Kraken for a $300 million advance on their $650 million expansion fee instead of attempting to pry that amount from the players through increased escrow and/or salary deferral rates.
The league apparently needs that much to proceed with the 2020-21 season. It is seeking an additional 16 percent salary deferral and an additional five percent in escrow from the players, who rejected those requests citing the agreed-upon rates in the CBA extension ratified in July.
Brooks points out Kraken owners David Bonderman and Jeff Bruckheimer have a combined net worth of $5 billion. He feels they can afford an advance on their team’s expansion fee so the NHL won’t face the possibility of reneging on a four-month-old labor agreement and risking accusations of unfair labor practices.
Failing that, Brooks suggests it’s up to the league and the PA to renegotiate so the players get something in return for deferring more of their salaries for this season, such as getting that money back with interest down the road. He feels neither side can afford to let the season go, pointing out the league needs to complete the final year of its media rights and TV contract with NBC Sports so it can negotiate a new deal starting in 2021-22 with perhaps multiple partners, including a streaming service.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Brooks is a good source for NHLPA information so I wouldn’t be surprised if some or all of this is coming from the union. Asking the Kraken for an advance on their expansion fee seems more reasonable than squeezing the players for more giveback. However, the existing teams’ owners might prefer having that money go directly into their pockets rather than putting it toward staging this season.
FORBES: Eric Macramalla suggests the league’s proposals for increased escrow and salary deferrals make sense. Requesting amendments to a ratified agreement is a big deal but the league considers its financial assumptions have dramatically changed and cannot be sufficiently addressed within the framework of the CBA extension.
The absence of fans has likely changed the equation for the NHL. Macramalla feels the league didn’t anticipate the absence of fans in arenas for an entire season. The PA is banking on an additional $1 billion in revenue by having some fans attending some of the games at some point in the schedule. However, that doesn’t seem too likely.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The league supposedly took into account a worst-case scenario of no fans throughout the season when it agreed to the CBA extension with the players. The fact they’re now asking for more money from the players suggests they either miscalculated what the worst case would look like or just didn’t take it seriously.
Perhaps the NHL’s requests would’ve been better received by the players if it had a good working relationship with the PA. Because of decades of contentious labor negotiations, the players are understandably wary of the league’s intentions and reluctant to give back more than they already have.
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The Flyers loaning winger Michael Raffl to an Austrian League team suggests the NHL might not be starting the 2020-21 season on Jan. 1 as it originally planned.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dropping the puck on Jan. 1 requires the league to sort out its aforementioned squabble with the NHLPA. Assuming that’s done by the end of this week, it will have to move quickly to reach that target date. Otherwise, that date will be pushed to mid-January or early February.
SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Despite the recent COVID-19 outbreaks, one of Canada’s leading infectious diseases specialists feels the NHL could return to play if health protocols are strictly followed. Dr. Isaac Bogoch, who advised the NHLPA leading up to this summer’s return-to-play plan, pointed out there would be a problem at NHL rinks as those are set up with systems that adhere to public health measures. However, the players would have to be vigilant when out in their communities.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The need for vigilance was highlighted by several members of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Vegas Golden Knights recently testing positive for COVID-19.
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: If the NHL season begins on Jan. 1, the Sharks will have to stage their training camp outside of San Jose. Santa Clara County has ruled all contact sports will be temporarily prohibited for the next three weeks.
Will the Blue Jackets shop for a scoring forward? Who could become trade bait if the Sharks become a lottery team again? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.
NHL.COM: Tom Gulitti wondered if the Columbus Blue Jackets will add a scoring forward before the start of 2020-21. It will depend upon the cost of re-signing Pierre-Luc Dubois because they’d prefer to know how much salary-cap space they’ll have once the 22-year-old center is under contract.
The Jackets have an opening on their second line with winger Gustav Nyquist out 5-6 months recovering from shoulder surgery. They’ll explore internal options but general manager Jarmo Kekalainen didn’t rule out signing a forward if the right opportunity presents itself and they have the flexibility to do so. Wingers Mike Hoffman and Mikael Granlund remain available in the unrestricted free-agent market.
NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz cited NHL insider Elliotte Friedman recently saying the Jackets tried to move forward Brandon Dubinsky’s contract. Friedman also speculated they could be among the clubs that looked at Hoffman and/or Granlund.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As per Cap Friendly, the Jackets have over $9.2 million in cap space. That’s more than enough to re-sign Dubois. Kekalainen has downplayed how long it’s taking to get the center signed, pointing out many notable RFAs usually aren’t signed until close to training camp.
Assuming it costs $6 million annually to sign Dubois, the Jackets would have around $3 million to add an affordable forward. They could get additional wiggle room to exceed the cap by placing Nyquist and his $5.5 million annual average value on long-term injury reserve, though they’d have to shed salary to become cap compliant if he returns during the season.
Kekalainen also hinted earlier in the offseason that Dubinsky ($5.85 million) could also end up on LTIR owing to a nagging wrist injury. Perhaps he’ll try to trade Dubinsky’s contract to a cap-strapped club in hopes of landing something worthwhile in return.
Hoffman reportedly seeks a one-year contract between $5.5 million and $6.5 million. His agent claimed 13 teams expressed various degrees of interest in his client. Most could be playing the waiting game hoping he’ll drop his asking price. The Jackets could be among them. Granlund might be a more affordable option.
THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Kevin Kurz was asked which member of the San Jose Sharks could be traded (apart from Brent Burns or Marc-Edouard Vlasic) if they’re a lottery club in 2020-21.
He doesn’t see any circumstance under which the Sharks would trade Tomas Hertl. Burns has a three-team trade list and Vlasic a full no-movement clause, making it very difficult to attempt to move either player. Kurz, however, speculates Burns might be open to moving if he believes the Sharks will struggle for the next couple of seasons, “especially with his beard buddy (Joe Thornton) now in Toronto.”
If the Sharks become sellers, Kurz feels the most likely trade candidates are pending UFAs like Devan Dubnyk, Stefan Noesen, Matt Nieto, Marcus Sorensen or maybe Patrick Marleau again.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sharks GM Doug Wilson is counting on his club to stage a bounce-back performance and be a playoff contender this season. If they’re not, the UFA selloff will begin as the deadline approaches. I agree with Kurz that they won’t move Hertl. I also doubt Burns and Vlasic will be going anywhere.
If Burns agreed to be moved his contract and age work against him. He turns 36 in March, his production dropped sharply last season (from 83 points in 2018-19 to just 45 in 70 games) and he’s carrying an $8 million AAV for five more years. Unless the Sharks agreed to pick up a healthy chunk of his cap hit, I don’t see many clubs agreeing to take on that contract. The same goes for the 33-year-old Vlasic and his $7 million AAV for six more years.