NHL Rumor Mill – July 13, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – July 13, 2020

Check out the latest on the Canucks and Bruins in today’s NHL rumor mill.

A FLAT SALARY CAP WILL SQUEEZE THE CANUCKS

SPORTSNET: Iain MacIntyre reports the salary cap remaining at $81.5 million exacerbates the Vancouver Canucks’ already difficult cap payroll issues. They have over $65 million invested in 15 players for 2020-21, leaving $16.3 million for another seven or eight players. Their unrestricted free agents include Jacob Markstrom, Tyler Toffoli, Chris Tanev, and Josh Leivo, while Troy Stecher, Jake Virtanen, Adam Gaudette, and Tyler Motte are restricted.

The Vancouver Canucks face difficult decisions with free agents such as Jacob Markstrom (Photo via NHL Images).

Unless general manager Jim Benning convinces veteran winger Loui Eriksson to terminate his contract, MacIntyre believes it could be impossible for the Canucks to retain their important players. He suggests at least two-thirds of their cap space could go toward re-signing Markstrom and Toffoli. They could get some cap relief if Micheal Ferland (concussion) starts next season on long-term injury reserve, but he’s in training camp attempting to come back.

The NHL’s financial landscape makes it almost impossible to trade contracts like Eriksson’s or Brandon Sutter’s, but Benning might find a taker for Jordie Benn’s $2 million cap hit. The Canucks could be forced to choose between Markstrom or Toffoli, letting Tanev depart via free agency, make Stecher a UFA by not qualifying his rights, or trading Virtanen. The nuclear option would be trading winger Brock Boeser ($5.875 million annual average value), but MacIntyre is skeptical about that move.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Thomas Drance recently suggested the Canucks attempt to re-sign Markstrom and Toffoli to matching $5.5 million AAVs and letting Tanev depart as a free agent. He acknowledged that would only leave over $6 million for the remainder.

It’s been suggested Benning attach a sweetener like a high draft pick or top prospect in a package deal to Eriksson once his signing bonus is paid out by mid-month to make him enticing in the trade market. That would leave only $5 million in actual salary over the remaining two years of his contract. Finding a club with the cap space to take on that cap hit was going to be difficult under normal circumstances. It will be more challenging now.

Boeser’s name surfaced over the weekend as one of the many options the Canucks were reportedly exploring. Just because Benning and his staff may have kicked that one around doesn’t mean they’re going to go that route. Trading Boeser is probably the last resort. 

They could also buy out the final season of Sutter’s contract. Cap Friendly indicates that would provide them with over $2.33 million in savings for next season.

UPDATE ON THE BRUINS

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Joe Haggerty reports Bruins GM Don Sweeney admits facing some difficult decisions with his free agents under a flat salary cap. Pending UFA Torey Krug and RFA Jake DeBrusk could command a combined $10 million to re-sign. The Bruins must also find new contracts for Zdeno Chara, Anders Bjork, Matt Grzelcyk, and others.

Sweeney isn’t ruling out negotiating with his free agents during Phase 3 and Phase 4 of the return-to-play plan. However, he won’t be overly aggressive given the uncertainty over how player contracts will be affected going forward.

Haggerty points out the Bruins will see cap space opening over the next two seasons as David Krejci and Tuukka Rask become unrestricted free agents. For now, however, Sweeney could be forced to choose between Krug or DeBrusk.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Haggerty also wonders if Krug might be willing to accept less on a short-term deal to stay in Boston and wait out the financial fallout for all pro sports over the next couple of years. It would provide the Bruins ($63.5 million invested in 18 players for ’20-’21) with some invaluable wiggle room. Krug hinted about accepting a hometown discount last fall. He might give it serious consideration if he doesn’t find offers to his liking in the UFA market. 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 13, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 13, 2020

Teams begin to announce their training-camp rosters, at least three Montreal Canadiens test positive for COVID-19, plus updates on Max Domi, Auston Matthews, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Multiple clubs revealed their training-camp rosters for Phase 3 of the return-to-play plan. They include the Arizona Coyotes, Boston Bruins, Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Edmonton Oilers, Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Vegas Golden Knights, Washington Capitals, and Winnipeg Jets.

The Chicago Blackhawks, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, and St. Louis Blues have yet to announce their training-camp rosters.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: You can find the full rosters by following the link above. The other clubs will likely reveal their rosters later today.

TSN: Cites a report from The Athletic’s Arpon Basu stating at least three Montreal Canadiens players have tested positive for COVID-19. The team and the NHL declined to comment, citing the league’s COVID-19 disclosure policy.

Montreal Canadiens forward Max Domi (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those three positives occurred during the league’s Phase 2 voluntary workout phase. We have no idea which players were involved and when those positive tests took place. We’ll likely get a better idea about the identity of those players when the Habs take to the ice today for mandatory training camp.

With over 700 players on 24 teams spread out in their respective home cities starting today for Phase 3, we could see an increase in positive tests over the next two weeks. How high that number rises could determine the fate of the playoff tournament under Phase 4.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens forward Max Domi will wait seven-to-10 days before deciding if he’ll join his teammates for training camp. As a type-1 diabetic with celiac disease, Domi is a greater risk for COVID-19.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t blame Domi for his caution, especially in the light of the news of three teammates testing positive. It’ll be understandable if he opts-out of participating in the return-to-play plan.

TVA SPORTS: Speaking of the Canadiens, young defenseman Alexander Romanov is expected to sign an entry-level contract with the club. He could practice and travel with the Habs, but cannot participate in the Phase 4 playoff tournament. It will also burn off the first year of his entry-level deal.

STARTRIBUNE.COM/NEW YORK POST: The Minnesota Wild are expected to sign winger Kirill Kaprisov and the New York Islanders to sign goaltender Ilya Sorokin to entry-level contracts. Like Romanov, they’ll be allowed to train and travel with their respective NHL clubs but cannot take part in the playoff tournament. They’ll also burn off the first year of their ELCs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The teams want those Russian players locked up to NHL contracts as soon as possible, even if it means they’re ineligible to skate in the upcoming playoffs and burns off the first year of their contracts. It avoids the risk of those three opting to stay in the KHL for next season and allows them the opportunity to ease into their new NHL rosters.

THE SCORE: Good news for the Toronto Maple Leafs, as center Auston Matthews is fit to play and will join his teammates in training camp today. Matthews reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 in May and self-isolated at his off-season home in Arizona.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Matthews is the only player to be named in the media as testing positive, though the league and the Leafs declined to comment. It’ll be interesting to see if Matthews addresses the report with the press. I doubt he will give the league’s policy on players’ medical information.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins reserve defenseman Zach Trotman isn’t expected to participate in the return-to-play plan.

THE DETROIT NEWS: Because Edmonton Oilers defenseman Mike Green is opting out of participating in the return-to-play plan, the Detroit Red Wings will receive the Oilers’ fourth-round pick. It’s part of the deal that saw the Wings trade Green to the Oilers at the trade deadline in February.

NHL.COM: The Carolina Hurricanes hired former NHL player Peter Harrold as a skills coach.

 










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – July 12, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – July 12, 2020

Three teams and five pending UFAs hurt the most by a flat cap in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.

SPORTSNET: Rory Boylen listed the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay Lightning, and St. Louis Blues as the three teams hurt the most by the salary cap remaining at $81.5 million for 2020-21.

The Leafs have over $76.9 million invested in next season’s cap payroll, the Lightning $76.1 million, and the Blues $79.425 million.

Notable Leafs due for new contracts include Jason Spezza, Kyle Clifford, Travis Dermott, and Ilya Mikheyev. Defensemen Tyson Barrie and Codi Ceci are all but certain to depart via unrestricted free agency. The limited cap room could also be a problem next year when goaltender Frederik Anderson becomes eligible for UFA status.

Could a flat salary cap force the Toronto Maple Leafs to trade William Nylander? (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s widely assumed Leafs general manager Kyle Duba will make a cost-cutting move or two. The Toronto Sun’s Michael Traikos believes a forward like Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, or even William Nylander and his $6.9 million cap hit could be traded in the off-season.

Dubas supposedly promised Nylander he wouldn’t be traded as long as he was the GM, but an unexpected flat cap could provide the perfect excuse. There would be considerable interest in Nylander, but perhaps not that much in his cap hit. 

The Lightning has two good young players in defenseman Mikhail Sergachev and center Anthony Cirelli as restricted free agents in the off-season. A new contract for Cirelli alone could take up all of their cap room. Boylen points out winger Alex Killorn’s full no-trade clause becomes a 16-team no-trade at the end of this season, suggesting the Lightning might have to explore those 14 trade options.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Killorn seems the most likely Lightning trade candidate when this season ends. Some have also suggested Tyler Johnson or Yanni Gourde but they’ve got full no-trade clauses and could be unwilling to waive them.

The Blues will have to make a couple of salary-dumping deals if they hope to re-sign defensemen Alex Pietrangelo and Vince Dunn. Boylen wonders if Colton Parayko, Tyler Bozak, David Perron, or Jake Allen hit the trade block.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Allen seems a likely trade candidate now that Jordan Binnington’s secured his place as the Blues’ No.1 goaltender. Bozak and Perron have modified no-trade clauses. Of the two, the 32-year-old Perron would have more value than the 34-year-old Bozak, but Perron also has two years (at $4 million annually) left on his contract while Bozak has just one year at $5 million.

Lots of clubs would line up to land Parayko but I don’t think Blues GM Doug Armstrong wants to move him. In a recent mailbag segment, Tom Timmermann of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch proposed winger Jaden Schwartz as a possible trade option if the Blues re-sign Pietrangelo.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Speaking of Pietrangelo, Ryan Kennedy recently lists the Blues’ captain among five free agents who could get hurt by the flattened salary cap. The others include Arizona Coyotes winger Taylor Hall, Vancouver Canucks goaltender Jacob Markstrom, Vegas Golden Knights netminder Robin Lehner, and Carolina Hurricanes blueliner Sami Vatanen.

Kennedy speculates those five won’t enjoy the big-money free-agent bonanza they would otherwise get in a normal off-season. Some, like Pietrangelo or Markstrom, might have to accept a hometown discount on short-term deals if they wish to stay with their current clubs. The others might also end up having to accept a shorter term or less money.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: They won’t be the only unrestricted free agents likely to be disappointed by what they’ll likely get in the open market. A few, like Pietrangelo, could still get top dollar but could find those offers coming from rebuilding clubs with plenty of salary-cap space. Those players could be unwilling to join those clubs and instead accept shorter contracts for less money from contenders. 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 12, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 12, 2020

Steven Stamkos to miss training camp, Mike Green and Karl Alzner opt-out of return-to-play plan, more tidbits from the new CBA extension, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: Diana C. Nearhos reports Lightning captain Steven Stamkos suffered a leg injury during recent voluntary workouts and won’t be a full participant when the clubs begin training camp on Monday. General manager Julien BriseBois said Stamkos is expected to be ready when the Bolts begin round-robin play on August 3 in Toronto.

Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos (Photo via NHL Images).

​SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stamkos’ recent injury history will be a concern for the Lightning during the playoff tournament. Nearhos points out he suffered three previous injuries (including two confirmed lower-body) this season.

TSN: Citing family health reasons, Edmonton Oilers defenseman Mike Green has decided to opt-out of the return-to-play tournament.

SPORTSNET’s Chris Johnston reports Montreal Canadiens defenseman Karl Alzner is also opting out. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON:  The Bruins’ Steven Kampfer is also opting out over family health reasons..

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Calgary Flames blueliner Travis Hamonic, Dallas Stars rearguard Roman Polak, and Vancouver Canucks winger Sven Baertschi are also giving it a pass. Players wishing to opt-out without penalty for whatever reason have until 5 pm ET on Monday to so do in writing to the NHLPA and NHL Central Registry.

SPORTSNET: Minnesota Wild defenseman Greg Pateryn is sidelined indefinitely with an upper-body injury.

THE SCORE: Teams participating in the return-to-play plan aren’t permitted to disclose information regarding player injuries or illness. The NHL cites the unique circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. They and the NHLPA are doing so out of respect for an individual player’s right to medical privacy.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That decision will generate plenty of unwanted speculation over a player’s health when he mysteriously goes missing from a game or two or an entire series or the entire tournament, especially if it’s a superstar like Edmonton’s Connor McDavid or Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby. I wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes something that carries over beyond this season.

LAS VEGAS SUN: Jesse Granger reports NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Las Vegas was excluded as a host city for the return-to-play tournament because of rising COVID-19 cases in Nevada.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Daly confirmed what many of us already suspected.

TSN: Mark Masters reports the Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers canceled video conferences scheduled for today to discuss their selection as NHL host cities. The postponement was because the league still has some final details to work out with the Canadian government.

PUCKPEDIA: There’s a special arbitration wrinkle for this off-season only. Within four days of a team walking away from an arbitration award, the team and the player can agree to a contract equal to the offer the team presented at the arbitration hearing. This might give the player an opportunity to rethink things if the arbiter’s award was higher than what the team can afford.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Brad Alberts is the new CEO and president of the Dallas Stars. Former CEO Jim Lites becomes the club’s chairman.

SPORTSNET: The Minnesota Wild hired Judd Brackett as their new director of amateur scouting. Brackett previously held a similar role with the Vancouver Canucks from 2015 until this year, helping them select Elias Petterssen, Brock Boeser, and Quinn Hughes.










NHL Rumor Mill – July 11, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – July 11, 2020

Could the Canucks trade Brock Boeser? What’s the latest on the Devils? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

CANUCKS CONSIDERING A BOESER TRADE?

Could the Vancouver Canucks consider trading Brock Boeser in the off-season? (Photo via NHL Images)

TSN 1040’s Rick Dhaliwal cites colleague Matt Sekeres saying he was told the Vancouver Canucks are exploring the possibility of trading Brock Boeser.

Sekeres added he’s not saying Boeser is being shopped or is on the trade block. Rather, they’re looking at how they’re going to fit everyone within their payroll and Boeser’s $6 million cap hit was one of the things that came up.

THE ATHLETIC’s Thomas Drance believes there are better ways to navigate the cap than jettisoning Boeser’s contract and the Canucks know this. If there’s a Boeser trade after this season, it’ll be motivated by potential return than dumping salary. Drance thinks the Canucks have come to rate Tyler Toffoli more highly.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Interesting speculation heading into the Phase 3 training camp. It could dog Boeser and the Canucks during the playoff tournament.

I agree with Drance that there are better options to free up cap space. Management could be just mulling over all their options at this point.

A solid return for Boeser, however, could prove tempting, especially if they’re trying to keep Toffoli off the UFA market while looking to shore up depth elsewhere in the roster. They could set an expensive asking price,  perhaps a first-round pick and a good young defenseman.

LATEST DEVILS SPECULATION

NJ.COM: Randy Miller reports New Jersey Devils co-owner David Blitzer suggested his club could be among those that benefit from a flat salary cap for next season. The Devils have over $26 million in cap space.

Miller wondered if the Devils could use their cap room to their advantage by signing premium free agents and/or shopping their high draft picks (two first-rounders and a second-rounder) to accelerate their rebuild. Blitzer didn’t seem to rule it that possibility but suggested they could wait until their young core players make some big steps forward in their development.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: In his post-mortem of the Devils season, Matt Larkin speculated they could use their cap space to target a big-ticket free agent. He suggested Florida Panthers winger Mike Hoffman could be a good finisher to player alongside promising center Jack Hughes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Devils are in a great position cap-wise to sign a significant free agent or target cap-strapped clubs looking to off-load salary after this season. Whether they go that route remains to be seen.

Ownership seemed to suggest that could take another year or two. With the cap likely to remain flat for 2021-22, they could wait until next summer when they’ve had a full season to evaluate their younger players under new coach Lindy Ruff.

I’m not saying they won’t take advantage of their situation to add a skilled veteran or two, but it might not be a blockbuster move.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 11, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 11, 2020

The NHL and NHLPA ratify the return-to-play plan and the CBA extension, two players opt-out, and more in today’s morning coffee headlines

NHL.COM: The league and the NHLPA yesterday ratified the return-to-play plan and the extension to the collective bargaining agreement.

NHL and NHLPA ratify return-to-play plan and CBA extension (Image via NHL.com).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHLPA vote wasn’t close. TSN’s Frank Seravalli reports 79 percent of the players were in favor (502 to 135). So much for suggestions that a majority wouldn’t approve the plan.

The 24-team playoff tournament will begin on Aug. 1 in Edmonton and Toronto. Training camps will open in each team’s local markets on Monday, July 13.

Critical dates for the tournament and the off-season are as follows:

July 13 – Training camp begins

July 26 – Teams arrive in hub cities

July 28-30 – Exhibition games

August 1 – Best-of-five qualifying round begins

August 10* – Phase 2 of the draft lottery

August 11 – First round of the playoffs begins (all playoff rounds are best-of-seven)

August 25* – Second round of the playoffs begins

September 8* – Conference Finals begins

September 22* – Stanley Cup Final begins

October 4* – Last possible date for playoffs

Oct. 9 – 10* – NHL Draft

*Subject to change

The league has released the tournament schedule. The Eastern Conference qualifier kicks off with the New York Rangers vs the Carolina Hurricanes, the Florida Panthers vs the New York Islanders, and the Montreal Canadiens vs the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Western Conference opens with the Chicago Blackhawks vs the Edmonton Oilers and the Winnipeg Jets vs the Calgary Flames. Broadcast times TBA.

TSN: Bob McKenzie reports the players will have until 5 pm ET Monday, July 13 to opt-out of Phase 3 and Phase 4 of the return-to-play plan for any reason without penalty. They must do so in writing to the NHLPA and NHL Central Registry.

CALGARY SUN: Flames defenseman Travis Hamonic has exercised his right to opt-out, citing the health of his young daughter.

TSN’S Rick Dhaliwal reports Vancouver Canucks winger Sven Baertschi has also opted out.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As TSN’s Pierre LeBrun said, we shouldn’t judge any player who decides not to participate. These are trying times and we should respect their decisions.

NHL.COM: The main details of the CBA extension include:

The salary cap remaining at $81.5 million for 2020-21 and increasing incrementally in the following years if hockey-related revenue reaches certain thresholds,

Escrow deductions from players salaries will be capped at 20 percent for 2020-21, gradually dropping to 6 percent for each of the final three seasons of the agreement,

A year will be added to the CBA (to 2026-27) if the players’ escrow debt for this season exceeds $125 million but is less than $250 million,

Players defer 10 percent of their salaries (including signing bonuses) for 2020-21, which will be repaid in equal installments over three seasons beginning in 2022-23.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s my understanding this will not reduce a team’s salary-cap hit for next season. It’s a reduction in actual salary, not the cap hit.

The one-week interview period for unrestricted free agents has been permanently eliminated,

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, back to the old frenzy of general managers negotiating with player agents starting at noon ET on the opening day of the free-agent market.

All no-trade and no-movement clauses will carry with the player if he agrees to waive it to be traded. Previously, those clauses became inactive once a player agreed to waive it and was moved.

Teams won’t carry a cap charge for a player who signs a 35-and-older contract and subsequently retires before that contract expires.

Teams will no longer include conditions in trades involving the signing of the traded player to a new contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, no conditional draft picks included in the deal. It’s also still to be determined how that might affect conditional trades made before this season’s schedule was interrupted by COVID-19.

Most of the main points were previously reported and duly noted on this site. You can get the full details on the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the CBA extension by following this link. There are, however, several other interesting tidbits:

Teams no longer need to wait until after the trade deadline to re-sign a player to an eight-year contract extension.

Qualifying offers for restricted free agents are no longer equal to the final year’s salary. It will instead be based on the average annual value of the contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: For example, if the player’s AAV was $5 million but the final year of the contract paid him $7.5 million in actual salary, the team only has to tender a QO of $5 million.

Teams can begin to sign restricted free agents and draft picks to contracts for 2020-21 starting Monday, July 13. They can also extend players who are on contracts that expire after the end of the 2020-21 season.

SPORTSNET’s Elliotte Friedman reports teams that incur a performance bonus overage can distribute that penalty over the next two seasons.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Craig Custance reports of a significant change to salary arbitration. Once an arbitration hearing begins, a settlement is not allowed.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In previous years, teams and players could settle following the hearing and before the arbiter reached his decision. This change should encourage both sides to hammer out an agreement before the hearing starts.

TSN: Frank Seravalli reports the MOU contains a paragraph indicating the NHL has the power to pro-rate or cancel salaries outright if forced to cease or reduce operations from conditions arising from a state of war or other causes beyond the league’s control.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seravalli believes it’s likely not the league’s intention to use that clause. Nevertheless, it could go into effect if it is forced to reduce next season’s planned 82-games schedule. Something to keep in mind if that should come to pass given the uncertainty caused by COVID-19.