NHL Rumor Mill – December 1, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – December 1, 2020

An update on Patrik Laine plus recent Blackhawks and Red Wings speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Ken Wiebe prefaced his latest mailbag segment by wondering if the Winnipeg Jets could attempt to trade Patrik Laine to the Seattle Kraken if unable to sign him to a new contract. The 22-year-old winger becomes a restricted free agent with arbitration rights next summer.

Could Winnipeg Jets winger Patrik Laine end up with the Seattle Kraken next summer? (NHL Images)

Wiebe believes few teams could afford to pay Laine a hefty long-term salary or the type of return the Jets would seek. The Kraken, however, enter the league next summer unencumbered by the salary-cap constraints faced by the other clubs. Laine could prove a tempting star to build around.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wiebe is merely kicking around a theory here. We don’t know what the Jets will do with Laine or what Kraken GM Ron Francis might do if the winger hit the trade block next offseason. Nevertheless, it could be something worth monitoring as next summer’s expansion draft draws near.

Wiebe goes on to suggest there could be some unresolved issues between Laine and the Jets. However, there’s no concrete evidence suggesting the two sides have reached the point of no return and a trade becomes inevitable.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those issues are likely Laine’s rumored unhappiness over his role with the Jets. His agent suggested weeks ago his client might be better off playing for a club that would provide him first-line minutes.

It’s believed the Jets brought back Paul Stastny to address that issue. However, that will depend upon whether those two can rekindle their offensive chemistry from Stastny’s brief appearance with the club in 2018.

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: In a recent mailbag segment, Charlie Roumeliotis was asked how the Blackhawks will address a surplus of players on their roster if everyone is healthy to start the season.

If Dylan Strome is re-signed and Andrew Shaw and Zack Smith are medically cleared to play, the Blackhawks will have 15 forwards and only 12 spots available. A healthy Brent Seabrook will also result in a crowded blue line with prospects like Ian Mitchell and Wyatt Kalynuk hoping to crack the roster.

As of now, the Blackhawks intend to let training camp sort itself out. If a player gets squeezed out, that’s when a trade could be explored.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Shaw (head) and Smith (back) appear headed for LTIR. Seabrook claims he’s fully recovered from shoulder and hip surgeries and intends to play. The Hawks have the option of demoting one or two lower-salaried players if they have a fully healthy roster. If they go the trade route they could seek a draft pick or prospect.

NHL.COM: Nicholas J. Cotsonika reports Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman will continue trying to find ways to improve his roster for 2020-21. He acknowledged his club’s restrictions in trying to improve each season, pointing out it’s not as simple as swinging trades for a bunch of good players and signing a bunch of free agents.

Yzerman, however, didn’t rule out making moves before the start of the season. He’s aiming to improve in the short term while maintaining flexibility for long-term growth.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Yzerman proved last season he’s willing to use the trade market to bolster his rebuilding club. One of those moves netted Robby Fabbri, who become one of the few brights spots for the Wings amid an otherwise miserable season.

Cap Friendly indicates the Wings have over $9 million in cap space for 2020-21. If the right opportunity presents itself, Yzerman could use some of that cap room to perhaps add a player who could address some of their short and long-term needs.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 1, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 1, 2020

The latest on the stalled return-to-play talks between the NHL and NHLPA in today’s morning coffee headlines.

TSN: Darren Dreger reports the NHL still has Jan. 1 as its target date for starting the season but it is looking at a later date. They’re also looking at starting up training camp following the holidays in late December or early January. He also reports league commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr resumed discussions over the weekend and those talks continued on Monday. Dreger suggested a mid-January start is the likely target date.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman (right) and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr (NHL.com).

Dreger also said the players remain unhappy over the league’s proposals for increased escrow and salary deferral rates. Some of them wonder why Bettman did offer up some sort of give-back from the owners before requesting another increase in those rates. He believes there’s still a lot of work to be done to reach common ground.

Jeff O’Neill ultimately believes the players will accept the league’s requests. Otherwise, they won’t play and won’t get paid for this season.

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch cites NHL insider John Shannon reporting sources from the NHL and NHLPA confirm there have been discussions but no progress on revisiting this summer’s Memorandum of Understanding on the CBA extension.

Facing the prospect of starting the season with empty arenas due to COVID-19, the league is requesting another $300 million in savings from the players in the form of increased escrow and salary deferral rates. Garrioch points out the players have every right to kick the can down the road on escrow, but if they don’t more now they’ll have to do so in the latter years of the deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The good news is that at least Bettman and Fehr have resumed discussions. Dreger’s report also indicates the league is leaning toward a more realistic potential start date most of us anticipated for the season.

TORONTO STAR: Kevin McGran predicts it will take four weeks from the time an agreement is reached until the puck drops on the season. If it’s reached by early January the season could open in early February and conclude in late June.

McGran also reports Bettman kept the NHL owners out of this summer’s negotiations on the MOU extension to the CBA. The owners unanimously endorse it and it’s believed some did so solely on the commissioner’s recommendation. Having read the MOU after its ratification, some owners aren’t happy with it.

It could cost each team $150 million in operating costs for this season. Some owners have apparently told Bettman they would be better off financially by not playing. The players, meanwhile, aren’t happy with the league’s requests to lower their salaries from the agreed-upon 72 percent for this season to 55 percent.

McGran believes the players will ultimately bend because the CBA allows the league to suspend a season based on circumstances beyond its control. It’s in the financial best interest of the players to play.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Under the CBA, the players are entitled to no more than 50 percent of hockey-related revenue. Thus, it would make sense for the players to give back now to avoid paying back more down the road.

The New York Post’s Larry Brooks last week argued the adoption of annual escrow caps coupled with unlinking the cap from actual HRR ended the assurance of a 50-50 split. That’s likely coming from the PA given Brooks’ sources within the union. I doubt that’s going to fly with the NHL owners.

The consensus among pundits is the players will have to agree to Bettman’s requests but the league will have to include a sweetener to make it enticing to the players. Plenty of suggestions have been bandied about but paying back the deferred salary with interest appears the best option. We’ll see what transpires in the coming weeks.

THE PROVINCE: Dr. Brian Conway, president and medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre, believes the NHL could minimize the type of COVID-19 outbreaks currently seen among NFL teams. He advocates adopting the NBA’s strict training camp virus prevention and detection protocols.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The league crafted its strict test policies for this summer’s return-to-play postseason plan by observing what worked and what didn’t with other sports leagues. I daresay they’ll follow the same plan to make adjustments for a regular-season schedule.










NHL Might Have To Bend In Stalemate With Players

NHL Might Have To Bend In Stalemate With Players

 










NHL Rumor Mill – November 30, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 30, 2020

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.

New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal (NHL Images).

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.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 30, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 30, 2020

The latest on Evander Kane, Tyson Barrie, Austin Watson and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane (NHL Images).

  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.










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – November 29, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – November 29, 2020

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 remains the top player available in the NHL UFA market (NHL Images).

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.