NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 27, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 27, 2020

The latest on Anthony Cirelli, Ilya Samsonov and Alexis Lafreniere plus updates on return-to-play and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports it doesn’t appear a new contract is imminent for Anthony Cirelli. The 23-year-old Tampa Bay Lightning center is a restricted free agent. Earlier this week, the Lightning re-signed defenseman Mikhail Sergachev but Cirelli’s agent said there’s nothing new to report on a new deal for his client.

Tampa Bay Lightning center Anthony Cirelli (NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Lightning are above the $81.5 million salary cap by $1.904 million following the Sergachev signing. The Bolts are allowed to exceed the cap by 10 percent during the offseason but perhaps general manager Julien BriseBois intends to shed salary before signing Cirelli and fellow RFA Erik Cernak.

Given the uncertainty over the start of the 2020-21 NHL season, BriseBois has plenty of time to get Cirelli and Cernak under contract and shed some salary to become cap compliant when the season finally begins.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals professional development coach Olaf Kolzig isn’t worried about Ilya Samsonov replacing the departed Braden Holtby as the club’s starting goaltender. “I think Sammy has the ability to be like (Andrei) Vasilevskiy,” said Kolzig, referring to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s starter. Vasilevskiy won the Vezina Trophy in 2019 and backstopped the Bolts to the 2020 Stanley Cup.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As a former Vezina Trophy winner, Kolzig would know if Samsonov has the potential to play as well as Vasilevskiy. The young netminder showed considerable promise as a rookie last season, often outplaying Holtby before an injury kept him out of the 2020 playoffs. He’ll be under considerable pressure this season but that should be alleviated by offseason signing Henrik Lundqvist.

THE SCORE: Scott Salmond, Hockey Canada’s senior VP of national teams, suggested it’s not out of the question for Alexis Lafreniere to join Canada’s World Junior Championship roster.

Lafreniere was selected first overall by the New York Rangers in the 2020 NHL Draft. The 19-year-old winger is currently in New York and would face quarantine restrictions to return to Canada but Salmond said there’s an ongoing discussion about the winger’s status.

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch cites a league executive having “no doubt we’re going to have a season” but he’s uncertain when that will happen. Garrioch believes an agreement to start the season on Jan. 1 will have to be made by no later than Tuesday (Dec. 1).

With negotiations between the NHL and NHL Players Association stalled, a mid-January or early February start appears more likely. The betting in league circles is Feb. 1.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Garrioch also said the word is the players told NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr not to pick up the phone or budge on their position not to agree to the league’s requests for increases to the escrow and salary deferral rates.

Given the importance of ensuring the league doesn’t slip off the sports radar with other leagues ongoing or planning their new seasons, the feeling is the league and the PA will eventually work out a return-to-play plan.

It could be both sides are regrouping and working on workable proposals. We’ll find out soon enough.

SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ken Campbell recently wondered if the NHL could legally attempt to leverage the threat of suspending or ceasing the 2020-21 season if their requests aren’t met by the players because of the effects of COVID-19 upon hockey-related revenue.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: So far there’s no indication the NHL is going down that road. It’ll be interesting to see if they’ll use that hardball gambit.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 26, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 26, 2020

An eye injury ends Johnny Boychuk’s playing career, the Lightning re-sign Mikhail Sergachev, the latest return-to-play news and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NEW YORK POST: A gruesome eye injury suffered during the 2019-20 season has prematurely ended the playing career of Johnny Boychuk. The 36-year-old New York Islanders defenseman suffered poor peripheral vision and optic nerve damage from two separate incidents that would make it unsafe to continue his 13-year career.

New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk (NHL Images).

The Islanders, however, have not announced Boychuk as retired, meaning he’ll likely go on long-term injury reserve. That will allow the Isles to exceed their accruable cap space limit by the $6 million annual average value on his contract, which expires at the end of 2021-22.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Boychuk in his future endeavors. He collected 206 points in 725 games with the Colorado Avalanche, Boston Bruins and the Islanders, winning the Stanley Cup with the Bruins in 2011.

According to Cap Friendly, the Isles have just $3.9 million in salary-cap space. Placing Boychuk on LTIR will free up sufficient space to sign restricted free agent center Mathew Barzal.

For those of you wondering why Boychuk hasn’t retired outright, it would mean forfeiting the remaining salary on his contract.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: The Lightning yesterday re-signed Mikhail Sergachev to a three-year contract worth an annual average value of $4.8 million. The 22-year-old defenseman was a restricted free agent coming off his entry-level contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sergachev has rapidly blossomed into one of the Lightning’s top defensemen whose best seasons are still ahead of him. He’ll become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights at the end of it.

The deal is also structured to pay him more in the final season when league revenue is expected to improve. Cap Friendly indicates he’ll get $2.4 million in actual salary this season, $4.8 million in 2021-22 and $7.2 million in 2022-23. It’ll cost the Lightning big bucks to qualify his rights and re-sign him at the end of this deal.

Sergachev’s new contract also pushes the Lightning above the $81.5 million salary cap by $1.9 million. They must also sign center Anthony Cirelli and blueliner Erik Cernak. I’ll have more about their possible moves to become cap compliant in today’s Rumor Mill.

TSN’s Pierre LeBrun tweeted NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman haven’t spoken since last Thursday. He believes that speaks to how the players feel about the league’s requests for increases to the salary deferral/escrow rates. LeBrun thinks there’s still time to salvage this but next week could be crucial.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun could be referring to starting the season by the proposed date of Jan. 1. I think the time’s run out for that. However, there’s an ongoing belief among the punditry that the two sides will work something out to start up the season by late January or early February.

THE SCORE: Team Canada is halting its World Junior selection camp and entering a 14-day quarantine period after two players tested positive for COVID-19. Workouts and meetings will be conducted via video call while scrimmages for the weekend are canceled. The 2021 World Junior Championship is slated to begin on Christmas Day in a bubble environment in Edmonton similar to that used by the NHL for the 2020 playoffs.

SPORTSNET: A memorial fund for the late Joey Moss raised nearly $1 million through a 50/50 raffle. Moss, the long-time dressing room attendant for the Edmonton Oilers and the CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos, passed away in October at age 57.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 25, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 25, 2020

The proposed Jan. 1 start of the 2020-21 season in jeopardy, four Blue Jackets test positive for COVID-19, plus updates on Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

LATEST RETURN-TO-PLAY NEWS

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports the lack of progress over the last five days to draft protocols could jeopardize the NHL’s proposed Jan. 1 start date for the 2020-21 season. Well-placed sources tell Brooks of continuing adamant, widespread resistance among the NHLPA membership to the league’s recent requests to renegotiate the terms of the recent CBA extension to increase the escrow and salary deferral rates.

The league made those requests citing liquidity issues. While the players’ share of hockey-related revenue cannot exceed 50 percent, Brooks said the adoption of annual escrow caps combined with uncoupling the salary cap from actual HRR has ended the assurance of a yearly 50-50 split.

Brooks notes the 10 percent salary deferral for this season was to be repaid without interest in three equal annual installments over the final three years of the extension. He wonders if the players would be amenable to adjusting the agreement if the league agrees to repay all deferred money with interest.

The stalled negotiations suggest a 48-game schedule beginning the third week in January appears more likely. The NHL returned from the 1994-95 lockout on Jan 20 and from the 2012-13 lockout on Jan. 19. Brooks reports the league remains focused on playing in home arenas with or without fans in attendance despite recent positive COVID-19 tests among two NHL teams.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHL was facing a tight schedule to meet a suitable timetable for a Jan. 1 start well before the recent lull in negotiations with the PA.

They need a 14-day training camp period in the run-up to the start of the season while last season’s seven non-playoff clubs were promised an extra seven-to-10 days of camp. Many players remain scattered across North American and Europe with those returning to Canadian clubs needing to self-isolate for 14 days. The players could also be reluctant to take part in training camp during the Christmas holidays.

The league and the PA were hoping for a Jan. 1 start in order to stage a 60-game schedule. If they cannot hammer out an agreement by the end of this week, they’ll have to push that start date to late January or early February and consider adopting a shorter schedule.

TORONTO STAR: Kevin McGran believes the prospect of a new US television agreement next season brings the promise of the NHL playing this season. The current contract with NBC Sports expires at the end of 2020-21.

Playing this season means the league could enter into lucrative new deals with a diverse group of broadcasters and/or streamers starting in ’21-’22. That includes traditional TV networks like NBC, cable networks like ESPN and Fox, and streamers such as DAZN and Amazon Prime.

The effect of COVID-19 upon league revenues could result in a less fruitful bidding war than anticipated. However, McGran points out Major League Baseball just signed a seven-year extension with Turner Sports worth a 65 percent increase annually over its previous deal with the broadcaster.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As the saying goes, it’s all about the Benjamins. That’s one of the main reasons why the NHL and the NHLPA are keen to return to play as soon as possible. That’s why commissioner Gary Bettman reportedly believes canceling the season would damage the league’s long-term health.

SPORTSNET: The Columbus Blue Jackets announced “several players” tested positive for COVID-19. Those players immediately began to quarantine and the club closed its off-ice facilities at Nationwide Arena beginning Nov. 16. This news comes a day after the Vegas Golden Knights announced four players tested positive.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This will be an ongoing concern for the NHL’s efforts to stage a 2020-21 season. Teams are following health and safety protocols similar to those in use prior to the 2020 playoffs but it doesn’t make the players immune from the coronavirus.

Edmonton Oiler captain Connor McDavid is training with Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews in Arizona (NHL Images).

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid joined Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews in Arizona earlier this month. The two superstars have skated together four days a week. They’ve been joined in recent weeks by several NHL players, including Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews and Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Players have been taking part in informal voluntary workouts and on-ice training throughout North America and Europe in preparation for whatever format the ’20-’21 schedule will be.

THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning said his players are waiting to see when training camp begins. He said it doesn’t make sense to bring everyone to Vancouver right now to go through a two-week quarantine, only to have them return home for Christmas and then go through another quarantine when they return.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Everything’s in a holding pattern right now for all NHL teams. Because of the health and safety protocols, they can’t bring their players back in anticipation of a December training camp when they don’t know if that’s even going to happen.

OTHER NOTABLE NHL HEADLINES

NHL.COM: Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel believes the club did an “awesome job” with its offseason moves. Those include adding left wing Taylor Hall and centers Eric Staal and Cody Eakin.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens center Phillip Danault said he’s had no contract talks with the club and expects to enter the final season of his current deal without an extension. He said he’ll see what happens, leaving it up to general manager Marc Bergevin.

Danault clarified that he never said he wanted to be the club’s full-time first-line center but the two-way center doesn’t want to be placed into just one role. Pat Hickey believes the Canadiens’ offseason additions of Tyler Toffoli and Josh Anderson means Danault will likely remain with linemates Brendan Gallagher and Tomas Tatar.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Danault’s future with the Canadiens will depend on the development of promising centers Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. If they outperform Danault, this season could be his last with the Habs.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Former NHL player Daniel Carcillo recently told HBO’s Real Sports that psychedelic drugs helped him cope with the aftereffects of brain trauma suffered during his playing career.

WINNIPEG SUN: Jets prospect Dylan Samberg was involved in a multi-vehicle accident in Minnesota that left him unhurt but sent four other people to hospital with life-threatening injuries.

TSN: The NHL is embroiled in a legal fight with several insurance companies refusing to pay most of the costs related to the league’s concussion lawsuit and the settlement reached with retirement players.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Former Blackhawks forward Fred Sasakamoose, one of the first Indigenous players in the NHL, passed away yesterday at age 86 from COVID-19. Sasakamoose played 11 games with the Blackhawks in 1953-54 and was a pioneer and role model for Indigenous and Native American players. Sasakamoose was inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame in 2007 and received the Order of Canada in 2017.

AZCENTRAL.COM: The Arizona Coyotes mourning the passing of nine-year-old fan Leighton Accardo, who passed away yesterday following a long battle with cancer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Sasakamoose’s family, friends and former teammates, and to the Accardo family and the Coyotes’ organization.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 24, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 24, 2020

The latest on the return-to-play discussions, four Golden Knights test positive for COVID-19, the Bruins sign Jake DeBrusk and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

RETURN-TO-PLAY NEWS

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch cited NHL insider Nick Kypreos saying there were no discussions over the weekend between the league and the NHL Players Association for the first time in weeks regarding the 2020-21 season.

 

The league remains focused on a Jan. 1 start but NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly suggested several times that date is flexible and could be pushed back a week or two.

Garrioch believes it’s been quiet of late because the two sides have likely retreated to their offices to come up with a plausible agreement acceptable to the owners. Senators owner Eugene Melnyk last week indicated not all the 31 owners are on board with the plan put forward because of the losses they’ll face for 2020-21. The players last week rejected two requests from the league for increased escrow and salary deferral rates.

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy reported “a prominent agent” said talks are currently at a standstill. Three other player agents wondered when is enough with the constant concessions the players have made since the 2004-05 lockout. One accused league commissioner Gary Bettman and the owners of using the pandemic to squeeze more out of the players. Another agent claims he knows of five or six owners seriously questioning if it makes sense to stage a season.

Murphy feels the longer negotiations drag on, the more NHL and AHL players could head overseas to play in Europe, particularly those on two-way contracts who finished last season in the AHL. He also cites a league source suggesting a Feb. 5 start date for the season remains an option.

ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan reports Bettman is dealing with a handful of disgruntled owners, with some believing they got a bad deal in the new collective bargaining agreement and a few telling the commissioner they’d prefer not to play if there are no fans because of operating losses.

According to a source, Bettman is “managing” those owners, telling them sitting out the season isn’t an option because of the damage to the league’s long-term health. However, he is trying to address their concerns, which include an infusion of cash to start the season, hence the league’s requests to the players last week.

Kaplan reports sources indicated the players remain willing to work with the league because it’s in everyone’s best interest to stage a season. If the league is trying to borrow money from the players, the PA could seek concessions such as increased health insurance for players in retirement. Kaplan also notes the NHL owners will be getting $650 million in expansion fees in 2021-22 plus a new U.S. Television deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This stalemate between the league and the PA could stretch on for weeks and put the 2020-21 season into jeopardy. But as long as Bettman and the players remain determined to return to play, the less likely the season will be canceled. There appears a genuine desire on both sides to get this done, though there’s no denying the league’s recent requests have stalled negotiations.

Barring a significant breakthrough by the end of this week, I think we can forget about the Jan. 1 start date. As Garrioch pointed out, Daly has previously suggested that start date was flexible. It could be anywhere between mid-January and mid-February, though the earlier the better if they hope to stage a meaningful schedule.

OTHER NOTABLE NHL HEADLINES

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Four Vegas Golden Knights players have tested positive for COVID-19. The club confirmed their status but declined to identify them. The four are in self-isolation and “recovering well.” The club is taking precautionary measures by closing their off-ice training facilities and player areas to players and staff through Sunday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This serves as a reminder that the pandemic will still affect the players if the 2020-21 season takes place. Without playing in a quarantine bubble as they did during the 2020 playoffs, they risk exposure to the coronavirus even with increased testing and strict health and safety protocols.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: The Bruins signed restricted free agent winger Jake DeBrusk to a two-year contract worth an annual average value of $3.675 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: DeBrusk had the bad luck to complete an entry-level contract in the midst of a pandemic that adversely affected the NHL salary cap. While his agent had suggested his client was worth $6 million per season, there was no way he was going to get that much from the Bruins or from another club via an offer sheet under the current economic conditions.

It’s a good deal for the Bruins because they get DeBrusk under contract at a reasonable short-term deal that also leaves enough cap space for other moves. The young winger still gets a decent raise and a chance for a much better deal in two years times when he’ll have arbitration rights in a potentially better economic climate.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens center Jesperi Kotkaniemi is leaving Finnish club Pori Assat and returning to Montreal in what’s considered a sign the club is preparing to stage its training camp soon. Kotkaniemi will begin a 14-day quarantine upon his return.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: He’s not the only player skating in Europe coming back to North America. If more players follow suit it’ll signal the league and the PA are close to a return-to-play agreement.

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: The Blackhawks hired Kendall Coyne Schofield as a player development coach and youth hockey growth specialist. She’s the organization’s first-ever female development coach. They also hired former NHL player Erik Condra as a player development coach.

WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets hired Dave Lowry as an assistant coach. The father of Jets center Adam Lowry said he doesn’t expect any issues with the two working for the same team.

NHL.COM: The Florida Panthers hired Shane Churla as their director of amateur scouting. The former NHL player spent the past seven seasons with the Canadiens scouting staff. He also spent seven seasons as an amateur scout with the Dallas Stars and another five in the same role with the Arizona Coyotes.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 23, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 23, 2020

Latest return-to-play news plus updates on Max Domi, Nikita Zadorov, Jesse Puljujarvi and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TORONTO STAR: Damien Cox suggests hockey could return to normal by next September with coronavirus vaccines on the way. The NHL, meanwhile, is attempting to stage a shortened 2020-21 season with empty arenas, an all-Canadian division, a canceled All-Star break and playoffs that could finish in mid-July.

Talk of starting the season on Jan. 1 appears increasingly unlikely with each passing day. The pandemic is hitting rates in some American states not seen elsewhere in the world. Meanwhile, the all-Canadian division could hit a snag with rising COVID-19 rates in the provinces with NHL clubs.

Setting aside the entire season, however, doesn’t make sense for the league from a business standpoint. Return-to-play negotiations hit a snag last week over the league’s request for additional escrow and salary deferral from the players.

THE PROVINCE: An NHL player agent told Ben Kuzma the players hold the leverage in return-to-play negotiations because league commissioner Gary Bettman “has to preserve the integrity of the game and they have to play a season – whatever it looks like.” Failure to do so, according to the agent, would hurt the league’s brand.

If it was a just a clear deferral, I think players individually would look at that, if they had the flexibility,” added the agent. “But players are in different situations. If a guy is on a long-term deal, would it make sense for him to defer some money this year? That’s a voluntary decision and it might be able to work, but the players and league have to agree on it.

And part of the problem with deferred income is that in the U.S., it’s not guaranteed. So, if an owner wants to declare bankruptcy, the first thing a court is going to throw away is unsecured debt. And if you secure it, you add tax to that particular year.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHL and NHLPA are running out of time to reach an agreement on a return-to-play plan for Jan. 1. The quickest way to that route would be the league backing off on their requests for increased escrow and salary deferral rates, but I don’t see Bettman and the team owners doing that. The players have dug in their heels. If the league does the same, the entire 2020-21 season will be in jeopardy.

ESPN.COM: In a recent interview with Greg Wyshynski, Max Domi addressed his recent trade from the Montreal Canadiens to the Columbus Blue Jackets. He pointed to his and the Canadiens’ struggles last season as factors that led to the deal, but he expressed no ill will toward his former club.

Domi’s looking forward to playing for the Blue Jackets as he feels they’re a team that’s ready to win. “They’re the hardest team to play against in the league. I can tell you that first-hand.”

THE ATHLETIC: Nikita Zadorov is looking forward to a larger role and more responsibilities with the Chicago Blackhawks after being largely a third-pair defenseman with the Colorado Avalanche. Zadorov was traded last month to the Blackhawks.

SPORTSNET: Jesse Puljujarvi’s improvement in Finland bodes well for his return this season to the Edmonton Oilers. He spent all of last season with the Oilers over a contract dispute.

TORONTO SUN: Defenseman Mikko Lehtonen terminated his contract last week with KHL club Jokerit Helsinki and is heading to Toronto to join the Maple Leafs. The 26-year-old defenseman signed a one-year, entry-level deal with the Leafs in May and was loaned to Jokerit in August.

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: The Florida Panthers have officially partnered with the ECHL’s Greenville Swamp Rabbits.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 22, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 22, 2020

The latest return-to-play news and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons believes the infighting between the NHL and NHL Players Association over the league’s requests for higher escrow and salary deferral rates puts the start of the 2020-21 season into question. He feels league commissioner Gary Bettman faces a difficult challenge, attempting to negotiate during a pandemic with the owners angry and divided and the players unwilling to budge over further cuts to their salaries.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman (NHL.com).

  NEWSDAY: Andrew Gross suggests additional salary deferral could be a way out of this mess despite the initial shock and anger from the players. Unlike escrow, deferrals will at some point find their way back to the players. Another is the desire by Bettman and the PA to start the season as soon as possible.

The league and PA prefer a start date of Jan. 1. With the clock ticking, however, Gross thinks that might have to be pushed back to around Feb. 1. He feels a realistic start date for the season should become clearer by the end of the upcoming American Thanksgiving weekend.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: We can probably forget about a Jan. 1 start to the season if an agreement between the league and the PA isn’t reached by Monday, Nov, 30. Many players still haven’t joined their teams. The league wants a 14-day training camp leading up to the start of the season, with last season’s seven non-playoff clubs getting an additional seven-to-10 days as promised.

ESPN.COM: A recent survey of American sports fans indicates two-thirds of the respondents will await the arrival of a COVID-19 vaccine before returning to arenas and stadiums.

THE MERCURY NEWS: San Jose Sharks president Jonathan Becher said the club will have to hold its training camp outside of Santa Clara county if local health officials won’t allow players to skate in large numbers at its training facility in San Jose.

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: Blackhawks star Patrick Kane and his girlfriend Amanda recently announced the birth of their first child. Patrick Timothy Kane III arrived on Nov. 12.

TSN: Fred Saskamoose, one of the first Indigenous players to skate in the NHL, tested positive for COVID-19 and has been hospitalized. He played 11 games with the Chicago Blackhawks in 1953-54. Following his playing career, he was extensively involved in developing sports programs for Indigenous youth. Saskamoose was named to the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame in 2007 and received the Order of Canada in 2017.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Saskamoose for a speedy recovery.