Three NHL Teams That Will Surprise…And Three That Will Disappoint
The 2020-21 season begins today. Check out the notable NHL stories in today’s morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The league yesterday revealed 27 players on nine different teams tested positive for COVID-19 between Dec. 30 and Jan. 11. Seventeen of those players were with the Dallas Stars. Most were asymptomatic and all are currently recovering without complications.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Positive tests were bound to happen with the league returning to action under its current format. The high number of Stars players sidelined by the coronavirus is a stark reminder of how quickly it can spread. This probably won’t be the only incident of community spread on an NHL team over the course of this season.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Speaking of the Stars, they returned to practice yesterday for the first time since last Wednesday. Fifteen players were missing, including defensemen Miro Heiskanen, Esa Lindell and Jamie Oleksiak and forwards Radek Faksa and Joel Kiviranta, though the club didn’t reveal if their absence was due to COVID-19 protocols or injuries.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Teams didn’t have to provide details of a player’s absence during training camp. They’re supposed to do so during the regular season.
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: San Jose Sharks head coach Bob Boughner said Evander Kane will not sit out this season. The 29-year-old left-winger filed for bankruptcy on Jan. 9 with the petition containing a clause suggesting he could terminate his contract or opt-out of playing this season. However, Boughner confirmed Kane will be in the lineup for their season-opener on Thursday against the Arizona Coyotes. He doesn’t feel the winger’s financial woes will be a distraction.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kane’s bankruptcy probably won’t be a distraction for the Sharks over the course of the season but it could be fodder for trash-talking aimed at the winger by his opponents.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle doesn’t appear to be part of the club’s plans when their season opens on Sunday. He recently skated with a second group of fringe players and wasn’t playing with a dedicated defense partner during Tuesday’s practice. It appears the club wants Yandle to waive his no-movement clause but the blueliner said he hasn’t been asked to do so.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: An interesting development with the Panthers. If Yandle becomes a healthy scratch his streak of 866 consecutive games will come to an end. I’ll have more on Yandle in the Rumors section.
THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks forward J.T. Miller and defenseman Jordie Benn missed practice yesterday. The club would neither confirm nor deny their absences are COVID-related. More details are expected today.
Meanwhile, the Canucks announced the signing of defenseman Travis Hamonic to a one-year, $1.25 million contract. The 30-year-old blueliner attended Canucks training camp on a professional tryout offer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hamonic is the latest of several notable unrestricted free agents forced to accept short-term contracts for less than market value because of this season’s flattened salary cap. He’ll hope a strong performance with the Canucks this season will improve his chances of a better deal in this summer’s UFA market.
TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild signed winger Marcus Foligno to a three-year, $9.3 million contract extension beginning in 2021-22.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Foligno is part of the Wild’s veteran leadership core. The annual average value of his new contract is $3.1 million. Cap Friendly indicates the deal doesn’t include no-trade protection.
NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: The Blackhawks signed head coach Jeremy Colliton to a two-year contract extension.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Colliton hasn’t enjoyed the success of his predecessor but the Blackhawks aren’t the powerhouse they once were. Management evidently sees Colliton as a key part of their current transition period as they ease more youth into their lineup.
TSN: The Ottawa Senators and Carolina Hurricanes made a minor trade yesterday, with the Senators shipping defenseman Max Lajoie to the Hurricanes for forward Clark Bishop.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: The Bruins will honor Willie O’Ree by retiring his No. 22 jersey to the rafters of the TD Garden during a Feb. 18 game against the New Jersey Devils. O’Ree was the first black player in NHL history, debuting with the Bruins on Jan. 18, 1958. He played a total of 45 games with the Bruins. O’Ree was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder in 2018.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A fitting, long-overdue tribute to a hockey trailblazer and one of the game’s finest ambassadors.
League commissioner Bettman weighs in on the upcoming season, Mika Zibanejad reveals COVID-19 diagnosis, Evander Kane files for bankruptcy, Mike Hoffman signs with Blues, Jay Bouwmeester retires, and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Commissioner Gary Bettman said the league is prepared to lose billions of dollars to play the 2020-21 season amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He said it’s important for the game to stage the season, the players and fans wanted it, and it might help provide people dealing with COVID-19 restrictions some sense of normalcy.
Bettman also said it would be cheaper for the league not to play the season, claiming they would lose money at the club and league level. “But the owners are unanimously OK with that because they know how important it is for our fans and for the game.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bettman’s remarks about financial losses isn’t sitting well on the players’ side. Player agent Allan Walsh observed the commissioner neglected to mention that, under the CBA extension, the owners will be made whole for their losses by the players because of the 50-50 division of revenue. Bettman sounds like he’s still sore over the player’s firm rejection of his request last fall for increased escrow claw-backs and salary deferrals.
The Hockey News’ Ken Campbell, meanwhile, pointed out the NHL wasn’t going to risk hurting its visibility and fan engagement by shuttering its season with other major professional sports leagues staging theirs during this pandemic. Campbell also noted it would’ve pushed the NHL’s expiring US TV contract ahead to 2022, depriving them of the opportunity of landing a more lucrative deal later this year.
The commissioner revealed players will wear decals on their helmets honoring the 63rd anniversary of Willie O’Ree playing his first NHL game and to observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day. He also announced The NHL Outdoors at Lake Tahoe, featuring the Colorado Avalanche facing the Vegas Golden Knights on Feb. 20 followed by the Boston Bruins meeting the Philadelphia Flyers on Feb. 21.
NEW YORK POST: Rangers center Mika Zibanejad revealed he tested positive for COVID-19 prior to training camp. He missed the opening days of camp but now claims he’s feeling better. Zibanejad resumed skating with his teammates while consulting with doctors. Rangers coach David Quinn is hopeful Zibanejad will be ready for their season opener on Jan. 14 but the 27-year-old center wouldn’t confirm.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Zibanejad isn’t the only player to test positive and won’t be the last over the course of this season.
THE ATHLETIC: Evander Kane has filed for bankruptcy with $26.8 million of debt and assets of $10 million. The filing also indicates the 29-year-old San Jose Sharks winger can terminate his contract or opt-out of playing this season because of the pandemic and the recent birth of his daughter. The NHL’s opt-out date was Dec. 24 while Kane’s bankruptcy filing was Jan. 9.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kane could opt-out of this season rather than terminate his contract. While the league’s opt-out deadline has passed there could be an allowance here due to unforeseen circumstances. A precedent was set last summer when Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask left the club during the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs to attend to a family medical emergency.
STLTODAY.COM: The Blues yesterday signed Mike Hoffman to a one-year, $4 million contract. The 31-year-old winger was skating with the club on a professional tryout offer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It was anticipated the Blues would formally sign Hoffman once they sorted out their salary-cap situation. That includes putting a couple of players on their taxi squad for cap compliance reasons and placing Alexander Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko on long-term injury reserve.
TSN: Speaking of the Blues, defenseman Jay Bouwmeester quietly retired after 17 NHL seasons. He hadn’t played since suffering a cardiac incident on the bench during a game with the Anaheim Ducks last February. Bouwmeester played 1,240 NHL games with the Blues, Calgary Flames and Florida Panthers, finishing with 424 points. He won a Stanley Cup with the Blues in 2019 and an Olympic gold medal with Canada in 2014.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Bouwmeester and his family in their future endeavors.
ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes have hired former captain Shane Doan as their new chief hockey development officer. Doan retired in 2017 after 21 NHL seasons. He began his career with the former Winnipeg Jets and moved with the franchise to Arizona in 1996.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: The Panthers claimed defenseman Noah Juulsen off waivers yesterday from the Montreal Canadiens.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Stars will return to the ice today after canceling practices and close its training facilities when six players and two staff members tested positive for COVID-19.
THE MERCURY NEWS: The San Jose Sharks will meet with Santa Clara County officials regarding when they can return to SAP Center at San Jose. They’re scheduled to play their first home game on Feb. 1 but the county remains under a strict stay-at-home order because of a high number of COVID cases.
SPORTSNET: NBC Sports announced former NHL coach Mike Babcock will be joining the network as an in-studio analyst. He’ll replace Mike Milbury, who was let go after 14 years. Milbury was suspended by the network last summer following a series of offensive remarks he made toward women, injured players, and Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask during the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs.
The #NYI have officially filed the Martin, Greene, and Barzal contracts:
Barzal – $7M AAV
20-21: $3M base – $1M SB
Martin – $1.5M AAV
20-21: $700k base – $800k SB
— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) January 12, 2021