NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 1, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 1, 2020

Some players express reluctance about return-to-play plan, hub cities could be in Canada, negotiations continue toward new CBA, and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

LATEST RETURN-TO-PLAY NEWS

SPORTSNET: Mike Johnston reports Frederik Andersen admitted he’s not fully confident yet about the resumption of the NHL season. The Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender said he and his fellow players haven’t received enough information on the return-to-play plan as the league and the NHL Players’ Association continue to hash things out. Andersen said he still wants to play and remains hopeful of seeing something the players can vote on soon.

Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen (Photo via NHL Images).

Meanwhile, Johnston’s colleague Eric Engels reported five anonymous players voiced their unhappiness and frustration with being kept in the dark about the return-to-play negotiations.

One of them estimated up to 75 percent of the NHLPA membership didn’t want to play this summer, citing health and injury concerns. Another considered the PA calls with players a joke, claiming they’re only focused on the financial side. Despite those issues, one of them believes the players will likely vote to approve whatever is presented to them, suggesting the playoff bonus money will be higher than ever if they play.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Andersen isn’t the only player to go on the record claiming they still don’t know the details of the return-to-play plan. Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price recently indicated he wasn’t prepared to vote for the deal until more details had been sorted out, though he returned to Montreal earlier this week to participate in Phase 2 practice sessions. Several others also said the same.

The Athletic also recently published a report citing several anonymous players and agents expressing unease over playing in a hub city environment, with one agent suggesting up to 40 percent of the players were on the fence. The PA leadership could have a difficult job selling the merits of the plan to a membership expressing growing concern over the details. 

Nevertheless, the players still control the fate of this season. If they vote for it despite their concerns they’ll have to accept the consequences.

TSN: Bob McKenzie reports it appears the NHL won’t reveal the two hub cities for the playoff tournament until the return-to-play plan and the CBA extension are agreed to pending player approval. He also thinks there’s a good chance both hubs could be in Edmonton and Toronto as Las Vegas seems to be falling out of the running. Chicago is also considered in the mix while Los Angeles is now out.

McKenzie also expected critical negotiations between the league and the PA to continue through last night. If all goes well, a vote by the players could take place by the end of this week.

**UPDATE** McKenzie reports the hub cities will be Edmonton and Toronto barring any last-minute complications. 

ESCROW A STICKING POINT IN CBA TALKS

TSN/NEW YORK POST/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Frank Seravalli, Larry Brooks, and Ken Campbell report the players could end up paying back their share of lost revenue to the owners for many years if a flat salary cap and a cap on escrow payments over the next two or three seasons becomes part of the CBA extension.

Seravalli points out the players could end up owing $325 million entering 2020-21 because of this season’s reduced revenue. If next season’s revenue is half of the projected $5 billion the league was anticipating for this season, an additional $600-$700 billion could be added to what the players already owe. It would take the following years under a flat cap (assuming revenue returns to normal) for the players to pay that back through escrow sometime during 2023-24.

Unrestricted and restricted free agents during that period could feel the effects, especially those coming off entry-level contracts. Brooks believes it will strangle contending clubs that historically spend toward the cap, forcing contract buyouts (though not amnesty buyouts as sources told Brooks), more arbitration hearings, and flooding the free-agent market.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As always with the NHL CBA, the devil is in the details and we don’t know what those are yet.  Nevertheless, the escrow issue could prove the determining factor in the players’ vote on the return-to-play plan.

If a CBA extension creates those aforementioned issues, it would affect how teams have built and maintained their rosters, resulting in a considerable amount of player movement. It could also set the table for another lengthy labor war down the road when the extension expires in 2026.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports participation in the Winter Olympics is part of the proposed CBA extension. The players would participate in at least the 2022 Beijing Games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That would be a major concession from the league. If I were a player, however, I’d be suspicious about what I might have to give up in return.

**UPDATE*** TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports a long night of negotiations appears to have resulted in agreements on most issues regarding return-to-play and CBA extension. A couple of issues could be finalized today. However, nothing is official until both sides ratify a tentative agreement 

IN OTHER NEWS…

TSN: The players with signing bonuses in their contracts paid out on July 1 are expected to receive them as planned, though some might be pushed to next week. That’s an expenditure of over $300 million.

ARIZONA SPORTS: Coyotes winger Phil Kessel admitted he’d been nursing injuries for most of this season. That could account for his decline in production, though he didn’t use that as an excuse. Kessel added he’s looking forward to a bounce-back performance.

THE SCORE: San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane believes the NHL doesn’t do enough to market its minority players.

LE JOURNAL DE MONTREAL: The Carolina Hurricanes have parted ways with Rick Dudley, who was their VP of hockey operations.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s sparked speculation he could be headed to the Buffalo Sabres, who gutted their front-office staff last month.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 30, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 30, 2020

The latest return-to-play news plus updates on Carey Price, Mikko Rantanen, Nick Foligno, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

RETURN-TO-PLAY UPDATES

NHL.COM: The NHL announced 26 players out of over 250 tested positive for COVID-19 since Phase 2 of the return-to-play plan began on June 8. Fifteen who took part in small-group training tested positive while an additional 11 tested positive outside the Phase 2 protocols. All have self-isolated and are following CDC and Health Canada protocols. Over 1, 450 tests have been implemented.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The league didn’t indicate when those players contracted the coronavirus or the severity of their symptoms. Earlier reports indicated most were asymptomatic, with a small number having a low-grade fever. We also don’t know how many of those players have since recovered.

Those numbers will increase as more players report to their NHL cities ahead of Phase 3 (mandatory training camp) on July 10. Health and social distancing protocols will be stricter in Phase 3, though the league won’t be quarantining the players during that period.

TSN: Bob McKenzie reports a decision on the two host cities for the 24-team playoff tournament could come today. While the state of Nevada is seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases, Las Vegas could still be chosen as a host because it could have the best “locked-down” or “protected” bubble of the remaining candidates.

McKenzie also reports the league and the NHLPA appear to be getting closer toward an agreement on the final two phases of the return-to-plan plan and a CBA extension. A vote could come this week. July 10 is the tentative start date for Phase 3 but it could be pushed back a little with no effect upon the start of Phase 4 on July 30.

In a lengthy Twitter post, McKenzie pondered some possible changes in the CBA extension. He wanted to know if it would be 3 or 4 years or 3 years with a mutual opt-in/opt-out in year 4. He also wondered if there would be limitations on salary variance and signing bonuses, or opt-outs of the playoff tournament for players with existing medical conditions (diabetes, asthma, etc) or penalty-free opt-outs for those uncomfortable with taking part.

McKenzie points out the two sides still haven’t reached an agreement regarding bonus money owed on July 1. He also notes they must work out an international hockey calendar, but the Winter Olympics no longer appear a consideration.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unless the bonus issue is part of the CBA extension, the two sides might need a separate agreement on that, perhaps a tentative on to push the bonuses to the end of October as they did with expiring contracts.

Until recently, it was believed the players were keen to return to the Olympics. If that’s no longer the case it’s probably because the changes in the NHL calendar over the next couple of years and ongoing concerns over the coronavirus could make participation in the 2022 Beijing Winter Games almost impossible.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Sean Shapiro reports the availability and location of hotels near American Airlines Arena played a major role in Dallas being ruled out as a potential hub city.

IN OTHER NEWS…

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens goaltender Carey Price returned to Montreal for the first time since the schedule was paused in mid-March.

NHL.COM: Colorado Avalanche winger Mikko Rantanen skated with his teammates in Phase 2 training. Rantanen had been sidelined by an injured shoulder suffered in late February

Carolina Hurricanes goaltenders Petr Mrazek and James Reimer have recovered from their previous injuries. Sidelined defensemen Dougie Hamilton, Brett Pesce, and Sami Vatanen could be ready to participate in the Phase 3 training camp.

TSN: Columbus Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno said he and his teammates aren’t interested in the possibility of his club having a shot at winning the first-overall pick in the 2020 draft. “We play to win the Stanley Cup regardless,” he told SiriusXM NHL Network Radio. He added the No. 1 pick is management’s concern.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s a silly theory floated by some fans suggesting some teams in the qualifying round could tank to become eligible for the second phase of the draft lottery to determine the winner of the No. 1 pick. They’re not going to endure Phase 3 training camp followed by a locked-down Phase 4 tournament isolated from family and friends away from their home cities while undergoing constant COVID-19 testing just to have a 12.5 percent chance at winning the rights to Alexis Lafreniere. Their motivation is winning the Stanley Cup and helping the league recoup some of their $1.1 billion in losses from the COVID-19 shutdown. 

DETROIT FREE PRESS: The Red Wings canceled their prospect tournament in September and will conduct training camp for 2020-21 at Little Caesars Arena due to COVID-19.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): The sports-marketing agency Wasserman expanded its pool of European hockey talent by acquiring Acme World Sports. Acme’s clients include Boston’s Tuukka Rask, Carolina’s Teuvo Teravainen, Dallas’ Esa Lindell, and Toronto’s Kasperi Kapanen.

VANCOUVER SUN/TAMPA BAY TIMES: Vancouver Province sportswriter Tony Gallagher has been honored by the Hockey Hall of Fame as the recipient of the Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award for journalism excellence. Tampa Bay Lightning play-by-play man Rick Peckham received the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award for outstanding contributions by a broadcaster.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to Gallagher and Peckham.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 29, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 29, 2020

More reaction to the draft lottery results, plus the latest on Bruce Boudreau, Chris Kreider, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE DETROIT NEWS: Bob Wojnowski believes the Red Wings got burned by what he considers the NHL’s draft lottery buffoonery. The Wings had this season’s worst record but fell to fourth overall in the draft order as a placeholder club took the top spot in Phase 1 of the lottery draw on Friday.

The results of the 2020 NHL Draft lottery has sparked criticism of the process (Photo via NHL.com).

You put your fate in random acts, expect random, inexplicable results,” writes Wojnowski, going on to call the lottery “an embarrassment”. He noted the Wings had an 18.5 percent chance of winning the draft lottery, yet the odds were a combined 24.5 percent that one of the eight teams eliminated from the qualifying round of the upcoming 24-team playoff tournament would get the prize. “And here’s the ridiculous part: it’s exactly what the NHL planned to happen.”

THE TORONTO STAR: Damien Cox believes the NHL Draft hasn’t made much sense for years. He thinks Friday’s lottery results destroyed the belief that it’s about fairness of competition, allowing weaker teams an opportunity to compete with stronger clubs.

Cox suggests there’s little evidence the draft helps weaker clubs. “In most cases, they’re weak because they’re badly run,” he said. Cox makes the case for a free market system allowing the top prospects to sign with whoever they choose once they turn 18. He feels it would motivate teams to improve how they run their operations as a way to woo the best young talent. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The anger felt by Red Wings fans over the results of the lottery is understandable, but even if this had been a normal draft year, there’s a good chance the lottery balls still wouldn’t have fallen their way. In 2017, for example, the Colorado Avalanche were the league’s worst team but dropped to fourth as the Devils won the lottery.

That’s cold comfort for the Wings and their fans, but they could still end up with a very good player, perhaps a potential superstar, with the No. 4 pick. Just like the Avs did when they selected Cale Makar three years ago.

Don’t expect the NHL to take up Cox’s suggestion to scrap the draft in favor of an open market. The last thing they want is the best prospects clustering toward a handful of clubs.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Michael Russo reports former Minnesota Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau is hoping this season won’t be his last as an NHL bench boss.

The plan was when we signed here that this was it for me, and this is where we were going to end up. Even though I hope it’s not, it’s just tough when it goes this way.”

Boudreau has two years remaining in an advisory role with the Wild, but he doesn’t know if general manager Bill Guerin will take advantage of it.

NEWSDAY: New York Rangers’ Chris Kreider (broken foot) and Micheal Haley (torn abdominal muscle) have fully recovered from their injuries and ready to return to action.

STLTODAY.COM: Recently retired NHL player Chris Thorburn hopes to mentor young pros.

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 28, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 28, 2020

More reaction to the draft lottery results, updates on the CBA talks and hub cities, plus the latest on Alex Ovechkin, Bryan Little, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

SPORTSNET: In his latest 31 Thoughts column, Elliotte Friedman reports more than a few NHL executives were unhappy over the results of the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery, in which a yet-to-be-determined team eliminated from the qualifying round of the playoff tournament will win the first-overall pick.

Criticism lingers over the results of Phase 1 of the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery (Image via NHL.com).

Some of that reaction came from teams who felt they hadn’t received a definitive answer in advance about what would happen if the season couldn’t be finished. Friedman feels the qualifying round will now have more meaning and there will be a big audience for Phase Two of the draft lottery.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Conspiracy theorists already believe the NHL rigged the lottery to benefit a big-market club, screw over the Detroit Red Wings after their years of dominance, and to generate big ratings for the draft. These claims are, of course, baseless BS. 

Whatever the outcome of the draft lottery, it wasn’t going to please everyone. For every fan who feels it should’ve gone to one of this season’s bottom-feeders, like Detroit or Ottawa, some believe it shouldn’t reward those clubs for tanking the season.

Some observers, like the New York Post’s Larry Brooks, are delighted with the outcome as it gives a decent NHL team a shot at winning the first-overall pick instead of it going to a poorly-run club. However, that pick could end up going to a lesser-followed NHL market like Arizona or Florida, or a smaller market like Edmonton or Winnipeg, or a team that doesn’t need it, like Pittsburgh or Toronto. So there’s something for everyone to bitch about.

If the season can’t be completed, the eight non-playoff clubs when the regular season was paused will each have an equal shot (12.5 percent) of winning the first-overall pick. The rest of the order will be determined in inverse order by points percentage.

Friedman believes if Toronto and Vegas are named the two host cities, the Eastern teams will play in Toronto and the Western clubs in Vegas. “We’re overthinking this one.”

Regarding CBA negotiations, Friedman doesn’t expect a vote by the NHLPA membership will take place before June 30, pointing out it could take 48-to-72 hours. Some players and agents believe there should be separate votes on the CBA and the health protocols for Phase 3 and 4 of the return-to-play plan.

Friedman’s also awaiting clarity on what the one-time 10-percent salary deferral will mean for the salary cap. Some sources believe it will give teams extra room, while another said it would be counted in the year earned. He also believes the NHLPA vote will pass but will be interested to see which players opt-out of the tournament.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: We already know Dallas Stars defenseman Roman Polak won’t be taking part. It remains to be seen how many others follow his lead.

The league is holding firm against non-NHL players signed during the pause (Montreal’s Alexander Romanov, Minnesota’s Kirill Kaprizov, Islanders’ Ilya Sorokin) taking part in the tournament.

Friedman also suggested the July 10 start date for training camp could be moved back by three-to-five days to allow time to get everything done. It won’t affect the start date (July 30) for the playoff tournament.

There’s some talk of the seven non-playoff teams having “games” sometime in the fall. Details are sketchy and it’s not a priority, but those clubs don’t want to be waiting until December or January to play.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: New Jersey Devils interim general manager Tom Fitzgerald floated that proposal earlier this month. He indicated the team presidents and general managers of those respective clubs have discussed a pitch to the league to address their situation. Exhibition games among those seven teams are one option they’re looking at.

THE SCORE: Edmonton Oilers GM Ken Holland said his club is more interested in a deep playoff run than the possibility of winning the first-overall pick.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holland’s attitude will be shared by the other clubs in the qualifying round. The opportunity to win that pick will be a nice consolation prize for failing to advance, but those clubs will be playing to win. Nobody’s tanking it just for a 12.5 percent chance of winning the draft lottery.

TSN: NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league will fairly evaluate every relevant consideration before deciding on the hub cities. The recent rise in COVID-19 cases in parts of the United States has some observers wondering what effect it’ll have on the league’s choices.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Las Vegas reportedly remains a lock as one of the hub cities despite the spike in COVID-19 cases in that city and the state of Nevada. That’s prompted some observers to wonder if the league might look elsewhere. It’s expected we’ll find out sometime this week.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin skated at the club’s training facility yesterday for the first time since the schedule was paused in mid-March.

WINNIPEG SUN: Jets center Bryan Little won’t be taking part in the playoff tournament with his teammates. He’s still recovering from a perforated eardrum and concussion after being struck by a slap shot last November. He underwent surgery on his ear in March and said he’s feeling “pretty good” these days.

THE ATHLETIC: Montreal Canadiens center Jesperi Kotkaniemi will take part in training camp after recovering from an injured spleen. He will be available to play in the tournament but it remains to be seen if he’ll be inserted into the lineup.










Red Wings have poor lottery ball luck in NHL Draft Lottery shocker

Red Wings have poor lottery ball luck in NHL Draft Lottery shocker

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 27, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 27, 2020

A placeholder team wins the first-overall pick in a chaotic opening phase of the draft lottery, a new CBA extension may be getting close, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

WINNER OF NHL DRAFT LOTTERY STILL TO BE DETERMINED

NHL.COM: A placeholder team won the first-overall selection in the first phase of the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery on Friday evening. The Los Angeles Kings will select second overall while the Ottawa Senators will pick third. The Senators also hold the fifth-overall pick which was acquired from the San Jose Sharks in the Erik Karlsson trade in 2018.

The Detroit Red Wings slid to fourth overall despite having the worst regular-season record. The Anaheim Ducks, New Jersey Devils, and Buffalo Sabres will pick sixth, seventh, and eighth respectively.

The placeholder team will be one of the eight eliminated from the qualifying round of the 24-team tournament. That club will be decided in a second lottery held following the completion of the qualifying round and before the opening round of the playoffs. All eight of those eliminated teams will have a 12.5 percent chance of winning the first-overall pick and the right to select Rimouski Oceanic winger Alexis Lafreniere, considered this year’s top prospect.

Picks No. 9 to 15 will be determined based on inverse order according to points percentage. The remaining picks will be determined by the playoff results.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was the worst possible outcome, but what else did we expect in this crazy NHL season? There is now a real chance that a team already loaded with superstars – like the Edmonton Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins, or Toronto Maple Leafs – will win the lottery and select Lafreniere.

The Leafs traded their pick last year to Carolina in the Patrick Marleau trade, but it was a top-10 protected pick. If the Leafs are eliminated from the qualifying round and win the lottery, the league would have to honor the conditions and allow the Leafs to keep that selection.

There is also a chance the Chicago Blackhawks or Montreal Canadiens could win that pick. Both clubs were all but eliminated from postseason contention before COVID-19 forced the league to come up with a season-saving playoff tournament allowing those two to compete for the Stanley Cup. Winning the first-overall selection could be one helluva consolation prize for one of them if they end up eliminated from the qualifying round.

This result sucks for rebuilding teams like the Wings and Senators, who need a franchise player to build around. That’s not to say they won’t get good players, perhaps even a future superstar, in their current spots, but Lafreniere is considered a “can’t-miss kid”. The Kings, meanwhile, have to be pleased to move up from fourth to second overall.

This one-off draft lottery plan wasn’t going to please everyone, but there was a sense that Detroit or Ottawa could end up with the first-overall pick. The results will only stoke criticism, not only of the way this particular lottery was planned but also of the format in general.

NHL, NHLPA GETTING CLOSER TO A NEW CBA?

ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski reports the NHL and NHL Players’ Association are closing in on a new collective bargaining agreement that would address the league’s revenue losses stemming from pausing the schedule because of COVID-19. A memorandum of understanding is expected soon, perhaps by Sunday at the earliest.

The framework being discussed is a six-year CBA that would also cover 2020-21 and 2021-22, the final two years of the current agreement. It could see a cap on escrow at 20 percent for the first two years, after which it would revert to the traditional system as league revenues are expected to rise following a new U.S. television agreement and the addition of Seattle as the league’s 32nd franchise.

The salary cap would reportedly freeze at $81.5 million for the next two seasons and potentially rise by $1 million for year three. One source told Wyshynski the cap might not be linked back to revenue until the latter years of the agreement.

Both sides are said to agree with a 10 percent one-time salary deferral for the players. That money is not a rollback and would be paid back to the players at a lower rate of escrow in two years.

Wyshynski also reported the possibility of a delay in starting training camps on July 10 as part of Phase 3 of the return-to-play plan. That’s because of the enormity of what’s on the table and players still making their way back to their respective NHL cities for Phase 3.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: TSN’s Pierre LeBrun and Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman have also reported on the CBA talks included in the return-to-play plan. Friedman also said it’s possible the start of training camps could be changed by perhaps two or three days but it wouldn’t upset the remaining timetable. The playoff tournament under Phase 4 is slated to begin on July 30.

A CBA extension would be an unexpected silver lining to emerge from this delayed season. Both sides were engaged in ongoing discussions for a new agreement before the pandemic struck. With the current agreement set to expire in September 2022, the possibility of six more years of labor peace would be welcome news. 

IN OTHER NEWS…

ASSOCIATED PRESS: The NHL and NHLPA aren’t considering placing players under quarantine bubbles when training camps open next month. The players will be instructed to remain at home when not at the rink. They will also undergo frequent testing and maintain health protocols in the hope of preventing any coronavirus outbreaks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As I’ve said before, Phase 3 will determine if the playoff tournament under Phase 4 takes place. The league insists a handful of positive tests won’t derail its plans, but that could change if some players on several teams come down with the coronavirus in the coming weeks.

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports we’ll have to see what develops over this weekend regarding an announcement of the two hub cities for Phase 4. He believes it’s extremely close between Edmonton and Toronto as both cities seem to have provincial health clearance. Las Vegas remains an expected choice for one of the two cities.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Barring unforeseen issues, it appears Edmonton or Toronto will be named as one of those hub cities within the next several days.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Stars general manager Jim Nill said there’s a good chance defenseman Roman Polak won’t rejoin the team to finish this season. He indicated he’ll honor Polak’s decision but left the door open if the blueliner changed his mind. Nill said no other Stars have expressed reservations about returning to Dallas.