NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 17, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 17, 2020

The NHL hopes to return to action by mid-May at the earliest, rumors of a 24-team postseason format and much more in today’s morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The league yesterday allowed its players to return to their homes outside their NHL cities. They also indicated the players’ self-quarantine should continue through March 27. After that, and depending on world developments regarding the COVID-19 virus, consideration will be given to opening club facilities to small groups of players for voluntary training. The league also indicated its objective is to open training camps 45 days into the 60 days as recommended by the CDC directive.

THE DENVER POST: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said there is an “outside date” beyond which saving the 2019-20 season would be unfeasible. “We haven’t ruled anything in or anything out — other than it’s got to be the right thing in terms of the well-being of our players and our fans.”

Could there be a 24-team format for the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs?

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It appears the league’s best-cast scenario is returning to action by May 15. However, Bettman’s comments suggest they’re prepared for the possibility of canceling the season.

SPORTSNET: The NHL also implemented a roster freeze effective at 5 pm ET yesterday.

SPORTING NEWS: The league is said to be considering a 24-team playoff format among its options.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That would mean clubs with slim playoff hopes, such as the Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Blackhawks, would qualify. I prefer a 20-team format involving clubs jockeying for wild-card berths at the time the schedule was paused. 

ARIZONA SPORTS: Coyotes defenseman Aaron Ness tested negative for COVID-19.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Glad to hear Ness is okay. As of this posting, no NHL players tested positive for the virus. Here’s hoping none of them get it. For that matter, here’s hoping all of you stay safe and healthy.

THE BOSTON GLOBE: Bruins captain Zdeno Chara sent a message for Bruins fans to “stay safe, disciplined and clean” during this troubling time.

WINNIPEG SUN: Jets captain Blake Wheeler urged fans to stay home and “limit your exposure to keep yourself and those in your community safe.”

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Jets fans might not soon forget the club’s seeming reluctance to compensate their part-time arena employees affected by the COVID-19 shutdown on major events.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I doubt there will be a lingering backlash toward any club seen as foot-dragging when it comes to compensating its part-time arena staff. It will be largely forgotten whenever hockey returns, be it mid-May or in the fall if this season gets cancelled.

OTTAWA SUN: The Senators yesterday announced its part-time staff affected by the pause in the NHL schedule will receive compensation.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Blue Jackets also revealed it would aid its hourly game-day workers.

SPORTSNET: Montreal Canadiens players also intend to financially assist team and arena staff. The club announced Sunday it would “pay employees eligible for employee insurance the maximum amount allowed (approximately 40 percent) and employees ineligible for employee insurance 75 percent of the salary for the 12 home games remaining between the Canadiens and AHL’s Laval Rocket.” The players will help those employees make up the difference.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Teams that appeared slow to compensate employees, like the Senators, were publicly dragged on social media. Some, like the Jets, whose ownership publicly doubled down on its refusal to assist those workers before caving to public pressure, deserved the backlash. In other cases, however, the criticism was unwarranted. Some clubs took a little more time because they were exploring all options to determine the best one for everyone involved.

SPORTSNET: The AHL will maintain suspension of its season until May.

THE SCORE: Former NHL goaltender Jonas Hiller announced his retirement. He spent nine seasons with the Anaheim Ducks and Calgary Flames, totaling a record of 197 wins, 140 losses, and 37 overtime losses, with a 2.55 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage. He spent the past four seasons in Switzerland.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Hiller in his retirement.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 13, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 13, 2020

What next for the NHL in the wake of pausing the season over coronavirus concerns? What could be the effect upon the playoff race and the off-season? Check out the latest in today’s morning coffee headlines.

SPORTSNET: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the league had been closely monitoring what was going on regarding the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus before its decision to pause the schedule. He admitted the NBA having a player test positive and forcing the cancellation of a game left him no doubt this would be a game-changer.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman remains hopeful of resuming the remainder of this season (Photo via NHL.com).

Bettman said he’s hesitant to use the word “suspension”, remaining hopeful the season will resume at some point. He’s not sure how far it could push the schedule into the summer. The league is taking a day-to-day approach for now.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll depend upon how long before the spread of the virus is significantly slowed or contained. TSN’s Frank Seravalli cited an NHL governor telling colleague Darren Dreger the league is focused for now on returning to action within three weeks, but that will depend upon the players’ health, how many (if any) contracted the virus, and recommendations from the health community.

THE SCORE: The playoff picture, the ripple effect upon the off-season schedule, and the salary cap are the major storylines to monitor as the NHL pauses the remainder of the 2019-20 schedule over coronavirus concerns.

Depending on when the league returns to action, it could pick up its schedule where it left off, play an abbreviated number of games to begin the playoffs closer to the starting date, or cancel the rest of the regular season and opt for a wild-card play-in or beginning the postseason based on the standings at the time the regular season was paused.

It could also affect the dates when the league stages its annual prospect combine and draft in June. The annual July 1 start date for free agency could also change. Next season’s salary cap could remain closer to this season’s $81.5 million rather than reach the projected range of $84 million to $88 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I daresay the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery, slated for April 9, will move to a different date later in the spring. 

NEW YORK POST: Teams are standing pat with no practices or meetings. That could change if they think they’ll start playing games again.

Most teams intend to deal with their ticket holders individually. Most could be willing to transfer those tickets to next season.

If the players are still paid during the hiatus, they could end up giving it all back via escrow to ensure the 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue with team owners. As for hourly workers at arenas, individual teams could examine some form of compensation.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Toronto Maple Leafs (via Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment) and Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley announced they’ll look after their arena staff during this period. I expect the other clubs either have a plan in place for their respective personnel or are working on one.

ESPN.COM: NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said it’s a team-by-team thing for testing players for COVID-19. “Testing kits are controlled by local health, and each state is allocated different amounts based on population and experience. At this point, the need for testing is greater than the supply of tests. That will start to change as manufacturers are ramping up production.”

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: The San Jose Sharks announced a part-time employee at SAP Center in San Jose tested positive for the coronavirus. The individual is under self-quarantine and receiving care from medical personnel.

SPORTSNET: The International Ice Hockey Federation is considering cancelling the Men’s World Championships. The 16-team tournament is set to begin on May 8.

NBC SPORTS: The AHL, ECHL, and CHL are following the NHL’s lead and pausing their schedules.

THE SCORE: Despite the interruption in the schedule, New York Rangers winger Brendan Lemieux will have a hearing today for interfering Colorado Avalanche forward Joonas Donskoi during Wednesday night’s contest.

CALGARY SUN: Long-time Flames executive Ken King passed away at age 68. He was team president and chief executive officer for many years beginning in 2001, and until recently played a role in securing a deal for a new arena in downtown Calgary.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to King’s family, friends, and the Flames’ organization.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 9, 2019

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 9, 2019

The latest on Zdeno Chara, Vladimir Tarasenko, Adam McQuaid, Jason Pominville, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said he’s not feeling any limitation playing with a facial injury. While it hasn’t been confirmed by the club, Chara is believed to have suffered a fractured jaw in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final. He played over 16 minutes in Game 5 and is expected to be in the lineup for Game 6 tonight in St. Louis. 

Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara claims he’s feeling no limitations playing with a facial injury (Photo via NHL Images).

Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk (concussion) and forward Chris Wagner (injured right arm) skated in non-contact jerseys during practice yesterday. Grzelcyk hasn’t been cleared to return but Wagner could be ready if the series goes to Game 7. 

STLTODAY.COM: Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko’s wife gave birth to a son on Friday. Tarasenko said he’ll be ready to play in Game 6 tonight. The Blues lead the series three games to two and can win the Stanley Cup with a victory on Sunday. 

With Ivan Barbashev serving a one-game suspension, Blues forward Robert Thomas could return to the lineup tonight. Thomas last skated in Game 1 when he was on the receiving end of a big hit from Boston’s Torey Krug. 

SPORTSNET: has a collection of the most controversial calls of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This should be used as “Exhibit A” when the league launches its review of its officiating this summer. 

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets defenseman Adam McQuaid is still dealing with concussion issues. His agent, Rick Curran, confirmed he’s been struggling with the symptoms since receiving a hit during a game in late-March. He played only 14 regular-season games with the Jackets after being acquired from the New York Rangers at the trade deadline. McQuaid is due to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: McQuaid has a long injury history, including several head/concussion injuries since October 2011. The wear-and-tear of his 10 NHL seasons is taking a toll on the 32-year-old blueliner. 

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Congratulations to the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers defeated the Chicago Wolves in five games to win their first-ever Calder Cup. 


NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 19, 2017

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 19, 2017

Columbus Blue Jackets still haven’t re-signed Alexander Wennberg.

Updates on the Columbus Blue Jackets, Boston Bruins and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines. 

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: While the Blue Jackets still haven’t re-signed restricted free agent forwards Alex Wennberg and Josh Anderson, general manager Jarmo Kekalainen isn’t concerned. He notes both sides are trying to use the current system to their advantage and expects there will be more urgency toward getting these deals done as training camp approaches. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s plenty of time to get these contracts done.  Wennberg and Anderson will be re-signed, either before training camp or likely within days of the start of training camp. It’s possible one of them could receive an offer sheet, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. 

THE BOSTON GLOBE: The Bruins backup goalie job remains up for grabs between Anton Khudobin, Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban.

NBC SPORTS:  Center Jori Lehtera hopes his trade from the St. Louis Blues to the Philadelphia Flyers will give him the opportunity for a fresh start. “I have no idea why (the Blues traded me), but I think it’s better for me that I got traded, so I don’t really care why,” Lehtera said. He feels the trade will be good for him. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think the Blues dealt Lehtera because his production declined from his promising 44-point NHL debut in 2014-15. 

TORONTO STAR: Damien Cox offers up the Colorado Avalanche as a cautionary tale for teams and fans who believe it’s important for clubs to lock up a young core of stars to expensive long-term contracts. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cox makes some good points, but I also believe it’s important to properly build around the young core and provide them with a solid coaching staff capable of helping that young talent improve. That’s what the Avalanche failed to do with Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog. The Edmonton Oilers made a similar mistake earlier in the decade with Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

The Pittsburgh Penguins also locked up Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to long-term deals earlier in their careers, as did the Chicago Blackhawks with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. What they did differently was build up the depth of talent surrounding those players and provide them with solid coaching. 

TSN: The California Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board ruled the judge overseeing former NHLer Mike Peluso’s lawsuit didn’t have the ability to impose a “gag order” on him.

THE DENVER POST: The Colorado Eagles will become the AHL’s 31st franchise and the Avalanche’s primary minor-league affiliate. 


NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 20, 2017

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 20, 2017

Buffalo Sabres winger Kyle Okposo will skate in a summer league in Minnesota.

Latest on Kyle Okposo, Colton Parayko and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines. 

STLTODAY.COM: Blues defenseman Colton Parayko has his arbitration hearing today. Parayko seeks a one-year, $4.85 million contract while the Blues countered with two-year proposals of $3.4 million and $3.6 million annually. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given Parayko’s value to the Blues defense corps, I’ll be surprised if they gets settled by an arbiter. I can see the two sides settling on a multi-year deal worth around $4 million annually. Parayko isn’t the only player slated for arbitration today. Also on the docket are the Detroit Red Wings and forward Tomas Tatar.

**UPDATE** The Blues avoided arbitration this morning with Parayko, re-signing him to a five-year, $27.5 million contract. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Told you Parayko wouldn’t go before arbitration. His annual cap hit is higher ($5.5 million) than I expected but this is still a worthwhile contract for the Blues, locking up a rising young blueline star to a reasonable long-term deal. In just two seasons, the 24-year-old emerged as an invaluable part of the Blues’ defense corps. He finished last season with 35 points and logged over 21 minutes of ice time per game. 

 WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres winger Kyle Okposo is returning to the ice for the first time since a health scare on March 27. He’ll be skating with several current and former NHL players in a four-on-four summer league in Minnesota. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This bodes well for Okposo’s anticipated return to NHL action in 2017-18.


SPORTSNET’s Elliotte Friedman reported  the Ottawa Senators are pitching a one-year, $1-million contract proposal to forward Ryan Dzingel, who’s seeking a one-year, $1.95 million deal. His arbitration hearing is slated for July 21. 

SUN SENTINEL: The Florida Panthers signed 2017 first-round pick (tenth overall) Owen Tippett to a three-year entry-level contract. 

NBC SPORTS: Tampa Bay Lightning hired former NHL defenseman Ken Klee as an assistant coach with their AHL affiliate in Syracuse.

SPORTSNET: The AHL is allowing players on minor league contracts to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the NHL remains firm in its decision not to take part in the ’18 Winter Games ( and I don’t see suggesting otherwise), I’m assuming players in the AHL on two-way NHL contracts will be considered ineligible. 

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Financial news website Wall St. 24/7 published a report claiming the Carolina Hurricanes saw a 32 percent drop in attendance over the past 10 years. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Missing the playoffs nine times in that decade undoubtedly contributed to that decline. With rare exceptions (hello there, Edmonton and Toronto), fans will not turn out to support a perennial loser. And no, that’s not a shot at fans of those two markets. Merely pointing out the obvious.

That’s also not a knock against Carolina hockey supporters. In most markets, fans will stop coming if the team shows no sign of improvement over a prolonged period of time. You’ve gotta give your fans something worth coming out for. For the past decade, Hurricanes followers have had little to cheer about.