Top Three NHL Prospects For Each Central Division Team
The latest on the league’s 2020-21 plans plus updates on Brandon Saad, Brent Seabrook and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
TVA SPORTS: Renaud Lavoie reports NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said yesterday the league’s goal remains to start the season on Jan. 1. “But if it has to be postponed for a week or two, it won’t change our plans,” he said.
Lavoie believes it’s now impossible for the league to stage a full 82-game season. Daly wouldn’t confirm this but acknowledged the possibility of a shortened schedule.
Daly indicated they’re studying all financial models but the priority remains to ensure the health of the players. A baseball-style schedule that would reduce travel and the risks associated with COVID-19, including a Canadian division, would make the most sense.
Most observers believe the season will be at least 48 games. Lavoie feels a 60-game schedule seems logical, which would mean a club like the Montreal Canadiens would play 10 games against each team in the Canadian division.
Lavoie noted team owners want to play in their own arenas rather than in hub cities because they can generate more revenue.
The elephant in the room is whether the players would be paid in proportion to the number of games played in 2020-21. It was agreed under the new CBA they would receive 72 percent of their salaries for ’20-’21 regardless of the number of games played. Daly was reluctant to discuss the possibility of the league requesting the players be paid on a prorated basis, adding the priority is working toward a solution together to open the season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: An 82-game schedule is a fantasy. Most of the speculation ranges from as low as 48 games to as many as 72, though the sweet spot could be in the 60-68 game span.
Starting up on Jan. 1 could be difficult given the narrow time frame the NHL has to hammer out what next season will look like. Players also have to return to their teams and a training-camp timetable must be sorted out. I wouldn’t be surprised if the start of the season is pushed ahead to mid – or late January.
Reports yesterday indicated the NHL Players Association was against prorating players’ salaries, but there was talk the league could seek another deferral of a portion of their salaries. That would be more palatable for the players as they would still get their money but at a later date. How much of a deferral and for how long remains to be seen.
THE SCORE: Brandon Saad said he’s hoping to remain with the Colorado Avalanche beyond his current contract. The 28-year-old winger was acquired last month from the Chicago Blackhawks. He’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That will depend on how well Saad performs with the Avalanche next season, as well as how much he’ll seek for salary on his next contract and for how long. Cap Friendly indicates they have over $55.1 million invested in 12 players for 2021-22, with Gabriel Landeskog, Cale Makar, Philipp Grubauer and Tyson Jost among their other notable free agents. New deals for Landeskog and Makar alone will each up a considerable chunk of their cap space.
THE ATHLETIC: Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook told Pierre LeBrun he intends to play next season and silence the doubters. The 35-year-old blueliner’s performance has declined in part due to multiple injuries, but he’s resumed skating and has no plans to retire.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That would also eliminate the possibility of the Blackhawks placing Seabrook and his $6.875 million cap hit for 2020-21 on long-term injury reserve in order to bolster their roster via free agency.
LAS VEGAS SUN: Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Shea Theodore has created a fund in honor of his late grandmother who succumbed to breast cancer. The fund will pay for preventative cancer care for women without insurance coverage.
SPORTSNET: The Ottawa Senators signed forward Micheal Haley to a one-year, two-way contract.
Among the proposals the AHL is looking at for 2020-21 is an all-Canadian division with Belleville, Toronto, Laval and Manitoba. Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton don’t want to relocate their AHL teams to Canada because of the expense involved. #Sens #NHLJets #Leafs #Habs
— Bruce Garrioch (@SunGarrioch) November 13, 2020
Check out the latest notable contract signings plus an update on the Penguins in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
THE DENVER POST: The Colorado Avalanche signed Devon Toews to a four-year, $16.4 million contract. The annual average cap hit is $4.1 million. The 26-year-old defenseman will earn $2.35 million in 2020-21, $3.55 million in 2021-22, $4.6 million in 2022-23 and $5.9 million in 2023-24.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Avalanche acquired Toews earlier this month from the New York Islanders. Avs general manager Joe Sakic praised him as a “smart, two-way, puck-moving defenseman who is a durable defender and is excellent in transition”.
Toews is getting a significant raise over the $700K per season of his previous contract. Like a number of contracts signed during this offseason, his deal is backloaded to pay him more in actual salary in the latter years as league revenue is expected to increase.
THE DETROIT NEWS: An arbiter has awarded Tyler Bertuzzi a salary of $3.5 million for 2020-21. The 25-year-old Red Wings forward sought $4.25 million while the club offered $3.15 million. He earned $1.4 million last season. He will be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights at the end of next season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bertuzzi was going to get a substantial raise given his performance over the last two seasons. It’s curious that he and the Wings needed arbitration to sort this out considering how narrow the gap was between them. It’ll be interesting to see if Bertuzzi goes that route again next year.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: The Carolina Hurricanes avoided arbitration with Haydn Fleury, signing the 24-year-old defenseman to a two-year contract worth an annual average value of $1.3 million.
NEW YORK POST: The Islanders and winger Josh Ho-Sang avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, two-way deal worth $700K at the NHL level.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ho-Sang requested a trade last year but the Isles couldn’t find any takers. This could be his last chance to stick with the franchise.
WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets signed restricted free agent forward Jansen Harkins to a two-year contract worth $725K per season.
OTTAWA SUN: The Senators signed forward Filip Chlapik to a one-year, two-way contract worth $750K at the NHL level.
THE PROVINCE: Former Vancouver Canucks defenseman Oscar Fantenberg has signed with KHL club SKA St. Petersburg.
THE SCORE: cites The Athletic reporting the Pittsburgh Penguins are exploring the possibility of hiring former Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon in some capacity.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins could also be considering bringing back Jason Botterill, who was fired as Buffalo Sabres GM earlier this year.
The latest on the Blackhawks and Avalanche in today’s NHL rumor mill.
THE ATHLETIC: Mark Lazerus reports the Chicago Blackhawks’ core of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook isn’t going anywhere anytime soon as the club undergoes a rebuild.
The contracts of Toews and Kane ($10.5 million annually through 2022-23 with full no-movement clauses) are largely untradeable plus they both want to stay with the Blackhawks. Seabrook’s injury history and his full no-movement clause could also keep him in Chicago. However, Lazerus speculates maybe a trade with the expansion Seattle Kraken next summer could be worked out if the blueliner agrees to waive his clause to be nearer his home in Richmond, British Columbia.
Lazerus speculates Keith could be the most likely to be moved. He carries a reasonable $5.538-million AAV but will earn over $6 million in actual salary over the remaining three years of his deal. He also has a full no-movement clause but at 37 doesn’t have as much time to wait on a rebuild.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lazerus emphasizes he’s merely speculating and isn’t saying any of those four will be traded anytime soon. A lot can happen over the remaining three years of the respective contracts of Toews, Kane and Keith and the four years on Seabrook’s contract.
Nevertheless, trying to move any of them in the current economic climate would be very difficult even if they were willing to accept a trade. Toews and Kane would attract considerable interest if they hit the trade block but the Blackhawks would have to pick up a big chunk of their respective cap hits or take back a significant toxic contract to facilitate a deal.
THE DENVER POST: Mike Chambers recently noted the Colorado Avalanche were sitting with around $5.2 million in salary-cap space following their recent re-signing of Tyson Jost to a one-year deal. They still must re-sign defenseman Devon Toews, who was recently acquired from the New York Islanders.
Chambers also believes the Avs need to add another defenseman and a physical veteran depth forward to add some toughness to their checking lines.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Toews’ arbitration hearing is slated for Oct. 31. Cap Friendly indicates he’s coming off a two-year, $1.4 million contract and will seek a significant raise over his $700K AAV.
If general manager Joe Sakic signs Toews for around $2.5 million annually on a short-term deal it should leave enough to bring in a couple of inexpensive UFAs to address those other needs and leave a bit of wiggle room under the cap for other moves during the season.
The NHL postpones the 2021 Winter Classic and All-Star Weekend, the latest notable contract signings and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The league postponed the 2021 Winter Classic and the All-Star Weekend for this season. The Winter Classic was slated for Jan. 1, 2021 at Target Field in Minneapolis featuring the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues. The Florida Panthers were to host the 2021 All-Star Weekend at BB&T Center in Sunrise from Jan. 29-31.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those events could be pushed ahead to the same locations for next season. There’s talk the league still hopes to begin the 2020-21 season sometime in January. These postponements indicate that’s not going to happen. At the very least, it won’t happen with fans in the arenas in the early going.
TSN: Darren Dreger reports the status of the developmental leagues like the AHL and the Major Juniors will be a pressing issue at today’s meeting of NHL general managers. However, the league’s high-level executives aren’t going to be able to provide answers for their GMs.
Pierre LeBrun reports of a constant dialogue between NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr and their chief lieutenants regarding plans for next season. He added there’s a bigger appetite among team owners, general managers and players to have a greater voice on those plans because there’s so much at stake. LeBrun also said whatever the season looks like when it begins likely won’t be what it’ll look like toward the end.
Frank Seravalli reported one of the biggest conversations is a cost-benefit analysis for the NHL. It would be problematic for the league if revenue for next season is lower than the total salaries owed to the players. The players will also be getting paid on Oct 31 for the first time since April, receiving 8.1 percent of the salaries to tide them over for whenever the season begins.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It will be very difficult for NHL prospects to get suitable playing time considering the difficulties their development leagues face to stage their respective seasons. As for what the NHL season will look like, the league has indicated it could begin without fans in the arenas but they could gradually allow fans into the stands over the course of the schedule depending on local health and safety protocols. That will ultimately determine what the league’s revenue looks like by season’s end and its potential effect upon player salaries.
Speaking of next season, the Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons reports the Canadian government is looking at a pilot COVID-19 testing program that would replace the current 14-day quarantine period for people entering the country with rapid testings at airports and border entry crossings. If those prove successful, it could open up travel for NHL teams between the two countries.
OTTAWA SUN: The Senators avoided arbitration with Connor Brown by signing him to a three-year deal worth an annual average value of $3.6 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A fair deal for both sides. Brown quickly established himself as a key player for the Senators after joining them in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He finished second in team scoring, netting career-highs in assists (27) and points (43) in 71 games last season.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Stars re-signed winger Denis Gurianov to a two-year contract worth $2.55 million annually.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gurianov led the Stars in goals last season (20) and finished second in playoff goals with nine. This new contract will be a bargain for the Stars if the 23-year-old winger continues to develop as a goal scorer. Cap Friendly indicates they have $77.4 million invested in 21 players with Roope Hintz left to re-sign.
THE PROVINCE: The Vancouver Canucks avoided arbitration with Jake Virtanen by signing the winger to a two-year contract worth an AAV of $2.55 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Virtanen had a career-best performance (18 goals, 36 points in 69 games) last season but followed up with a disappointing effort (two goals, three points in 16 games) in the playoffs. He’ll be under pressure to step up and improve his overall game next season. The Canucks are $1.5 million over the $81.5 million salary cap but could get relief by placing winger MIcheal Ferland on long-term injury reserve if he’s unable to play next season.
NJ.COM: The New Jersey Devils signed former Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dmitry Kulikov to a one-year, $1.15 million contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Devils needed experienced depth on the blueline. This is a cost-effective short-term deal they hope will help to address that issue.
CALGARY SUN: The Flames signed former Pittsburgh Penguins forward Dominik Simon to a one-year, $700K contract.
THE DENVER POST: The Colorado Avalanche’s home arena is changing its name from the Pepsi Center to Ball Arena.
The latest on the Bruins, Blackhawks, Leafs and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
THE SCORE: Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney is willing to let Zdeno Chara take his time to reach a decision for the 2020-21 season. He said he’s been in regular contact with the 43-year-old defenseman and his agent. Chara is an unrestricted free agent who’s spent the past 14 seasons with the Bruins.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Chara’s agent recently said his client is drawing interest from multiple teams. For now, there’s no indication the long-time Bruins captain is planning to leave Boston. The uncertainty over what next season will look like could be a factor in his decision not to rush into signing a new contract.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Uncertainty over the status of Brent Seabrook, Andrew Shaw and Zack Smith is affecting the Blackhawks’ salary-cap flexibility. The trio missed the 2020 playoffs because of injuries and there’s some question whether they’ll be medically cleared to play next season. They could be placed on long-term injury reserve to start the season, which would allow the Blackhawks to address their goaltending and other roster issues.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks have around $5 million in cap space with center Dylan Strome to re-sign. Seabrook, Shaw and Smith take up roughly $14 million.
TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas doesn’t anticipate making any more significant offseason moves for the 2020-21 season. Dubas has added Joe Thornton, TJ Brodie, Wayne Simmonds, Aaron Dell, Zach Bogosian, Jimmy Vesey, Travis Boyd and Joey Anderson. He also brought back Jason Spezza. He doesn’t anticipate having to move out salary to re-sign restricted free agents Ilya Mikheyev, Travis Dermott and Anderson.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Leafs have $1.469 million in salary-cap space. Dubas could bury some salary in the minors.
COLORADO HOCKEY NOW: Avalanche forward Tyson Jost elected to sign his one-year qualifying offer worth over $874K.
Pending league call, it will be a two-year, one-way deal for Christian Fischer, per league source. https://t.co/pXmNLc6XtZ
— Craig Morgan (@CraigSMorgan) October 18, 2020