NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 22, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 22, 2020

Nikita Kucherov could miss the start of the season, Oscar Klefbom sidelined for 2020-21, the Coyotes sign Drake Caggiula, the latest on Canadian teams playing in Ontario and BC, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE ATHLETIC: Joe Smith reports a nagging hip injury could affect Nikita Kucherov’s status for the start of the season. The Tampa Bay Lightning winger received an injection after experiencing discomfort during offseason workouts. He was expected to skate on Monday to see how he felt. The Lightning and Kucherov’s agent declined to comment.

Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The high-scoring Kucherov’s potential absence would be keenly felt by the Lightning. They could place him on long-term injury reserve if the injury is serious enough, providing salary-cap flexibility to re-sign restricted free agents Anthony Cirelli and Erik Cernak. However, the Lightning would have to shed salary to become cap compliant when he returns to the lineup later in the season. It’s still believed they’ll make a trade or two to free up enough cap room for Cirelli and Cernak.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom will miss the entire season to a shoulder injury. He’s looking into surgery and hopes to be ready to return for 2021-22.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It was widely reported Klefbom was unlikely to play this season prior to yesterday’s announcement. This leaves a big hole on the Oilers’ blueline. He and his $4.167 million annual average value will be placed on LTIR if the Oilers need the cap room to make any additions, such as perhaps a short-term replacement for Klefbom.

ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes signed forward Drake Caggiula to a one-year contract. Cap Friendly indicates it’s worth $700K, leaving the Coyotes above the $81.5 million salary cap by $3.47 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Coyotes will get cap relief by placing permanently sidelined Marian Hossa ($5.275 million) on LTIR. Caggiula has dealt with concussion injuries in the past. When healthy, he is an affordable depth forward who’ll bring some additional experience to the Coyotes’ checking lines.

TSN: Despite a province-wide lockdown beginning on Christmas eve, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said no decision has been reached yet regarding the province’s NHL teams hosting games in their own arenas. Discussions are ongoing between the province and the league.

SPORTSNET: Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning remains hopeful his club can gain the confidence of British Columbia’s health officials to receive clearance to stage home games in their own arena to start this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Recent reports suggest BC could be unlikely to sign off on the NHL’s plan for its Canadian teams to stage games in their home arenas. Ontario and Quebec seem to be leaning toward approval but that’s not a certainty. Plan B for the Canadian teams would be opening this season in a hub city such as Edmonton.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: The NHL has a plan to compensate teams that might have to change venues during the season. The San Jose Sharks are one of them, recently announcing they’ll stage training camp and open the season in Arizona.

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: The Vegas Golden Knights will begin this season without fans in attendance but haven’t closed the door on allowing a limited number of fans as the season progresses and health restrictions ease.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’ll be the plan for every NHL club. So far, only three teams – Dallas Stars, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning – could allow a limited number of fans when the season begins. The rest will make that decision based on restrictions in their areas over the course of the schedule.

TSN: Rick Westhead reports the NHL hopes to raise $15 million this season selling ads on players’ helmets. Rich clubs like the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens are pursuing $1 million deals while small-market clubs will get much less.

Westhead cites a league executive saying some of that money will be given to sponsors to make good for empty arenas. The executive denies the league is being greedy here. “Do you know how much money we are going to lose without customers in arenas? We are hemorrhaging money and we need to find any possible option for keeping our people employed.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As I’ve said before, purists hate the idea but this was inevitable. The pandemic merely hastened this decision. The league is losing a lot of revenue right now and must find whatever new streams it can to offset some of those losses. Fans got used to ads on rink boards and ice surfaces. They’ll get used to this.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 15, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 15, 2020

Players are returning to their respective teams as negotiations continue between the NHL and NHLPA on a format for the 2020-21 season. Check out the latest in the morning coffee headlines.

TORONTO SUN: Joe Thornton reportedly departed Switzerland yesterday on his way to joining the Maple Leafs. The 41-year-old center played with HC Davos in preparation for a shortened 2020-21 NHL season.

Joe Thornton has left Switzerland to join the Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Thornton is among a number of players reportedly returning to their NHL club over the last week or two. His return to North America is seen as another indication the NHL is making progress in its plans toward starting this season in mid-January. 

THE DETROIT NEWS: Red Wings center Dylan Larkin is looking forward to returning to the ice with his teammates for the first time since the pandemic derailed the 2019-20 regular season. Larkin found it tough mentally dealing with the uncertainty over when this season would begin.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Red Wings are among the seven clubs that missed the playoffs last season. Those teams are expected to begin training camp on Dec. 31, four days before the other 24 clubs.

THE PROVINCE: The Vancouver Canucks’ proposal for a 14-day group quarantine of their players returning from Europe and the United States has apparently been rejected by local health officials. “Everything I’m hearing is that they didn’t accept the group cohort quarantine,” said general manager Jim Benning.

The Canucks presented a training-camp style plan where those players would practice as a group at Rogers Arena with a professional athlete exemption, traveling only to and from the arena and their homes.

TSN: Darren Dreger reports the NHL and NHLPA announced Monday they are making progress toward a 56-game schedule for this season. He indicates the majority of players are returning to their teams, especially those in Canada whose players must quarantine for 14 days before joining their teammates.

The focus remains playing in all 31 arenas but Plan B is playing in hub cities. An agreement on a format will have to reached by the end of this week to meet the timeline to open training camps in two weeks’ time.

TORONTO STAR: Kevin McGran reports the NHL Players Association’s 31-member executive committee could vote as early as Wednesday on a wide-ranging plan for the ’20-’21 season. The NHL Board of Governors would vote on Thursday.

An industry source tells McGran the two sides are working “around the clock on transitional rules and return-to-play protocols, and working to firm up agreements for logistical issues.” Another source tells McGran he doesn’t see any issue that could derail negotiations. “It’s just a matter of how long it’s going to take. I don’t see any reason not to play a season.”

Issues still to be sorted out include the timing for the 2021 NHL Draft and the expansion draft, new dates for free agency if the 2021 playoffs stretch into July, and rules governing cross-border trades.

NEW YORK POST’s Larry Brooks reports players are being told to expect training camp to begin shortly after New Year’s Day. Teams have been told to expect the season to begin between Jan. 13 and 16.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: COVID-19 is a pretty good reason not to play but the team owners and the players want this season to take place. With the NFL season ongoing, the NBA opening their season on Dec. 22 and MLB spring training slated to begin on Feb. 27, the NHL doesn’t want to disappear from the sports calendar. The owners want to salvage whatever revenue they can while the players need to get paid.

ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes are expected to hire Cory Stillman as an assistant coach. A two-time Stanley Cup champion during his 16-year NHL playing career, Stillman has worked at the front-office level with the Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers. He also spent two seasons as head coach of the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves.










Botterill Joins Several Former Assistant General Managers Who Failed As NHL GMs

Botterill Joins Several Former Assistant General Managers Who Failed As NHL GMs

 










NHL Rumor Mill – May 26, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – May 26, 2020

In today’s NHL rumor mill, we look at the latest Oilers speculation and some suggested backup goaltender options for the Ducks.

SPORTSNET: In a recent mailbag segment, Mark Spector was asked if the Edmonton Oilers would be able to trade Kris Russell, and if Matt Benning would be retained and traded or let go.

Russell’s annual average value is $4 million through 2020-21. The 33-year-old defenseman is seeing third-pairing minutes on the Oilers’ blueline. Benning, 26, is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights.

Spector feels general manager Ken Holland’s ability to move Russell will impinge on what he’ll offer Benning. He doesn’t see much sense in cutting Benning loose but expects he or Russell is likely to be moved to make way for a younger rearguard like Caleb Jones or Evan Bouchard.

Speculation persists linking Jesse Puljujarvi to the New York Rangers (Photo via NHL Images).

Asked if the Oilers could buy out Russell or winger James Neal, Spector doesn’t expect that to happen unless the NHL offers up compliance buyouts in the off-season.

(NOT MARK) SPECTOR’S NOTE: The decline in Russell’s play and his cap hit will make him difficult enough to move. It gets tougher when his 10-team no-trade list climbs to 15 teams for 2020-21. They also can’t bury him in the minors because he has no-movement protection. Maybe they find a taker in the off-season, but I doubt it. I also agree with “Cousin Mark” about the buyout option.

Benning, meanwhile, could end up on the trade block if his contract talks become contentious. With Cap Friendly indicating the Oilers carry over $71 million invested in 16 players for next season, Holland can only offer Benning at best a modest raise over his current $1.9 million salary-cap hit.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Kurt Leavins reports the New York Rangers would potentially part with a high draft pick to facilitate a swap of Lias Andersson to Edmonton for Jesse Puljujarvi. However, he’s been told the Rangers have more interest in Puljujarvi than the Oilers have in the slow-footed Andersson.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Andersson-for-Puljujarvi rumor has floated around for a while, but I’m not convinced this is going to take place. Stranger things have happened but I don’t see the Rangers giving up a high draft pick to make this happen.

DUCKS BACKUP GOALIE OPTIONS

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Eric Stephens recently examined several possible backup goalie options for the Anaheim Ducks if Ryan Miller isn’t re-signed or retires. Among them are Dallas’ Anton Khudobin, Calgary’s Cam Talbot, Edmonton’s Mike Smith, the Islanders’ Thomas Greiss, and Ottawa’s Craig Anderson.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stephens does a good job breaking down the pros and cons of each netminder. Khudobin and Greiss could prove too expensive as both will be in demand. Smith and Anderson are coming to the end of their respective careers. Talbot could seek a starter’s job after regaining his form this season with the Flames.

The Ducks could be forced to consider more affordable short-term options to spell off John Gibson, but that might not be suitable to ease his heavy workload.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 4, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 4, 2020

Reaction to the league’s proposal to stage the 2020 Draft before resuming the season and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports this week will be a big one for the NHL. A board of governors’ conference call will be held today to discuss stage the 2020 draft next month, perhaps on June 5 and 6.

The league will review bids on Tuesday for potential hub cities to host games should the season resume this summer. Carolina, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Toronto, and Las Vegas are believed among those expressing interest. The league must also address concerns raised by players regarding potentially lengthy separations from their families.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: J.J. Regan raised questions about staging the draft before the season resumes. He wants to know how the draft lottery will work, what happens with conditional picks, if teams will be allowed to trade players, and what happens with the investigation into claims the Arizona Coyote violated draft rules by fitness-testing at least 20 draft-eligible prospects before the league’s annual draft combine.

Las Vegas is believed among the cities interested in being a hub location for resuming the NHL season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Regan pointed out deputy commissioner Bill Daly suggested using points percentage as a way of determining the draft order, as well as reverting to the previous draft lottery system where one winner is picked and can only move up four spots. However, he noted that it raises the possibility of a team winning the draft lottery and going on to win the Stanley Cup if the season resumes this summer.

Regan cited Daly’s suggestions that teams involved in previous deals involving conditional picks in this year’s draft could sort them out between themselves or the league would do it for them. I agree with his take that it’s a simplistic solution for a complicated issue. It doesn’t sound like the league will allow players to be traded.

Meanwhile, the Coyotes appear to have inside information on 20 prospects, giving them an unfair advantage in this draft. I’ll be very surprised if that isn’t raised during that conference call today.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jim Matheson cites an NHL team executive expressing doubt that staging an early draft will be a TV rating bonanza. “I know we’re gung-ho to get on the airwaves but our draft isn’t like the NFL draft. Nobody knows our players. I don’t think we’ll have massive ratings. There’s no intrigue leading up to the draft if you can’t trade real players, either, it’s just picking at a draft.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Comparing the NFL and NHL drafts, Matheson notes that few Canadians follow junior hockey here or in Europe with the same intensity that Americans follow U.S. college football. As he also points out, this year’s draft will lack spice because of the inability to trade established NHL players. I agree with him that the league must aggressively market this year’s prospects to NHL fans if they intend to hold the draft a month from now.

TSN: NHL teams are preparing for an early draft despite incomplete information on this year’s prospects. Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning said it would be nice to see how those players perform in playoff situations. Columbus Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said they’re having to rely more on videotape, while Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff added they’ll have to count on the work put in by their scouts from September to early-March. Flames GM Brad Treliving said losing the draft combine means they can’t physically test the prospects.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Every club will be in the same boat, except for the Coyotes because of their early physical testing of several prospects. Nevertheless, the inability to scout those youngsters in late-season and playoff action and evaluate their physical conditioning could make this year’s draft more of a guessing game, especially in the later rounds.

THE SCORE: Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said NHL players flying into Canada from other countries while the border remains closed must follow quarantine procedures. “Certainly, at a strict minimum, anyone who arrives from another country will have to follow all the rules of quarantine in an extremely strict manner, but we’re not there yet in our discussions with the NHL.”

TORONTO SUN: Ryan Wolstat includes the Boston Bruins on his list of North American sports teams that would be hurt the most if their seasons are canceled because of the pandemic. With the NHL’s best record, the Bruins are considered this season’s Stanley Cup favorites.

Wolstat also thinks a cancellation of the season would spare the Toronto Maple Leafs the disappointment of another early playoff exit, while the last-place Detroit Red Wings wouldn’t have to complete the remainder of a meaningless schedule.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Being the best team in the NHL during the regular season is no guarantee of a Stanley Cup championship. Since the NHL awarded the Presidents’ Trophy in 1986 to the team with the best regular-season record, only eight of those teams went on to win the Cup.

As for the Leafs, they could also exceed Wolstat’s expectations. Should the season resume following a long layoff, teams won’t be in the same state as they were when the schedule was paused.

NBC SPORTS: San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton shaved off his iconic beard.










Jim Benning’s Plan is Working for the Vancouver Canucks

Jim Benning’s Plan is Working for the Vancouver Canucks