NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 26, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 26, 2020

An eye injury ends Johnny Boychuk’s playing career, the Lightning re-sign Mikhail Sergachev, the latest return-to-play news and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NEW YORK POST: A gruesome eye injury suffered during the 2019-20 season has prematurely ended the playing career of Johnny Boychuk. The 36-year-old New York Islanders defenseman suffered poor peripheral vision and optic nerve damage from two separate incidents that would make it unsafe to continue his 13-year career.

New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk (NHL Images).

The Islanders, however, have not announced Boychuk as retired, meaning he’ll likely go on long-term injury reserve. That will allow the Isles to exceed their accruable cap space limit by the $6 million annual average value on his contract, which expires at the end of 2021-22.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Boychuk in his future endeavors. He collected 206 points in 725 games with the Colorado Avalanche, Boston Bruins and the Islanders, winning the Stanley Cup with the Bruins in 2011.

According to Cap Friendly, the Isles have just $3.9 million in salary-cap space. Placing Boychuk on LTIR will free up sufficient space to sign restricted free agent center Mathew Barzal.

For those of you wondering why Boychuk hasn’t retired outright, it would mean forfeiting the remaining salary on his contract.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: The Lightning yesterday re-signed Mikhail Sergachev to a three-year contract worth an annual average value of $4.8 million. The 22-year-old defenseman was a restricted free agent coming off his entry-level contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sergachev has rapidly blossomed into one of the Lightning’s top defensemen whose best seasons are still ahead of him. He’ll become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights at the end of it.

The deal is also structured to pay him more in the final season when league revenue is expected to improve. Cap Friendly indicates he’ll get $2.4 million in actual salary this season, $4.8 million in 2021-22 and $7.2 million in 2022-23. It’ll cost the Lightning big bucks to qualify his rights and re-sign him at the end of this deal.

Sergachev’s new contract also pushes the Lightning above the $81.5 million salary cap by $1.9 million. They must also sign center Anthony Cirelli and blueliner Erik Cernak. I’ll have more about their possible moves to become cap compliant in today’s Rumor Mill.

TSN’s Pierre LeBrun tweeted NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman haven’t spoken since last Thursday. He believes that speaks to how the players feel about the league’s requests for increases to the salary deferral/escrow rates. LeBrun thinks there’s still time to salvage this but next week could be crucial.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun could be referring to starting the season by the proposed date of Jan. 1. I think the time’s run out for that. However, there’s an ongoing belief among the punditry that the two sides will work something out to start up the season by late January or early February.

THE SCORE: Team Canada is halting its World Junior selection camp and entering a 14-day quarantine period after two players tested positive for COVID-19. Workouts and meetings will be conducted via video call while scrimmages for the weekend are canceled. The 2021 World Junior Championship is slated to begin on Christmas Day in a bubble environment in Edmonton similar to that used by the NHL for the 2020 playoffs.

SPORTSNET: A memorial fund for the late Joey Moss raised nearly $1 million through a 50/50 raffle. Moss, the long-time dressing room attendant for the Edmonton Oilers and the CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos, passed away in October at age 57.










The Clock Is Ticking On NHL’s Jan. 1 Return-to-Play Plan

The Clock Is Ticking On NHL’s Jan. 1 Return-to-Play Plan

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 24, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 24, 2020

The latest on the return-to-play discussions, four Golden Knights test positive for COVID-19, the Bruins sign Jake DeBrusk and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

RETURN-TO-PLAY NEWS

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch cited NHL insider Nick Kypreos saying there were no discussions over the weekend between the league and the NHL Players Association for the first time in weeks regarding the 2020-21 season.

 

The league remains focused on a Jan. 1 start but NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly suggested several times that date is flexible and could be pushed back a week or two.

Garrioch believes it’s been quiet of late because the two sides have likely retreated to their offices to come up with a plausible agreement acceptable to the owners. Senators owner Eugene Melnyk last week indicated not all the 31 owners are on board with the plan put forward because of the losses they’ll face for 2020-21. The players last week rejected two requests from the league for increased escrow and salary deferral rates.

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy reported “a prominent agent” said talks are currently at a standstill. Three other player agents wondered when is enough with the constant concessions the players have made since the 2004-05 lockout. One accused league commissioner Gary Bettman and the owners of using the pandemic to squeeze more out of the players. Another agent claims he knows of five or six owners seriously questioning if it makes sense to stage a season.

Murphy feels the longer negotiations drag on, the more NHL and AHL players could head overseas to play in Europe, particularly those on two-way contracts who finished last season in the AHL. He also cites a league source suggesting a Feb. 5 start date for the season remains an option.

ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan reports Bettman is dealing with a handful of disgruntled owners, with some believing they got a bad deal in the new collective bargaining agreement and a few telling the commissioner they’d prefer not to play if there are no fans because of operating losses.

According to a source, Bettman is “managing” those owners, telling them sitting out the season isn’t an option because of the damage to the league’s long-term health. However, he is trying to address their concerns, which include an infusion of cash to start the season, hence the league’s requests to the players last week.

Kaplan reports sources indicated the players remain willing to work with the league because it’s in everyone’s best interest to stage a season. If the league is trying to borrow money from the players, the PA could seek concessions such as increased health insurance for players in retirement. Kaplan also notes the NHL owners will be getting $650 million in expansion fees in 2021-22 plus a new U.S. Television deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This stalemate between the league and the PA could stretch on for weeks and put the 2020-21 season into jeopardy. But as long as Bettman and the players remain determined to return to play, the less likely the season will be canceled. There appears a genuine desire on both sides to get this done, though there’s no denying the league’s recent requests have stalled negotiations.

Barring a significant breakthrough by the end of this week, I think we can forget about the Jan. 1 start date. As Garrioch pointed out, Daly has previously suggested that start date was flexible. It could be anywhere between mid-January and mid-February, though the earlier the better if they hope to stage a meaningful schedule.

OTHER NOTABLE NHL HEADLINES

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Four Vegas Golden Knights players have tested positive for COVID-19. The club confirmed their status but declined to identify them. The four are in self-isolation and “recovering well.” The club is taking precautionary measures by closing their off-ice training facilities and player areas to players and staff through Sunday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This serves as a reminder that the pandemic will still affect the players if the 2020-21 season takes place. Without playing in a quarantine bubble as they did during the 2020 playoffs, they risk exposure to the coronavirus even with increased testing and strict health and safety protocols.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: The Bruins signed restricted free agent winger Jake DeBrusk to a two-year contract worth an annual average value of $3.675 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: DeBrusk had the bad luck to complete an entry-level contract in the midst of a pandemic that adversely affected the NHL salary cap. While his agent had suggested his client was worth $6 million per season, there was no way he was going to get that much from the Bruins or from another club via an offer sheet under the current economic conditions.

It’s a good deal for the Bruins because they get DeBrusk under contract at a reasonable short-term deal that also leaves enough cap space for other moves. The young winger still gets a decent raise and a chance for a much better deal in two years times when he’ll have arbitration rights in a potentially better economic climate.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens center Jesperi Kotkaniemi is leaving Finnish club Pori Assat and returning to Montreal in what’s considered a sign the club is preparing to stage its training camp soon. Kotkaniemi will begin a 14-day quarantine upon his return.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: He’s not the only player skating in Europe coming back to North America. If more players follow suit it’ll signal the league and the PA are close to a return-to-play agreement.

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: The Blackhawks hired Kendall Coyne Schofield as a player development coach and youth hockey growth specialist. She’s the organization’s first-ever female development coach. They also hired former NHL player Erik Condra as a player development coach.

WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets hired Dave Lowry as an assistant coach. The father of Jets center Adam Lowry said he doesn’t expect any issues with the two working for the same team.

NHL.COM: The Florida Panthers hired Shane Churla as their director of amateur scouting. The former NHL player spent the past seven seasons with the Canadiens scouting staff. He also spent seven seasons as an amateur scout with the Dallas Stars and another five in the same role with the Arizona Coyotes.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 22, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 22, 2020

The latest return-to-play news and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons believes the infighting between the NHL and NHL Players Association over the league’s requests for higher escrow and salary deferral rates puts the start of the 2020-21 season into question. He feels league commissioner Gary Bettman faces a difficult challenge, attempting to negotiate during a pandemic with the owners angry and divided and the players unwilling to budge over further cuts to their salaries.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman (NHL.com).

  NEWSDAY: Andrew Gross suggests additional salary deferral could be a way out of this mess despite the initial shock and anger from the players. Unlike escrow, deferrals will at some point find their way back to the players. Another is the desire by Bettman and the PA to start the season as soon as possible.

The league and PA prefer a start date of Jan. 1. With the clock ticking, however, Gross thinks that might have to be pushed back to around Feb. 1. He feels a realistic start date for the season should become clearer by the end of the upcoming American Thanksgiving weekend.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: We can probably forget about a Jan. 1 start to the season if an agreement between the league and the PA isn’t reached by Monday, Nov, 30. Many players still haven’t joined their teams. The league wants a 14-day training camp leading up to the start of the season, with last season’s seven non-playoff clubs getting an additional seven-to-10 days as promised.

ESPN.COM: A recent survey of American sports fans indicates two-thirds of the respondents will await the arrival of a COVID-19 vaccine before returning to arenas and stadiums.

THE MERCURY NEWS: San Jose Sharks president Jonathan Becher said the club will have to hold its training camp outside of Santa Clara county if local health officials won’t allow players to skate in large numbers at its training facility in San Jose.

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: Blackhawks star Patrick Kane and his girlfriend Amanda recently announced the birth of their first child. Patrick Timothy Kane III arrived on Nov. 12.

TSN: Fred Saskamoose, one of the first Indigenous players to skate in the NHL, tested positive for COVID-19 and has been hospitalized. He played 11 games with the Chicago Blackhawks in 1953-54. Following his playing career, he was extensively involved in developing sports programs for Indigenous youth. Saskamoose was named to the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame in 2007 and received the Order of Canada in 2017.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Saskamoose for a speedy recovery.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 11, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 11, 2020

The latest on the NHL’s return-to-play plan for 2020-21, an update on Elias Pettersson, and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Commissioner Gary Bettman said the league is exploring temporary hub cities, temporary divisional realignments and a reduced schedule as options for staging the 2020-21 season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman (NHL.com).

Bettman said he would never ask the players to return to a strict quarantine bubble similar to the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs for an entire season. They’re exploring teams playing in their own arenas with or without fans, depending on the location, in hubs or a hybrid system.

The commissioner suggested teams would play for 10-to-12 days in hub cities without traveling, followed by returning home to their families for a week. He indicated they would have testing protocols and other things in place. While admitting it won’t be quite as effective as in a quarantine bubble, they believe they can minimize the risks “to the extent practical and sensible.”

Bettman indicated any return-to-play plan would be a collaborative effort with the NHLPA. The two sides have been in regular and constant communication but regular meetings have yet to begin.

Border restrictions between Canada and the United States, as well as travel limitations between certain states, could force a temporary divisional realignment based on region.

Bettman also pointed to a lack of fans in the stands and casual fans being less inclined to watch hockey during the summer as two key factors why television ratings were down for the 2020 playoffs.

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports deputy commissioner Bill Daly sent a memo to all 31 teams stating the league believes progress toward finalizing a recommendation for the 2020-21 season to the board of governors is being made.

If negotiations with the NHLPA can be completed by Thursday, the terms will be presented to the upcoming board of governors meeting for approval.

Daly indicated the objective remains to start on Jan. 1 with the regular-season schedule concluding in late-April. That would mean a shortened schedule of 48-56 games, with the league crowning a Stanley Cup champion before the summer and returning with a normal 82-game schedule from October to April for 2021-22.

Because of border restrictions, the seven Canadian franchises could be in their own division for at least the start of the season.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the NHL hopes to award the Stanley Cup by no later than July 15. He also said different sources have heard different potential lengths for the schedule, from as low as 56 to as high as 72 games, depending on when the season begins.

There’s a growing push for teams to play in their own buildings. One reason is the naming rights on those buildings. With fewer events, sponsorship deals could be affected.

One area of possible contention is player salaries for 2020-21. The players agreed to accept 72 percent of their gross pay for the upcoming season, but the owners feel they should be prorated if a significant decline in attendance creates losses higher than the 20 percent escrow could withstand.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Much of what Bettman said has already been previously reported or speculated upon. Bear in mind that those points he raises remain under consideration and haven’t officially approved.

The league’s plan also remains to have fans gradually returning to the arenas over the course of the season, with the hope of full arenas when the playoffs open in the spring. However, that’s going to depend on the severity of the pandemic in each region. Some could have loosened restrictions allowing a reduced number of socially distanced fans in the stands as we’ve seen in the NFL.

There was speculation suggesting the NHL could wait until as late as March to reopen to allow more fans into the stands by that point. Based on Garrioch’s report, however, the push remains to start in January and award the Cup by no later than mid-July to avoid having the playoffs drag on too deeply into the summer. I also think they want to avoid having to go up against the Tokyo Summer Olympics set to begin in late July.

While the league and the PA in constant talks, it’s interesting to note the supposed “return-to-play” committee still hasn’t met yet. It appears the leadership of both sides could be hashing out the framework of a plan and leave the finer details to the committee.

I’ve recently pointed out, however, the league is getting pressed for time to start on Jan. 1. All the players still have to return to their home cities. Training camps will have to begin in early-December, with the seven clubs that didn’t qualify for the 2020 playoffs probably to hit the ice by no later than the end of this month. The Christmas holiday break will also complicate an exhibition-game schedule.

THE SCORE: cites a report in The Athletic indicating the Vancouver Canucks haven’t yet begun substantive contract extension talks with Elias Pettersson. However, that lack of progress isn’t anything to be concerned about.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pettersson quickly established himself as the Canucks’ best player since his debut in 2018-19. He won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year that season with 66 points, followed by 66 points in 68 games last season. Pettersson, who turns 22 on Nov. 12, has yet to reach his playing prime. He’s entering the final season of his entry-level contract and will receive a significant raise in his next deal with the Canucks.

SPORTSNET: The Seattle Kraken expect to have the main portion of their training facility ready to open next July.

ECHL.COM: released its schedule of critical dates that will see it gradually start its season in two stages. The first stage will see 13 teams start their seasons on Dec. 11 with the remainder beginning on Jan. 15.










NHL Facing Long Odds to Start 2020-21 Season on Jan. 1

NHL Facing Long Odds to Start 2020-21 Season on Jan. 1