NHL Notes: Evander Kane Bankrupt, Blackhawks Extend Jeremy Colliton
League commissioner Bettman weighs in on the upcoming season, Mika Zibanejad reveals COVID-19 diagnosis, Evander Kane files for bankruptcy, Mike Hoffman signs with Blues, Jay Bouwmeester retires, and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Commissioner Gary Bettman said the league is prepared to lose billions of dollars to play the 2020-21 season amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He said it’s important for the game to stage the season, the players and fans wanted it, and it might help provide people dealing with COVID-19 restrictions some sense of normalcy.
Bettman also said it would be cheaper for the league not to play the season, claiming they would lose money at the club and league level. “But the owners are unanimously OK with that because they know how important it is for our fans and for the game.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bettman’s remarks about financial losses isn’t sitting well on the players’ side. Player agent Allan Walsh observed the commissioner neglected to mention that, under the CBA extension, the owners will be made whole for their losses by the players because of the 50-50 division of revenue. Bettman sounds like he’s still sore over the player’s firm rejection of his request last fall for increased escrow claw-backs and salary deferrals.
The Hockey News’ Ken Campbell, meanwhile, pointed out the NHL wasn’t going to risk hurting its visibility and fan engagement by shuttering its season with other major professional sports leagues staging theirs during this pandemic. Campbell also noted it would’ve pushed the NHL’s expiring US TV contract ahead to 2022, depriving them of the opportunity of landing a more lucrative deal later this year.
The commissioner revealed players will wear decals on their helmets honoring the 63rd anniversary of Willie O’Ree playing his first NHL game and to observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day. He also announced The NHL Outdoors at Lake Tahoe, featuring the Colorado Avalanche facing the Vegas Golden Knights on Feb. 20 followed by the Boston Bruins meeting the Philadelphia Flyers on Feb. 21.
NEW YORK POST: Rangers center Mika Zibanejad revealed he tested positive for COVID-19 prior to training camp. He missed the opening days of camp but now claims he’s feeling better. Zibanejad resumed skating with his teammates while consulting with doctors. Rangers coach David Quinn is hopeful Zibanejad will be ready for their season opener on Jan. 14 but the 27-year-old center wouldn’t confirm.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Zibanejad isn’t the only player to test positive and won’t be the last over the course of this season.
THE ATHLETIC: Evander Kane has filed for bankruptcy with $26.8 million of debt and assets of $10 million. The filing also indicates the 29-year-old San Jose Sharks winger can terminate his contract or opt-out of playing this season because of the pandemic and the recent birth of his daughter. The NHL’s opt-out date was Dec. 24 while Kane’s bankruptcy filing was Jan. 9.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kane could opt-out of this season rather than terminate his contract. While the league’s opt-out deadline has passed there could be an allowance here due to unforeseen circumstances. A precedent was set last summer when Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask left the club during the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs to attend to a family medical emergency.
STLTODAY.COM: The Blues yesterday signed Mike Hoffman to a one-year, $4 million contract. The 31-year-old winger was skating with the club on a professional tryout offer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It was anticipated the Blues would formally sign Hoffman once they sorted out their salary-cap situation. That includes putting a couple of players on their taxi squad for cap compliance reasons and placing Alexander Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko on long-term injury reserve.
TSN: Speaking of the Blues, defenseman Jay Bouwmeester quietly retired after 17 NHL seasons. He hadn’t played since suffering a cardiac incident on the bench during a game with the Anaheim Ducks last February. Bouwmeester played 1,240 NHL games with the Blues, Calgary Flames and Florida Panthers, finishing with 424 points. He won a Stanley Cup with the Blues in 2019 and an Olympic gold medal with Canada in 2014.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Bouwmeester and his family in their future endeavors.
ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes have hired former captain Shane Doan as their new chief hockey development officer. Doan retired in 2017 after 21 NHL seasons. He began his career with the former Winnipeg Jets and moved with the franchise to Arizona in 1996.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: The Panthers claimed defenseman Noah Juulsen off waivers yesterday from the Montreal Canadiens.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Stars will return to the ice today after canceling practices and close its training facilities when six players and two staff members tested positive for COVID-19.
THE MERCURY NEWS: The San Jose Sharks will meet with Santa Clara County officials regarding when they can return to SAP Center at San Jose. They’re scheduled to play their first home game on Feb. 1 but the county remains under a strict stay-at-home order because of a high number of COVID cases.
SPORTSNET: NBC Sports announced former NHL coach Mike Babcock will be joining the network as an in-studio analyst. He’ll replace Mike Milbury, who was let go after 14 years. Milbury was suspended by the network last summer following a series of offensive remarks he made toward women, injured players, and Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask during the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs.
The #NYI have officially filed the Martin, Greene, and Barzal contracts:
Barzal – $7M AAV
20-21: $3M base – $1M SB
Martin – $1.5M AAV
20-21: $700k base – $800k SB
— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) January 12, 2021
The NHL is still pushing for a mid-January start to 2020-21, the Wild sign Andrew Hammond as Alex Stalock remains sidelined, the Blackhawks name Stan Bowman president of hockey operations, and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: League commissioner Gary Bettman said the 2020-21 season could start in mid-January with a shortened schedule, a temporary divisional realignment with one of them composing all seven Canadian teams, division games only, and games in home arenas, hub cities or a combination of both.
Bettman indicated discussions between the NHL and NHL Players Association are ongoing as they try to adjust to government regulations at every level arising from COVID-19. He reiterated that playing an entire season in a quarantine bubble similar to the 2020 playoffs isn’t feasible. However, the league could consider moving teams toward a hub if enough of them cannot hold training camps or games in their home arenas due to local restrictions.
The commissioner maintains the biggest challenge facing the league remains to ensure the health and safety of the players and the support staff while ensuring they’re not doing anything that puts local communities at risk.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports five cities are under consideration if the NHL begins the season in hub locations. “Columbus, Newark, Vegas, and Toronto/Edmonton” are potential hubs but they won’t be permanent bubbles as in the playoffs.
KUKLA’S KORNER: cites TSN’s Frank Seravalli tweeting he’s heard the NHL is considering a triple header for opening night, centered around the Tampa Bay Lightning raising its 2020 Stanley Cup banner (“vs. CHI?”), with a “big East clash (NYR/BOS?) first and marquee West matchup late (COL/STL?).” While the league remains focused on a Jan. 13 start, Seravalli said they’re not beholden to that date. “Could be a week later.”
THE SCORE: cited Seravalli reporting Bettman sought the council of Dr. Anthony Fauci from the National Institutes of Health over the course of the pandemic. Fauci recommended the best way to start the NHL season safely was to do so in hub cities. While that’s not the preference of the teams and the players, Seravalli said that option remains on the table.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Quebec premier Francois Legault believes the Canadiens and the league can put measures in place to protect the players. The Habs are hoping to receive permission to stage training camp at its practice facility in Brossard.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’m growing skeptical that the league can stage its season-opener on Jan. 13. Recent reports suggest a vote of approval by the league board of governors and the NHLPA executive would have to come by the end of this week to meet the necessary timelines.
The 2020-21 season will take place. The team owners and the players want it to happen. However, it could take a little longer than expected to reach an agreement because of the work required to address the issues raised by the pandemic. Jan. 13 remains possible but I wouldn’t be surprised if the season opener gets moved into late January.
TWINCITIES.COM: Minnesota Wild goaltender Alex Stalock is sidelined indefinitely with an upper-body injury. It’s expected promising Kaapo Kahkonen will back up starter Cam Talbot to begin the 2020-21 season. Talbot was signed in October to a three-year, $11 million contract.
The Wild also confirmed the signing of goalie Andrew Hammond to a one-year, two-way contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hammond will likely start the season with their affiliate in Iowa when the AHL begins its season on Feb. 5.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: The Blackhawks named Stan Bowman as their president of hockey operations. He’ll retain his role as general manager.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The move has raised questions over whether Bowman can be his own boss. I wonder if this is a possible transition move if ownership decides at some point to make a change in the GM’s office.
CALGARY SUN: Former NHL goaltender Jason LaBarbera takes over as the Flames full-time goalie coach as the club announced the creation of a restructured goaltending department.
SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ken Hadall, the man charged with theft of hockey memorabilia from Walter Gretzky, has deep ties with the Gretzky family, as well as Hockey Hall-of-Famers Doug Gilmour and Bobby Orr. Hadall was slated for induction into the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame in Parry Sound, Ontario.
Meanwhile, Ontario Provincial Police officer June Dobson also faces fraud and breach of trust charges in connection to a stick from Wayne Gretzky’s childhood sold to a memorabilia dealer for $6,000.00. The two cases aren’t related but the Dobson case stemmed from the Hadall investigation. She was a friend of Walter Gretzky for many years.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Both have not been convicted of the charges and remain innocent until proven guilty. If the latter, they would’ve taken advantage of one of the kindest men in hockey.
League commissioner Gary Bettman talks about efforts to start the 2020-21 season, a look at how the league could change coming out of the pandemic, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
SPORTSNET: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the league’s target date of Jan. 1 to open the 2020-21 season remains a “work in progress influenced largely by what we’re hearing from the medical experts.” He made the remarks at the Sports Business Journal’s “Dealmakers in Sport” panel on Wednesday.
Bettman insisted the NHL remains focused on health and safety, adding the league is taking its time evaluating ways to move forward with the season. He’s hopeful a widespread vaccine distribution will enable the league to return to normal for 2021-22.
The commissioner also addressed the recent stalemate with the NHLPA over the league’s request for increased escrow and salary deferral rates that have stalled return-to-play negotiations. He doesn’t view it as renegotiating the CBA extension but merely addressing how the division of hockey-related revenue will be affected by the pandemic.
Chris Johnston reports Bettman said there’s been no ultimatum made to the NHLPA, claiming it’s unfair to characterize his discussions with the union as a renegotiation. “We made a number of assumptions collectively over the summer, most of which are not applicable anymore,” said the commissioner. “ There are a lot of things we have to deal with if we’re going to return to play.”
Johnston also notes Bettman pointing out the 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue contained in the CBA. The commissioner said if the players end up getting overpaid they’ll have to repay the overage to the league over time if they don’t repay in the short term. He adds the two sides have had discussed the stresses on the system and how to navigate them, insisting the league is trying to find ways to continue working together.
“I know it’s being portrayed as something else and it’s unfortunate and it’s inaccurate because at the end of the day if the system gets stressed it’s going to get stressed for the both of us,” said Bettman.
The commissioner also said the league is willing to shorten training camps and play one or two exhibition games before the season begins.
TSN: Frank Seravalli reports the NHLPA declined to comment yesterday on Bettman’s remarks. While the commissioner suggested the players could end up owing the league “more money than anyone imagined,” Seravalli cites sources saying the best, moderate, and worst-case scenarios were all fully modeled for both sides during the CBA extension negotiations.
Seravalli believes Bettman was also sending an unsubtle message to the players that the longer their potential debt to the league lingers, the lower future salary caps will be, in turn limiting their future earnings.
Asked if the current impasse might kill the 2020-21 season, Bettman said there are letters in the CBA put in for “our benefit” if things got out of control, “so we each have rights which we can adhere to.”
THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun believes Bettman is feeling pressure from some owners to alleviate cash concerns for the coming season. That explains why the commissioner made his recent requests for changes to the escrow and deferral rates.
While the players could stay resolute and call Bettman’s bluff, LeBrun believes they could instead accept increased salary deferral (though not at the league’s proposed rate) in exchange for something in return.
LeBrun also feels the course of the pandemic is becoming a greater obstacle to starting the season. He feels the prudent move for the league and PA is to give up on a Jan. 1 start and instead go for puck drop on Feb. 1 in the hope there’s a downturn in COVID-19 cases by then.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The players have every right to be upset over the league’s attempt to change those rates that were agreed upon in the CBA extension. While Bettman is correct that things have changed since the extension was ratified, he went into that agreement knowing what the worst-case scenario would be. He either didn’t really understand how serious it would be (doubtful) or he didn’t believe the worst-case would happen (plausible).
As Bettman noted, the CBA stipulates a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue. The PA’s likely argument, as reported by the New York Post’s Larry Brooks, is the assurance of the 50-50 split has been undone by the artificial caps on escrow combined with unlinking the salary cap from actual hockey-related revenue for the short term.
I don’t see the league agreeing with that argument. Bettman made that clear with his remarks about the players paying back the potential overage for this season.
Recent reports indicate Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr resumed daily discussions. I agree with LeBrun’s take that the players will likely accept an increase in salary deferral in exchange for something from the league.
My question is why Bettman didn’t make that pitch when he made his initial proposal? He had to know what the players’ reaction would be. Perhaps negotiations wouldn’t have stalled if he’d simply included a sweetener (like interest on the salary deferral) with his proposals. The commissioner either misjudged how the players would react or simply didn’t care.
SPORTSNET: Ads on jerseys, expanded playoffs, player-specific sponsorship and embracing gambling are four possible changes we could see in the NHL coming out of the pandemic.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHL will be getting a lucrative new US television contract at the end of this season and the additional hockey-related revenue from the expansion Seattle Kraken. Nevertheless, the pandemic’s effects upon revenue in the short term could force the league to seek new sources of revenue once the pandemic has passed.
FORBES.COM: Sports lawyer Eric Macramalla explains why an NHL lockout isn’t possible despite the intensified haggling over players’ salaries. The CBA prevents the league from locking out the players during the course of the agreement. It also prevents the players from going on strike. The league could suspend the season citing the pandemic as an event beyond its control but could have a difficult time justifying that if the PA took the league to court. Macramalla feels the current dispute can be settled because both sides have a vested interest in playing the coming season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Agreed. The pandemic is a greater factor in determining the start of the season.
Doug Armstrong says he’d like Jay Bouwmeester to eventually come work for the @StLouisBlues. Player had a huge impact on the team’s success. Listen to full interview out now. @camandstrickpod pic.twitter.com/x4RK6FCRKf
— Andy Strickland (@andystrickland) December 2, 2020