NHL Playoffs: Milbury Another Dinosaur Living In NHL Broadcast Booth
Sabres fire GM Jason Botterill, league commissioner Gary Bettman talks about the return-to-play plan, plus the latest on Patrick Kane, David Pastrnak, Braden Holtby, Josh Anderson, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
The Buffalo Sabres have relieved Jason Botterill of his duties as general manager. They’ve named Senior VP of Business Administration Kevyn Adams as Botterill’s replacement.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This news broke earlier this morning. I hope to have more about this in tomorrow’s update. It was only three weeks ago that Botterill received the backing of Sabres ownership for another season. It’ll be interesting to find out what brought about this sudden change of heart, as well as what it could mean for the coaching and scouting staffs.
LATEST RETURN-TO-PLAY NEWS
ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan reports NHL commissioner Gary Bettman believes the league’s return-to-play plan will maintain the integrity of the playoffs without being too gimmicky.
“I think everybody can feel good, based on the combination of the play-in round and the way we’re going to run the playoffs, that this will be a full competition which will bring out the best in our teams and our players,” said Bettman.
The NHL intends to return later this summer with a 24-team tournament involving a round-robin for the top eight teams and a qualifying round for the other 16.
Bettman indicated the league has worked closely with the NHL Players’ Association since games were paused in mid-March. The two sides continue to negotiate key details, including playing under a quarantine bubble and the location of the two host cities for the tournament.
The commissioner also said the league intends to test every player and member of each team’s 50-person traveling party daily for COVID-19. A player testing positive will be isolated and contact tracing will monitor everyone in close proximity of that player. Bettman said the league has been told an isolated case or two won’t affect their plans to go forward.
Bettman also said the league is in discussions with the Canadian government regarding easing restrictions for the country’s 14-day quarantine period for visitors.
TSN: Frank Seravalli reports Bettman admitted 56 percent of the league’s players remain outside of their respective NHL cities, with 17 percent of them still in Europe. “So we’ve got a lot of people to move around and we have to get people back from outside of North America.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The round-robin and qualifying rounds are a bit gimmicky, but necessary given this unusual situation. Once the playoffs begin, it’s the usual four-round, best-of-seven tournament.
The discussions with the Canadian government will affect the location of one of the two host cities. It’s believed the league wants one in Canada, but that won’t be possible if the government maintains its strict border protocols. That will also affect training camps for the six Canadian teams (Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, and Montreal) participating in the tournament. There’s already talk that some of them could hold training camps in the United States.
Phase 3 of the return-to-play plan involves training camps opening on July 10. The league has a limited time to get their players back to their respective NHL cities.
SPORTSNET: Hockey analyst and former NHLer Kevin Bieksa said several players he’s spoken to remain skeptical of the return-to-play plan. He said they don’t have their equipment and still have skated.
Bieksa added there remains several issues to be sorted out. “Not only with the safety measures and protocol and everything but I don’t even know if it’s been discussed with the (NHLPA) and the league how they’re going to divide HRR (hockey-related revenue).”
Some critics have dismissed the proposed tournament as the NHL putting the players at risk solely for the sake of profit. What the league is doing is attempting to recoup roughly half of its $1.1 billion in lost revenue from pausing the schedule. This depends, however, on the willing participation of the players.
With the salary cap tied to hockey-related revenue, the majority of players (based on the 29-2 vote by NHLPA player reps approving the return-to-play plan) are agreeable to this tournament. They aren’t being forced into this. If a majority aren’t confident their health and safety can be assured, they have the power to shut this down at any time.
AWFUL ANNOUNCING: cites a report in Sports Business Journal claiming the NHL is halting all negotiations for its next television contract until the end of 2020.
IN OTHER NEWS…
THE SCORE: Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane doesn’t believe whoever wins the 2020 Stanley Cup should have an asterisk beside their name.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There are no asterisks beside the NHL teams that won the Stanley Cup during the Second World War when some of the league’s best players were serving overseas. There’s no asterisk beside the 1994-95 New Jersey Devils or 2012-13 Chicago Blackhawks for winning the Cup during lockout-shortened seasons. There shouldn’t be, and won’t be, an asterisk beside the potential 2020 Cup champion.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins winger David Pastrnak is more upset about missing the 100-point plateau than the 50-goal mark. With 48 goals and 95 points in 70 games, Pastrnak was on pace for his first 50-goal, 100-point campaign when the schedule was paused.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals head coach Todd Reirden said the starting goaltender role is Braden Holtby’s to lose in the playoff tournament. “Braden Holtby’s body of work in playoff games speaks for itself and how he definitely helped our team to win our first-ever Stanley Cup and was a huge, huge part of that,” Reirden said.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Aaron Portzline reports Columbus Blue Jackets winger Josh Anderson will remain sidelined by shoulder surgery until after September.
LAS VEGAS SUN: The Vegas Golden Knights re-signed Ryan Reaves to a two-year, $3.5 million contract extension. The 33-year-old winger is completing a two-year, $5.5-million deal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some observers suggest Reaves’ accepting less money to re-sign with the Golden Knights could be a harbinger of what many of this year’s unrestricted free agents could face when the season is over. However, he likely would’ve had to accept a similar deal from the Golden Knights even without the possibility of a flat salary cap for next season. Before re-signing Reaves, the Golden Knights had over $73 million invested in 15 players for 2020-21.
SPORTSDAY: Dallas Stars defenseman Roman Polak signed a three-year contract with Czech club HC Vitkovice. He’s still under contract with the Stars for this season but told a Czech paper he might not return if the NHL stages its playoff tournament. Stars general manager Jim Nill said the team can’t make a player return against their wishes. “If anyone wants to stay home, that is their decision. His contract expires at the end of this season, so no issues there.”
SPORTSNET: The American Hockey League has formed a return-to-play task force to prepare for its 2020-21 season.
Nate Schmidt receives 20-game suspension, notable remaining UFAs and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt received a 20-game suspension for violating the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program, a charge he, his agent and the team denied yesterday. The league didn’t reveal what substance Schmidt tested positive for or when the test was conducted. His appeal was denied by an independent arbitrator.
In a statement yesterday, Schmidt professed his innocence, claiming he never knowingly ingested a banned substance. He said the trace amount was “consistent with environmental contamination that I could not possibly have prevented.”
Schmidt cited one expert who testified on his behalf claiming the amount of substance found in his system ” 7 billionths of a milligram/mL — as the equivalent of a pinch of salt in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.” Another who analyzed a sample of his hair concluded there was no evidence of intentional use. “The Vegas Golden Knights track players’ strength and performance metrics and my results have remained constant over the past year.”
The Golden Knights also released a statement supporting Schmidt, expressing their belief “that the presence of a trace of the banned substance was accidental and unintentional.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: We don’t know the full details from the hearings or what Schmidt may have ingested. Going by his story, however, it appears the punishment received was unduly harsh and perhaps unjustified. It’s worth noting the Golden Knights are standing by Schmidt. It’ll be interesting to see if the league or the PA will issue a statement. it doesn’t sound as though there’s another appeal option for Schmidt.
In the meantime, Schmidt’s absence will leave a significant gap on their blueline early in the coming season that could force the Golden Knights to address via trade, free agency or waivers. I’ll have more in my Rumors section later this morning.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Center Antoine Vermette, left wing Mike Cammalleri, right wing Lee Stempniak, defensemen Luca Sbisa and Cody Franson and goaltender Steve Mason are the notable veterans remaining in this summer’s unrestricted free agent market. Others include forwards Scott Hartnell and Daniel Winnik, blueliner Kevin Bieksa and goalie Kari Lehtonen.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A handful of these players could earn one-year deals via professional tryout offers. The rest face continuing their playing careers in Europe or retirement.
TSN: Former Montreal Canadiens and Nashville Predators defenseman Alexei Emelin signed a three-year contract with KHL club Avangard Omsk.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): The Vancouver Canucks need a healthy Chris Tanev to return to form this season.
Game recaps, Thornton and Kessel reach milestones and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.com: Rookie Danton Heinen scored twice and Anton Khudobin made 36 saves as the Boston Bruins edged the San Jose Sharks 2-1. Joe Thornton scored the Sharks’ only goal. It was his 1,398th career point, moving him into a tie with Hall of Famer Jurri Kurri for 20th on the all-time points list.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Considering Thornton played a significant portion (seven seasons) of his 20 NHL seasons in the Dead Puck Era, joining the top 20 all-time points leaders is a remarkable achievement.
Phil Kessel scored in overtime as the Pittsburgh Penguins edged the Winnipeg Jets 2-1. It was Kessel’s 300th career NHL goal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: For all the talk of how streaky Kessel can be he’s tallied at least 20 goals and 50 points in each of the last nine seasons. With 11 points in as many games this season, he’s on pace to reach those marks again.
Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov each scored a goal to extend their points streaks to 11 games as the Tampa Bay Lightning nipped the Detroit Red Wings 3-2, handing the latter their sixth straight loss.
Radim Vrbata tallied a hat trick, Evgenii Dadonov scored twice and rookie Owen Tippett netted his first career NHL goal as the Florida Panthers crushed the injury-ravaged Anaheim Ducks 8-3. Earlier in the day, the Ducks announced defenseman Kevin Bieksa is out indefinitely with a hand injury.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau had a goal and two assists as the Ottawa Senators hung on for a 5-4 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. The Sens were playing without first-line center Kyle Turris (viral infection) while Flyers rookie Nolan Patrick is listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored twice and Leon Draisaitl had three assists as the Edmonton Oilers squeaked past the Dallas Stars 5-4. James Benn had two goals and Alexander Radulov tallied a goal and two assists for the Stars.
Sven Baertschi netted two power-play goals and Brock Boeser had three assists to lead the Vancouver Canucks to a 6-2 victory over the Washington Capitals, who lost winger Brett Connolly to an upper-body injury in this game.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks are among the surprising clubs off to a strong start (6-3-1) this season. They exploited a Capitals defense that’s still struggling to adjust to the departures of Kevin Shattenkirk, Karl Alzner and Nate Schmidt in the offseason and the sidelining of Matt Niskanen to an early-season injury.
Josh Jooris scored twice and Teuvo Teravainen collected three points to lead the Carolina Hurricanes to a 6-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Meanwhile, there’s concern complications have arisen in the negotiations regarding a possible sale of the Carolina Hurricanes to a group headed by business Chuck Greenberg. Current Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos Jr. is apparently concerned the negotiations aren’t progressing quicker. However, the two sides “have not turned their backs on each other.”
Pavel Buchnevich and Michael Grabner each scored twice to give the New York Rangers a 5-2 win over the hapless Arizona Coyotes, leaving the latter winless (0-9-1) in their opening 10 games of the season.
Luke Kunin and Zack Mitchell each netted their first NHL goals as the Minnesota Wild downed the New York Islanders 6-4. Josh Bailey collected three assists for the Isles. The Wild also learned sidelined winger Nino Niederreiter (high ankle sprain) could return to action next week.
Jonathan Quick turned in a 40-save shutout performance backstopping the Los Angeles Kings to a 4-0 win over the floundering Montreal Canadiens. Earlier in the day, NHLPA agent Dan Milstein created a stir by alleging Canadiens coach Claude Julien doesn’t like Russian players, believing that’s the reason behind Alex Galchenyuk’s struggles this season and the offseason departures of Alexei Emelin, Mikhail Sergachev, Alexander Radulov and Alexei Emelin.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: For a player agent, Milstein is quite ill-informed regarding the Canadiens. Galchenyuk’s offensive difficulties began long before Julien took over as coach. The Habs attempted to get Emelin back via trade after he was selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft. Sergachev was used to acquire Jonathan Drouin in a bid to improve the Canadiens offense. The Habs tried to match the contract offer Radulov received (and ultimately signed) with the Dallas Stars. They also wanted to re-sign Markov to a one-year contract but his insistence on two years led to his departure to the KHL.
Latest on Travis Hamonic, Jason Pominville, Sami Vatanen, Alex Radulov & more in your NHL Draft Day rumor mill.
NEWSDAY: Arthur Staple reports New York Islanders defensemen Travis Hamonic and Calvin de Haan appear to be the most attractive trade targets for other teams. He said there was “strong chatter” on Thursday that Hamonic could be on the move ” possibly for a young forward and a draft pick.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: TSN’s Bob McKenzie yesterday reported of speculation the Isles could seek two first-round picks for Hamonic. They’ve obviously set a high price for him, but I doubt they’ll get two first-rounders. If they’re serious about moving Hamonic they could end up accepting a young player or first-round pick. We’ll find out soon enough.
CALGARY SUN: Eric Francis reports Flames GM Brad Treliving is working the phones in search of a defenseman. One option is Islanders blueliner Travis Hamonic. Another could be Vegas Golden Knights rearguard Marc Methot.
STARTRIBUNE.COM: Michael Russo reports Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher continues to ponder the possibility of moving one of his defensemen during the upcoming NHL draft. There’s been strong interest in Jonas Brodin all month. Marco Scandella has also attracted interest, especially from his hometown Montreal Canadiens, but by Thursday talks seemed to cool. It’s believed Fletcher has had lots of discussions with the Buffalo Sabres and Tampa Bay Lightning. Fletcher is open to receiving “an immediate player” in return but he could also accept draft picks and prospects, allowing him salary-cap flexibility to re-sign key players.
It’s also believed Fletcher tried to move right wing Jason Pominville and his $5.6 million annual cap hit. He has a 10-team no-trade list which rises to 20 teams by July 1. It’s thought Fletcher recently spoke to the Boston Bruins regarding Pominville.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It sounds as though Fletcher might prefer moving Scandella over Brodin. No indication if he’s had any discussions regarding Matt Dumba. Of the three, Scandella could be most likely to go.
As for the 34-year-old Pominville, his production has declined over the past couple of years. Unless Fletcher is willing to pick up a good chunk of the winger’s cap hit or take back a toxic contract, I don’t think he’ll find many takers.
THE BUFFALO NEWS: Mike Harrington suggests Wild blueliners Jonas Brodin or Marco Scandella could be good fits on the Sabres blueline. He wonders if offering up Evander Kane would land one of those d-men, though he probably wouldn’t be a good fit under their salary cap. Harrington cautions that trading Kane would leave the Sabres searching for a scoring forward.
LOS ANGELES TIMES: Curtis Zupke reports there is still believed to be heavy interest in Anaheim Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen in the trade market. There’s also speculation Ducks GM Bob Murray could try to move veteran Kevin Bieksa despite his no-move clause.
TORONTO SUN: Lance Hornby reports the Toronto Maple Leafs have been linked to Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Colin Miller and are also among the clubs that pursued Anaheim Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen, However, the Ducks gave up defenseman Shea Theodore to Vegas to protect Vatanen and Josh Manson in the expansion draft and could either keep both or set a high price for them.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I wouldn’t fully rule out a Vatanen trade, especially if the Ducks get an offer of a good scoring winger. However, the departure of Clayton Stone and Shea Theodore via the expansion draft could make Murray reluctant to move Vatanen now.
TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports hearing Montreal Canadiens right wing Alexander Radulov seeks a six-year deal worth an annual cap hit of $7 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If that’s what Radulov truly wants, he can forget about re-signing with the Canadiens. And good luck finding any takers elsewhere in the NHL for that price.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: Joe Smith reports Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman is in the market for a top-nine winger and a defenseman, Yzerman isn’t fussy if the winger is a right- or left-handed shot. He also said he’s had some talks with teams regarding a blueliner. Smith observes the Vegas Golden Knights and Minnesota Wild are getting offers for blueliners. If the Colorado Avalanche trade Matt Duchene for a defenseman, Tyson Barrie could be available.
PHILLY.COM: Sam Carchidi reports Philadelphia Flyers GM Ron Hextall could be in the market for a goaltender. His tandem for next season consists of Michal Neuvirth and Anthony Stolarz. “Hextall may make a deal at the draft or he might pursue the goalie free-agent market July 1. Among the prospective free-agent goalies besides Steve Mason: Jonathan Bernier, Brian Elliott, Anders Nilsson, Keith Kinkaid, and Ryan Miller.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Not many suitable options available for Hextall via the trade market or free agency. I expect he’ll do something via one option or another but finding a quality starter in his playing prime seems unlikely.
TSN: The Edmonton Oilers are reportedly close to re-signing defenseman Kris Russell to a four-year deal worth around $4 million annually. The deal could be in place by today.