NHL Rumor Mill – November 28, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 28, 2020

Will the Blue Jackets shop for a scoring forward? Who could become trade bait if the Sharks become a lottery team again? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

NHL.COM: Tom Gulitti wondered if the Columbus Blue Jackets will add a scoring forward before the start of 2020-21. It will depend upon the cost of re-signing Pierre-Luc Dubois because they’d prefer to know how much salary-cap space they’ll have once the 22-year-old center is under contract.

Could the Columbus Blue Jackets attempt to sign Mike Hoffman? (NHL Images)

The Jackets have an opening on their second line with winger Gustav Nyquist out 5-6 months recovering from shoulder surgery. They’ll explore internal options but general manager Jarmo Kekalainen didn’t rule out signing a forward if the right opportunity presents itself and they have the flexibility to do so. Wingers Mike Hoffman and Mikael Granlund remain available in the unrestricted free-agent market.

NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz cited NHL insider Elliotte Friedman recently saying the Jackets tried to move forward Brandon Dubinsky’s contract. Friedman also speculated they could be among the clubs that looked at Hoffman and/or Granlund.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As per Cap Friendly, the Jackets have over $9.2 million in cap space. That’s more than enough to re-sign Dubois. Kekalainen has downplayed how long it’s taking to get the center signed, pointing out many notable RFAs usually aren’t signed until close to training camp.

Assuming it costs $6 million annually to sign Dubois, the Jackets would have around $3 million to add an affordable forward. They could get additional wiggle room to exceed the cap by placing Nyquist and his $5.5 million annual average value on long-term injury reserve, though they’d have to shed salary to become cap compliant if he returns during the season.

Kekalainen also hinted earlier in the offseason that Dubinsky ($5.85 million) could also end up on LTIR owing to a nagging wrist injury. Perhaps he’ll try to trade Dubinsky’s contract to a cap-strapped club in hopes of landing something worthwhile in return.

Hoffman reportedly seeks a one-year contract between $5.5 million and $6.5 million. His agent claimed 13 teams expressed various degrees of interest in his client. Most could be playing the waiting game hoping he’ll drop his asking price. The Jackets could be among them. Granlund might be a more affordable option.

THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Kevin Kurz was asked which member of the San Jose Sharks could be traded (apart from Brent Burns or Marc-Edouard Vlasic) if they’re a lottery club in 2020-21.

He doesn’t see any circumstance under which the Sharks would trade Tomas Hertl. Burns has a three-team trade list and Vlasic a full no-movement clause, making it very difficult to attempt to move either player. Kurz, however, speculates Burns might be open to moving if he believes the Sharks will struggle for the next couple of seasons, “especially with his beard buddy (Joe Thornton) now in Toronto.”

If the Sharks become sellers, Kurz feels the most likely trade candidates are pending UFAs like Devan Dubnyk, Stefan Noesen, Matt Nieto, Marcus Sorensen or maybe Patrick Marleau again.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sharks GM Doug Wilson is counting on his club to stage a bounce-back performance and be a playoff contender this season. If they’re not, the UFA selloff will begin as the deadline approaches. I agree with Kurz that they won’t move Hertl. I also doubt Burns and Vlasic will be going anywhere.

If Burns agreed to be moved his contract and age work against him. He turns 36 in March, his production dropped sharply last season (from 83 points in 2018-19 to just 45 in 70 games) and he’s carrying an $8 million AAV for five more years. Unless the Sharks agreed to pick up a healthy chunk of his cap hit, I don’t see many clubs agreeing to take on that contract. The same goes for the 33-year-old Vlasic and his $7 million AAV for six more years.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 25, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 25, 2020

The proposed Jan. 1 start of the 2020-21 season in jeopardy, four Blue Jackets test positive for COVID-19, plus updates on Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

LATEST RETURN-TO-PLAY NEWS

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports the lack of progress over the last five days to draft protocols could jeopardize the NHL’s proposed Jan. 1 start date for the 2020-21 season. Well-placed sources tell Brooks of continuing adamant, widespread resistance among the NHLPA membership to the league’s recent requests to renegotiate the terms of the recent CBA extension to increase the escrow and salary deferral rates.

The league made those requests citing liquidity issues. While the players’ share of hockey-related revenue cannot exceed 50 percent, Brooks said the adoption of annual escrow caps combined with uncoupling the salary cap from actual HRR has ended the assurance of a yearly 50-50 split.

Brooks notes the 10 percent salary deferral for this season was to be repaid without interest in three equal annual installments over the final three years of the extension. He wonders if the players would be amenable to adjusting the agreement if the league agrees to repay all deferred money with interest.

The stalled negotiations suggest a 48-game schedule beginning the third week in January appears more likely. The NHL returned from the 1994-95 lockout on Jan 20 and from the 2012-13 lockout on Jan. 19. Brooks reports the league remains focused on playing in home arenas with or without fans in attendance despite recent positive COVID-19 tests among two NHL teams.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHL was facing a tight schedule to meet a suitable timetable for a Jan. 1 start well before the recent lull in negotiations with the PA.

They need a 14-day training camp period in the run-up to the start of the season while last season’s seven non-playoff clubs were promised an extra seven-to-10 days of camp. Many players remain scattered across North American and Europe with those returning to Canadian clubs needing to self-isolate for 14 days. The players could also be reluctant to take part in training camp during the Christmas holidays.

The league and the PA were hoping for a Jan. 1 start in order to stage a 60-game schedule. If they cannot hammer out an agreement by the end of this week, they’ll have to push that start date to late January or early February and consider adopting a shorter schedule.

TORONTO STAR: Kevin McGran believes the prospect of a new US television agreement next season brings the promise of the NHL playing this season. The current contract with NBC Sports expires at the end of 2020-21.

Playing this season means the league could enter into lucrative new deals with a diverse group of broadcasters and/or streamers starting in ’21-’22. That includes traditional TV networks like NBC, cable networks like ESPN and Fox, and streamers such as DAZN and Amazon Prime.

The effect of COVID-19 upon league revenues could result in a less fruitful bidding war than anticipated. However, McGran points out Major League Baseball just signed a seven-year extension with Turner Sports worth a 65 percent increase annually over its previous deal with the broadcaster.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As the saying goes, it’s all about the Benjamins. That’s one of the main reasons why the NHL and the NHLPA are keen to return to play as soon as possible. That’s why commissioner Gary Bettman reportedly believes canceling the season would damage the league’s long-term health.

SPORTSNET: The Columbus Blue Jackets announced “several players” tested positive for COVID-19. Those players immediately began to quarantine and the club closed its off-ice facilities at Nationwide Arena beginning Nov. 16. This news comes a day after the Vegas Golden Knights announced four players tested positive.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This will be an ongoing concern for the NHL’s efforts to stage a 2020-21 season. Teams are following health and safety protocols similar to those in use prior to the 2020 playoffs but it doesn’t make the players immune from the coronavirus.

Edmonton Oiler captain Connor McDavid is training with Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews in Arizona (NHL Images).

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid joined Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews in Arizona earlier this month. The two superstars have skated together four days a week. They’ve been joined in recent weeks by several NHL players, including Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews and Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Players have been taking part in informal voluntary workouts and on-ice training throughout North America and Europe in preparation for whatever format the ’20-’21 schedule will be.

THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning said his players are waiting to see when training camp begins. He said it doesn’t make sense to bring everyone to Vancouver right now to go through a two-week quarantine, only to have them return home for Christmas and then go through another quarantine when they return.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Everything’s in a holding pattern right now for all NHL teams. Because of the health and safety protocols, they can’t bring their players back in anticipation of a December training camp when they don’t know if that’s even going to happen.

OTHER NOTABLE NHL HEADLINES

NHL.COM: Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel believes the club did an “awesome job” with its offseason moves. Those include adding left wing Taylor Hall and centers Eric Staal and Cody Eakin.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens center Phillip Danault said he’s had no contract talks with the club and expects to enter the final season of his current deal without an extension. He said he’ll see what happens, leaving it up to general manager Marc Bergevin.

Danault clarified that he never said he wanted to be the club’s full-time first-line center but the two-way center doesn’t want to be placed into just one role. Pat Hickey believes the Canadiens’ offseason additions of Tyler Toffoli and Josh Anderson means Danault will likely remain with linemates Brendan Gallagher and Tomas Tatar.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Danault’s future with the Canadiens will depend on the development of promising centers Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. If they outperform Danault, this season could be his last with the Habs.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Former NHL player Daniel Carcillo recently told HBO’s Real Sports that psychedelic drugs helped him cope with the aftereffects of brain trauma suffered during his playing career.

WINNIPEG SUN: Jets prospect Dylan Samberg was involved in a multi-vehicle accident in Minnesota that left him unhurt but sent four other people to hospital with life-threatening injuries.

TSN: The NHL is embroiled in a legal fight with several insurance companies refusing to pay most of the costs related to the league’s concussion lawsuit and the settlement reached with retirement players.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Former Blackhawks forward Fred Sasakamoose, one of the first Indigenous players in the NHL, passed away yesterday at age 86 from COVID-19. Sasakamoose played 11 games with the Blackhawks in 1953-54 and was a pioneer and role model for Indigenous and Native American players. Sasakamoose was inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame in 2007 and received the Order of Canada in 2017.

AZCENTRAL.COM: The Arizona Coyotes mourning the passing of nine-year-old fan Leighton Accardo, who passed away yesterday following a long battle with cancer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Sasakamoose’s family, friends and former teammates, and to the Accardo family and the Coyotes’ organization.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 23, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 23, 2020

Latest return-to-play news plus updates on Max Domi, Nikita Zadorov, Jesse Puljujarvi and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TORONTO STAR: Damien Cox suggests hockey could return to normal by next September with coronavirus vaccines on the way. The NHL, meanwhile, is attempting to stage a shortened 2020-21 season with empty arenas, an all-Canadian division, a canceled All-Star break and playoffs that could finish in mid-July.

Talk of starting the season on Jan. 1 appears increasingly unlikely with each passing day. The pandemic is hitting rates in some American states not seen elsewhere in the world. Meanwhile, the all-Canadian division could hit a snag with rising COVID-19 rates in the provinces with NHL clubs.

Setting aside the entire season, however, doesn’t make sense for the league from a business standpoint. Return-to-play negotiations hit a snag last week over the league’s request for additional escrow and salary deferral from the players.

THE PROVINCE: An NHL player agent told Ben Kuzma the players hold the leverage in return-to-play negotiations because league commissioner Gary Bettman “has to preserve the integrity of the game and they have to play a season – whatever it looks like.” Failure to do so, according to the agent, would hurt the league’s brand.

If it was a just a clear deferral, I think players individually would look at that, if they had the flexibility,” added the agent. “But players are in different situations. If a guy is on a long-term deal, would it make sense for him to defer some money this year? That’s a voluntary decision and it might be able to work, but the players and league have to agree on it.

And part of the problem with deferred income is that in the U.S., it’s not guaranteed. So, if an owner wants to declare bankruptcy, the first thing a court is going to throw away is unsecured debt. And if you secure it, you add tax to that particular year.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHL and NHLPA are running out of time to reach an agreement on a return-to-play plan for Jan. 1. The quickest way to that route would be the league backing off on their requests for increased escrow and salary deferral rates, but I don’t see Bettman and the team owners doing that. The players have dug in their heels. If the league does the same, the entire 2020-21 season will be in jeopardy.

ESPN.COM: In a recent interview with Greg Wyshynski, Max Domi addressed his recent trade from the Montreal Canadiens to the Columbus Blue Jackets. He pointed to his and the Canadiens’ struggles last season as factors that led to the deal, but he expressed no ill will toward his former club.

Domi’s looking forward to playing for the Blue Jackets as he feels they’re a team that’s ready to win. “They’re the hardest team to play against in the league. I can tell you that first-hand.”

THE ATHLETIC: Nikita Zadorov is looking forward to a larger role and more responsibilities with the Chicago Blackhawks after being largely a third-pair defenseman with the Colorado Avalanche. Zadorov was traded last month to the Blackhawks.

SPORTSNET: Jesse Puljujarvi’s improvement in Finland bodes well for his return this season to the Edmonton Oilers. He spent all of last season with the Oilers over a contract dispute.

TORONTO SUN: Defenseman Mikko Lehtonen terminated his contract last week with KHL club Jokerit Helsinki and is heading to Toronto to join the Maple Leafs. The 26-year-old defenseman signed a one-year, entry-level deal with the Leafs in May and was loaned to Jokerit in August.

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: The Florida Panthers have officially partnered with the ECHL’s Greenville Swamp Rabbits.










NHL Rumor Mill – November 19, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 19, 2020

The latest Bruins speculation plus some free-agent options available to the Blue Jackets in today’s NHL rumor mill.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: DJ Bean examined what’s left for the Bruins to do during this offseason. They must sign winger Jake DeBrusk, determine if defenseman Zdeno Chara will return and fill a need for depth among their middle-six forwards.

Will Zdeno Chara return to the Boston Bruins? (NHL Images)

Given the Bruins’ limited salary-cap space ($7.35 million per PuckPedia) and DeBrusk’s streaky scoring, Bean believes the 22-year-old restricted free agent should receive a short-term deal worth somewhere in the range of $4 million annually.

Nothing much has happened with Chara, but if the unrestricted free agent wanted to leave, Bean thinks he would’ve done so by now. He feels the Bruins could use him as a third-pairing, left-side defenseman.

Bean believes the Bruins need additional left-wing depth. Possible options could include Mike Hoffman, Anthony Duclair, Erik Haula or Andreas Athanasiou. He doubts they have sufficient cap space for Hoffman.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think the Bruins intend to sign DeBrusk on that short-term deal suggested by Bean. It’ll likely happen by the time training camp opens, which could be around mid-December if the NHL begins its 2020-21 schedule on Jan. 1.

Chara is reportedly waiting to see what the schedule forward for ’20-’21 looks like before deciding if he’ll return for another season. I concur with Bean that if the 43-year-old rearguard was signing with another club he would’ve done so by now, though we can’t rule out the possibility he’d get a better offer elsewhere. Nevertheless, I believe his preference is playing for the Bruins.

The Bruins could go the free-agent route to address their need for another left winger. Unless they make a cost-cutting trade, however, they can’t afford Hoffman. They might have to go into the bargain bin.

They could also go the trade route to address that need. Boston Hockey Now’s Joe Haggerty reports prospect defenseman Urho Vaakanainen could be a trade candidate.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Brian Hedger examined the free-agent options available to Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen if he wants to bring in additional depth.

The Jackets could use a short-term replacement for Gustav Nyquist, who’s sidelined for five months recovering from shoulder surgery. Options include Hoffman, Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula and former Blue Jackets Derick Brassard and Anthony Duclair. However, Hedger believes Kekalainen could instead look at promoting a promising young player.

Hedger feels the Jackets’ blueline depth took a bit of a hit when Ryan Murray and Markus Nutivaara were traded in cost-cutting deals. He suggests Sami Vatanen would be a good fit on the right side of the third pairing.

Kekalainen might need an experienced goalie if he decides to trade Elvis Merzlikins or Joonas Korpisalo for additional cap space. Options could include Craig Anderson, Jimmy Howard, and Ryan Miller.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jackets popgun offense was a concern before Nyquist was sidelined. Kekalainen could go the UFA route or promote from within, but I’ve also read reports suggesting he could instead target a cap-strapped rival in the trade market.

Kekalainen could look to within his system to address his need on the third pairing but I wouldn’t rule out making an affordable short-term free-agent signing. Vatanen might be the best option but might not be cost-effective.

If Kekalainen trades Merzlikins or Korpisalo I believe he’ll promote Matiss Kivlenieks rather than add an aging UFA netminder.










Will NHL Teams With Cap Space Target Their Cap-Strapped Rivals?

Will NHL Teams With Cap Space Target Their Cap-Strapped Rivals?

 










NHL Rumor Mill – November 10, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 10, 2020

Recent speculation on Noah Hanifin, Eric Haula, Jimmy Howard and Corey Perry in today’s NHL rumor mill.

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW (subscription required): Jimmy Murphy wondered if the Calgary Flames might shop left-side defenseman Noah Hanifin to bring in a right-side defenseman and to shed some cap space. The sources he spoke with believe Hanifin isn’t been shopped but didn’t rule out Flames general manager Brad Treliving listening to a “hockey trade” offer.

Calgary Flames defenseman Noah Hanifin (NHL Images).

The Flames have over $1 million in cap space, with Hanifin having four years remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $4.95 million. Murphy suggests the Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, Buffalo Sabres and Columbus Blue Jackets as teams that could initiate calls.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins might have to part with Brandon Carlo ($2.5 million), the Red Wings with Filip Hronek ($714K), the Sabres with Brandon Montour ($3.85 million), and the Blue Jackets with David Savard ($4.25 million).

The Bruins would have to find a suitable right-side replacement if they swap Carlo for Hanifin. I don’t see the Wings trading away the promising Hronek. Savard is a UFA next summer and won’t provide much cap savings this season for the Flames. Montour is also slated to become UFA after 2020-21 and the Flames could prefer someone with more term left on their contract.

The Dallas Stars suffered a double-whammy with goaltender Ben Bishop and center Tyler Seguin sidelined for five months following recent surgeries. Murphy cites an NHL source claiming they’ve circled back to free-agent center Erik Haula. He also wondered if they might consider adding free-agent goaltender Jimmy Howard, pointing out Stars GM Jim Nill’s ties to Howard during their time with the Detroit Red Wings.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nill could put Bishop and Seguin on long-term injury reserve to make an affordable signing or two to offset their absences on a short-term basis. It could depend, however, on when the 2020-21 season begins. Bishop and Seguin could be good to go if the season opens in March.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: In a recent mailbag segment, Matthew DeFranks was asked about the possibility of Corey Perry returning with the Stars. He believes the 35-year-old winger would have to take a pay cut on the $1.5 million in base salary and $1.75 million in bonuses that he was paid last season. He cited recent rumors linking Perry to the Ottawa Senators and noted the Stars want to inject some youth into their forward lines.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ve believed Perry could return to the Stars for another season. I’m not so sure now after reading DeFranks’ take. They have the cap space to sign him but he might be reluctant to accept a pay cut. We’ll see.