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.
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.
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.