NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 23, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 23, 2020

The NHL postpones the 2021 Winter Classic and All-Star Weekend, the latest notable contract signings and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The league postponed the 2021 Winter Classic and the All-Star Weekend for this season. The Winter Classic was slated for Jan. 1, 2021 at Target Field in Minneapolis featuring the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues. The Florida Panthers were to host the 2021 All-Star Weekend at BB&T Center in Sunrise from Jan. 29-31.

NHL postpones 2021 Winter Classic (NHL.com).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those events could be pushed ahead to the same locations for next season. There’s talk the league still hopes to begin the 2020-21 season sometime in January. These postponements indicate that’s not going to happen. At the very least, it won’t happen with fans in the arenas in the early going.

TSN: Darren Dreger reports the status of the developmental leagues like the AHL and the Major Juniors will be a pressing issue at today’s meeting of NHL general managers. However, the league’s high-level executives aren’t going to be able to provide answers for their GMs.

Pierre LeBrun reports of a constant dialogue between NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr and their chief lieutenants regarding plans for next season. He added there’s a bigger appetite among team owners, general managers and players to have a greater voice on those plans because there’s so much at stake. LeBrun also said whatever the season looks like when it begins likely won’t be what it’ll look like toward the end.

Frank Seravalli reported one of the biggest conversations is a cost-benefit analysis for the NHL. It would be problematic for the league if revenue for next season is lower than the total salaries owed to the players. The players will also be getting paid on Oct 31 for the first time since April, receiving 8.1 percent of the salaries to tide them over for whenever the season begins.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It will be very difficult for NHL prospects to get suitable playing time considering the difficulties their development leagues face to stage their respective seasons. As for what the NHL season will look like, the league has indicated it could begin without fans in the arenas but they could gradually allow fans into the stands over the course of the schedule depending on local health and safety protocols. That will ultimately determine what the league’s revenue looks like by season’s end and its potential effect upon player salaries.

Speaking of next season, the Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons reports the Canadian government is looking at a pilot COVID-19 testing program that would replace the current 14-day quarantine period for people entering the country with rapid testings at airports and border entry crossings. If those prove successful, it could open up travel for NHL teams between the two countries.

OTTAWA SUN: The Senators avoided arbitration with Connor Brown by signing him to a three-year deal worth an annual average value of $3.6 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A fair deal for both sides. Brown quickly established himself as a key player for the Senators after joining them in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He finished second in team scoring, netting career-highs in assists (27) and points (43) in 71 games last season.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Stars re-signed winger Denis Gurianov to a two-year contract worth $2.55 million annually.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gurianov led the Stars in goals last season (20) and finished second in playoff goals with nine. This new contract will be a bargain for the Stars if the 23-year-old winger continues to develop as a goal scorer. Cap Friendly indicates they have $77.4 million invested in 21 players with Roope Hintz left to re-sign.

THE PROVINCE: The Vancouver Canucks avoided arbitration with Jake Virtanen by signing the winger to a two-year contract worth an AAV of $2.55 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Virtanen had a career-best performance (18 goals, 36 points in 69 games) last season but followed up with a disappointing effort (two goals, three points in 16 games) in the playoffs. He’ll be under pressure to step up and improve his overall game next season. The Canucks are $1.5 million over the $81.5 million salary cap but could get relief by placing winger MIcheal Ferland on long-term injury reserve if he’s unable to play next season. 

NJ.COM: The New Jersey Devils signed former Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dmitry Kulikov to a one-year, $1.15 million contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Devils needed experienced depth on the blueline. This is a cost-effective short-term deal they hope will help to address that issue.

CALGARY SUN: The Flames signed former Pittsburgh Penguins forward Dominik Simon to a one-year, $700K contract.

THE DENVER POST: The Colorado Avalanche’s home arena is changing its name from the Pepsi Center to Ball Arena.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 21, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 21, 2020

The Blackhawks begin rebuilding, a look ahead to next season, the latest notable contracts signings and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: In an open letter to their fans, the Blackhawks announced their commitment to “developing young players and rebuilding our roster”. The letter also stated the club needs “a stockpile of emerging talent to complement our top players” in order to return to Stanley Cup contention.

Chicago Blackhawks want core veterans like Jonathan Toews to be part of their rebuild. (NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks are finally admitting what’s been apparent for some time. Years of salary-cap constraints led to cost-cutting moves that steadily eroded their depth of talent, leaving them with no choice but to restock with younger, affordable players.

TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports they want veterans such as Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Duncan Keith to be part of the rebuild. He said general manager Stan Bowman spoke with those players about their role in the club’s direction. “Now, we’ll see how those players react,” said LeBrun.

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the joint NHL-NHLPA committee tasked with return-to-play for next season haven’t met yet but it eventually will as the league conducts internal intel among its clubs. Ten players are expected to be on this committee.

LeBrun reports the NHL general managers will be meeting on Friday. There will be discussion over when the American Hockey League will begin play as some GMs want to get their prospects playing as soon as possible. He also indicated the league and the PA have tentatively agreed that the seven clubs that didn’t qualify for return-to-play this summer will have extra training-camp time ahead of the normal training-camp period for next season.

Frank Seravalli reported NHL players are wondering if salaries will be prorated in case of a shortened season. For now, there’s been little discussion on that issue. The players are expected to receive all but 30 percent of their salaries next season, with 20 percent deducted for escrow and 10 percent deferred.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Player agent Allan Walsh believes it’s safe to assume the NHL won’t return to action on the tentative target date of Jan. 1. He believes it could be Jan. 15 or pushed to Feb. 1.

Walsh also speculated there could be multiple bubble cities with two in Canada and four in the United States where teams would travel to those cities for two weeks to play several games, return home for a week, and then travel to another bubble city for two weeks. He doesn’t expect to see any clarity on next season until mid-December.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Everything seems to be in the preparatory stage for the actual meetings between the league and the PA. Holding a regular season during the pandemic comes with a different set of challenges compared to staging the 2020 playoffs in two bubble cities.

Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley last week suggested the league could return on Feb.1 with a reduced schedule played in some sort of divisional bubbles, including a Canadian division if the border between Canada and the United States remains closed to non-essential travel. We’ll probably find out by mid-December if Foley’s remarks foreshadow the league’s intentions.

TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs avoided salary arbitration with Ilya Mikheyev by signing the winger to a two-year deal worth $1.645 million annually.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Leafs are $175K over the $81.5 million salary cap with defenseman Travis Dermott to re-sign. They’re allowed to sit over the cap by 10 percent during the offseason.

OTTAWA SUN: The Senators and Connor Brown are $2.5 million apart in contract negotiations. Brown seeks a one-year, $4.8 million deal while the Senators countered with $2.25 million. Brown’s arbitration hearing is slated for Thursday.

THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks winger Micheal Ferland is skating again but his agent said his client’s health will determine if he resumes his playing career. Ferland made three attempts to return from a concussion suffered in a game last year against the Los Angeles Kings.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: The Bruins signed forward Karson Kuhlman to a two-year, $1.5 million contract. It’s a two-way deal in the first year.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens signed Kaiden Guhle to an entry-level contract. The 18-year-old defenseman was the Habs first-round pick (16th overall) in this year’s NHL Draft.

THE SEATTLE TIMES: Geoff Baker reports Kraken general manager Ron Francis said the ownership of the expansion club has approved spending toward the upper limit of the 2021-22 salary cap as long as they aren’t hamstrung in future years.

Baker speculates players with hefty contracts lacking no-movement protection, such as San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns, Tampa Bay Lightning winger Tyler Johnson, Washington Capitals winger T.J. Oshie and Vancouver Canucks goaltender Braden Holtby, could be targeted by the Kraken if left unprotected in next year’s expansion draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Expect Francis to use the Vegas Golden Knights as his template for building an expansion roster. Thanks to some savvy moves including trades and free-agent signings, the Golden Knights became a Stanley Cup Finalist in their inaugural season and a perennial playoff club ever since.










Five NHL Salary Arbitration Hearings Worth Watching

Five NHL Salary Arbitration Hearings Worth Watching

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 6, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 6, 2020

Connor McDavid tests positive for COVID-19, the Wild trade Devan Dubnyk and Ryan Donato to the Sharks, Matt Niskanen retires, Penguins buy out Jack Johnson, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers captain Connor McDavid has been diagnosed with COVID-19. The club reports McDavid, 23, is experiencing minor symptoms but otherwise feeling well and self-quarantining at his Ontario home.

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid tests positive for COVID-19 (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to McDavid for a swift and full recovery. He’s the biggest NHL star to be diagnosed with the coronavirus since a report emerged in June revealing Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews also tested positive. Matthews recovered and played for the Leafs in the NHL’s return-to-play tournament in August.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA/TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild made two trades yesterday with the San Jose Sharks, shipping goaltender Devan Dubnyk (along with a seventh-round pick in 2022) and winger Ryan Donato to the Sharks for a fifth-round pick in 2022 and a third-round pick in 2021. The Wild also retained half of Dubnyk’s $4.33 million cap hit for 2020-21, which is the final season of his contract. The Wild also re-signed defenseman Carson Soucy to a three-year, $8.25-million contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dubnyk will share the Sharks’ goaltending duties with Martin Jones. General manager Doug Wilson is confident the 34-year-old netminder can regain his form after dealing with his wife’s health issues last season. Wilson also feels Donato, who was stuck on the Wild’s fourth line, could flourish given more playing time.

These moves were straightforward salary dumps by the Wild, giving them $12.5 million in salary-cap space. GM Bill Guerin has made no secret he wants to improve his goaltending plus he still needs a proven scoring center after trading Eric Staal to Buffalo last month. Perhaps he’ll put some of that cap space to addressing those needs.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Flyers defenseman Matt Niskanen has retired after 13 NHL seasons. The 33-year-old blueliner had a year remaining on his contract with a cap hit of $5.75 million. Niskanen had 72 goals and 356 points in 949 games with the Flyers, Dallas Stars, Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, winning the Stanley Cup with the latter in 2018.

The Flyers also re-signed defenseman Justin Braun to a two-year, $3.6-million contract worth annual average value of $1.8 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Niskanen in his future endeavors. His decision was reportedly based on being away from his family during the recent playoffs and uncertainty over what next season could be like. His retirement clears his cap hit from the Flyers’ books.

With the Braun signing, the Flyers have $2.9 million in cap space for 2020-21. Niskanen’s retirement could send them into the trade or free-agent market for a replacement, or it could make them reluctant to trade blueliner Shayne Gostisbehere.

TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins yesterday placed defenseman Jack Johnson on waivers for the purpose of buying out his contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This isn’t a surprising move. The writing was on the wall for Johnson when the Penguins acquired Mike Matheson last month from the Florida Panthers. The move leaves the Penguins with $1.16 million in dead cap space for the next two seasons, $1.9 million in 2022-23, dropping to $916K for the following three seasons.

TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs re-signed Jason Spezza to a one-year, $700K contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Spezza, 37, was a worthwhile depth addition playing a variety of roles for the Leafs last season. His signing scarcely dents their cap room, leaving them with $4.7 million.

THE BUFFALO NEWS: The Sabres re-signed forward Tage Thompson to a three-year contract worth $1.4 million per season.

OTTAWA SUN: The Senators re-signed defenseman Josh Brown to a two-year, $2.4-million deal.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): The Dallas Stars salary-cap space shrunk for next season, incurring over $3 million in performance bonuses last season that will count against their 2020-21 salary cap payroll.

CALGARY SUN: The Flames will be adopting their classic 1980s jerseys and color combinations for the entire 2020-21 season.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 3, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – June 3, 2020

In today’s NHL rumor mill, we look at the one question facing each non-playoff club

SPORTSNET: Josh Beneteau recently looked at the most important question facing the NHL’s seven non-playoff clubs.

Kicking off with the Detroit Red Wings, Beneteau wondered how many of their free agents will be brought back. RFAs Tyler Bertuzzi and Anthony Mantha are the priorities. UFAs like Jimmy Howard and Jonathan Ericsson won’t be back, while RFAs Brendan Perlini and Adam Erne aren’t expected to return. Some, like Robby Fabbri and Alex Biega, probably earned themselves contract extensions.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bertuzzi, Mantha, Fabbri, and Biega will be back with the Wings next season.

Looking at the Ottawa Senators’ 13 potential picks in the 2020 draft, Beneteau wondered what general manager Pierre Dorion will do with all of them.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dorion will likely use most of those picks in the draft, but I expect he’ll use a few as trade bait, perhaps targeting a cap-strapped club looking to shed salary. He’ll probably consider that option if he can land a young, affordable NHL-ready player who can help the Sens’ rebuild.

Beneteau wondered if this is the end of an era for the current San Jose Sharks roster. GM Doug Wilson seems intent for now on keeping the group intact and trying to figure out what went wrong this season. Nevertheless, he has a history of making blockbuster moves.

Could Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick become an off-season trade candidate? (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: We certainly can’t rule out the possibility of Wilson surprising us with a big move or two. Trying to move one or two of his veteran core, however, will be difficult. All of them carry expensive contracts with varying degrees of no-trade protection.

Turning to the Los Angeles Kings, Beneteau noted they shipped out Tyler Toffoli before the trade deadline and wondered if long-time Kings like Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, and Jonathan Quick will return. Beneteau acknowledged the trio are declining and have at least two years remaining on their contracts with annual cap hits of $5.2-million or more. Moving one of them, however, could fetch some sort of future asset while opening a spot for a younger player.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Kings could be forced to pick up part of the salary-cap hit to move Brown, Carter, or Quick. Otherwise, they might have to include a good young asset in the deal, which this rebuilding club will be unwilling to part with.

Looking at the Anaheim Ducks’ anemic offense, Beneteau wonders who’s going to score next season. He speculates they could move one of their two first-round picks in this year’s draft to land a scoring forward through the draft or via trade.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I daresay teams will be more interested in the Ducks’ pick than the one they got from the Boston Bruins. I don’t see GM Bob Murray moving his pick, especially if the Ducks win the draft lottery.

With the New Jersey Devils still undecided over whether to retain interim GM Tom Fitzgerald and head coach Alain Nasreddine, Beneteau wonders who’s going to make the roster decisions.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given the unusually long off-season facing the Devils, they have plenty of time to address that issue. They reportedly interviewed former Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis, while Gerard Gallant, Peter Laviolette, and John Stevens are said to be among their coaching candidates.

Beneteau closes by wondering which players will be part of the solution for the Buffalo Sabres. He thinks upgrades in goal and on the forward lines are coming and won’t rule out big trades involving defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen and RFA winger Sam Reinhart.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sabres GM Jason Botterill and head coach Ralph Krueger expressed support for Ristolainen. It appears they’re also keen to keep Reinhart in the fold. Then again, we can’t rule out the possibility of one or both being moved before next season.










The NHL’s Buyout Barometer – Pacific Division (Part I)

The NHL’s Buyout Barometer – Pacific Division (Part I)