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.










Ekman-Larsson Still A Coyote But For How Long?

Ekman-Larsson Still A Coyote But For How Long?

 










NHL Rumor Mill – November 21, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 21, 2020

The latest on Oliver Ekman-Larsson and an update on the Capitals in today’s NHL rumor mill.

ARIZONA REPUBLIC: Jose M. Romero reports Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson has returned to Arizona and hopes to join a group of his teammates on Monday working out at Gila River Arena. He maintains he’s “really glad” he’s a Coyote, which is why he signed his eight-year contract with the club. However, the 29-year-old defenseman acknowledged it’s been a difficult offseason after he was part of trade talks between the Coyotes and the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks.

Arizona Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson (NHL Images).

Ekman-Larsson has a full no-movement clause but only agreed to waive it for the Bruins and Canucks. The Coyotes’ efforts to trade him fell through when a deal couldn’t be reached with either club before his self-imposed deadline on Oct. 9.

The long-time Coyotes blueliner said he understood this was a business decision. He denied any suggestion of tension with new general manager Bill Armstrong and doesn’t expect any strain going forward with their relationship.

AZCOYOTESINSIDER: Craig Morgan reports Ekman-Larsson explained why he choose Boston and Vancouver. He said the Bruins had an interest in him before he signed his current contract. He also spent a lot of time in Boston when he played in Portland, Maine during the 2012-13 lockout. His Swedish friends enjoyed playing and living in Vancouver plus his agent lives there. He also believes the Canucks have a promising young team.

Asked if he envisioned the Coyotes approaching him again about a trade, Ekman-Larsson left that up to Armstrong. He maintains he’s happy in Arizona but would deal with that issue if it came up again. He repeated he has no issue with what recently went down but expects at some point he’ll sit down with management and talk it through. Ekman-Larsson defended Armstrong, pointing out he arrived at a tough time for the club and had a job to do.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A deal couldn’t be reached sending Ekman-Larsson to Boston or Vancouver because Armstrong understandably set a high asking price. It’s also believed the Coyotes weren’t willing to absorb part of the blueliner’s $8.25 million annual salary-cap hit. Perhaps the Bruins or Canucks would’ve taken on his full cap hit during a normal offseason, especially if the salary cap rose to between $84 million and $88 million as projected before the pandemic.

Ekman-Larsson’s name could resurface in the rumor mill if the Coyotes struggle during the coming season or if ownership wants to shed more salary. However, his no-movement clause will continue to give him full control over the situation. His annual average value through 2026-27 will also make him very difficult to move, especially if the Coyotes remain reluctant to pick up part of it to facilitate a trade.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: J.J. Regan recently examined the Capitals’ options to bring in a third-line winger. He expects Daniel Sprong is the strongest candidate if they look to promote from within.

If the Capitals look to external options, their limited cap space (less than $1.5 million) means they could afford two players at barely over the league’s minimum salary. If they can free up some cap room, free agents such as Conor Sheary, Andreas Athanasiou and Melker Karlsson could be realistic possibilities.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Regan believes the Capitals could move a defenseman, such as Nick Jensen, to a club with salary-cap space (such as Detroit or New Jersey) to free up room to add via free agency. The Wings need blueline depth but they could also squeeze the Capitals to include a sweetener.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 21, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 21, 2020

The latest return-to-play news plus updates on Joe Thornton, Braden Holtby, Anton Khudobin and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TORONTO SUN: Lance Hornby reports Canadian NHL clubs could be affected if provincial borders close for non-essential travel. British Columbia premier John Horgan recently called upon the federal government to follow his provinces’ lead in discouraging inter-provincial travel.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Canadian teams are located in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and BC. The NHL is considering having an all-Canadian division for this season due to the pandemic as those clubs would have difficulty traveling across the Canada-US border with current restrictions in place. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday he won’t force the closure of provincial borders. However, if provinces decide to do it themselves, he would support it.

The NHL hopes to start the 2020-21 season on Jan. 1, but its push for the NHLPA to accept further salary cuts could close the negotiation window. Hornby cites a source telling Boston Hockey Now’s Joe Haggerty a mid-January return was more likely as the players could object to training camp during the Christmas holiday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr reportedly continue holding daily discussions. The salary issue upset the players and generated plenty of headlines, but both sides have not released public statements on the matter nor have they been sniping at each other through the media.

Toronto Maple Leafs center Joe Thornton (NHL Images).

Perhaps cooler heads are prevailing here or it’s the calm before another labor storm. Nevertheless, there’s a belief the two sides should be able to work through the salary issue. They’ll have to hammer out an agreement by Nov. 30 at the latest to maintain their Jan. 1 season-opening timeline.

An outbreak of COVID-19 among players for Davos of the Swiss League has sidelined Joe Thornton. “The whole team is in quarantine after five players, not known to include Thornton, tested positive the past few days,” writes Hornby. Thornton, who recently signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs, is playing for Davos while awaiting the start of the NHL season.

Speaking of Thornton, SPORTSNET’S Luke Fox reports Davos general manager Raeto Raffainer believes the 41-year-old center’s experience, hockey smarts and leadership will benefit the Leafs in whatever role they choose for him. Thornton has six points in his first six games with Davos.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Skating in a European pro league should give Thornton a competitive edge whenever the NHL starts up this season.

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Braden Holtby had some difficulty getting across the US border into Canada with his family’s two pet tortoises. It’s since been resolved after securing the necessary export papers from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Things kind of slowed to a crawl for a while there for Holtby. See, because he has tortoises and they crawl and, okay, I’ll stop now…

NHL.COM: Dallas Stars goaltender Anton Khudobin is expected to be ready for training camp following surgery last month to repair a nerve issue in his right arm.

OTTAWA CITIZEN: Bruce Garrioch recently reported Anders Nilsson is still plagued by concussion symptoms, putting his availability for the coming season into jeopardy. The 30-year-old goaltender’s been sidelined since suffering the injury on Dec. 16.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Former NHL winger Ken Schinkel passed away at age 87. He spent 12 seasons in the NHL from 1959-60 to 1972-73. His first six seasons were with the New York Rangers until selected by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1967 NHL expansion draft at age 35. He enjoyed his best NHL seasons with the Penguins, with three 45-plus point campaigns. Schinkel went on to coach the Penguins for parts of four seasons and held a variety of front-office roles with the club before joining the Hartford Whalers in 1989.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Schinkel’s family, friends and former teammates.

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 15, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 15, 2020

What it might cost the Oilers to re-sign Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Kasperi Kapanen’s role with the Penguins and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz examined how much it might cost the Edmonton Oilers to re-sign Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The 27-year-old center/winger is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. He’s averaged 29 goals and 69 points per 82 games over the last three seasons. Gretz suggests a $7 million annual average value would be within reason for the Oilers if they spend to the cap in 2021-22.

How much will it cost the Edmonton Oilers to re-sign Ryan Nugent-Hopkins? (NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That would be a $1 million raise over Nugent-Hopkins’ current annual cap hit. The short-term economic uncertainty could make him receptive to that pay bump on a long-term deal.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Speaking of the Oilers, Kurt Leavins reports there’s nothing new regarding Ethan Bear’s contract talks. That has less to do with the 23-year-old defenseman and more to do with the status of Oscar Klefbom and his LTIR status.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As per Cap Friendly, the Oilers are over $242K above the $81.5 million cap for 2020-21. Klefbom could require season-ending shoulder surgery, allowing the Oilers to spend over the cap by the equivalent of his $4.167 million AAV if he’s placed on long-term injury reserve. The Oilers will likely sign Bear to an affordable short-term bridge deal.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan confirmed Kasperi Kapanen will skate on the club’s top line alongside Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel. The Penguins acquired Kapanen from the Toronto Maple Leafs in August. Sullivan cited Kapanen’s speed that would make him complimentary to Crosby and Guentzel.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sullivan also noted Kapanen tallied 20 goals in 2018-19 as a secondary scorer with the Leafs. He’ll have the opportunity to tally much more if he clicks with his new all-star linemates.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: San Jose Sharks defenseman Mario Ferraro said the departure of Joe Thornton hasn’t fully sunk in yet. After 15 seasons with the Sharks, Thornton recently signed a one-year contract with the Maple Leafs. Ferraro believes his teammates are really going to miss the big center when they return for training camp.

THE SCORE: The Tampa Bay Lightning are the first team to have their names engraved on the Stanley Cup when each member of the club gets their day with the trophy.

THE PROVINCE: Two Vancouver Canucks fans are leading a campaign to have Gino Odjick become a member of the club’s Ring of Honour. Odjick, a popular enforcer with the Canucks from 1990-91 to 1997-98, is battling cardiac amyloidosis.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 11, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 11, 2020

The latest on the NHL’s return-to-play plan for 2020-21, an update on Elias Pettersson, and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Commissioner Gary Bettman said the league is exploring temporary hub cities, temporary divisional realignments and a reduced schedule as options for staging the 2020-21 season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman (NHL.com).

Bettman said he would never ask the players to return to a strict quarantine bubble similar to the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs for an entire season. They’re exploring teams playing in their own arenas with or without fans, depending on the location, in hubs or a hybrid system.

The commissioner suggested teams would play for 10-to-12 days in hub cities without traveling, followed by returning home to their families for a week. He indicated they would have testing protocols and other things in place. While admitting it won’t be quite as effective as in a quarantine bubble, they believe they can minimize the risks “to the extent practical and sensible.”

Bettman indicated any return-to-play plan would be a collaborative effort with the NHLPA. The two sides have been in regular and constant communication but regular meetings have yet to begin.

Border restrictions between Canada and the United States, as well as travel limitations between certain states, could force a temporary divisional realignment based on region.

Bettman also pointed to a lack of fans in the stands and casual fans being less inclined to watch hockey during the summer as two key factors why television ratings were down for the 2020 playoffs.

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports deputy commissioner Bill Daly sent a memo to all 31 teams stating the league believes progress toward finalizing a recommendation for the 2020-21 season to the board of governors is being made.

If negotiations with the NHLPA can be completed by Thursday, the terms will be presented to the upcoming board of governors meeting for approval.

Daly indicated the objective remains to start on Jan. 1 with the regular-season schedule concluding in late-April. That would mean a shortened schedule of 48-56 games, with the league crowning a Stanley Cup champion before the summer and returning with a normal 82-game schedule from October to April for 2021-22.

Because of border restrictions, the seven Canadian franchises could be in their own division for at least the start of the season.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the NHL hopes to award the Stanley Cup by no later than July 15. He also said different sources have heard different potential lengths for the schedule, from as low as 56 to as high as 72 games, depending on when the season begins.

There’s a growing push for teams to play in their own buildings. One reason is the naming rights on those buildings. With fewer events, sponsorship deals could be affected.

One area of possible contention is player salaries for 2020-21. The players agreed to accept 72 percent of their gross pay for the upcoming season, but the owners feel they should be prorated if a significant decline in attendance creates losses higher than the 20 percent escrow could withstand.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Much of what Bettman said has already been previously reported or speculated upon. Bear in mind that those points he raises remain under consideration and haven’t officially approved.

The league’s plan also remains to have fans gradually returning to the arenas over the course of the season, with the hope of full arenas when the playoffs open in the spring. However, that’s going to depend on the severity of the pandemic in each region. Some could have loosened restrictions allowing a reduced number of socially distanced fans in the stands as we’ve seen in the NFL.

There was speculation suggesting the NHL could wait until as late as March to reopen to allow more fans into the stands by that point. Based on Garrioch’s report, however, the push remains to start in January and award the Cup by no later than mid-July to avoid having the playoffs drag on too deeply into the summer. I also think they want to avoid having to go up against the Tokyo Summer Olympics set to begin in late July.

While the league and the PA in constant talks, it’s interesting to note the supposed “return-to-play” committee still hasn’t met yet. It appears the leadership of both sides could be hashing out the framework of a plan and leave the finer details to the committee.

I’ve recently pointed out, however, the league is getting pressed for time to start on Jan. 1. All the players still have to return to their home cities. Training camps will have to begin in early-December, with the seven clubs that didn’t qualify for the 2020 playoffs probably to hit the ice by no later than the end of this month. The Christmas holiday break will also complicate an exhibition-game schedule.

THE SCORE: cites a report in The Athletic indicating the Vancouver Canucks haven’t yet begun substantive contract extension talks with Elias Pettersson. However, that lack of progress isn’t anything to be concerned about.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pettersson quickly established himself as the Canucks’ best player since his debut in 2018-19. He won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year that season with 66 points, followed by 66 points in 68 games last season. Pettersson, who turns 22 on Nov. 12, has yet to reach his playing prime. He’s entering the final season of his entry-level contract and will receive a significant raise in his next deal with the Canucks.

SPORTSNET: The Seattle Kraken expect to have the main portion of their training facility ready to open next July.

ECHL.COM: released its schedule of critical dates that will see it gradually start its season in two stages. The first stage will see 13 teams start their seasons on Dec. 11 with the remainder beginning on Jan. 15.