NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 10, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 10, 2020

Updates on the Return-to-Play plan and CBA extension, the Devils officially announced Lindy Ruff as their new head coach and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.


TSN: Bob McKenzie reports the return-to-play plan and CBA extension could be ratified by Friday night. The results of the NHLPA membership vote will be completed by 6 pm ET while the NHL Board of Governors will hold a conference call at 4 PM ET.

The NHL & NHLPA could ratify the return-to-play plan and CBA extension later today (Image via NHL.com).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The BoG call is expected to be a rubber stamp. Despite several recent reports of player unhappiness leading up to this week, media consensus is the PA membership is expected to vote its approval.

McKenzie wonders if there will be a big spike in positive COVID-19 tests as Phase 3 commences Monday with mandatory training camps at NHL facilities.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ve repeatedly said Phase 3 will determine if Phase 4 (the playoff tournament) takes place. McKenzie points out the league has a fighting chance to pull this off once the teams are quarantined in Edmonton and Toronto. Getting to that point, however, could be a challenge.

During Phase 4, the Eastern Conference clubs will be housed at Hotel X on the CNE grounds and the Royal York in downtown Toronto. In Edmonton, the Western Conference teams will be housed at the JW Marriott alongside the arena and the Sutton Place hotel downtown.

The playoff games are slated for 12, 4, and 8 pm local time daily, but McKenzie indicates the Edmonton schedule could be tweaked more depending on the needs of broadcasters.

Some teams are leaning toward bringing three goalies to the tournament but more are considering bringing four. They’re also mulling whether to bring 31 players or reduced those numbers to allow for an extra staff member or two.


NJ.COM: The New Jersey Devils made it official yesterday, announcing Lindy Ruff will become their new head coach starting next season and removed the interim tag from general manager Tom Fitzgerald’s title.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ruff is known for his defensive systems, but those expecting a boring trapping style could be in for a surprise. “We played a super-fast possession type of game, which is the same type of game I’d like to bring to this Devils team with a lot of puck pressure using the skills we have to own the puck,” he told NJ.com. “And I want a team that can dominate with speed and possession, but at the same time knowing that defending is a passion that we’re going to have.”

NHL Return-to-Play Plan: Is A CBA Extension Possible?

NHL Return-to-Play Plan: Is A CBA Extension Possible?


NHL Rumor Mill – April 2, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – April 2, 2020

The latest on the Golden Knights and Flames, plus some speculation over how the players and teams could cope with revenue losses in today’s NHL rumor mill.


THE ATHLETIC: What to do with Robin Lehner was among Jesse Granger’s five pressing questions for the Vegas Golden Knights. They acquired the 28-year-old goaltender from the Chicago Blackhawks at the February trade deadline. He’s eligible for unrestricted free agent status at season’s end.

Does Robin Lehner have a future with the Vegas Golden Knights? (Photo via NHL Images)

Granger wonders if the front office views Lehner as a rental or a long-term future in net. If Lehner outperforms starter Marc-Andre Fleury during the 2020 playoffs, it raises the possibility of re-signing him and shopping Fleury, who has two seasons remaining on his contract at $7 million annually.

Lehner will likely depart via free agency, leaving the Golden Knights with an aging Fleury and no real backup plan for next season. They could explore cheaper backup options via free agency or promote Oscar Dansk or Garret Sparks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Lehner were to backstop the Golden Knights into the Stanley Cup Final, moving Fleury could become a serious possibility. After being spurned by the Blackhawks and the New York Islanders over the past year, Lehner will seek the stability of a lucrative long-term deal. He can justifiably claim he’s earned it since turning his life and career around two years ago.

Fleury’s situation is complicated by his age (35) and his 10-team no-trade clause. Even if the Golden Knights wanted to move him, they might not find many takers unless the Golden Knights pick up part of his salary.


SPORTSNET: Eric Francis recently examined the Calgary Flames’ goaltending depth. Where their goalie prospects slot next season will depend on whether or not they re-sign Cam Talbot. The 32-year-old netminder is due to become a UFA after this season.

Talbot’s return seems likely following his return to form this season while David Rittich struggled during the second half. However, his bounce-back season could also entice him to test the free-agent market.

“Will it be status quo, or will the Flames use some of their cap space to chase a significant free agent like Robin Lehner or Jacob Markstrom?”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Talbot walks, the Flames will at least want a reliable backup for Rittich for next season. If they’ve lost confidence in Rittich as a starter, they could pursue a UFA like Lehner or Markstrom.


SPORTSNET: In his latest “31 Thoughts” column, Elliotte Friedman reported estimates of up to $220 million in lost revenue if the NHL resumes the remainder of the 2019-20 schedule, including an extra four percent of escrow claw-backs from players’ salaries. If the season and playoffs are canceled, the losses are estimated at $1.1 billion and 35 percent escrow.

The teams and players agree to defer money could be one way to address the issue. “For example, a player with a five-year contract at a $5-million AAV would still have that term and cap hit, but could agree to hold some of the payments,” writes Friedman. “Teams would get a break on cash flow, and players could save until escrow was lowered. Don’t know if it will happen, but spitballing never hurts.”

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun cited an anonymous player agent suggesting the NHL and NHLPA should merge the two realities of dealing with lost revenue from this season and their collective bargaining negotiations into a longer-term agreement.

The agent envisions a six-year CBA that sets the salary-cap maximum at $81.5 million with a fixed escrow of 10 percent. “It may take 2-3 seasons for that money to be returned to the owners, consider it a deferred payment,” said the agent. “As a trade-off, perhaps the players agree to receive the AAV of a contract going forward (until the owners are made whole) to avoid front-loaded cash over cap issues.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is merely speculation by Friedman and LeBrun, but it’s undoubtedly based on what they’re hearing from sources within the league and the NHLPA. I believe both sides understand the need for short- and long-term stability coming out of the pandemic season.

The last thing they need is a return to the contentious labor relationship of the past. There’s a real opportunity here for long-term NHL labor peace. Here’s hoping the two sides make the most of it.

NHL Rumor Mill – March 28, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – March 28, 2020

Check out the recent free agent and CBA speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.


SPORTSNET: Luke Fox recently speculated this year’s NHL free agents could find it difficult landing a financial windfall. If the remainder of the schedule and the playoffs are canceled, they’ll be robbed of the opportunity to showcase their worth. They could also face a flat salary-cap as a result of the loss of hockey-related revenue.

Could Taylor Hall find it difficult to get a lucrative new contract under a flat salary cap for next season? (Photo via NHL Images)

“If your name is Taylor Hall, Braden Holtby, Jacob Markstrom, Tyson Barrie, Alex Pietrangelo or Torey Krug, this is a concerning development”, wrote Fox. “Same goes for soon-to-be RFAs like Max Domi, Anthony DeAngelo, Sam Reinhart, and Tyler Bertuzzi.” He suggested bridge deals might make more sense until NHL revenue stabilizes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: One factor Fox neglected to mention was which teams with plenty of salary-cap room might benefit if the cap maximum remains at $81.5 million. They could have a better opportunity to land a quality UFA talent than they would’ve had under a higher cap. They include the Buffalo Sabres (over $47 million committed to 10 players), Detroit Red Wings ($46.2 million invested in 11 players), New Jersey Devils ($55.2 million invested in 13 players), Montreal Canadiens ($63.1 milliion in 16 players), and Ottawa Senators ($41.9 milion in nine players).

The restricted free agents are far more likely to receive bridge contracts than the UFAs. Those with arbitration rights, like Domi, DeAngelo, Reinhart, and Bertuzzi, could use that leverage if their respective teams attempt to use a flat cap as a reason to avoid making more lucrative contract offers. It might also lead to some of those RFAs getting traded if they threaten to go to arbitration to get what they want.


SPORTSNET: During his recent “31 Thoughts”, Elliotte Friedman theorized the current high level of cooperation between the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association during these difficult times might lead to a new long-term collective bargaining agreement.

Seattle expansion franchise and a new US television deal are on the NHL’s radar. To make everything work, the league needs long-term labor peace. Friedman noted the National Football League and the NFLPA recently announced a new 10-year CBA. If the NHL can get that new TV deal done, he wondered if the NHLPA would be willing to vote for a 10-year CBA. In return, the players could get the Olympics and some form of escrow relief

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Friedman isn’t the only person observing the improved relationship of late between the NHL and NHLPA. The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun recently wrote he couldn’t recall a higher level of cooperation between the two sides.

Since the fall of 2018, there’s been growing cordiality between the two sides, culminating in last September’s mutual agreements not to trigger their respective early out-clauses, allowing the present agreement to run to September 2022.

However, LeBrun also noted that relationship will be tested as the two sides attempt to navigate the tricky financial issues raised by the pandemic. If they can successfully work their way through that, the groundwork will be laid for perhaps a smooth transition into a new CBA and long-term labor peace by 2022.


Is a New NHL CBA Coming This September?

Is a New NHL CBA Coming This September?


Clock May Soon Start Ticking on NHL Labor Peace

Clock May Soon Start Ticking on NHL Labor Peace