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


NHL CBA Update – January 20, 2019

NHL CBA Update – January 20, 2019

In recent weeks, discussions between the NHL and NHL Players Association regarding a possible a World Cup of Hockey tournament in September 2020 prompted speculation the event could become a deadline for a new collective bargaining agreement.

NHL and NHLPA agree not to stage a World Cup of Hockey in 2020.

Both sides have the option to opt-out of the current agreement this September. It was assumed they would avoid the current CBA expiring while the tournament was taking place. 

Considering the contentious labor history between the two sides, the possibility of labor peace by September 2020 would be a welcome change.

Last week, however, the league and the PA released joint statements announcing it was “no longer realistic” to schedule that tournament next September.

Such news would ordinarily suggest more labor trouble on the horizon. However, most observers noted the tone of the statements was rather mild, with both two sides indicated their intention to continue broader discussions.

In other words, just because there won’t be a World Cup of Hockey next year doesn’t necessarily mean there won’t be a new CBA in the near future.

Since November, various reports have the league and the PA holding ongoing talks regarding a possible CBA extension.  NHL commissioner Gary Bettman seems keen to avoid a fourth lockout on his watch, recently telling reporters he’s not looking for a fight with the PA.

Fans can be forgiven for their cynicism over Bettman’s comment. As the good folks at the Puck Soup podcast observed, the commissioner said the same thing roughly a year before imposing the season-killing lockout of 2004-05. 

By most accounts, the league doesn’t have any significant issues worth jeopardizing a season over. Escrow and Olympic participation are hot-button topics for the players but the PA doesn’t sound as militant as it once was.

Some pundits have noted a distinct change in tone between the two sides, providing hope that a new collective bargaining agreement can be worked out without another long work stoppage. Time will tell if that’s the case. 

NHL CBA Watch – January 2019

NHL CBA Watch – January 2019

The current NHL collective bargaining agreement is slated to expire on Sept. 15, 2022. However, the league or the NHL Players Association each have the choice for an early opt-out. The NHL can exercise that option on Sept. 1 and the PA on Sept. 19.

If either side takes the early out, the current CBA will expire on Sept. 15, 2020.

Can the NHL & NHLPA avoid another lockout?

Given the contentious negotiation history between the two sides, it wouldn’t be surprising if there’s another lockout next year. However, there are indications another lengthy labor battle can be avoided.

On Nov. 4, 2018, Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston first raised the possibility of labor peace, noting they were already discussing the prospect of staging a World Cup of Hockey tournament in September 2020. He indicated they were also leaning toward talks aimed at avoiding CBA negotiations at that time, depending on whether one or the other votes to opt out of the current agreement.

Johnston cited colleague Elliotte Friedman indicating the league needed to know by January 2019 if staging that tournament next September was doable. Since then, there’s a belief the league has set the upcoming All-Star weekend in San Jose (Jan 25-26) as a deadline.

TSN insider Pierre LeBrun, in a recent column for The Athletic (subscription required), also reported the two sides would meet this week to discuss the World Cup. He wondered if those talks might pave the way toward a new CBA.

According to the New York Post’s Larry Brooks, the league is doing everything it can to avoid another lockout. In his Nov. 17, 2018 column, he cited sources claiming league commissioner Gary Bettman, who already has three lockouts on his resume, isn’t keen to add a fourth.

Brooks also said there was no indication at that point in time suggesting the league’s more hawkish team owners would try to push Bettman into another hardline approach with the PA. He added the atmosphere between the two sides is much less contentious compared to previous CBA talks, suggesting there is a reason for optimism as the two sides continued preliminary talks.

Bettman certainly doesn’t sound like he’s gearing up for another labor war. Last week, the commissioner told reporters he’s “not looking for a fight”, preferring to extend or renew the CBA “with minimum fanfare.” 

On Saturday, Chris Johnston reported there’s a meeting planned in Toronto later this week between the two sides. Unlike previous CBA negotiations, Johnston said there isn’t a fundamental issue that justifies another lengthy work stoppage. While smaller issues persist, he feels they’re not worth fighting about.

There’s some disagreement over whether escrow will be a significant issue. Last Saturday, Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos said escrow relief was a priority for the players. But in his column in November, Brooks reported escrow doesn’t appear the significant driving force for the players as it once was.

Brooks noted the players began this season with 11.5 percent clawed back from their pay but the league informed them to expect a postseason refund of 8 percent. Instead, the PA could seek a change in the way long-term injury payments are calculated into the salary cap.

Under the current system, the players bear the cost and subsidize the league when other players go on LTIR. If that was eliminated, Brooks said it would reduce escrow and also slightly tilt the 50-50 revenue split. He felt the league will want something significant in return, such as perhaps a redefinition of hockey-related revenue to benefit the teams.

But in an interview last week with Sportsnet’s Bob McCown and John Shannon, player agent Allan Walsh insisted escrow remains the player’s primary issue. While they aren’t happy about the high rates currently withheld from their salaries, Walsh said there are formulas that could provide some flexibility to reduce the escrow burden to a level the players could accept.

Whether the league agrees to a reduced escrow rate or a revised LTIR payment system, they’ll still want something from the PA in return.  Perhaps, as ESPN.com’s Greg Wyshynski wrote last week, it might be reduced term limits on player contracts.

Under the current CBA, re-signed players are limited to eight-year deals and unrestricted free agents to seven years. Wyshynski pointed out the league attempted to get seven-year limits on re-signed players and five years for UFAs during the last round of collective bargaining.

Acknowledging the players’ hatred of escrow, Wyshynski cautioned against giving up long-term contracts. If they do, he fears they’ll never get it back.

Not everyone is pleased with the prospect of linking CBA negotiations with a deadline for an agreement on the next World Cup of Hockey.

Last Thursday, TSN’s Frank Seravalli reported player agent Anton Thun believes the PA shouldn’t be negotiating a new CBA at this time. He also said he hadn’t heard from his clients if NHLPA director Donald Fehr had any mandate from the players to engage in extension talks.

With a high number of younger talent making an impact upon the league, Thun feels there could be a significant shift upon the league’s economic landscape within the next 12 months as those players start becoming eligible for new contracts. He feels the PA shouldn’t be extending the CBA until those effects are fully understood.

Things could get ugly between Fehr and the players if he and his staff are pressing on with CBA extension talks without the approval of the PA membership. However, it seems unlikely he’d engage in such discussions without their blessing.

At this point, everything’s in the preliminary stage. Fehr could have authority for exploratory talks with the understanding that official negotiations with the league will need the players’ consent. 

As Seravalli observed, mandate or not, the PA and the league appear to be well along with preliminary discussions. On Saturday, Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reported there’s a meeting planned in Toronto later this week between the two sides.

While the pundits caution that these are merely early discussions, all are striking an optimistic chord. Some are daring to dream of a new collective bargaining agreement without a lengthy labor battle to get it. 

If the NHL and NHLPA agree to stage the next World Cup of Hockey in September 2020, it’ll be the best early indication that a new CBA could be hammered out before then. At the very least, it’ll mean neither side will take their early opt-outs this fall, ensuring the current agreement runs its course to September 2022.

Stay tuned…

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 11, 2019

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 11, 2019

Last night’s game recaps, Blue Jackets discipline Sergei Bobrovsky following an undisclosed incident, latest NHL-NHLPA talks and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines. 

NHL.COM: Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin scored two goals to lead his club to a physical 4-2 victory over the Boston Bruins, marking their 14th consecutive win over the Bruins. With 1,171 points, Ovechkin also moved ahead of Bobby Hull into 50th on the all-time NHL points list, becoming only the second active player (Joe Thornton being the other) in the top 50. Capitals winger T.J. Oshie briefly left the game for concussion protocol but returned later in the second period. 

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin moves into the top 50 on the NHL’s all-time scoring list (Photo via NHL Images)

After blowing a 3-1 lead, the Columbus Blue Jackets edged the Nashville Predators 4-3 on an overtime goal by Artemi Panarin. It was the 600th career victory for Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella.

The game was overshadowed by the Jackets revealing starting goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky would not be with the club for that game because of an unspecified incident following their previous contest. Management is slated to meet with Bobrovsky today and if all goes well, he will return to the lineup for Saturday`s contest against Washington.

SPECTOR`S NOTE: No details were revealed over the incident. TSNs Pierre LeBrun reported it had nothing to do with Bobrovsky`s relationship with Tortorella. 

Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares tallied twice, including his 300th career NHL goal, in a 4-2 win over the New Jersey Devils. Teammate Mitch Marner had a goal and an assist. 

Edmonton Oilers captain scored twice and tallied the winner in a shootout as his club nipped the Florida Panthers 4-3. McDavid also picked up an assist. 

Josh Bailey scored late in the third period to give the New York Islanders a 4-3 victory over the New York Rangers. The Islanders were outshot 17-1 in the final frame. Isles forward Mathew Barzal had a three-point performance. 

The Philadelphia Flyers snapped an eight-game losing skid as they hung on for a 2-1 win over the Dallas Stars. Flyers goalie Carter Hart made 37 saves while James van Riemsdyk had a goal and an assist. 

The Tampa Bay Lightning tallied three unanswered third-period goals, including two by Brayden Point, to down the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1. Hurricanes captain Justin Williams tallied his 300th career goal. 

Rookie goaltender Jordan Binnington made 28 saves as the St. Louis Blues dominated the Montreal Canadiens in a 4-1 victory. Blues center Ryan O`Reilly collected two assists. 

Jason Zucker scored two goals and Devan Dubnyk kicked out 26 shots as the Minnesota Wild edged the Winnipeg Jets 3-2. Earlier in the day, the Wild revealed forward Eric Fehr will be sidelined one-to-two weeks with an upper-body injury. 

The Ottawa Senators picked up their second straight road win for the first time this season by downing the Los Angeles Kings 4-1. Senators center Chris Tierney tallied twice. They also played with Matt Duchene, who remains in Ottawa following the birth of his son. 

The San Jose Sharks defeated the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2, ending the latter`s win streak at seven games. Sharks goaltender Martin Jones picked up the win by turning aside 36 shots. 

Richard Panik scored twice, including the winner in overtime, as the Arizona Coyotes beat the Vancouver 4-3. 

TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist has suffered his second concussion of the season and the fourth since the start of 2016-17. Meanwhile, forward Zach Aston-Reese remains sidelined with a hand injury. 

DETROIT NEWS: Red Wings defenseman Mike Green will return to the lineup after being sidelined by a foot injury since Dec. 11. 

TSN: Player agent Anton Thun considers linking CBA talks to a deadline for a World Cup of Hockey tournament in 2020 to be a travesty. The league has set a deadline of the upcoming All-Star weekend (Jan 26-27) for reaching an agreement with the NHLPA on a tournament for September 2020. The two sides have scheduled further discussions for next weekend. 

SPECTOR`S NOTE: Staging the tournament next September would mean the league and the PA wont exercise their early opt-out of the current CBA in September. Player agent Alan Walsh claims escrow remains the primary issue for the players.