NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 11, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 11, 2021

The Dallas Stars remain sidelined by COVID-19, an update on the Canucks after they canceled yesterday’s practice, the latest contract signings and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

SPORTSNET: The Dallas Stars remain sidelined by a COVID-19 outbreak among six players and two staff members. The club last practiced on Wednesday. Their regular-season schedule has been revised with their season-opener now slated for Jan. 19.

Meanwhile, the Vancouver Canucks will resume practice today after canceling activities on Sunday as a precautionary measure due to potential COVID-19 exposure.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: COVID-19 remains a factor despite the league’s health and safety protocols. Expect more canceled practices and perhaps future game postponements over the course of this season similar to those in other major pro sports leagues in recent months.

NJ.COM: The New Jersey Devils signed winger Jesper Bratt to a two-year, $5.5 million deal. The restricted free agent’s contract standoff sidelined him from the Devils’ opening week of training camp.

New Jersey Devils sign winger Jesper Bratt (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It will still take some time for Bratt to join his teammates. He’s still in Sweden awaiting a work visa, after which he’ll have to quarantine for seven days after traveling to New Jersey. He’ll miss their opening two games of the season on Jan. 14 and 16 and perhaps more depending on how long it takes to get his visa sorted out.

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Golden Knights winger Alex Tuch is listed as day-to-day with an undisclosed injury and could miss their season-opener on Jan. 14 against the Anaheim Ducks.

NEWSDAY: New York Islanders forward Casey Cizikas left yesterday’s practice nursing what appeared to be an injured left hand or lower-left arm.

TSN: The Columbus Blue Jackets signed Michael Del Zotto to a one-year, two-way contract. He was attending their training camp on a tryout basis.

SPORTSNET: Free-agent defenseman Ben Hutton signed a professional tryout offer with the Anaheim Ducks.

THE SCORE: Promising prospect Tim Stuetzle had his first practice session with the Ottawa Senators yesterday. The 18-year-old center was selected third overall by the Senators in the 2020 NHL Draft.

TWINCITIES.COM: Minnesota Wild prospect Marco Rossi is sidelined indefinitely with an upper-body injury. Rossi is the Wild’s first-round pick (ninth overall) in the 2020 draft.

 










Odds are COVID-19 Will Cost Some NHL Team a Playoff Berth

Odds are COVID-19 Will Cost Some NHL Team a Playoff Berth

 










COVID-19 Hits Stars, Blue Jackets in NHL Training Camps

COVID-19 Hits Stars, Blue Jackets in NHL Training Camps

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 11, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 11, 2020

The latest on the NHL efforts to open the 2020-21 season on Jan. 13 in today’s morning coffee headlines.

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports negotiations are continuing between the NHL and NHLPA on an agreement for the 2020-21 season to put to a vote by their respective sides by perhaps the end of next week. Ratification is needed as soon as possible for players on last season’s seven non-playoff clubs that require 14-day quarantines before joining their clubs in training camp on Dec. 31.

Darren Dreger indicates everyone involved in the process remains hopeful. However, there are club executives, general managers and players agents who are skeptical this can be accomplished for a Jan. 13 puck drop because of the work that still needs to be done.

Frank Seravalli noted there are as many as four or five teams that could be unable to host games in their home arenas because of local health restrictions. Playing in a hybrid bubble or hub cities with a two weeks in, one week out schedule remains an option if necessary before eventually rolling out to all 31 NHL cities.

LeBrun also reported there won’t be any restrictions on trades between Canadian and American clubs during the season. Players involved in those deals would be subject to whatever quarantine regulations there are in that state or province.

Regarding divisional realignment, LeBrun said the NHL is looking into making a few adjustments. The Minnesota Wild and Dallas Stars are among the clubs that could be changing divisions. The original realignment saw the Wild in a division with Tampa Bay, Florida, Nashville, Carolina, Columbus, Detroit and Chicago. The Stars were to play with San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Vegas, Colorado, Arizona and St. Louis.

SPORTSNET: Divisional realignment is among the pressing issues to be resolved by the NHL and NHLPA before the 2020-21 season can begin. Playoff format, taxi squads, expanded rosters, exhibition games, training camps, bubble or hub cities and COVID protocols must also be addressed.

NHL insider John Shannon reported on Twitter the NHL is interested in securing COVID-19 vaccines when and if they become available for private sale. “The league is adamant they would not jump the line to do so,” said Shannon.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That Jan. 13 start date could get pushed into late January or early February because of the complex issues that must be worked out. The course of the pandemic will also be the ultimate deciding factor.

The skepticism among some around the NHL is understandable. Nevertheless, the league and the PA have demonstrated they can reach agreements in a timely manner when it’s to their mutual benefit. It wouldn’t surprise me if they get this hammered out by this time next week.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 9, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 9, 2020

More details on the plans to open the 2020-21 season on Jan. 13, the Flyers sign Philippe Myers, the Panthers’ expand their goalie coaching staff, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

MORE DETAILS EMERGE REGARDING 2020-21 NHL SEASON PLANS

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the NHL understands that COVID-19 could affect the 2020-21 schedule. They are working on some empty days within the schedule to allow postponed games to be played.

LeBrun also indicates the league cannot go into a shortened season during a pandemic with the same rules governing roster limits. A proposal has been made to the NHLPA for expanded rosters indicating how many players each club can carry and “taxi squads”.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a taxi squad is a group of players under contract with a team who practice with the club but aren’t on the roster. They are allowed to join the team if injuries occur. Taxi squads would address the difficulties of attempting to call up players from the minors during the pandemic.

The NHLPA held a conference call yesterday to bring the 31 player reps up to speed on the latest development. A conference call with the NHL Board of Governors is slated for today.

Darren Dreger reports there will be an opt-out option for players unwilling to participate in the coming season due to COVID-19. Mandatory vaccinations have also been discussed and agreed upon by the NHL and NHLPA.

Frank Seravalli reports the Canadian teams that lack AHL affiliates in Canada (Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton) will use the taxi squad system to keep some players stashed in their home cities. The other four clubs plan to play their AHL affiliates in an all-Canadian division.

He also reports there won’t be any compliance buyouts to allow teams to garner cap relief by shedding salary without penalty.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Normal buyouts for players 26-and-older count against the salary cap as two-thirds the remaining value over twice the remaining term of the contract and one-third over twice the remaining term for players 25-and-younger.

Seravalli indicates local health authorities will play a role in determining if certain teams, such as the San Jose Sharks and Winnipeg Jets, will be allowed to open the season in their home arenas.

It will take a two-thirds majority of the NHL board of governors to approve the plan for this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Recent reports indicated some owners would prefer not playing this season if they don’t get some financial relief to offset some of their losses from a shortened schedule. Speculation suggests they number around a half-dozen, which wouldn’t be sufficient to vote down the plan for this season.

The NHL and the NHLPA agreed to abide by the rules of the CBA, meaning the league has backed off from its request for $300 million in higher escrow and salary deferral from the players. The NHL might have to consider other options, such as taking out loans, to address that financial need for some of its unhappy owners.

ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski and Emily Kaplan report the majority of the owners and players prefer a baseball-style three-game series. Hybrid bubbles or hub cities are a possibility to start the season, where teams would travel and play up to 10 games in two weeks and return home for a week.

Those hubs would be similar to those in Edmonton and Toronto during the playoffs but less strict. New Jersey, Columbus and Las Vegas are under consideration as those arenas have just one tenant, two sheets of ice and suitable nearby accommodation.

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports clauses in television contracts requiring a certain number of games and/or weeks to fulfill obligations are a major factor in the sudden rush to start the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fulfilling those obligations will also help the league in its quest for a more lucrative US national broadcasting deal following this season.

COLORADO HOCKEY NOW’s Adrian Dater tweets a league source claims training camp will open on Jan. 3 with the regular season opening on Jan. 13. “It’s not official yet, but this is what the players are hearing/being told.”

TORONTO SUN: Former Sportsnet analyst John Shannon told Lance Hornby a Canadian division will provide unique challenges for travel and broadcasting games.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens sports science and performance director Pierre Allard is telling his players to ensure they’re ready for the upcoming season. The focus is on ensuring they’re in good health and condition to avoid injury during a compressed schedule.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s a concern undoubtedly shared by the other NHL clubs based on reports in recent weeks of players engaged in voluntary workouts and off-ice training to prepare for the coming season.

IN OTHER NEWS…

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The Flyers announced Philippe Myers signed a three-year, $7.65 million contract. The 23-year-old defenseman was a restricted free agent coming off his entry-level contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That $2.55 million annual average value is a very affordable deal for the Flyers. Myers is expected to skate alongside Ivan Provorov on their top defense pairing. If he thrives in that role he’ll be in line for a more lucrative long-term contract in three year’s time.

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: The Panthers hired Francois Allaire as a goaltending consultant. He’ll be reunited with former pupil Roberto Luongo, who’s now a special advisor to general manager Bill Zito.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Former Pittsburgh Penguins minor-league assistant coach Jarrod Skalde has accused the club of violating whistleblower laws after he reported a superior for sexually assaulting his wife. The lawsuit claims then-Penguins assistant GM Bill Guerin informed Skalde the superior was being terminated from his position but instructed him the reasons had to be kept quiet and not be let out. Guerin, now GM of the Minnesota Wild, denies the allegation.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 3, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 3, 2020

League commissioner Gary Bettman talks about efforts to start the 2020-21 season, a look at how the league could change coming out of the pandemic, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

SPORTSNET: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the league’s target date of Jan. 1 to open the 2020-21 season remains a “work in progress influenced largely by what we’re hearing from the medical experts.” He made the remarks at the Sports Business Journal’s “Dealmakers in Sport” panel on Wednesday.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman (NHL.com).

Bettman insisted the NHL remains focused on health and safety, adding the league is taking its time evaluating ways to move forward with the season. He’s hopeful a widespread vaccine distribution will enable the league to return to normal for 2021-22.

The commissioner also addressed the recent stalemate with the NHLPA over the league’s request for increased escrow and salary deferral rates that have stalled return-to-play negotiations. He doesn’t view it as renegotiating the CBA extension but merely addressing how the division of hockey-related revenue will be affected by the pandemic.

Chris Johnston reports Bettman said there’s been no ultimatum made to the NHLPA, claiming it’s unfair to characterize his discussions with the union as a renegotiation. “We made a number of assumptions collectively over the summer, most of which are not applicable anymore,” said the commissioner. “ There are a lot of things we have to deal with if we’re going to return to play.”

Johnston also notes Bettman pointing out the 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue contained in the CBA. The commissioner said if the players end up getting overpaid they’ll have to repay the overage to the league over time if they don’t repay in the short term. He adds the two sides have had discussed the stresses on the system and how to navigate them, insisting the league is trying to find ways to continue working together.

I know it’s being portrayed as something else and it’s unfortunate and it’s inaccurate because at the end of the day if the system gets stressed it’s going to get stressed for the both of us,” said Bettman.

The commissioner also said the league is willing to shorten training camps and play one or two exhibition games before the season begins.

TSN: Frank Seravalli reports the NHLPA declined to comment yesterday on Bettman’s remarks. While the commissioner suggested the players could end up owing the league “more money than anyone imagined,” Seravalli cites sources saying the best, moderate, and worst-case scenarios were all fully modeled for both sides during the CBA extension negotiations.

Seravalli believes Bettman was also sending an unsubtle message to the players that the longer their potential debt to the league lingers, the lower future salary caps will be, in turn limiting their future earnings.

Asked if the current impasse might kill the 2020-21 season, Bettman said there are letters in the CBA put in for “our benefit” if things got out of control, “so we each have rights which we can adhere to.”

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun believes Bettman is feeling pressure from some owners to alleviate cash concerns for the coming season. That explains why the commissioner made his recent requests for changes to the escrow and deferral rates.

While the players could stay resolute and call Bettman’s bluff, LeBrun believes they could instead accept increased salary deferral (though not at the league’s proposed rate) in exchange for something in return.

LeBrun also feels the course of the pandemic is becoming a greater obstacle to starting the season. He feels the prudent move for the league and PA is to give up on a Jan. 1 start and instead go for puck drop on Feb. 1 in the hope there’s a downturn in COVID-19 cases by then.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The players have every right to be upset over the league’s attempt to change those rates that were agreed upon in the CBA extension. While Bettman is correct that things have changed since the extension was ratified, he went into that agreement knowing what the worst-case scenario would be. He either didn’t really understand how serious it would be (doubtful) or he didn’t believe the worst-case would happen (plausible).

As Bettman noted, the CBA stipulates a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue. The PA’s likely argument, as reported by the New York Post’s Larry Brooks, is the assurance of the 50-50 split has been undone by the artificial caps on escrow combined with unlinking the salary cap from actual hockey-related revenue for the short term.

I don’t see the league agreeing with that argument. Bettman made that clear with his remarks about the players paying back the potential overage for this season.

Recent reports indicate Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr resumed daily discussions. I agree with LeBrun’s take that the players will likely accept an increase in salary deferral in exchange for something from the league.

My question is why Bettman didn’t make that pitch when he made his initial proposal? He had to know what the players’ reaction would be. Perhaps negotiations wouldn’t have stalled if he’d simply included a sweetener (like interest on the salary deferral) with his proposals. The commissioner either misjudged how the players would react or simply didn’t care.

SPORTSNET: Ads on jerseys, expanded playoffs, player-specific sponsorship and embracing gambling are four possible changes we could see in the NHL coming out of the pandemic.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHL will be getting a lucrative new US television contract at the end of this season and the additional hockey-related revenue from the expansion Seattle Kraken. Nevertheless, the pandemic’s effects upon revenue in the short term could force the league to seek new sources of revenue once the pandemic has passed.

FORBES.COM: Sports lawyer Eric Macramalla explains why an NHL lockout isn’t possible despite the intensified haggling over players’ salaries. The CBA prevents the league from locking out the players during the course of the agreement. It also prevents the players from going on strike. The league could suspend the season citing the pandemic as an event beyond its control but could have a difficult time justifying that if the PA took the league to court. Macramalla feels the current dispute can be settled because both sides have a vested interest in playing the coming season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Agreed. The pandemic is a greater factor in determining the start of the season.