Crawford Retires, Barzal Re-Signs As NHL Regular Season Approaches
Corey Crawford retires, Islanders sign Mathew Barzal, COVID-19 continues to affect training camps, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NJ.COM: Corey Crawford announced his retirement yesterday. The 36-year-old goaltender spent 10 full NHL seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks and signed a two-year contract last fall with the New Jersey Devils.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Crawford had been absent for several days last week from the Devils training camp. On Friday, it was announced he was taking an indefinite leave of absence for personal reasons.
Crawford enjoyed a stellar decade with the Blackhawks, backstopping them to two Stanley Cups (2013, 2015). He was also a two-time winner (2012-13, 2014-15) of the William M. Jennings Trophy. He played 488 regular-season games, with a record of 260 wins, 162 losses and 53 overtime losses, with a 2.45 goals-against average, a .918 save percentage and 26 shutouts.
PuckPedia indicates Crawford is retiring rather than going on long-term injury reserve. Under the new memorandum of understanding to the collective bargaining agreement, his salary comes off the Devils’ books. Any multi-year plus-35 contracts where the compensation is the same or goes up with no signing bonuses after the first year no longer count against the salary cap upon retirement.
Best wishes to Crawford and his family in their future endeavors.
NEW YORK POST: The Islanders yesterday signed Mathew Barzal to a three-year, $21 million contract. The annual average value is $7 million, though in actual salary he’ll earn $4 million this season, $7 million next season and $10 million in 2022-23.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The actual salary for the final season is notable because that’s what the Islanders must offer Barzal in 2023 to qualify his rights when he’ll be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. He’s going to get a hefty raise on his next contract but that’s what it’ll take to keep their first-line center on Long Island.
**UPDATE** Under the terms of last year’s CBA extension (as per Cap Friendly), “The Qualifying Offer is limited to 120% of their previous contract’s annual average (AAV).” This applies to players on contracts signed after July 10, 2020. In Barzal’s case, 120% of the AAV is $8.4 million, not $10 million. My thanks to “Howard” and “Caper” for pointing this out.
This signing leaves the Isles over the $81.5 million salary cap by nearly $3.1 million, but they’ll get cap relief by placing defenseman Johnny Boychuk ($6 million AAV) on LTIR to start the season. Nevertheless, the Isles could still be attempting to make a cost-cutting trade. I’ll have more in the Rumors section.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers’ winger James Neal has finally hit the ice in training camp after missing the first five days of practice in quarantine. For their season-opener, he’s expected to either be on the 23-man roster listed as unfit to play and on injured reserve or part of their six-man taxi squad.
The Calgary Flames yesterday indicated Sam Bennett was “unfit to participate” in practice. They also signed Brett Ritchie to a professional tryout offer.
THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings claimed defenseman Christian Djoos off waivers from the Anaheim Ducks.
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: The Penguins canceled practice yesterday due to potential exposure to COVID-19 out of an abundance of caution. The club is expected to release a statement today regarding Sunday’s schedule. It’s unknown if any players, coaches or staff members tested positive.
LOS ANGELES TIMES: Kings forward Gabriel Vilardi, defensemen Kurtis MacDermid and Sean Walker, and goaltenders Cal Petersen and Matthew Villalta were deemed “unfit to participate” in yesterday’s scrimmage.
NHL.COM: The Tampa Bay Lightning announced they will open their season without fans in attendance over concerns of rising COVID-19 cases in Hillsborough County and west-central Florida. The Lightning have permission to allow a limited number of fans inside Amelie Arena but have opted to wait until at least Feb. 5, when they’ll reassess the local situation.
The Western Hockey League (WHL) announced it will stage a 24-game regular season for 2020-21. The start date has yet to be determined. The WHL is among the feeder leagues for the National Hockey League.
COVID-19 strikes the Stars and Blue Jackets, plus updates on Henrik Lundqvist, Corey Crawford and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Stars’ training facilities are closed indefinitely and the club’s practices canceled after six players and two staff tested positive for COVID-19. The NHL is revising the Stars’ regular-season schedule with the expectation the club won’t be able to play until Jan. 19 at the earliest. That means their season-opener on Jan. 14 and their following two games (Jan. 15 and Jan. 17) will be rescheduled.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Stars and the league haven’t revealed which players tested positive for the coronavirus. The report noted forwards Jason Robertson, Joel L’Esperance and Tye Felhaber and defensemen Joel Hanley were missing from the Stars’ last practice but it’s unknown if those absences were injury- or illness-related.
While the Stars’ facilities are closed indefinitely they could reopen soon. As the report observed, the St. Louis Blues and Tampa Bay Lightning had several players test positive before the start of the 2020 playoffs, but their facilities opened several days later.
Despite the NHL’s health and safety protocols, it was inevitable COVID-19 would make its presence felt. Unlike the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs, the upcoming regular season isn’t being held in hub cities under strict quarantine conditions.
The coronavirus also affected Major League Baseball and the National Football League this season but those leagues managed to complete their seasons. This outbreak won’t prevent the start of the NHL’s overall schedule, but it means the Stars’ 56-game schedule has become more compressed.
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Blue Jackets yesterday held 17 players out of practice for precautionary reasons. Most were regular roster players, including team captain Nick Foligno, forwards Oliver Bjorkstrand and Max Domi and defensemen Seth Jones, Vladislav Gavrikov and David Savard. The Jackets didn’t indicate if any of the absent players had tested positive for COVID-19.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: We’ll find out during this weekend if those players will remain sidelined and if the Jackets will be carrying on with their practice sessions. Their season-opener is Jan. 14. The report observed the Jackets dealt with an outbreak last month during small-group workouts that closed their practice facilities for a week.
NHL.COM: Henrik Lundqvist took to social media on Friday to report he is recovering well from his recent five-hour open-heart surgery. Lundqvist had signed with the Washington Capitals but his heart condition sidelined him for the entire season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to King Henrik for a swift and full recovery.
NJ.COM: Corey Crawford is taking an indefinite leave of absence from the New Jersey Devils for personal reasons. The 36-year-old goalie signed a two-year deal with the Devils in October. There’s no timeline for his return. The Devils are expected to turn to Scott Wedgewood as Mackenzie Blackwood’s backup.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Here’s hoping things are okay for Crawford and his family and he returns to action soon.
WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres signed center Riley Sheahan to a one-year, $700K contract. Sheahan was attending Sabres’ training camp on a professional tryout offer.
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: Anaheim Ducks defenseman Brendan Guhle suffered a sprained right knee during a collision with another player. He’ll be sidelined for six weeks.
CAP FRIENDLY: Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, New York Rangers blueliner Adam Fox, Pittsburgh Penguins rearguard John Marino, Washington Capitals goalie Ilya Samsonov and Ottawa Senators winger Brady Tkachuk are among several players within five games of losing their waiver-exempt status.
ESPN.COM: Long-time Pittsburgh Penguins play-by-play man Mike Lange, 72, is sitting out the start of the 2020-21 season as a precaution due to COVID-19.
TSN: The province of Manitoba has given approval for the Winnipeg Jets to stage games in their home arena.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: All seven Canadian teams have the approval of their respective provinces to play in their home cities this season.
THE MERCURY NEWS: Growing number of COVID-19 cases in California’s Santa Clara County is casting doubt on whether the San Jose Sharks can return to the SAP Center early next month as scheduled. The Sharks are starting the season on the road because of the county’s current restrictions on sporting events.
Bruins name Patrice Bergeron their new captain, Corey Crawford remains absent from training camp, the Devils bring back Sami Vatanen, an update on Kasperi Kapanen and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: The Bruins named Patrice Bergeron as their new captain yesterday. He takes over from Zdeno Chara, who signed last month with the Washington Capitals.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bergeron was the natural choice to succeed Chara. He’s spent his entire 16-year NHL career with the Bruins and is among the greatest players in franchise history.
ELITE SPORTS NEW YORK: Corey Crawford has yet to suit up for practice with the New Jersey Devils. He missed every on-ice practice/scrimmages for maintenance days and personal days. The 36-year-old goaltender signed a two-year, $7.8 million contract with the Devils last fall.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Crawford has had well-documented issues related to head trauma during his final seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks. That could explain his absence thus far.
NORTHJERSEY.COM: Speaking of the Devils, they signed free-agent defenseman Sami Vatanen to a one-year, $2 million contract. Vatanen spent the past three seasons with the Devils until traded to the Carolina Hurricanes at the 2020 NHL trade deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Vatanen will bring back some much-needed experience to the Devils’ defense corps. He’s taking a big pay cut from the $4.875 million annual average value of his previous contract. The 29-year-old blueliner will hope for a better payday this summer with the Devils or another club via the unrestricted free agent market.
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Penguins winger Kasperi Kapanen is expected to be granted a visa today and fly to Pittsburgh from Finland on Saturday. Because of his immigration issues, he’ll miss the Penguins’ season-opener on Wednesday as he’ll have to self-quarantine for seven days upon his arrival in the United States per league rules.
CAP FRIENDLY: indicates the Colorado Avalanche placed defenseman Josh Anderson on unconditional waivers for the purpose of contract termination. He was set to enter the final season of his entry-level contract.
OTTAWA SUN: The province of Ontario has officially given the green light to the Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs to play their home games in their own arenas for the coming season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That leaves Manitoba to grant approval to the Jets to stage their home games in Winnipeg. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly recently indicated that the province is expected to give its blessing soon.
TSN: The Montreal Canadiens will still be allowed to play their home games at the Bell Centre despite a curfew that went into effect on Wednesday for the province of Quebec.
NHL.COM: The league released its detailed arena restart health and safety protocols for the upcoming season.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: The Lightning named Dave Randorf as their new play-by-play announcer. He has over 30 years of broadcasting experience, including the past six seasons with Sportsnet.
NHL.COM: The Carolina Hurricanes have entered into a partnership agreement with the Nashville Predators to share AHL affiliation with the Chicago Wolves.