NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 24, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 24, 2020

The latest on the return-to-play discussions, four Golden Knights test positive for COVID-19, the Bruins sign Jake DeBrusk and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

RETURN-TO-PLAY NEWS

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch cited NHL insider Nick Kypreos saying there were no discussions over the weekend between the league and the NHL Players Association for the first time in weeks regarding the 2020-21 season.

 

The league remains focused on a Jan. 1 start but NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly suggested several times that date is flexible and could be pushed back a week or two.

Garrioch believes it’s been quiet of late because the two sides have likely retreated to their offices to come up with a plausible agreement acceptable to the owners. Senators owner Eugene Melnyk last week indicated not all the 31 owners are on board with the plan put forward because of the losses they’ll face for 2020-21. The players last week rejected two requests from the league for increased escrow and salary deferral rates.

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy reported “a prominent agent” said talks are currently at a standstill. Three other player agents wondered when is enough with the constant concessions the players have made since the 2004-05 lockout. One accused league commissioner Gary Bettman and the owners of using the pandemic to squeeze more out of the players. Another agent claims he knows of five or six owners seriously questioning if it makes sense to stage a season.

Murphy feels the longer negotiations drag on, the more NHL and AHL players could head overseas to play in Europe, particularly those on two-way contracts who finished last season in the AHL. He also cites a league source suggesting a Feb. 5 start date for the season remains an option.

ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan reports Bettman is dealing with a handful of disgruntled owners, with some believing they got a bad deal in the new collective bargaining agreement and a few telling the commissioner they’d prefer not to play if there are no fans because of operating losses.

According to a source, Bettman is “managing” those owners, telling them sitting out the season isn’t an option because of the damage to the league’s long-term health. However, he is trying to address their concerns, which include an infusion of cash to start the season, hence the league’s requests to the players last week.

Kaplan reports sources indicated the players remain willing to work with the league because it’s in everyone’s best interest to stage a season. If the league is trying to borrow money from the players, the PA could seek concessions such as increased health insurance for players in retirement. Kaplan also notes the NHL owners will be getting $650 million in expansion fees in 2021-22 plus a new U.S. Television deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This stalemate between the league and the PA could stretch on for weeks and put the 2020-21 season into jeopardy. But as long as Bettman and the players remain determined to return to play, the less likely the season will be canceled. There appears a genuine desire on both sides to get this done, though there’s no denying the league’s recent requests have stalled negotiations.

Barring a significant breakthrough by the end of this week, I think we can forget about the Jan. 1 start date. As Garrioch pointed out, Daly has previously suggested that start date was flexible. It could be anywhere between mid-January and mid-February, though the earlier the better if they hope to stage a meaningful schedule.

OTHER NOTABLE NHL HEADLINES

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Four Vegas Golden Knights players have tested positive for COVID-19. The club confirmed their status but declined to identify them. The four are in self-isolation and “recovering well.” The club is taking precautionary measures by closing their off-ice training facilities and player areas to players and staff through Sunday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This serves as a reminder that the pandemic will still affect the players if the 2020-21 season takes place. Without playing in a quarantine bubble as they did during the 2020 playoffs, they risk exposure to the coronavirus even with increased testing and strict health and safety protocols.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: The Bruins signed restricted free agent winger Jake DeBrusk to a two-year contract worth an annual average value of $3.675 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: DeBrusk had the bad luck to complete an entry-level contract in the midst of a pandemic that adversely affected the NHL salary cap. While his agent had suggested his client was worth $6 million per season, there was no way he was going to get that much from the Bruins or from another club via an offer sheet under the current economic conditions.

It’s a good deal for the Bruins because they get DeBrusk under contract at a reasonable short-term deal that also leaves enough cap space for other moves. The young winger still gets a decent raise and a chance for a much better deal in two years times when he’ll have arbitration rights in a potentially better economic climate.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens center Jesperi Kotkaniemi is leaving Finnish club Pori Assat and returning to Montreal in what’s considered a sign the club is preparing to stage its training camp soon. Kotkaniemi will begin a 14-day quarantine upon his return.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: He’s not the only player skating in Europe coming back to North America. If more players follow suit it’ll signal the league and the PA are close to a return-to-play agreement.

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: The Blackhawks hired Kendall Coyne Schofield as a player development coach and youth hockey growth specialist. She’s the organization’s first-ever female development coach. They also hired former NHL player Erik Condra as a player development coach.

WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets hired Dave Lowry as an assistant coach. The father of Jets center Adam Lowry said he doesn’t expect any issues with the two working for the same team.

NHL.COM: The Florida Panthers hired Shane Churla as their director of amateur scouting. The former NHL player spent the past seven seasons with the Canadiens scouting staff. He also spent seven seasons as an amateur scout with the Dallas Stars and another five in the same role with the Arizona Coyotes.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 14, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 14, 2020

The latest on the league’s 2020-21 plans plus updates on Brandon Saad, Brent Seabrook and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

RETURN-TO-PLAY NEWS

TVA SPORTS: Renaud Lavoie reports NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said yesterday the league’s goal remains to start the season on Jan. 1. “But if it has to be postponed for a week or two, it won’t change our plans,” he said.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly (NHL.com).

Lavoie believes it’s now impossible for the league to stage a full 82-game season. Daly wouldn’t confirm this but acknowledged the possibility of a shortened schedule.

Daly indicated they’re studying all financial models but the priority remains to ensure the health of the players. A baseball-style schedule that would reduce travel and the risks associated with COVID-19, including a Canadian division, would make the most sense.

Most observers believe the season will be at least 48 games. Lavoie feels a 60-game schedule seems logical, which would mean a club like the Montreal Canadiens would play 10 games against each team in the Canadian division.

Lavoie noted team owners want to play in their own arenas rather than in hub cities because they can generate more revenue.

The elephant in the room is whether the players would be paid in proportion to the number of games played in 2020-21. It was agreed under the new CBA they would receive 72 percent of their salaries for ’20-’21 regardless of the number of games played. Daly was reluctant to discuss the possibility of the league requesting the players be paid on a prorated basis, adding the priority is working toward a solution together to open the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: An 82-game schedule is a fantasy. Most of the speculation ranges from as low as 48 games to as many as 72, though the sweet spot could be in the 60-68 game span.

Starting up on Jan. 1 could be difficult given the narrow time frame the NHL has to hammer out what next season will look like. Players also have to return to their teams and a training-camp timetable must be sorted out. I wouldn’t be surprised if the start of the season is pushed ahead to mid – or late January.

Reports yesterday indicated the NHL Players Association was against prorating players’ salaries, but there was talk the league could seek another deferral of a portion of their salaries. That would be more palatable for the players as they would still get their money but at a later date. How much of a deferral and for how long remains to be seen.

OTHER HEADLINES

THE SCORE: Brandon Saad said he’s hoping to remain with the Colorado Avalanche beyond his current contract. The 28-year-old winger was acquired last month from the Chicago Blackhawks. He’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That will depend on how well Saad performs with the Avalanche next season, as well as how much he’ll seek for salary on his next contract and for how long. Cap Friendly indicates they have over $55.1 million invested in 12 players for 2021-22, with Gabriel Landeskog, Cale Makar, Philipp Grubauer and Tyson Jost among their other notable free agents. New deals for Landeskog and Makar alone will each up a considerable chunk of their cap space.

THE ATHLETIC: Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook told Pierre LeBrun he intends to play next season and silence the doubters. The 35-year-old blueliner’s performance has declined in part due to multiple injuries, but he’s resumed skating and has no plans to retire.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That would also eliminate the possibility of the Blackhawks placing Seabrook and his $6.875 million cap hit for 2020-21 on long-term injury reserve in order to bolster their roster via free agency.

LAS VEGAS SUN: Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Shea Theodore has created a fund in honor of his late grandmother who succumbed to breast cancer. The fund will pay for preventative cancer care for women without insurance coverage.

SPORTSNET: The Ottawa Senators signed forward Micheal Haley to a one-year, two-way contract.

 










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.










NHL Facing Long Odds to Start 2020-21 Season on Jan. 1

NHL Facing Long Odds to Start 2020-21 Season on Jan. 1

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 7, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 7, 2020

NHL still looking at a Jan. 1 start to the 2020-21 season, Brendan Lemieux and MacKenzie Weegar avoid arbitration, and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.

TSN: NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said opening the 2020-21 season on Jan. 1 remains the objective. Pierre LeBrun reports the joint NHL-NHLPA return-to-play committee has yet to meet, though the top leaders of the league and the PA have been in daily contact over the season.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly (NHL.com).

TVA SPORTS’ Renaud Lavoie reports the NHL hopes to make its return-to-play announcement as soon as possible. “It could take another 7 to 10 days,” tweeted Lavoie. “Lots of works (sic) to be done until then.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHL brain trust will likely keep an eye on the NBA’s plans to return to action in December. Both leagues share many of the same arenas. While caution remains the watchword for the NHL, they’ll maintain a close watch on the NBA’s return-to-play for any meaningful information it can apply to its own plans.

I’m skeptical about Lavoie’s timeline for an official start date if the return-to-play committee hasn’t even met yet. It could more than several days to work out an agreement.

NEW YORK POST: Brendan Lemieux avoided salary arbitration with the Rangers, agreeing to a two-year contract worth an annual average value of $1.55 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s a slight bump over the $925K Lemieux earned last season. It puts the 24-year-old checking-line winger in a position for another go at arbitration in two year’s time, where he could push for a more substantial pay raise.

SUN-SENTINEL.COM: The Florida Panthers avoided arbitration with MacKenzie Weegar as the 26-year-old defenseman signed a three-year contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Weegar was the subject of some trade speculation but the Panthers obviously value his physical presence on their blue line. Cap Friendly indicates the annual average value is $3.25 million, more than doubling the AAV of his previous contract. He’ll be eligible for unrestricted free agent status at the end of this deal.

The signings of Lemieux and Weegar completes this year’s NHL arbitration schedule. Of the 26 players filing for arbitration, only one (Detroit’s Tyler Bertuzzi) required a hearing.

THE SCORE: cited Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland telling The Edmonton Journal he expects defenseman Oscar Klefbom to be sidelined by a nagging shoulder injury for the entire 2020-21 campaign.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s been widely assumed Klefbom could miss most or all of the coming season. The Oilers can place him on long-term injury reserve if necessary to get some salary-cap wiggle room for a potential replacement.

NHL.COM: Former NHL defenseman Jim Neilson has passed away at age 79. Neilson spent 12 of his 16 NHL seasons (1962-63 to 1977-78) with the New York Rangers, followed by two seasons with the California Golden Seals and two with the Cleveland Barons. A solid stay-at-home defender, Neilson played 1, 024 games, amassing 368 points. He also spent one season in the WHA with the Edmonton Oilers before retiring in 1979.

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










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 31, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 31, 2020

More on the league’s potential plans for 2020-21, no Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2021, plus the latest on Tyler Seguin, Roope Hintz, Vince Dunn, Alexander Steen and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan reports NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league intends to take its time exploring its options for 2020-21 despite a tentative start date of Jan. 1. He also indicated it appears last season’s seven non-playoff clubs will get additional training camp time, though it hasn’t yet been finalized with the NHL Players Association.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly (NHL.com).

Daly also dismissed the idea that the NHL must crown a Stanley Cup champion before the Tokyo Summer Olympics begin on July 22, 2021. He said there’s a lot to be played out on the Olympic front, adding the league has models that extend beyond the Olympic period.

Border restrictions between Canada and the United States will also factor in what the 2020-21 schedule looks like. If travel for NHL teams remains difficult between the two countries, it could result in what Daly called a possibility to “create competition within the league among the Canadian clubs.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s interesting to note that Daly isn’t rejecting the notion of the NHL schedule coinciding with the Summer Olympics. However, I don’t think that’s going to benefit the league if the playoffs are going on during the two weeks when their main US broadcaster is putting its focus on the Tokyo Games. If the Olympics are canceled or the dates changed, however, it wouldn’t affect the league’s US TV coverage.

For now, of course, this is all speculation. We don’t know yet how long the NHL season will be, let alone when the puck drops for certain.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy reports Bruins defenseman and NHLPA representative Brandon Carlo said the PA and its members remain committed to staging a full 82-games schedule for 2020-21.

Murphy believes one reason behind the 82-game push is to avoid the possibility of the league looking to amend the new collective bargaining agreement to prorate player salaries if the season is shortened by COVID-19.

Carlo also suggested there would be some hesitancy among the players to play under quarantine bubbles again, though they are open to ideas. However, they would be reluctant to be separated from their families as they were during the 2020 playoffs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: One possibility recently raised is starting next season in several hub cities where the teams play for two weeks, followed by a week back in their home cities to practice and reunite with their families. That scenario could be acceptable to the PA membership.

SPORTSNET: The Hockey Hall of Fame announced it is postponing the induction ceremony for the Class of 2020 to next year and will not name a new class for 2021.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The induction weekend is a significant event that involves a Hall of Fame game in Toronto on the Saturday prior to the actual induction ceremony gala, which takes place in the Hall with family, friends and former teammates of the inductees, as well as NHL executives and established Hall of Famers in attendance. The pandemic makes it impossible to safely stage those events.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Stars forward Tyler Seguin is expected to undergo hip surgery next week. His recovery period could take four months.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seguin labored through that injury (and a lingering knee injury) during the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs, during which he got some flak from fans and pundits for what they considered a sub-par performance on his part, with calls that he should “step up his play”. Once again, it’s worth remembering that an NHL player performing below expectations in the postseason could be nursing an injury that adversely affects their game.

Stars general manager Jim Nill said he hopes to have a new deal for Roope Hintz within the next week or two. The 23-year-old forward is a restricted free agent without arbitration rights. Nill said he’s had great discussions with Hintz’s agent. The Stars have about $4 million in cap space. Hintz’s new contract could carry an annual cap hit of between $2.5 million and $3 million.

The Stars also signed Julius Honka to a one-year, two-way contract worth $700K at the NHL level. The 24-year-old defenseman spent last season playing in Finland and had asked for a trade.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Honka is well down the Stars’ blueline depth chart and faces a daunting challenge cracking the lineup. He must also clear waivers to be demoted to their AHL affiliate.

STLTODAY.COM: St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong isn’t concerned over Vince Dunn remaining unsigned, indicating the 24-year-old defenseman is still part of their plans for next season. He pointed out it’s not unusual for restricted free agents to wait until training camp to sign contracts.

The Blues are about $1.1 million over the $81.5 million salary cap. However, Armstrong pointed out they’ll have “an abundance of cap space” given the Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Steen “situations”. Tarasenko will miss the start of the season recovering from shoulder surgery. Armstrong’s comments are a strong indicator Steen could miss the start of the season with an undisclosed injury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly lists Tarasenko and Steen on injured reserve. Their combined salaries ($13.25 million) provides the Blues with ample room to re-sign Dunn. It could also provide sufficient room to make a short-term addition to their roster if necessary.

TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs signed restricted free agent forward Joey Anderson to a three-year contract (two-way in the first two seasons) worth an annual average value of $750K. They also signed unrestricted free agent goalie Michael Hutchinson to a two-year, two-way contract worth $750K annually.

SPORTSNET: The Ontario government reaffirmed its stance that bodychecking and deliberate physical contact will not take place during sports amid the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) indicates it will follow scientific studies in crafting its return-to-play plan.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: TSN’s Bob McKenzie raises some important questions about the Ontario government’s plan: