NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 18, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 18, 2020

The latest return-to-play news, more reaction on the Sabres’ front-office purge, and updates on Jonathan Drouin, Pavel Datsyuk, and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

RETURN-TO-PLAY UPDATES

TSN: The NHL’s bottom line could face a short-term blow from the COVID-19 pandemic. Last season, the league cracked $5 billion in revenue for the first time. Former Buffalo Sabres managing Larry Quinn speculates that could be cut in half in the short term. It’s already being felt among several clubs, with at least 10 having laid off or furloughed employees and executives taking pay cuts.

Could an influx of NHL players in Las Vegas increase coronavirus rates in the area?

The players, meanwhile, are bracing themselves for lost salaries with an ongoing deferral of their final paychecks for this season. Hockey analyst and former NHL GM Brian Burke reported one option being discussed is the further deferral of part of players’ wages until revenues bounce back.

Gate revenue will be affected as long as fans are prohibited by COVID-19 restrictions from attending games. The reduced value of the Canadian dollar will also take a toll on league revenue, as well as uncertainty over the league’s next U.S. television deal. That’s led to questions over what the salary cap will look like and the effect upon a new collective bargaining agreement.

Sports attorney Irwin Kishner believes the NHL must consider out-of-the-box promotional ideas to generate revenue.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s why the league and the NHL Players Association is considering starting next season on Jan. 1, 2021, in hopes fans will be allowed back in arenas by then.

Various reports suggest both sides could maintain the salary-cap at $81.5 million for next season to ensure teams don’t have to significantly slash player payrolls. There’s also talk of a CBA extension implemented before the playoff tournament begins in August.

It will be interesting to see the effect of the pandemic beyond next season. The league wants a full 82-game schedule starting next January, but a second COVID-19 wave could force them to scrub part of it and reducing hockey-related revenue for 2021-22.

SPORTSNET: Iain MacIntyre weighed the pros and cons of Edmonton, Toronto, and Vancouver as one of the NHL’s two proposed host cities for its playoff tournament.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The biggest sticking point is Canada’s mandatory 14-day quarantine period for anyone arriving from abroad. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau indicated his government is comfortable with one of those Canadian cities as an NHL hub provided local health officials are ok with it. So far, officials in those three cities have expressed support.

LAS VEGAS SUN: With Las Vegas considered a lock as one of the two NHL host cities, Justin Emerson reports local officials believe the presence of players from 12 NHL teams won’t spread the coronavirus further into an area that’s already infected.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The 12 NHL teams will be quarantined away from the general public in a bubble area encompassing the arena, training facilities, and hotels where they’ll be staying. The players will be tested daily and anyone testing positive will be quarantined.  A greater concern is whether rising COVID-19 numbers in the Las Vegas area poses a threat to the players. 

ASSOCIATED PRESS: Equipment changes, such as full-face shields, haven’t been part of the ongoing return-to-play talks between the league and the PA. Both sides are focused on off-ice protection from the coronavirus.

MORE REACTION TO THE SABRES’ FRONT-OFFICE PURGE

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Pierre LeBrun was critical of the Sabres’ constant hirings and firings, especially among their management and coaching staff. League officials told LeBrun it takes around five years for a general manager’s program to take hold. Former Sabres GM Jason Botterill and his predecessor, Tim Murray, each had three years in the role.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ryan Kennedy believes Kevyn Adams, the Buffalo Sabres new general manager, will be scrambling to replenish his club’s scouting and development after those departments were gutted in a front-office purge earlier this week. Compounding the problem is finding suitable talent to fill those roles during a pandemic.

TSN’s Frank Seravalli posted the complete list of those who were fired by the Sabres. Their scouting department was hardest hit, slashed from 21 down to seven.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Time will tell if the Sabres’ moves will pay off. If recent history is anything to go by, don’t expect much improvement. It doesn’t help that some observers are already writing off Adams as a yes-man for Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula.

IN OTHER NEWS…

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Fully recovered from wrist and ankle injuries, Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin is looking forward to participating in the playoff tournament.

In other Canadiens news, Hall-of-Famer Bob Gainey raised over $300K from the sale of his hockey memorabilia. A portion will be donated to the Canadiens Children’s Foundation.

NHL.COM: Boston Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller isn’t considering retirement after undergoing four surgical procedures on an injured kneecap. He hasn’t played since April 2019 and is an unrestricted free agent following this season.

BOSTON HERALD: Bruins blueliner John Moore has fully recovered from the shoulder surgery that limited him to 24 games this season.

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Calgary Flames assistant GM Chris Snow is showing remarkable resilience as he battles ALS. Given six to 18 months to live, an experimental drug has lengthened his horizon and maintained his quality of life.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Snow in his ongoing fight with this dreadful disease.

DETROIT FREE PRESS: A report from Russia Today claimed Hall-of-Famer Pavel Datsyuk was said to be holed up with his family with a rogue priest at a Russian monastery. Keith Gave, author of “The Russian Five”, said he spoke with Datsyuk’s agent, who said the Datsyuk family is actually spending time at their cottage.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dan Milstein posted a video this morning showing his client splitting wood at his cottage.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 28, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 28, 2020

The latest on the hub cities bids, Red Wings confirm Jeff Blashill will return as head coach, plus the latest on Alex Ovechkin, Max Domi, and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

WILL A CANADIAN CITY BECOME AN NHL HUB?

TSN: Edmonton, Toronto, and Vancouver are among the 10 under consideration to serve as the two host cities for the NHL’s 24-team tournament to determine the 2020 Stanley Cup champion. However, they will be out of the running if the Canadian government doesn’t exempt NHL players from its 14-day mandatory self-quarantine for non-essential travelers crossing the Canadian border. The league indicated it will decide on the two host cities in another three or four weeks.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has sent a letter to Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau encouraging the federal government to deem professional athletes and training staff as essential workers. BC Premier John Horgan also hopes Vancouver will become a hub city but said his province’s 14-day self-quarantine rule will remain in place for the foreseeable future.

TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan isn’t calling on the local or provincial governments to push for Toronto as a host city. Lisa MacLeod, Ontario’s minister of heritage, sports, and tourism, is willing to make the case with the federal government.

Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan (Photo via NHL.com).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The U.S. government recently signed legislation deeming pro athletes essential workers, lifting restrictions on NHL players from other countries traveling to work into the United States. If the Canadian government doesn’t follow suit, both hub cities will be in the U.S.

Las Vegas, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Columbus are believed among the leading candidates, but they could have competition from Pittsburgh. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf is allowing sports teams in his state to return to action, and the Penguins have submitted a bid to become an NHL host. 

LATEST ON THE NHL RETURN TO PLAY FORMAT

THE HOCKEY NEWS: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the expanded 24-team playoff format is a one-off. “I think our regular season is incredible. Our competitive balance is extraordinary. Our playoffs are the best in sports. What we have is terrific. This is dealing with a unique situation. This, in my view, is a one-time thing.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some observers wondered if the league would considering expanding future playoffs if the 24-team format proves popular with fans. While Bettman is shooting down that possibility, one can’t help but wonder if the expansion of the league to 32 teams might see some within the league push for a 20-team format. 

ESPN.COM: Donald Fehr, Executive Director of the NHL Players’ Association, said the PA will defer to the proper health authorities if a player tests positive for COVID-19 during the tournament. He expects management will pick up the costs of testing players and considers it unlikely a player will be suspended or have their contract terminated for testing positive for the coronavirus. 

Fehr also said the PA continues to negotiate with the league regarding players with underlying medical conditions, living in hub cities, separation from families, and critical dates calendar, but believes the two sides will find resolutions to those issues. He wouldn’t say how much the remaining decisions might be tied to a new collective bargaining agreement. Asked if the relationship between the league and the PA has been collaborative, Fehr declined to “put any adjectives” on it, suggesting people would interpret it in different ways.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Despite Fehr’s comments, the two sides are working together to come up with an acceptable return-to-play plan. There’s been plenty of reports since the summer of 2018 over the appearance of an improved negotiating relationship regarding a new CBA. Nevertheless, time will tell if this means labor peace is on the horizon.

THE SCORE: listed six deals that could be in limbo involving conditional draft picks. Among them, Toronto’s conditional first-round pick sent to Carolina last June in the Patrick Marleau trade, the two picks Arizona sent to New Jersey in the Taylor Hall trade, and Vancouver’s 2020 first-round pick sent to Tampa Bay for J.T. Miller that was later sent to New Jersey to acquire Blake Coleman.

IN OTHER NEWS…

THE DETROIT NEWS: Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman said Jeff Blashill will return as head coach next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wings are in the midst of a major rebuild. Blashill couldn’t be faulted for the lack of skilled depth throughout the roster this season.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin and wife Nastya welcomed their second son Ilya on Wednesday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to the Ovechkins.

TVA SPORTS: Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin said the team and the league would never put Max Domi in a situation that would expose him to COVID-19. Domi is diabetic and more susceptible to contracting the virus. Bergevin said Domi won’t play if the medical staff says he can’t play.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Safe to say that will apply to all NHL players with underlying medical conditions.

Bergevin also said Jonathan Drouin is cleared to play, but Jesperi Kotkaniemi might not be fully recovered from his spleen injury to take part in the qualifying round.

AMNY.COM: New York Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech has been cleared to play. He’d been sidelined since January with an Achilles injury. Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck, and Johnny Boychuk will also be ready to participate in the qualifying round.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins center Nick Bjugstad underwent season-ending surgery on Tuesday to repair a herniated disc

WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres defenseman Lawrence Pilut is reportedly considering signing a contract with a KHL team. However, this could be a negotiating ploy on his part. He’s a restricted free agent at the end of this season.

SPORTSNET: NHL Hall of Famer Willie O’Ree and former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy are among the 11 new inductees into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame. O’Ree has been involved in many diversity initiatives at all levels of hockey, while Kennedy has spent years advocating to protect vulnerable athletes and victims of sexual abuse.

 










NHL Rumor Mill – May 21, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – May 21, 2020

The latest on the Canadiens and an update on Tyson Barrie in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LATEST CANADIENS SPECULATION

SPORTSNET: In his latest mailbag segment, Eric Engels was asked what he thought Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin was doing in Colorado before the Feb. 24 trade deadline. Avalanche GM Joe Sakic dismissed the speculation at the time, pointing out Bergevin’s daughter attends Colorado University, but Engels indicated that didn’t explain why Canadiens’ assistant GM Scott Mellanby accompanied him on that trip.

Montreal Canadiens center Max Domi (Photo via NHL Images).

Engels believes something was brewing between the two clubs before the deadline, though he’s not certain what might’ve been discussed. “What I would say, however, is that some seeds were likely planted and we could see something materialize between these teams at some point this off-season,” he said. “There are multiple scenarios that make them good trading partners.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bergevin’s visit to Colorado sparked plenty of wild speculation before the trade deadline. Canadiens like Tomas Tatar, Phillip Danault, Jeff Petry, Max Domi, Jonathan Drouin, and even Carey Price were bandied about in the rumor mill, while Philipp Grubauer, Tyson Jost, Samuel Girard, Ryan Graves, and Nikita Zadorov were mentioned as potential Avs trade candidates.

Maybe the Canadiens and Avalanche will hammer out a major deal before next season, or maybe their rumored trade talks in February will come to nothing. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Asked about the possibility of the Canadiens bringing back Mikhail Sergachev by signing the Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman to an offer sheet, Engels thinks it would be too expensive, perhaps costing around $8 million annually plus the loss of a first, a second, and a third-round pick as compensation if the Bolts didn’t match. Instead, the Habs could keep an eye on which players the Lightning might shop in a cost-cutting deal to free up the cap room to re-sign Sergachev.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sergachev would have to be receptive to signing an offer sheet in the first place. If he isn’t, it’s a waste of time pursuing that plan. As Engels points out, the Habs could instead look at acquiring someone like Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn, Yanni Gourde, or Tyler Johnson if the Bolts put one of them on the trade block. Those four, however, have no-trade protection, meaning one of them would have to agree to be traded to Montreal.

Engels was asked about the long-term futures of Domi and Tatar in Montreal. He feels if Domi, a restricted free agent, was trending toward a one-year deal before the season was paused, it’s difficult to imagine he’ll get a longer-term offer now. Tatar, a UFA next summer, may have been on his way to pricing himself out of Montreal, but a flat cap beyond next season could make it difficult for him to get that type of deal. Engels likes the chances of both staying in Montreal next season.

BARRIE FACES UNCERTAIN FUTURE

THE SCORE: Matt Teague reports Tyson Barrie admitted he’s facing uncertainty following this season. The Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman is slated to become an unrestricted free agent, but the current pause of the schedule means it’s yet to be determined when he’ll be heading to market. “It’s a weird time to be heading into free agency,” Barrie said, adding his current focus is on helping the Leafs make a playoff run whenever this season resumes.

Regarding possible destinations as a free agent, Barrie indicated he’ll be seeking a team looking for a defenseman with his skills. “A good team headed in the right direction and a good organization,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of right organizations that tick those boxes.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Vancouver Canucks could be one of those clubs. Barrie was born in Victoria, BC, and makes his off-season home there. He was linked to the Canucks before the trade deadline.  He could be a fit as a right-side defenseman if they part ways with Chris Tanev or Troy Stecher in the off-season.

 

 










NHL Rumor Mill – April 11, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – April 11, 2020

Check out the recent Montreal Canadiens speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien recently examined the Montreal Canadiens’ long-term needs. He feels they need to pay a handsome fee to bring in a suitable backup goaltender for starter Carey Price. The market could include such notables as Anton Khudobin, Thomas Greiss, Cam Talbot, and former Habs playoff hero Jaroslav Halak.

Could next season be Brendan Gallagher’s last with the Montreal Canadiens? (Photo via NHL Images)

The Canadiens also lack proven snipers and more NHL-ready defensemen. O’Brien wondered if they should at least try a mini-reboot and sell off the likes of Tomas Tatar, Jeff Petry, Jonathan Drouin, and perhaps Brendan Gallagher.

THE ATHLETIC: Arpon Basu and Marc-Antoine Godin recently suggested the Canadiens are in a good position to take advantage of a potentially flat salary-cap for 2020-21. They would have flexibility other clubs wouldn’t have, making it possible to target cap-strapped clubs in need of shedding salary before next season. They could also attempt to sign a rival club’s top restricted free agent with an offer sheet.

TVA SPORTS: Louis-André Larivière recently wondered if Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin might target Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev with an offer sheet. Bergevin traded Sergachev three years ago to the Lightning for Drouin.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Canadiens have over $63 million invested in 16 players for 2020-21, with restricted free agents Max Domi and Victor Mete their only notable players to be re-signed. Assuming both are inked for a combined $7 million, Bergevin will have around $11 million at his disposal. He could have more if each club gets a compliance buyout because of the effect upon league revenue by the coronavirus, or if the league and PA agree to a slightly higher artificial cap.

Bergevin must use that cap space to improve his roster. There will be teams looking to sell in the off-season. He would be wise to exploit that opportunity. Landing a quality player probably won’t cost a roster player. The Canadiens have considerable depth in draft picks to draw upon for trade bait. They hold 13 picks in rounds two through seven of this year’s draft, and seven picks in rounds three through five in 2021.

I agree with O’Brien regarding the need for a reliable backup. They’ve gone cheap in that department in recent years and it’s cost them whenever Price was struggling or sidelined. They cannot make that mistake again. Signing one of those UFA goalies listed by O’Brien would address that need.

Bringing back Sergachev via trade or offer sheet would go a long way toward boosting the Canadiens’ defense corps. However, I doubt Lightning GM Julien BriseBois has any intention of parting with him. An offer sheet only works if the targeted player is interested. Sergachev probably prefers playing on a Stanley Cup contender in a warm-weather, low-tax state. 

Bergevin resisted the temptation to shop Tatar and Petry at this year’s trade deadline. If the Canadiens are still outside the playoff picture before next season’s deadline, those two will likely hit the trade block. Gallagher, too, if the Habs aren’t willing to pony up big bucks to keep him in the fold. Drouin’s struggles and $5.5-million AAV through 2022-23 won’t be easy to move.

I believe 2020-21 is a make-or-break season for Bergevin. If the Habs aren’t in playoff contention by the middle of next season, he could be out of a job. Team president Geoff Molson has been very patient but I daresay he could reach his limit if the Habs remain outside the postseason picture.










NHL Rumor Mill – March 3, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – March 3, 2020

What does the future hold for Henrik Lundqvist? Could the Canadiens attempt to trade Jonathan Drouin this summer? What the latest on the Devils? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

COULD THE RANGERS TRADE LUNDQVIST THIS SUMMER?

TSN: Travis Yost wondered what the future holds for Henrik Lundqvist. The long-time New York Rangers starter is now the third wheel in their goaltending tandem behind youngsters Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev. The 38-year-old Lundqvist isn’t the dominant goalie he was once, but Yost believes he’s still capable.

Will this season be Henrik Lundqvist’s last with the New York Rangers? (Photo via NHL Images)

Lundqvist carries a full no-movement clause, but he only has a year left on his contract with an $8.5 million salary-cap hit. Yost feels that makes him a tradeable asset, but it’s uncertain if he’s willing to accept a trade or if the Rangers want to move him. Yost doesn’t believe they’ll move Shesterkin, but Georgiev could be an intriguing trade asset.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Until Shesterkin’s recent injury, he and Georgiev were seeing the bulk of the games since early-January. I think that says all we need to know about Lundqvist’s future in New York.

If Lundqvist is open to getting traded this summer, the Rangers could explore it. They’ll probably have to absorb part of his contract or take back a salaried player in return. Failing that, they could buy out that final season before the end of the two-week buyout period on June 30.

COULD THE CANADIENS PUT DROUIN ON THE TRADE BLOCK?

TVA SPORTS: Jean-Charles Lajoie recently speculated over the possibility of the Montreal Canadiens shopping Jonathan Drouin this summer. He wondered if the 24-year-old winger might be shopped for a left-side defenseman. He mentioned the Colorado Avalanche’s Samuel Girard as a potential trade target, noting they have promising rearguards like Bowen Byram, Connor Timmins and Drew Helleson in their system. Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin scouted two Avalanche games in Colorado before last Monday’s trade deadline.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I wouldn’t rule out the Canadiens moving Drouin this summer for a defenseman, but I don’t see him as a fit in Colorado. While he skated alongside Nathan MacKinnon during their junior days in Halifax, MacKinnon already has solid chemistry with wingers Mikko Rantanen and captain Gabriel Landeskog.

The Avs possess promising young rearguards, but I don’t believe GM Joe Sakic is keen to move Girard. Most of the speculation concerning the Avs this season suggested one of those prospects being packaged for a second-line winger. Should the Avs stage a deep playoff run, Sakic might become less inclined to tinker with his lineup.

LATEST ON THE DEVILS

THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Corey Masisak said he doesn’t expect the New Jersey Devils to pursue this summer’s top UFAs if acting GM Tom Fitzgerald takes over the role full-time. He’ll likely seek younger players to skate alongside Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes. He could also add some veterans to work with his younger players.

Defense UFA options could include Calgary’s T.J. Brodie and Erik Gustafsson. Goalie targets could include Jaroslav Halak, Thomas Greiss, Anton Khudobin or Cam Talbot. UFA forwards options include Florida’s Evgenii Dadonov or Vancouver’s Tyler Toffoli. Masisak speculated they could buy out the final two years of Cory Schneider’s contract.

Masisak also suggested potential trade targets like the New York Islanders’ Devon Toews or Ryan Pulock, or the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Rasmus Sandin, Travis Dermott or Timothy Liljegren.

NJ.COM: Chris Ryan recently reported Devils winger Kyle Palmieri hasn’t give much thought yet to signing a contract extension, but he’s willing to keep an ear open. He’s slated to become a UFA next July.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Devils have over $56 million invested in 14 players for 2020-21. They’ll have sufficient room to re-sign RFAs like Mackenzie Blackwood and Jesper Bratt and to bring in some much-needed depth in the off-season.

They also have three picks in the first round of this year’s draft, though two of those are conditional. I don’t see them moving their own first-rounder, but they could shop the other two if it fetches a return that provides immediate help. As for Palmieri, he could wait and see what management does this summer before committing to an extension.










What Are Marc Bergevin’s Off-Season NHL Plans For The Montreal Canadiens?

What Are Marc Bergevin’s Off-Season NHL Plans For The Montreal Canadiens?