NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 1, 2020
Some players express reluctance about return-to-play plan, hub cities could be in Canada, negotiations continue toward new CBA, and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
LATEST RETURN-TO-PLAY NEWS
SPORTSNET: Mike Johnston reports Frederik Andersen admitted he’s not fully confident yet about the resumption of the NHL season. The Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender said he and his fellow players haven’t received enough information on the return-to-play plan as the league and the NHL Players’ Association continue to hash things out. Andersen said he still wants to play and remains hopeful of seeing something the players can vote on soon.
Meanwhile, Johnston’s colleague Eric Engels reported five anonymous players voiced their unhappiness and frustration with being kept in the dark about the return-to-play negotiations.
One of them estimated up to 75 percent of the NHLPA membership didn’t want to play this summer, citing health and injury concerns. Another considered the PA calls with players a joke, claiming they’re only focused on the financial side. Despite those issues, one of them believes the players will likely vote to approve whatever is presented to them, suggesting the playoff bonus money will be higher than ever if they play.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Andersen isn’t the only player to go on the record claiming they still don’t know the details of the return-to-play plan. Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price recently indicated he wasn’t prepared to vote for the deal until more details had been sorted out, though he returned to Montreal earlier this week to participate in Phase 2 practice sessions. Several others also said the same.
The Athletic also recently published a report citing several anonymous players and agents expressing unease over playing in a hub city environment, with one agent suggesting up to 40 percent of the players were on the fence. The PA leadership could have a difficult job selling the merits of the plan to a membership expressing growing concern over the details.
Nevertheless, the players still control the fate of this season. If they vote for it despite their concerns they’ll have to accept the consequences.
TSN: Bob McKenzie reports it appears the NHL won’t reveal the two hub cities for the playoff tournament until the return-to-play plan and the CBA extension are agreed to pending player approval. He also thinks there’s a good chance both hubs could be in Edmonton and Toronto as Las Vegas seems to be falling out of the running. Chicago is also considered in the mix while Los Angeles is now out.
McKenzie also expected critical negotiations between the league and the PA to continue through last night. If all goes well, a vote by the players could take place by the end of this week.
**UPDATE** McKenzie reports the hub cities will be Edmonton and Toronto barring any last-minute complications.
ESCROW A STICKING POINT IN CBA TALKS
TSN/NEW YORK POST/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Frank Seravalli, Larry Brooks, and Ken Campbell report the players could end up paying back their share of lost revenue to the owners for many years if a flat salary cap and a cap on escrow payments over the next two or three seasons becomes part of the CBA extension.
Seravalli points out the players could end up owing $325 million entering 2020-21 because of this season’s reduced revenue. If next season’s revenue is half of the projected $5 billion the league was anticipating for this season, an additional $600-$700 billion could be added to what the players already owe. It would take the following years under a flat cap (assuming revenue returns to normal) for the players to pay that back through escrow sometime during 2023-24.
Unrestricted and restricted free agents during that period could feel the effects, especially those coming off entry-level contracts. Brooks believes it will strangle contending clubs that historically spend toward the cap, forcing contract buyouts (though not amnesty buyouts as sources told Brooks), more arbitration hearings, and flooding the free-agent market.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As always with the NHL CBA, the devil is in the details and we don’t know what those are yet. Nevertheless, the escrow issue could prove the determining factor in the players’ vote on the return-to-play plan.
If a CBA extension creates those aforementioned issues, it would affect how teams have built and maintained their rosters, resulting in a considerable amount of player movement. It could also set the table for another lengthy labor war down the road when the extension expires in 2026.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports participation in the Winter Olympics is part of the proposed CBA extension. The players would participate in at least the 2022 Beijing Games.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That would be a major concession from the league. If I were a player, however, I’d be suspicious about what I might have to give up in return.
**UPDATE*** TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports a long night of negotiations appears to have resulted in agreements on most issues regarding return-to-play and CBA extension. A couple of issues could be finalized today. However, nothing is official until both sides ratify a tentative agreement
IN OTHER NEWS…
TSN: The players with signing bonuses in their contracts paid out on July 1 are expected to receive them as planned, though some might be pushed to next week. That’s an expenditure of over $300 million.
ARIZONA SPORTS: Coyotes winger Phil Kessel admitted he’d been nursing injuries for most of this season. That could account for his decline in production, though he didn’t use that as an excuse. Kessel added he’s looking forward to a bounce-back performance.
THE SCORE: San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane believes the NHL doesn’t do enough to market its minority players.
LE JOURNAL DE MONTREAL: The Carolina Hurricanes have parted ways with Rick Dudley, who was their VP of hockey operations.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s sparked speculation he could be headed to the Buffalo Sabres, who gutted their front-office staff last month.