NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 2, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 2, 2021

Update on new contracts for Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes, no players opt-out of the coming season, Robin Lehner speaks out about Jack Eichel’s standoff with the Sabres, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE PROVINCE: New contracts for Vancouver Canucks center Elias Pettersson and defenseman Quinn Hughes are expected to be formally announced over the weekend. Pettersson, 22, has reportedly agreed to a three-year contract worth an annual average value of $7.35 million while the 21-year-old Hughes’ new deal is for six years with an AAV of $7.85 million.

Vancouver Canucks center Elias Pettersson (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: General manager Jim Benning is garnering praise from the media for getting both players signed for less than they were seeking. Still, Pettersson and Hughes are being well-compensated as the Canucks’ two best players. They will be in a better position to garner bigger raises on their next contracts.

Speaking of the Canucks, defenseman Travis Hamonic has decided not to opt out of participating in the upcoming season by Friday’s deadline. He remains at home in Manitoba dealing with a personal matter. Benning released a statement indicating the club supports him but didn’t indicate when the 31-year-old blueliner will return to the lineup.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No NHL player took the opt-out option by yesterday’s deadline.

Meanwhile, Canucks winger Brock Boeser is out for at least a week with an undisclosed injury.

THE SCORE: Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner called out the NHL Players Association on Twitter regarding the standoff between the Buffalo Sabres and Jack Eichel. The two sides are locked in a disagreement over medical treatment for a herniated disc in his neck.

A former Sabre and teammate of Eichel, Lehner criticized what he believes to be the PA’s lack of support for Eichel over what the goalie considers an attack on the players’ freedom of choice regarding their health. He also expressed disappointment for what he perceived as his fellow players’ unwillingness to stick up for each other.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The problem is the collective bargaining agreement gives the teams the final say over what treatment players receive for hockey-related injuries. The PA has been involved with the league in trying to find a solution to this standoff. Whether they’ll be part of any further action on Eichel’s part to address this situation remains to be seen.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: The prospect of facing 14-day quarantines following every American road trip convinced Oilers defenseman Duncan Keith to get the COVID-19 vaccination. While not an anti-vaxxer, Keith believed his conditioning as an elite athlete and the steps he’s taken to strengthen his immune system would leave him facing little risk of contracting the coronavirus.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This list of unvaccinated players who missed games last season for COVID-related reasons says otherwise. Not every player on that list contracted COVID-19 but a significant number of them did, missing several games or even undergoing a pause in their schedules as a result. 

WPLG MIAMI: Contract talks between the Florida Panthers and captain Aleksander Barkov are progressing slowly. The 26-year-old center is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent next July. Barkov remains confident a deal will get done.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Panthers better be prepared to pay big bucks to keep their best player in the fold. Barkov’s camp could seek $10 million annually on an eight-year deal but Panthers management could try to sell him on Florida’s lack of a state tax as justification to accept a little less than that.

Whatever Barkov gets could leave the Panthers with a cap crunch for 2022-23. Cap Friendly shows them carrying a projected $66.9 million invested in 14 players.

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: Blackhawks defenseman Calvin de Haan revealed he played through the second half of last season with a fractured left tibia. “I tried my best to stay in the lineup and stay healthy,” said de Haan. “It didn’t feel good”.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As someone who also suffered a fractured left tibia, I agree with de Haan that it doesn’t feel good. However, I didn’t try to play hockey on it, or anything else for that matter until it fully healed.

ECHL.COM: The Allen Americans have entered into an affiliation agreement with the NHL’s Seattle Kraken.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 8, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 8, 2020

NHL, NHLPA target 56-game schedule starting Jan. 13, agree not to change the economic framework of CBA extension. Details and more in the morning coffee headlines.

SPORTSNET/TSN: Elliotte Friedman and Darren Dreger reported the NHL and NHLPA continue discussions aimed at a 56-game schedule beginning Jan. 13. Friedman indicates that includes “Training camps, opt-outs, testing, the schedule, the playoffs, re-alignment, you name it.”

Friedman also reports last season’s non-playoff clubs would begin training camp on Dec. 28 while the other 24 clubs begin on Jan. 1. It appears there won’t be any exhibition games. He also believes a short-term “hub plan” is being worked on but the preference remains for all teams playing in their home arenas. A potential problem is staging training camps in cities with strict COVID-19 restrictions such as Montreal, San Jose and Winnipeg.

Pierre LeBrun reports the plan will require approval from the NHL board of governors and the NHLPA membership. Friedman said there’s a desire to have it ready for approval by the end of this week.

The stalemate between the NHL and NHLPA over the league’s requests for increased escrow and salary deferral rates has ended with both sides agreeing the economic framework of the CBA won’t be changed.

Friedman and Dreger reported the players refused to consider any changes to escrow. On Sunday, they proposed to defer additional monies but wanted a significant concession from the league. Friedman reports one of their suggestions was a slight increase to the salary cap to put more money into the system. While that would’ve affected how much the players would have to give back to maintain the 50-50 revenue split, Friedman said the escrow caps in place weren’t a concern to the current group of players.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The dispute over the escrow and deferral rates was a significant obstacle. The players’ refusal to budge appears to have forced the league to consider other options to make up a potential revenue shortfall.

A cap on escrow was what the players wanted and they were justified in insisting the league abide by the agreement. They could end up owing the league much more in escrow debt toward the end of the CBA extension but they seem willing to accept that potential consequence.

Both sides want to stage a season because there’s a lot at stake here. They cannot afford not to play when other major pro leagues are carrying on with their respective schedules. There are broadcasting and advertising contracts to be honored and the potential for a lucrative new US TV deal at the end of this season.

Some readers suggested the league could afford to shut down this season because of the three lockouts since 1994-95. The difference is league headquarters and the team owners were financially prepared for work stoppages arising from labor disputes with the NHLPA. They weren’t ready for the effects of a pandemic, plus they would face a strong legal challenge from the PA.

So how will the NHL find the $300 million they tried to squeeze from the players to stage this season? ESPN.com’s Emily Kaplan reports sources are saying the league is looking into a loan plan similar to that used by the NBA to provide its teams with cash to protect their finances ahead of this season.

That Jan. 13 start date could be flexible. Prior to last night’s reports, Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley told Fox Business the season could open on Jan. 15 with the possibility it might have to slide by a week or two. Nevertheless, Foley is confident his club will be playing this season at their home arena, though it could be without fans in attendance.

IN OTHER NEWS…

THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER’s Sam Carchidi reports the Flyers are close to agreeing to a contract with Philippe Myers. “Could happen this week.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Myers is a restricted free agent coming out of his entry-level contract. It’ll be interesting to see if he gets a bridge contract or a long-term deal. We can probably expect signings of RFAs and unrestricted free agents will pick up once the Jan. 13 start date for this season is formally approved.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: The Lightning hired Rob Zettler to replace departed assistant coach Todd Richards. Zettler, a former NHL defenseman, is also the former head coach of the Lightning’s AHL affiliate in Syracuse. He worked as an assistant coach with the San Jose Sharks from 2017 to 2019.

IIHF.COM: International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel and general secretary Horst Lichtner have tested positive for COVID-19. This will not affect the IIHF’s preparations for the upcoming 2021 World Junior Championship in Edmonton.

SPORTSNET: The entire Northeast Division of the ECHL plus the Atlanta Gladiators and Norfolk Admirals have suspended play for the 2020-21 season under the league’s COVID-19 policy. The teams intend to return in 2021-22. Most are minor-league affiliates for several NHL clubs.

TORONTO STAR: A mint condition 1979 Wayne Gretzky card could become hockey’s first $1 million collectible card.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 6, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 6, 2020

An update on negotiations for starting the 2020-21 season, the stalemate over escrow and salary deferrals, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TSN’s Pierre LeBrun took to Twitter last night reporting some communication between the NHL and NHL Players’ Association but “nothing big to relay.” He feels this week will be important if the two sides hope to open the 2020-21 season by mid-January.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy recently cited usually pessimistic player agent Alan Walsh telling TSN 690 Montreal he’s “99.99999 percent sure we are playing hockey this year.”

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports sources are saying an alternate plan involving a 48-game schedule beginning Feb. 1 appears the more likely option.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some might consider talk of staging the season during a pandemic as wishful thinking. Nevertheless, the league and the PA are determined to pull this off because both sides need whatever revenue they can get. They also don’t want to disappear from the sports calendar while other pro leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB) press on with their seasons.

There appears to be significant movement between the two sides in recent days toward agreement on a truncated regular-season schedule ending in early May at the latest, with the Stanley Cup awarded between late June and early July. The only hurdles are the course of the pandemic and sorting out the impasse over player salaries between the league and the PA. Speaking of which…

Brooks believes NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is right when he suggested last week it would be better if the players gave back more money to the owners this season rather than having escrow debt explode in the latter years of the CBA. Nevertheless, he still feels Bettman was out of line attempting to change the terms of the CBA regarding escrow caps and salary deferrals despite his insistence he wasn’t trying to renegotiate the deal.

Bettman is also facing heat by the owners after they were left mostly uninformed over the terms of the CBA extension and given little time to review the details before it was put to a vote. A half-dozen teams don’t want to play this season unless the players agree to those requested changes to escrow and salary deferrals.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The worst-case scenario was taken into account during negotiations on the CBA extension. Both sides must deal with the consequences.

The players are within their rights to reject the league’s requests. However, refusing to pay back more this season means potentially facing hundreds of millions of escrow debt to the owners down the road if hockey-related revenue is slow to return to pre-pandemic levels.

Recent media speculation suggests the players won’t agree to a hike in the escrow rate but could bend on the salary deferrals if they get something back from the league. Perhaps we’ll see some progress on that front by the end of this week.

THE WASHINGTON POST: Scientists are studying why there have been more cases of COVID-19 outbreaks in hockey than in other youth sports. They’re hoping to find clues about the ideal conditions in which the coronavirus thrives and how to stop it. There’s speculation the virus could be trapped around head level due to rinks that by design restrict airflow, temperature and humidity.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHL was able to prevent any coronavirus spread among its players during the 2020 playoffs due to rigorous testing of players and staff and regular cleaning of its facilities. Nevertheless, results from those studies of youth hockey could benefit the sport at every level during this pandemic.

NBC SPORTS: Former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow has joined the ownership group of the Jacksonville Icemen, the ECHL affiliate of the Winnipeg Jets and the AHL’s Manitoba Moose.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 2, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 2, 2020

The standoff continues between the league and the players as speculation persists over what the 2020-21 season will look like. Details and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TSN: Darren Dreger reports of speculation of the NHL owners canceling season if they decide they can’t go in 2020-21. The NHLPA could challenge that move in federal court as an illegal lockout but Dreger said force majeure (unforeseeable circumstances preventing the fulfillment of a contract; in this case, the collective bargaining agreement) would be applied by the owners because of the pandemic. He also said the league believes the spirit of the existing agreement provides them with cancellation protection. The owners also wouldn’t have to pay the players. However, Dreger points out neither side wants to cancel the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Player agent Allan Walsh took to Twitter yesterday disputing the force majeure idea. He claims if the owners cancel the season because the players won’t give another $300 million in concessions that it would be considered a lockout, “which is expressly prohibited by CBA article 7.1 (b).” In Walsh’s opinion, that would leave the owners at risk of facing billions of dollars in potential damages if the PA took them to court.

Walsh accused the league of soft-pedaling force majeure to the media. Maybe the owners are trying to frighten the players into making more concessions. Perhaps it’s being done to lay the groundwork against any potential media/fan backlash over a potential cancellation.

With reports claiming the NHL and the PA remain determined to stage a season, this could be just posturing by the league. We’ll find out for sure in a couple of months. There might not be a season at all if there’s no puck drop by mid-February.

Pierre LeBrun reports the PA has stuck to its guns that it hasn’t agreed to anything beyond the terms of the memorandum of understanding and the CBA extension. That could change but for now, they believe the league should stick to the terms of the agreement.

LeBrun adds the PA’s return-to-play committee has held regular conference calls but there’s some frustration on their part over a perceived lack of urgency on the league’s part.

Frank Seravalli reports the preference for both sides is opening the season in all 31 NHL arenas for revenue purposes as well as allowing players to spend more time with their families. The league recognizes it will have to be flexible with the schedule and locations because of the rising COVID-19 cases throughout North America, which could result in potential neutral-site games. Hybrid bubbles are also a backup option but not a preferred one.

LeBrun said the temporary realignment of divisions, including a Canadian division, remains locked in. However, a firm decision hasn’t been reached yet over what the three American divisions would look like.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think most of those issues will be quickly sorted out once the standoff between the NHL and NHLPA over the league’s request for increased escrow and salary deferral rates is resolved. The framework for those decisions appears to already be in place.

FOX SPORTS’ Andy Strickland reports some NHL players are delaying returns to their respective NHL cities. He believes we’re destined for a 48-game schedule hopefully beginning in late January or early February.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s pretty much the consensus among NHL pundits and most fans.

DETROIT FREE PRESS: The Red Wings loaned minor-league goaltender Calvin Pickard to the Vienna Capitals in Austria. He’s the 10th player the Wings have loaned overseas and could be a sign the league’s proposed Jan. 1 start date is increasingly unlikely.

SPORTSNET: The Edmonton Oilers have 20 players loaned to European clubs, including Jesse Puljujarvi and Tyler Benson.

TSN: The ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears announced they’ve agreed to terms with free-agent goaltender Garret Sparks for the remainder of the 2020-21 season. Sparks spent parts of three seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Vegas Golden Knights.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It wasn’t that long ago Sparks was considered the logical backup to Leafs starter Frederik Andersen.

Calgary Flames assistant general manager Chris Snow is in good spirits following surgery on Monday to insert a feeding tube into his stomach. Snow was diagnosed with ALS in June 2019 but continues in his role with the Flames.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Snow in his battle against that terrible disease.

NBC SPORTS: The Dallas Stars revealed their all-white Reverse Retro uniforms over the weekend.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Great camouflage tactic by the Stars.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 23, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 23, 2020

Latest return-to-play news plus updates on Max Domi, Nikita Zadorov, Jesse Puljujarvi and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TORONTO STAR: Damien Cox suggests hockey could return to normal by next September with coronavirus vaccines on the way. The NHL, meanwhile, is attempting to stage a shortened 2020-21 season with empty arenas, an all-Canadian division, a canceled All-Star break and playoffs that could finish in mid-July.

Talk of starting the season on Jan. 1 appears increasingly unlikely with each passing day. The pandemic is hitting rates in some American states not seen elsewhere in the world. Meanwhile, the all-Canadian division could hit a snag with rising COVID-19 rates in the provinces with NHL clubs.

Setting aside the entire season, however, doesn’t make sense for the league from a business standpoint. Return-to-play negotiations hit a snag last week over the league’s request for additional escrow and salary deferral from the players.

THE PROVINCE: An NHL player agent told Ben Kuzma the players hold the leverage in return-to-play negotiations because league commissioner Gary Bettman “has to preserve the integrity of the game and they have to play a season – whatever it looks like.” Failure to do so, according to the agent, would hurt the league’s brand.

If it was a just a clear deferral, I think players individually would look at that, if they had the flexibility,” added the agent. “But players are in different situations. If a guy is on a long-term deal, would it make sense for him to defer some money this year? That’s a voluntary decision and it might be able to work, but the players and league have to agree on it.

And part of the problem with deferred income is that in the U.S., it’s not guaranteed. So, if an owner wants to declare bankruptcy, the first thing a court is going to throw away is unsecured debt. And if you secure it, you add tax to that particular year.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHL and NHLPA are running out of time to reach an agreement on a return-to-play plan for Jan. 1. The quickest way to that route would be the league backing off on their requests for increased escrow and salary deferral rates, but I don’t see Bettman and the team owners doing that. The players have dug in their heels. If the league does the same, the entire 2020-21 season will be in jeopardy.

ESPN.COM: In a recent interview with Greg Wyshynski, Max Domi addressed his recent trade from the Montreal Canadiens to the Columbus Blue Jackets. He pointed to his and the Canadiens’ struggles last season as factors that led to the deal, but he expressed no ill will toward his former club.

Domi’s looking forward to playing for the Blue Jackets as he feels they’re a team that’s ready to win. “They’re the hardest team to play against in the league. I can tell you that first-hand.”

THE ATHLETIC: Nikita Zadorov is looking forward to a larger role and more responsibilities with the Chicago Blackhawks after being largely a third-pair defenseman with the Colorado Avalanche. Zadorov was traded last month to the Blackhawks.

SPORTSNET: Jesse Puljujarvi’s improvement in Finland bodes well for his return this season to the Edmonton Oilers. He spent all of last season with the Oilers over a contract dispute.

TORONTO SUN: Defenseman Mikko Lehtonen terminated his contract last week with KHL club Jokerit Helsinki and is heading to Toronto to join the Maple Leafs. The 26-year-old defenseman signed a one-year, entry-level deal with the Leafs in May and was loaned to Jokerit in August.

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: The Florida Panthers have officially partnered with the ECHL’s Greenville Swamp Rabbits.










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.