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.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 2, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 2, 2020

Four more members of the Senators test positive for COVID-19, plus the latest on Jack Eichel, Jeff Skinner and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

OTTAWA SUN: Three more Senators’ players and one staff member tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total to seven people aboard the club’s charter flight that returned from their California road trip on March 12. The club indicated the five players and the staff member have all recovered. Broadcaster Gord Wilson confirmed a positive test on Friday.

League deputy commissioner Bill Daly said there aren’t any plans to test the entire Senators team. “Everyone who had symptoms was tested,” Daly said.”There really is no reason to test anyone else. No one is symptomatic and no one is sick and they all have been in self-quarantine for three weeks.”

Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators have been hardest hit among the 31 NHL teams by this pandemic. Fortunately, it seems they suffered mild symptoms and most recovered quickly.

THE BUFFALO NEWS: Sabres captain Jack Eichel is partnering with hockey manufacturing company Bauer to donate 5,000 protective shields to Buffalo area hospitals. Teammate Jeff Skinner, meanwhile, is donating $53,000 to a fund created by Pegula Sports and Entertainment to help frontline health care workers and others affected by the coronavirus in Western New York.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins defensemen Brian Dumoulin and John Marino will be ready to go if the NHL season resumes. Dumoulin underwent surgery in December to repair lacerated ankle tendons. Marino missed five games in March before the schedule was paused recovered from broken facial bones.

THE SCORE: Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin said he won’t be interviewing coaching candidates during the NHL’s schedule hiatus. He’s happy thus far with the work of Dean Evason, who took over as head coach in mid-February on an interim basis after Bruce Boudreau was fired. The Wild are 8-4-0 under Evason.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild are one point out of a wild-card berth in the Western Conference. Guerin sounds like he wants to continue evaluating Evason before deciding if he’ll keep him on the job or seek a full-time replacement.

THE DETROIT NEWS: The play of Jonathan Bernier, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Robby Fabbri was among the pleasant surprises in an otherwise disappointing season for the Red Wings.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: The ECHL and Professional Hockey Players’ Association announced a relief fund to help the league’s players and their families left without salaries following the cancellation of the season.

 

 

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 22, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 22, 2020

A second Senators player tests positive for COVID-19, plus the latest on Shea Weber, Johnny Boychuk, Jacob Markstrom and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

OTTAWA SUN: A second Senators player tested positive for COVID-19 and is in self-isolation. He was among 52 people on board the club’s charter flight through California during their road trip from March 6 to 12. Eight of them have been tested thus far. Both Senators are the only NHL players to test positive thus far.

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Half of the NBA and NHL coronavirus cases are linked to Staples Center, home of the Los Angeles Clippers and Kings.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: The San Jose Sharks report none of their players possess coronavirus symptoms or have been tested for the virus. In a statement, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson explained the club felt it was important to ensure those tests are available in the local community to those in the highest risk groups and those displaying symptoms.

Montreal Canadiens captain Shea Weber (Photo via NHL Images).

LE JOURNAL DE MONTREAL: Canadiens captain Shea Weber recorded a message on behalf of the Quebec government aimed at informing English-speaking seniors in the province to practice good hygiene during this time of pandemic.

ESPN.COM: New York Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello said defenseman Johnny Boychuk will return to action when the NHL schedule resumes. Boychuk was sidelined on March 2 after receiving 90 facial stitches when he was accidentally struck by a skate blade in a game against the Canadiens.

SPORTSNET: Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning said goaltender Jacob Markstrom has fully recovered from his knee surgery.

TSN: NHL owners will have a conference call on Monday to discussion the league’s financial situation, including escrow.

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks cites a source claiming the NHLPA held a conference call Friday in which the players essentially decide to defer a decision on how to handle their upcoming escrow losses until a verdict is rendered on the season. The league informed the PA that cancellation of the season could mean losses of up to $1 billion, equating to escrow losses of up to 35 percent per player.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s why the league and the players are open to all options to salvage what’s left of the season. Nevertheless, they’ll still face significant losses. A lot of hockey fans will be adversely affected by this pandemic, leaving many without jobs or reduced income once this crisis has passed. They’re not going to spend it going to NHL games, where the fan cost index averages USD 424.62 for a family of four.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: The International Ice Hockey Federation announced the 2020 Men’s World Championships are canceled. The tournament was to be staged in Switzerland in May.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: The Boston Bruins ownership announced a $1.5 million fund to aid part-time TD Garden employees if the Bruins remaining six homes games are postponed or cancelled.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins faced growing criticism as the last team to unveil a plan to assist their part-time employees. The news received mixed reviews from TD Garden employees. Some were happy to hear the news, some felt ownership had to be shamed into doing something, while others are wondering when they’ll start to see the funding.

CALGARY SUN: The Calgary Flames Foundation will donate $1.15 million as part of a COVID-19 community support program.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: With their season cancelled, ECHL players have been left in the financial lurch. The minor-league Professional Hockey Players Association is starting a relief fund to help those players cover their expenses.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 15, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 15, 2020

The latest league news, how some teams are looking after its arena workers affected by the pause in the schedule, how this unexpected break will help several banged-up rosters, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

 

 

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks believes the NHL will do whatever it takes to return to action and award a Stanley Cup champion this season, even if it means playing just a shortened playoff schedule without spectators. Doing so would allow the league to at least collect media-rights fees from broadcasting those games,

Will the NHL award the Stanley Cup this season?

If the season is canceled, the full 2020-21 season will proceed as usual, though the 2020 NHL Draft could become a teleconference affair. Buyouts and free agency would continue as normal, though the league and the NHL Players Association would have to agree to an artificial salary cap. If the number is the same as last season or lower, amnesty buyouts might have to be implemented to make the system work.

Should the league return to action and the playoffs extend into July, next season’s schedule will have to change, as will the dates for contract buyouts, free agency and the draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The rules regarding trades aren’t mentioned, but if the league returns to action in May or even June, I expect they’ll follow the usual off-season template. In other words, no trades over the rest of the regular season. When the post-season starts, non-playoff clubs will be allowed to make trades with each other, followed by clubs that are eliminated from post-season play. Once the playoffs are finished, everyone can get trade freely, though they’ll likely all wait until the salary cap for next season is determined.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: The Blackhawks are joining several NHL clubs in ensuring its arena staff adversely affected by the postponement of the NHL schedule receive compensation.

WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula are also ensuring their arena staff continues to be paid. They’re also having their staff work from home if possible.

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon has committed to relief for his arena’s part-time employees. “They’re pulling together who works consistently, how many games are we actually going to miss,” Dundon said. “We’ll do something, though.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: The Bruins parent company is “actively exploring support options” for their associates (arena employees). Meanwhile, several Bruins players have donated to a GoFundMe campaign to support TD Garden employees affected by the schedule postponement.

TSN: The Edmonton Oilers announced plans to help its employees make up the difference between their regular salaries and what employment insurance covers. The Calgary Flames, however, indicated it won’t assist their part-time, hourly, and event staff who will be underemployed during the suspension of the NHL season.

 

WINNIPEG SUN: Jets ownership is doubling down on its decision not to pay their staff affected by the schedule shutdown.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Not a good look for the Jets during a pandemic. The club’s billionaire owner could easily afford to compensate those workers. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s any significant backlash.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The pause in the NHL schedule could help the banged-up Blue Jackets get some players back in time for when (if?) play resumes this season. Among the sidelined are Seth Jones, Cam Atkinson, and Oliver Bjorkstand.

DENVER POST: The Colorado Avalanche could also benefit from this layoff. “Mikko Rantanen, Nazem Kadri, Andre Burakovsky and Matt Calvert all were on “mid-March” return schedules, and superstar center Nathan MacKinnon is already a week into his projected one- to two-week absence.”

VANCOUVER SUN: The Canucks could also have a healthier roster if the league resumes play in a few weeks. Their sidelined players include Jacob Markstrom, Chris Tanev and Jay Beagle.

SPORTSNET: The ECHL canceled the remainder of their season and playoffs.

NBC SPORTS: Jokerit has pulled out of the KHL playoffs over coronavirus concerns.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 13, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 13, 2020

What next for the NHL in the wake of pausing the season over coronavirus concerns? What could be the effect upon the playoff race and the off-season? Check out the latest in today’s morning coffee headlines.

SPORTSNET: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the league had been closely monitoring what was going on regarding the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus before its decision to pause the schedule. He admitted the NBA having a player test positive and forcing the cancellation of a game left him no doubt this would be a game-changer.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman remains hopeful of resuming the remainder of this season (Photo via NHL.com).

Bettman said he’s hesitant to use the word “suspension”, remaining hopeful the season will resume at some point. He’s not sure how far it could push the schedule into the summer. The league is taking a day-to-day approach for now.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll depend upon how long before the spread of the virus is significantly slowed or contained. TSN’s Frank Seravalli cited an NHL governor telling colleague Darren Dreger the league is focused for now on returning to action within three weeks, but that will depend upon the players’ health, how many (if any) contracted the virus, and recommendations from the health community.

THE SCORE: The playoff picture, the ripple effect upon the off-season schedule, and the salary cap are the major storylines to monitor as the NHL pauses the remainder of the 2019-20 schedule over coronavirus concerns.

Depending on when the league returns to action, it could pick up its schedule where it left off, play an abbreviated number of games to begin the playoffs closer to the starting date, or cancel the rest of the regular season and opt for a wild-card play-in or beginning the postseason based on the standings at the time the regular season was paused.

It could also affect the dates when the league stages its annual prospect combine and draft in June. The annual July 1 start date for free agency could also change. Next season’s salary cap could remain closer to this season’s $81.5 million rather than reach the projected range of $84 million to $88 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I daresay the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery, slated for April 9, will move to a different date later in the spring. 

NEW YORK POST: Teams are standing pat with no practices or meetings. That could change if they think they’ll start playing games again.

Most teams intend to deal with their ticket holders individually. Most could be willing to transfer those tickets to next season.

If the players are still paid during the hiatus, they could end up giving it all back via escrow to ensure the 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue with team owners. As for hourly workers at arenas, individual teams could examine some form of compensation.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Toronto Maple Leafs (via Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment) and Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley announced they’ll look after their arena staff during this period. I expect the other clubs either have a plan in place for their respective personnel or are working on one.

ESPN.COM: NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said it’s a team-by-team thing for testing players for COVID-19. “Testing kits are controlled by local health, and each state is allocated different amounts based on population and experience. At this point, the need for testing is greater than the supply of tests. That will start to change as manufacturers are ramping up production.”

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: The San Jose Sharks announced a part-time employee at SAP Center in San Jose tested positive for the coronavirus. The individual is under self-quarantine and receiving care from medical personnel.

SPORTSNET: The International Ice Hockey Federation is considering cancelling the Men’s World Championships. The 16-team tournament is set to begin on May 8.

NBC SPORTS: The AHL, ECHL, and CHL are following the NHL’s lead and pausing their schedules.

THE SCORE: Despite the interruption in the schedule, New York Rangers winger Brendan Lemieux will have a hearing today for interfering Colorado Avalanche forward Joonas Donskoi during Wednesday night’s contest.

CALGARY SUN: Long-time Flames executive Ken King passed away at age 68. He was team president and chief executive officer for many years beginning in 2001, and until recently played a role in securing a deal for a new arena in downtown Calgary.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to King’s family, friends, and the Flames’ organization.