NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 19, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 19, 2020

The NHL and NHLPA reach a tentative agreement for the 2020-21 season. Check out the details in today’s morning coffee headlines.

TSN/SPORTSNET: reported on the tentative agreement on the 2020-21 season reached last night by the NHL and NHLPA.

The agreement requires ratification by the league board of governors and the PA executive board. The latter verbally supported moving ahead with the agreement last night. The board of governors’ vote is expected Sunday or Monday.

Here are the pertinent details:

– It will be a 56-game schedule commencing on Jan. 13. Training camps for last season’s seven non-playoff clubs will commence on Dec. 31. The other 24 teams will begin camp on Jan. 3. There won’t be exhibition games.

– The regular season would tentatively end on May 8. The Stanley Cup playoffs would end by the first week of July.

All dates are subject to change.

– The proposed divisions break down as follows:

Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg,

Boston, Buffalo, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington,

Carolina, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Florida, Nashville and Tampa Bay,

Anaheim, Arizona, Colorado, Los Angeles, Minnesota, San Jose, St. Louis and Vegas.

– Each division will produce four playoff teams. The postseason will be inter-division with each division winner becoming Stanley Cup semifinalists seeded by regular-season points.

– The tentative plan is for every team to play in their home arenas this season instead of playing in hub cities, though the latter remains a possibility.

– A player can opt-out from this season if he or an immediate family member is considered part of a high-risk category. That player will not be paid for this season and his team will have the option of carrying over his contract for one year.

– Rosters will be capped at 23 players with the salary cap at $81.5 million. Players on one-way NHL contracts will not have their salaries prorated. Those in the AHL on two-way contracts will have prorated salaries based on how many games are played in that league, with a 40 percent minimum salary payout.

– Teams will be permitted to carry four-to-six extra players (taxi squad), including a mandatory third goaltender. Those players will practice and travel with the team. For salary cap purposes, those extra players will be treated as AHL call-ups. Players will have to clear waivers to be put on the taxi squad. Players on that squad will be paid an AHL salary if on a two-way contract.

– As part of the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols, players will be tested every other day, possibly every day, and will be expected to have minimal outside contact. Charter planes will be used for all travel and health standards at road hotels and restaurants strictly monitored. Players will be confined to the rink and the hotel.

– The fate of the proposed Canadian Division rests with the five health authorities in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. The league and the seven Canadian teams are in ongoing discussions with those provincial and regional authorities.

It’s believed the biggest sticking point is whether NHL players will be subject to intra-provincial travel quarantine restrictions. Failing that, the Canadian teams could play in a hub city like Edmonton or spend the season in the United States.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The proposed agreement is expected to be rubber-stamped by the BoG and the PA executive. We’ll likely learn more details in the coming days. Much will depend, of course, on whether the five provincial health authorities sign off on the plan of an all-Canadian division. Some reports cited sources expressing confidence that agreement will be reached. We’ll find out soon enough. 

The fate of the seven Canadian teams will determine most of those aforementioned dates and the divisional realignments. Those could change if those clubs are forced to spend the season playing in the United States.

Understandably, that’s the last option for the league and those clubs, whose players won’t be thrilled about potentially spending at least five months living in hotels away from their families. They also probably wouldn’t be happy about playing in a hub city in Canada but at least they could have the opportunity to travel back to their NHL cities to see their families.

A Canadian team would be guaranteed a spot as a Stanley Cup semifinalist under the proposed playoff format for the season.

It’ll be interesting to see how many players opt-out of this season. Only a handful did so during the 2020 playoffs. Going any entire season without a paycheck will be a strong enticement to suit up.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 12, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 12, 2020

Steven Stamkos to miss training camp, Mike Green and Karl Alzner opt-out of return-to-play plan, more tidbits from the new CBA extension, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: Diana C. Nearhos reports Lightning captain Steven Stamkos suffered a leg injury during recent voluntary workouts and won’t be a full participant when the clubs begin training camp on Monday. General manager Julien BriseBois said Stamkos is expected to be ready when the Bolts begin round-robin play on August 3 in Toronto.

Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos (Photo via NHL Images).

​SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stamkos’ recent injury history will be a concern for the Lightning during the playoff tournament. Nearhos points out he suffered three previous injuries (including two confirmed lower-body) this season.

TSN: Citing family health reasons, Edmonton Oilers defenseman Mike Green has decided to opt-out of the return-to-play tournament.

SPORTSNET’s Chris Johnston reports Montreal Canadiens defenseman Karl Alzner is also opting out. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON:  The Bruins’ Steven Kampfer is also opting out over family health reasons..

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Calgary Flames blueliner Travis Hamonic, Dallas Stars rearguard Roman Polak, and Vancouver Canucks winger Sven Baertschi are also giving it a pass. Players wishing to opt-out without penalty for whatever reason have until 5 pm ET on Monday to so do in writing to the NHLPA and NHL Central Registry.

SPORTSNET: Minnesota Wild defenseman Greg Pateryn is sidelined indefinitely with an upper-body injury.

THE SCORE: Teams participating in the return-to-play plan aren’t permitted to disclose information regarding player injuries or illness. The NHL cites the unique circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. They and the NHLPA are doing so out of respect for an individual player’s right to medical privacy.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That decision will generate plenty of unwanted speculation over a player’s health when he mysteriously goes missing from a game or two or an entire series or the entire tournament, especially if it’s a superstar like Edmonton’s Connor McDavid or Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby. I wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes something that carries over beyond this season.

LAS VEGAS SUN: Jesse Granger reports NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Las Vegas was excluded as a host city for the return-to-play tournament because of rising COVID-19 cases in Nevada.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Daly confirmed what many of us already suspected.

TSN: Mark Masters reports the Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers canceled video conferences scheduled for today to discuss their selection as NHL host cities. The postponement was because the league still has some final details to work out with the Canadian government.

PUCKPEDIA: There’s a special arbitration wrinkle for this off-season only. Within four days of a team walking away from an arbitration award, the team and the player can agree to a contract equal to the offer the team presented at the arbitration hearing. This might give the player an opportunity to rethink things if the arbiter’s award was higher than what the team can afford.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Brad Alberts is the new CEO and president of the Dallas Stars. Former CEO Jim Lites becomes the club’s chairman.

SPORTSNET: The Minnesota Wild hired Judd Brackett as their new director of amateur scouting. Brackett previously held a similar role with the Vancouver Canucks from 2015 until this year, helping them select Elias Petterssen, Brock Boeser, and Quinn Hughes.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 10, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 10, 2020

Updates on the Return-to-Play plan and CBA extension, the Devils officially announced Lindy Ruff as their new head coach and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.


TSN: Bob McKenzie reports the return-to-play plan and CBA extension could be ratified by Friday night. The results of the NHLPA membership vote will be completed by 6 pm ET while the NHL Board of Governors will hold a conference call at 4 PM ET.

The NHL & NHLPA could ratify the return-to-play plan and CBA extension later today (Image via NHL.com).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The BoG call is expected to be a rubber stamp. Despite several recent reports of player unhappiness leading up to this week, media consensus is the PA membership is expected to vote its approval.

McKenzie wonders if there will be a big spike in positive COVID-19 tests as Phase 3 commences Monday with mandatory training camps at NHL facilities.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ve repeatedly said Phase 3 will determine if Phase 4 (the playoff tournament) takes place. McKenzie points out the league has a fighting chance to pull this off once the teams are quarantined in Edmonton and Toronto. Getting to that point, however, could be a challenge.

During Phase 4, the Eastern Conference clubs will be housed at Hotel X on the CNE grounds and the Royal York in downtown Toronto. In Edmonton, the Western Conference teams will be housed at the JW Marriott alongside the arena and the Sutton Place hotel downtown.

The playoff games are slated for 12, 4, and 8 pm local time daily, but McKenzie indicates the Edmonton schedule could be tweaked more depending on the needs of broadcasters.

Some teams are leaning toward bringing three goalies to the tournament but more are considering bringing four. They’re also mulling whether to bring 31 players or reduced those numbers to allow for an extra staff member or two.


NJ.COM: The New Jersey Devils made it official yesterday, announcing Lindy Ruff will become their new head coach starting next season and removed the interim tag from general manager Tom Fitzgerald’s title.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ruff is known for his defensive systems, but those expecting a boring trapping style could be in for a surprise. “We played a super-fast possession type of game, which is the same type of game I’d like to bring to this Devils team with a lot of puck pressure using the skills we have to own the puck,” he told NJ.com. “And I want a team that can dominate with speed and possession, but at the same time knowing that defending is a passion that we’re going to have.”

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 9, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 9, 2020

The tentative schedule for the rest of this season, more tidbits from the CBA extension, Devils to hire Lindy Ruff as head coach, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.


TSN: Frank Seravalli provided updates to the tentative key dates for the NHL’s return-to-play plan.

More details revealed of the NHL-NHLPA return-to-play plan & CBA extension (Image via NHL.com).

July 13 remains the start date for training camps under Phase 3. On July 24, teams will travel to their respective hub city for the playoff tournament under Phase 4.

July 25: Exhibition games begin

July 30: Qualifying round begins

Aug. 9: Opening round of the playoffs begins

Aug. 23: Second round begins

Sept. 6: Conference Finals begin

Sept. 20: Stanley Cup Final begins

Oct. 2: Last possible game of the Cup Final

Oct. 6: 2020 NHL Draft. The draft must be held following the end of the playoffs and before free agency begins

Oct. 9: Free Agency begins (or seven days following the end of the Stanley Cup Final, whichever is later)

Nov. 17: Training camps open for the 2020-21 season

Dec. 1: 2020-21 regular season begins

All dates are subject to change.

The NHL and NHLPA also have an agreement to abandon the return-to-play plan if the number of players opting-out on a team- or league-wide basis adversely affects the integrity of the post-season.

COLORADO SPORTS NOW: Adrian Dater reports the opt-out deadline has been extended to Monday night (July 13).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Most observers doubt a large number of players will opt-out. We’ll know for certain by Monday night.

Bob McKenzie reports the summary of the memorandum of understanding lists Edmonton and Toronto as the host cities for Phase 4. The Eastern Conference teams will play in Toronto and the Western Conference clubs in Edmonton. The Conference Finals and the Stanley Cup Final will be held in one host city but that has yet to be determined.

The final paycheck for 2019-20 that the players deferred will now be used to pay down escrow.

The late start of the 2020-21 season means the players will receive one paycheck in the fall.

ESPN: Greg Wyshynski reports the NHL is working on its US broadcast plans for the 24-team playoff tournament. The qualification and round-robin games will be shown locally on regional sports networks. Discussions are ongoing over how many of the games will be shown nationally on NBC Sports Network.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unsubstantiated rumors suggested the games would be televised on pay-per-view. That’s not happening because of existing television contracts in the United States and Canada.

THE HOCKEY NEWS’ Jason Kay cited reports of an Edmonton hospital effectively shutting its doors because of a full-facility COVID-19 outbreak. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said “at this point” he doesn’t expect it’ll affect the league’s hub city announcement.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t think it’ll affect things as long as there’s no indication it could spread into the proposed secure area of The Ice District in Edmonton.

Some interesting CBA extension tidbits were revealed:

Frank Seravalli reports the one-week interview period for unrestricted free agents before the start of the free-agent market has been eliminated.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, it’s back to general managers working the phones with player agents trying to hammer out new contracts. I’m pleased with this development, as it will bring back the intrigue and excitement that was disappearing from the start of the free-agent period Because of the interview period, we knew where most of the top UFAs were going a day or two before the market opened. Now, it’s back to the good old guessing game as it should be. 

The maximum entry-level base salary will rise to $950K for 2022-23 and 2023-24, then to $975K for 2024-25 and 2025-26, and $1 million for 2026-27. Entry-level bonuses will also increase.

TVA SPORTS’ Renaud Lavoie reports trade conditions that make it harder for a player to re-sign with the team that acquired him won’t be allowed. For example, if a player is traded for a third-round pick but it becomes a first if the player signs with his new club.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports clubs that have a performance overage for this season will have the option to evenly distribute it between 2020-21 and 2021-22 (50 percent each season).


NORTHJERSEY.COM: cites NHL Network’s Kevin Weekes reporting the New Jersey Devils are expected to name Lindy Ruff as their new head coach. Ruff is an assistant coach with the New York Rangers and is the former head coach of the Buffalo Sabres and Dallas Stars. The Devils are also expected to make interim general manager Tom Fitzgerald their full-time GM.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ruff’s hiring is garnering mixed reactions from Devils fans. Supporters cite his experience and success in Buffalo, while detractors consider him the wrong coach for a rebuilding club. 

Fitzgerald earned his opportunity as the full-time GM, going a good job in difficult circumstances on short notice following the midseason firing of Ray Shero.

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: George Richards reports Chris Pronger has stepped down as the Florida Panthers senior VP of hockey operations to focus on his family’s high-end travel agency business.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Michael Russo cites a source reporting Minnesota Wild GM Bill Guerin is willing to sign prospect Kirill Kaprizov for 2019-20 and burn the first year of his three-year entry-level deal if Kaprizov is willing to do so. Under the terms of the CBA extension, he wouldn’t be allowed to participate in the upcoming playoff tournament.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 4, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 4, 2020

​​Multiple Blues players test positive for COVID-19 plus the latest return-to-play and CBA extension news in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.


THE ATHLETIC/STLTODAY.COM: report the St. Louis Blues yesterday canceled practices at the team training facility because multiple players tested positive for COVID-19. It’s estimated at least two-thirds of the Blues players took part in Phase 2 workouts this week.

The names and exact numbers of players testing positive have not been released by the team or the league. It’s believed no staff members were among them.

Small-group workouts were canceled for the weekend, but the club is expected to resume practices on Monday. The Phase 2 workouts are voluntary. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports at least one Blues player won’t be attending over coronavirus concerns.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s the most recent outbreak of positive COVID-19 tests in the NHL since the Tampa Bay Lightning temporarily closed their training facility two weeks ago after three players and two staff members tested positive.

This news comes as the NHL and NHLPA are negotiating the details on Phase 3 and 4 of the Return-to-Play Plan and an extension to the collective bargaining agreement. The plan and extension have yet to be put to a vote by the NHLPA membership. This recent news could influence the players’ vote.


WINNIPEG SUN: The Canadian government provided quarantine exemption to NHL players traveling to the two hub cities later this month for the league’s 24-team playoff tournament. The Public Health Agency of Canada assessed the league’s return-to-play plan and concluded it provided “robust measures” to mitigate the risk of importation and spread of COVID-19 in Canada.

THE SCORE: Toronto mayor John Tory said the NHL provided a thorough plan outlining its safety measures. Toronto and Edmonton are the two host cities for Phase 4 of the return-to-play plan. Tory indicated the league had “incredibly detailed disinfection and public health measures” that met his city’s protocols.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Assuming the league and the NHLPA approve the return-to-play plan, Phase 3 will be the determining factor whether Phase 4 goes off. Under Phase 3, players participating in the 24-team tournament take part in mandatory training camps in their respective NHL cities. While the league claims its health protocols will be much stricter compared to Phase 2, the players won’t be under a quarantine bubble as they will be in Phase 4. That means there’s still a risk of a spike in positive COVID-19 tests.

The plan reportedly allows players to opt-out of the tournament for whatever reason without penalty. If there’s an outbreak among several teams during Phase 3, it could lead to a large number of players dropping out over coronavirus concerns, potentially derailing Phase 4.


THE ATHLETIC: Craig Custance provides some new details:

A source told Pierre LeBrun the extension would be to 2025-26.

The salary cap will remain at $81.5 million until league revenues reach $4.8 billion. After that, a formula for establishing the cap will be employed using hockey-related revenue from the previous two seasons.

The escrow cap will be 20 percent for 2020-21, 14 to 18 percent for 2021-22 pending revenue from the previous season, 10 percent for 2022-23, and six percent for the final three seasons.

An escrow debt of $125 million or more at that time would trigger a one-year extension to the CBA.

Entry-level salaries will be $950K for players drafted in 2022 and 2023, rising to $975K in the next two years and reaching $1 million by 2026. There will also be increases to bonuses for players on entry-level contracts.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman provides further information:

This year’s playoff bonus money will double to $32 million and will reduce to $20 million for next season,

The minimum salary will rise to $750K for 2020-21 and reach $800K by the end of the deal,

No-move and no-trade clauses will travel with the player who agrees to accept a trade, even if that clause hasn’t kicked in yet,

Players 35-and-older can sign contracts that are flat or ascending and there won’t be an ongoing cap hit if they retire,

Six-year front-loaded contracts worth at least 7.5 percent of the salary cap cannot exceed 35 percent between the highest and lowest salary amounts. Rules for other contracts remain the same. Players and teams could consider back-loading new contracts because escrow is capped at a lower number and revenue should increase during that period,

No changes to signing bonuses,

No more conditional draft picks in trades based on a player re-signing with his new team,

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This extension and the return-to-play plan must be ratified by the NHLPA and the league board of governors. Still no word as to when that will take place. With Phase 3 supposedly set for July 13, ratification will have to come soon.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 3, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 3, 2020

Updates on the return-to-play and CBA extension talks, Edmonton could host Stanley Cup Final and the latest on Oskar Lindblom and Mike Ribeiro in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.


TSN: Bob McKenzie last night reported the NHL and NHL Players Association continue to work toward finalizing a return-to-play plan and an extension to the collective bargaining agreement. A joint announcement by the two sides could come soon, though it will require ratification by the league board of governors and the PA membership, with the latter vote likely to take two or three days. McKenzie anticipates it could be approved by early next week.

The NHL and NHLPA could be close to a return-to-play and CBA extension agreement (Image via NHL.com).

A potential timeline could look like this:

July 13 – Phase 3 (training camp) opens,

July 26 – Approximate travel date for teams to head to their respective hub cities (Edmonton or Toronto),

Aug. 1 – Phase 4 begins with the best-of-five qualifying round,

Aug. 10 – Approximate date for the second and final phase of the NHL Draft Lottery to determine the club that gets the first-overall pick,

Early October – Stanley Cup awarded,

Mid-October – 2020 NHL Draft is held, and

Nov. 1 – The first business day of 2020-21 begins as the free-agent market opens.

McKenzie also reported it sounds like Edmonton will host the Conference Finals and the Stanley Cup Final, likely because of public health/safety/numbers.

TVA SPORTS: Louis Jean reports the initial plan to have all 24 teams play two exhibition games could be reduced to one game apiece.

SPORTSNET: Eric Engels reports it sounds like families won’t be allowed with players in the hub cities, though it’s not yet official.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: We’re getting closer to a deal when we see a potential timeline for completing the season. The time crunch to begin Phase 4 explains the reduction in the exhibition games.

Barring families from the host-city bubbles will be challenging for the players. It won’t be so bad for those on teams eliminated from the qualifying round as they could be apart from their loved ones for between one-two weeks, while those eliminated from the first round of the playoffs could be apart from their families for between three-four weeks.

The further a club advances, however, the longer the separation. Some players whose spouses/partners have health conditions (pregnancy, illness, etc) could opt-out of the tournament.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ken Campbell reports a source claims the NHL and NHLPA have essentially agreed to a memorandum of understanding on all issues about the return-to-play plan and an extension to the collective bargaining agreement.

Campbell focuses on the CBA, claiming the deal would be extended by three years to the end of 2024-25. The framework of the extension would be as follows:

The salary cap would be frozen at $81.5 million for 2020-21 and 2021-22, rising to $82.5 million in 2022-23 and $83.5 million in 2023-24. For the first time since 2005-06, the cap will be delinked from league revenue, though it could re-link in 2024-25,

An escrow cap will be implemented for 2020-21 to a maximum of 20 percent regardless of revenue, though it could end up being less. There will also be a 10 percent deferral of salary and signing bonuses for each player for ’20-’21, which will be returned to them in equal installments (subject to the escrow) over the final three years of the extension. “So in reality, players will have 30 percent deducted from their pay for next season”, writes Campbell.

The escrow cap for 2021-22 would be up to 18 percent, dropping to 12 percent in 2022-23, and nine percent by 2023-24,

Participation in the 2022 and 2026 Winter Olympics is part of the deal, and

Any player can opt-out of the playoff tournament for any reason without penalty.

Because revenues are split 50-50 between the owners and players, Campbell points out the players could be looking at being $400 million in arrears for this season and potentially as high as $1 billion after next season. If all goes well, the players could pay that all back within three years if league revenue increase with a new US TV deal and a new franchise in Seattle.

Campbell believes the players and NHLPA director Donald Fehr probably hate this deal, but it’s the best they can get under the circumstance. If they reject it, next season’s cap could plummet to $66 million while escrow clawbacks could be 55 and 75 percent, setting the stage for what Campbell calls “the mother of all lockouts” when the current agreement expires in 2022. It would hurt the owners in the short term but they’re in a better position to ride this out over the long term.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports amnesty buyouts will not be part of the CBA extension.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s not a great deal for the players, and in normal circumstances, they wouldn’t take it. They could still vote to reject it, but as Campbell points out, it would lead to potential labor strife during a period when the league will be coping with the economic fallout from COVID-19.

That explains why the extension could be only three years, the league’s shift toward Olympic participation, and other reported lifestyle benefits (such as increased post-retirement health care benefits, mortgage/rental reimbursements for traded or reassigned players) for the players. The league had to give the players something to make this bitter pill a little more palatable.

No amnesty buyouts will squeeze those NHL clubs with limited salary cap space. Thirteen clubs have cap payrolls exceeding $70 million for next season. That 10 percent deferral should provide a little relief, but some clubs could still face significant cost-cutting off-season decisions.

This deal would guarantee five years of labor peace, but those economic issues could become the seeds for another work stoppage in 2025.


NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Flyers winger Oskar Lindblom completed his chemotherapy treatments for a rare form of bone cancer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Lindblom as he works toward continuing his life and NHL career. He won’t be participating in the 24-team playoff tournament with his teammates.

LA PRESSE: Former NHL player Mike Ribeiro said turning 40 recently forced him to change his lifestyle. He’s been sober for months since undergoing therapy earlier this year and is now dedicating his life to his children in Nashville.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ribeiro was heading down a dark path for a while. Good to see he’s turned his life around.