NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 1, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 1, 2020

The latest on the stalled return-to-play talks between the NHL and NHLPA in today’s morning coffee headlines.

TSN: Darren Dreger reports the NHL still has Jan. 1 as its target date for starting the season but it is looking at a later date. They’re also looking at starting up training camp following the holidays in late December or early January. He also reports league commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr resumed discussions over the weekend and those talks continued on Monday. Dreger suggested a mid-January start is the likely target date.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman (right) and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr (NHL.com).

Dreger also said the players remain unhappy over the league’s proposals for increased escrow and salary deferral rates. Some of them wonder why Bettman did offer up some sort of give-back from the owners before requesting another increase in those rates. He believes there’s still a lot of work to be done to reach common ground.

Jeff O’Neill ultimately believes the players will accept the league’s requests. Otherwise, they won’t play and won’t get paid for this season.

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch cites NHL insider John Shannon reporting sources from the NHL and NHLPA confirm there have been discussions but no progress on revisiting this summer’s Memorandum of Understanding on the CBA extension.

Facing the prospect of starting the season with empty arenas due to COVID-19, the league is requesting another $300 million in savings from the players in the form of increased escrow and salary deferral rates. Garrioch points out the players have every right to kick the can down the road on escrow, but if they don’t more now they’ll have to do so in the latter years of the deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The good news is that at least Bettman and Fehr have resumed discussions. Dreger’s report also indicates the league is leaning toward a more realistic potential start date most of us anticipated for the season.

TORONTO STAR: Kevin McGran predicts it will take four weeks from the time an agreement is reached until the puck drops on the season. If it’s reached by early January the season could open in early February and conclude in late June.

McGran also reports Bettman kept the NHL owners out of this summer’s negotiations on the MOU extension to the CBA. The owners unanimously endorse it and it’s believed some did so solely on the commissioner’s recommendation. Having read the MOU after its ratification, some owners aren’t happy with it.

It could cost each team $150 million in operating costs for this season. Some owners have apparently told Bettman they would be better off financially by not playing. The players, meanwhile, aren’t happy with the league’s requests to lower their salaries from the agreed-upon 72 percent for this season to 55 percent.

McGran believes the players will ultimately bend because the CBA allows the league to suspend a season based on circumstances beyond its control. It’s in the financial best interest of the players to play.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Under the CBA, the players are entitled to no more than 50 percent of hockey-related revenue. Thus, it would make sense for the players to give back now to avoid paying back more down the road.

The New York Post’s Larry Brooks last week argued the adoption of annual escrow caps coupled with unlinking the cap from actual HRR ended the assurance of a 50-50 split. That’s likely coming from the PA given Brooks’ sources within the union. I doubt that’s going to fly with the NHL owners.

The consensus among pundits is the players will have to agree to Bettman’s requests but the league will have to include a sweetener to make it enticing to the players. Plenty of suggestions have been bandied about but paying back the deferred salary with interest appears the best option. We’ll see what transpires in the coming weeks.

THE PROVINCE: Dr. Brian Conway, president and medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre, believes the NHL could minimize the type of COVID-19 outbreaks currently seen among NFL teams. He advocates adopting the NBA’s strict training camp virus prevention and detection protocols.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The league crafted its strict test policies for this summer’s return-to-play postseason plan by observing what worked and what didn’t with other sports leagues. I daresay they’ll follow the same plan to make adjustments for a regular-season schedule.










NHL Might Have To Bend In Stalemate With Players

NHL Might Have To Bend In Stalemate With Players

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 26, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 26, 2020

An eye injury ends Johnny Boychuk’s playing career, the Lightning re-sign Mikhail Sergachev, the latest return-to-play news and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NEW YORK POST: A gruesome eye injury suffered during the 2019-20 season has prematurely ended the playing career of Johnny Boychuk. The 36-year-old New York Islanders defenseman suffered poor peripheral vision and optic nerve damage from two separate incidents that would make it unsafe to continue his 13-year career.

New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk (NHL Images).

The Islanders, however, have not announced Boychuk as retired, meaning he’ll likely go on long-term injury reserve. That will allow the Isles to exceed their accruable cap space limit by the $6 million annual average value on his contract, which expires at the end of 2021-22.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Boychuk in his future endeavors. He collected 206 points in 725 games with the Colorado Avalanche, Boston Bruins and the Islanders, winning the Stanley Cup with the Bruins in 2011.

According to Cap Friendly, the Isles have just $3.9 million in salary-cap space. Placing Boychuk on LTIR will free up sufficient space to sign restricted free agent center Mathew Barzal.

For those of you wondering why Boychuk hasn’t retired outright, it would mean forfeiting the remaining salary on his contract.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: The Lightning yesterday re-signed Mikhail Sergachev to a three-year contract worth an annual average value of $4.8 million. The 22-year-old defenseman was a restricted free agent coming off his entry-level contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sergachev has rapidly blossomed into one of the Lightning’s top defensemen whose best seasons are still ahead of him. He’ll become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights at the end of it.

The deal is also structured to pay him more in the final season when league revenue is expected to improve. Cap Friendly indicates he’ll get $2.4 million in actual salary this season, $4.8 million in 2021-22 and $7.2 million in 2022-23. It’ll cost the Lightning big bucks to qualify his rights and re-sign him at the end of this deal.

Sergachev’s new contract also pushes the Lightning above the $81.5 million salary cap by $1.9 million. They must also sign center Anthony Cirelli and blueliner Erik Cernak. I’ll have more about their possible moves to become cap compliant in today’s Rumor Mill.

TSN’s Pierre LeBrun tweeted NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman haven’t spoken since last Thursday. He believes that speaks to how the players feel about the league’s requests for increases to the salary deferral/escrow rates. LeBrun thinks there’s still time to salvage this but next week could be crucial.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun could be referring to starting the season by the proposed date of Jan. 1. I think the time’s run out for that. However, there’s an ongoing belief among the punditry that the two sides will work something out to start up the season by late January or early February.

THE SCORE: Team Canada is halting its World Junior selection camp and entering a 14-day quarantine period after two players tested positive for COVID-19. Workouts and meetings will be conducted via video call while scrimmages for the weekend are canceled. The 2021 World Junior Championship is slated to begin on Christmas Day in a bubble environment in Edmonton similar to that used by the NHL for the 2020 playoffs.

SPORTSNET: A memorial fund for the late Joey Moss raised nearly $1 million through a 50/50 raffle. Moss, the long-time dressing room attendant for the Edmonton Oilers and the CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos, passed away in October at age 57.










The Clock Is Ticking On NHL’s Jan. 1 Return-to-Play Plan

The Clock Is Ticking On NHL’s Jan. 1 Return-to-Play Plan

 










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.

LATEST ON THE NHL RETURN-TO-PLAY & CBA EXTENSION TALKS

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.

IN OTHER NEWS…

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.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 8, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 8, 2020

A synopsis of Phase 2 of the Return-To-Play Plan, NHLPA director Donald Fehr is proud of the players speaking out against racial injustice, a breakdown of the Stars’ goaltending tandem, & more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Ed Graney provides a synopsis of Phase 2 of the NHL’s return-to-play plan which begins today. Among the key points:

Phase 2 of the NHL’s Return-To-Play Plan begins today.

A maximum of six players on the ice at one time,

Players who live in a city that they don’t play for can use local NHL facilities,

Any player traveling to his team facility from abroad by other than private jet must self-quarantine for 14 days. Carpooling is also discouraged,

Goaltenders can hire an individual coach for one-on-one training but he cannot be a team employee,

Social distancing protocols (handwashing, use of sanitizer, no sharing of towels or flip-flops, showering elsewhere, no shared use of food or water) must be maintained at the facility,

Colored badges will designate a player’s access and that for non-players.

Coronavirus testing will occur 48 hours before accessing the facility and twice weekly. Players and staff will also complete symptom and temperature checks before departure. A positive COVID-19 test will be treated as a hockey-related injury.

Players skating at a team facility are prohibited from skating at a separate public rink,

Coaches cannot participate in on-ice activity but can observe from the stands.

TORONTO STAR: Damien Cox considers Phase 2 as the NHL’s cautious, careful road toward resuming play at some point this summer. He believes this slow start-up allows the league to observe and learn from the experiences of other sports that have already returned to action.

This phase brings optimism for those hopeful of completing the season and crowning a Stanley Cup champion. Others believe there’s a long way to go before that can take place.

Cox also reported the Maple Leafs have about 20 players in the area, including several still under a two-week quarantine after crossing the border.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There is a sense of cautious optimism that the league might be able to pull this off. The next big test begins next month when the teams converge for training camps.

SPORTSNET: NHL Players’ Association director Donald Fehr said he’s “really proud” of the more than 100 players who’ve spoken out against racial injustice.

They understand it’s an important moment. They understand what the issues are, at least in the grand scope. And they’re making their voice heard. Not everybody, but quite a lot.

And that’s to their credit.”

TSN: NHL analyst and former goaltender Kevin Weekes said he won’t mention the Greater Toronto Hockey League on television again until the amateur league discloses statistics about how often players are penalized for making racial slurs.

I’m not mentioning the GTHL on the air if I can help it until there is reform,” he told TSN. “I’m on TV almost 200 days a year, on four different shows on the league network. I like to give credit both to players and to the organizations that help develop them. 

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Stars goaltending coach Jeff Reese recently broke down what makes Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin potentially the best tandem in the league by examining five key saves by each netminder this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Thanks to Bishop and Khudobin, the Stars finished the regular season with the league’s second-best goals-against per game (2.52). They played a significant role in the Stars qualifying for the post-season tournament and will be crucial to the club’s Stanley Cup aspirations.

THE SCORE: Colby Cave’s AHL teammate Cooper Marody will release a song as a memorial tribute. The 25-year-old Edmonton Oilers forward died in April from a brain bleed following emergency surgery to remove a colloid cyst.