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.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 28, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 28, 2020

The latest on the hub cities bids, Red Wings confirm Jeff Blashill will return as head coach, plus the latest on Alex Ovechkin, Max Domi, and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

WILL A CANADIAN CITY BECOME AN NHL HUB?

TSN: Edmonton, Toronto, and Vancouver are among the 10 under consideration to serve as the two host cities for the NHL’s 24-team tournament to determine the 2020 Stanley Cup champion. However, they will be out of the running if the Canadian government doesn’t exempt NHL players from its 14-day mandatory self-quarantine for non-essential travelers crossing the Canadian border. The league indicated it will decide on the two host cities in another three or four weeks.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has sent a letter to Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau encouraging the federal government to deem professional athletes and training staff as essential workers. BC Premier John Horgan also hopes Vancouver will become a hub city but said his province’s 14-day self-quarantine rule will remain in place for the foreseeable future.

TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan isn’t calling on the local or provincial governments to push for Toronto as a host city. Lisa MacLeod, Ontario’s minister of heritage, sports, and tourism, is willing to make the case with the federal government.

Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan (Photo via NHL.com).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The U.S. government recently signed legislation deeming pro athletes essential workers, lifting restrictions on NHL players from other countries traveling to work into the United States. If the Canadian government doesn’t follow suit, both hub cities will be in the U.S.

Las Vegas, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Columbus are believed among the leading candidates, but they could have competition from Pittsburgh. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf is allowing sports teams in his state to return to action, and the Penguins have submitted a bid to become an NHL host. 

LATEST ON THE NHL RETURN TO PLAY FORMAT

THE HOCKEY NEWS: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the expanded 24-team playoff format is a one-off. “I think our regular season is incredible. Our competitive balance is extraordinary. Our playoffs are the best in sports. What we have is terrific. This is dealing with a unique situation. This, in my view, is a one-time thing.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some observers wondered if the league would considering expanding future playoffs if the 24-team format proves popular with fans. While Bettman is shooting down that possibility, one can’t help but wonder if the expansion of the league to 32 teams might see some within the league push for a 20-team format. 

ESPN.COM: Donald Fehr, Executive Director of the NHL Players’ Association, said the PA will defer to the proper health authorities if a player tests positive for COVID-19 during the tournament. He expects management will pick up the costs of testing players and considers it unlikely a player will be suspended or have their contract terminated for testing positive for the coronavirus. 

Fehr also said the PA continues to negotiate with the league regarding players with underlying medical conditions, living in hub cities, separation from families, and critical dates calendar, but believes the two sides will find resolutions to those issues. He wouldn’t say how much the remaining decisions might be tied to a new collective bargaining agreement. Asked if the relationship between the league and the PA has been collaborative, Fehr declined to “put any adjectives” on it, suggesting people would interpret it in different ways.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Despite Fehr’s comments, the two sides are working together to come up with an acceptable return-to-play plan. There’s been plenty of reports since the summer of 2018 over the appearance of an improved negotiating relationship regarding a new CBA. Nevertheless, time will tell if this means labor peace is on the horizon.

THE SCORE: listed six deals that could be in limbo involving conditional draft picks. Among them, Toronto’s conditional first-round pick sent to Carolina last June in the Patrick Marleau trade, the two picks Arizona sent to New Jersey in the Taylor Hall trade, and Vancouver’s 2020 first-round pick sent to Tampa Bay for J.T. Miller that was later sent to New Jersey to acquire Blake Coleman.

IN OTHER NEWS…

THE DETROIT NEWS: Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman said Jeff Blashill will return as head coach next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wings are in the midst of a major rebuild. Blashill couldn’t be faulted for the lack of skilled depth throughout the roster this season.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin and wife Nastya welcomed their second son Ilya on Wednesday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to the Ovechkins.

TVA SPORTS: Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin said the team and the league would never put Max Domi in a situation that would expose him to COVID-19. Domi is diabetic and more susceptible to contracting the virus. Bergevin said Domi won’t play if the medical staff says he can’t play.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Safe to say that will apply to all NHL players with underlying medical conditions.

Bergevin also said Jonathan Drouin is cleared to play, but Jesperi Kotkaniemi might not be fully recovered from his spleen injury to take part in the qualifying round.

AMNY.COM: New York Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech has been cleared to play. He’d been sidelined since January with an Achilles injury. Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck, and Johnny Boychuk will also be ready to participate in the qualifying round.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins center Nick Bjugstad underwent season-ending surgery on Tuesday to repair a herniated disc

WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres defenseman Lawrence Pilut is reportedly considering signing a contract with a KHL team. However, this could be a negotiating ploy on his part. He’s a restricted free agent at the end of this season.

SPORTSNET: NHL Hall of Famer Willie O’Ree and former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy are among the 11 new inductees into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame. O’Ree has been involved in many diversity initiatives at all levels of hockey, while Kennedy has spent years advocating to protect vulnerable athletes and victims of sexual abuse.

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 23, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 23, 2020

The latest on the league’s potential plans to resume the schedule in July, stage the draft in June and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL SCHEDULING AND DRAFT NEWS

NHL.COM: Commissioner Gary Bettman told Sportsnet the NHL is considering a scenario of resuming the season by staging three games per day in arenas without fans. He said the number of cities and locations hasn’t been determined yet, but indicated they would be in areas that aren’t COVID-19 hot spots.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman (Photo via NHL.com).

The league also ruled out holding games in non-NHL neutral site cities because NHL arenas are best equipped to handle its needs if it decides to centralize games. Bettman stated the NHL isn’t in a race to resume action, stressing the importance of ensuring everyone involved is safe and healthy.

THE SCORE: Florida Panthers president Matthew Caldwell told a conference call yesterday the league is considering returning to action in July.

“At least for the NHL, we’re trying to target sometime in July and then when we feel that players are safe, we have enough testing, and have enough ways to get back on the ice, it’s probably going to be contained to playing at four or five neutral sites, so that’s all being discussed right now,” Caldwell said. “My guess is that we would start with either limited fans or empty arenas.” He added nothing’s been finalized, “but this is the direction things are going.”

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports it appears the league intends to complete its 82-game schedule divided into divisions and following an intradivisional schedule.

“Columbus and Carolina (Raleigh) would be options for the Metro Division; Tampa Bay and Florida (Sunrise) in the Atlantic; Minnesota and perhaps Colorado or Dallas in the Central and Calgary and Edmonton among those in the Pacific,” writes Brooks, who adds Las Vegas is also under consideration for a Pacific Division location.

Team presidents have been pushing for completing the schedule, rather than implementing an immediate, expanded playoff schedule. Plans also include expanding each team’s active roster to 30 players.

OTTAWA SUN: NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly remains optimistic about resuming the schedule this summer. “We have to be prepared for every eventuality. We need to do our due diligence so that the time it takes for us to respond to the circumstances is basically that the work is done and the only thing that needs to be implemented is the decision,” said Daly.

He added there’s been growing optimism over the past couple of weeks around the league. He also stressed holding those games would have to be done in a safe environment with plenty of readily-available testing.

Daly said the league hasn’t closed the door on staging game in non-NHL cities, but felt it makes more logistical sense to play neutral-site games in NHL cities. He said the league has been in touch with Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau’s office to keep them informed on the league’s plans for the seven Canadian franchises.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Alberta premier Jason Kenney said Bettman spoke to him about staging 2020 NHL playoff games in Alberta. Reports have suggested Edmonton as an option. The city has a high number of people tested for COVID-19 but a low number of confirmed cases and deaths per million.

ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes told the NHL it was interested in having its state serve as a host site to resume the schedule. The team has declined to comment on the matter.

 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bettman, Daly, and Caldwell aren’t definitively saying the league is returning to action in July. Nevertheless, it appears their wish is to resume the schedule during that month in NHL cities with the highest COVID-19 testing and the lowest confirmed cases and deaths.

Health and safety, however, remain primary concerns. League officials appear to be hoping for a flattening of the coronavirus curve in the cities they’re looking at staging their games. They also want to make sure the players have a training camp period (perhaps in June?) to get back into game shape and avoid unnecessary injuries. There must also be a sufficient self-quarantine period for players returning from European countries.

As a freelancer, I’ll be thrilled if the NHL returns in July. My income has taken a substantial hit since the schedule was paused in mid-March, so a resumption of the season will benefit me. However, I don’t want to see the league rush its return, only to end up shuttering again within weeks because a player or a league official tested positive for COVID-19. They must be certain they can ensure the health and safety of everyone involved.

Bettman also said the league floated the idea to the general managers of holding the 2020 NHL Draft in June before the season ends. “No decision has been made. And I said as we were getting some feedback, ‘We don’t live in a world of perfect anymore. We’re going to have to make adjustments.’

SPORTSNET: Daly said the league must decide “relatively quickly” if it’ll hold the draft in June. He said the league will consult with all 31 teams before deciding on staging a virtual draft two months from now.

TSN: NHL general managers will be paying close attention to the NFL’s 2020 Draft, which begins today and runs through Saturday, April 25. League commissioner Roger Goodell will be hosting a virtual draft, with team executives making their selections remotely from their homes.

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun examined the pros and cons of staging the NHL Draft in June ahead of the resumption of the schedule. While most team executives he spoke to seem cool to the idea, LeBrun speculates the league’s trial balloon was less to receive feedback and more of a heads-up of what is coming.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The league could be trying to gin up some excitement among sports fans for their product with a June draft, especially if a resumption of the season gets pushed ahead to August. Doing so, however, means untangling several problems, such as sorting out the draft lottery and addressing the issue of conditional draft picks exchanged in previous trades. There won’t be trades involving NHL players in a June draft if the league is returning to action soon afterward.

IN OTHER NHL NEWS…

NATIONAL POST: NHL Players Association executive director Donald Fehr isn’t ruling out the possibility of working out a multi-year extension to the current collective bargaining agreement with the NHL.

“It’s easy to envision scenarios in which in order to resolve everything we need to resolve, it would be much easier to do it in the context of a multi-year arrangement rather than a single year,” said Fehr. “Whether that’s going to come to pass remains to be seen. But it is certainly conceivable.”

Fehr said he and league commissioner Gary Bettman speak almost daily about the issues currently facing the league amid the coronavirus pandemic. For now, their focus is on salvaging this season.

THE SCORE: Arizona Coyotes GM John Chayka said the current NHL schedule hiatus won’t prevent his club from making a contract offer to Taylor Hall. The 28-year-old winger is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.

TSN: Jacob Markstrom said his goal is to stay with the Vancouver Canucks. The 30-year-old goaltender will become a UFA following this season.

DETROIT FREE PRESS: Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard donated $50K worth of N95 masks to the Detroit Medical Center.

LAS VEGAS SUN: The Golden Knights re-signed Nicolas Roy to a two-year contract extension worth an average of $750,000 a year.

NJ.COM: Devils interim head coach Alain Nasreddine hopes to stay on as their full-time coach after this season.

TWINCITES.COM: Minnesota Wild interim coach Dean Evason hopes he’s done enough to stay on as the club’s full-time bench boss.