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.


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. 


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.


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.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.


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.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 26, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 26, 2020

The NHL postpones the scouting combine, awards show, and draft, plus the latest on Henrik Lundqvist, Jake Guentzel and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The league yesterday announced the postponements of the 2020 NHL Scouting Combine, the 2020 Bridgestone NHL Awards, and the 2020 NHL Draft, which were originally scheduled for June 1-6 in Buffalo, N.Y., June 18 in Las Vegas, and June 26-27 in Montreal respectively. The moves come as a result of ongoing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. Location, timings, and format for the draft and the NHL draft lottery will be announced at a later date.

The 2020 NHL Draft has been postponed.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This announcement is a clear indication the league intends to resume its season, or at least stage the playoffs, during the summer if possible. I anticipate the draft combine and awards shows will be scrubbed entirely, with the latter perhaps handed out via official announcement at season’s end or a smaller ceremony involving the nominated players following the season. I also expect the draft lottery will be staged at some point during the playoffs (whenever that might be), with the draft staged via teleconference following the post-season.

THE ATHLETIC: Craig Custance reports one NHL team submitted a proposal for a tournament in which teams eligible for the draft lottery would play for the first-overall pick in this year’s draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Yeah, that’ll go over well with the Detroit Red Wings, who have the best odds of winning that pick in the draft lottery. I’ll be very surprised if the league approves that proposal.

TSN: Dr. Winne Meeuwisse, the league’s chief medical officer, warns the differences across the NHL’s 31 market concerning testing, controlling and managing healthcare resources will affect when the players can return to action. The league must also determine the risks to the players, staff, and fans.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: NHL Players Association executive director Donald Fehr said he and his staff remain in constant communication with their membership. He claimed between 400-500 players participated in team conference calls. He anticipates those calls will grow in frequency whenever the league gets close to returning to the ice.

NEW YORK POST: Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist donated $100,000.00 to the Food Bank for New York City, plus “Campus Pantries as well as 27 community-based pop-up mobile markets, hoping to cover for the loss of meals provided in schools which have closed as part of the response to the coronavirus crisis.”

TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford is confident sidelined winger Jake Guentzel could be ready to return to the lineup once the season resumes. Guentzel underwent shoulder surgery in December and is rehabbing well. The timeline for recovery was four-to-six months.

TSN: The cancellation of the KHL season means its players on expiring contracts are free to sign with NHL clubs by May 1.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That means players like Montreal Canadiens prospect Alexander Romanov could make their NHL debuts if the season resumes this summer.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Speaking of the Canadiens, they re-signed Gustav Olofsson to a one-year, two-way contract.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Stars CEO Jim Lites and GM Jim Nill are taking 50 percent pay cuts to alleviate the financial stress on the organization as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula pledged $1.2 million to provide aid to Western New York during the pandemic.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: Lightning players created a fund to help all of the part-time employees of the team and Amalie Arena. The team will also donate “500,000 meals to Feeding Tampa Bay, a food rescue and distribution center in the Feeding America network.”

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: The United Center, home of the Blackhawks, will become “a logistics hub where we will be assisting front-line food distribution, first-responder staging and the collection of critically needed medical supplies.”

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Carolina Hurricanes GM Don Waddell clarified an e-mail sent to the club’s non-contracted employees that those who used up their vacation and personal time would be off without pay. ” “Everyone will get paid and we’ll figure it out after that.” He said the directive applied only to next week and that the team policy would be reviewed on a week-to-week basis, adding that the employees’ benefits would not be affected.”

ESPN.COM: Hockey equipment manufacturer Bauer has switched to making medical equipment during this pandemic.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Bruins ownership announced 68 full-time employees will be placed on temporary leave with one week’s pay and eight weeks of full-time benefit effective April 1. “In addition, 82 full-time salaried associates will be hit with an indefinite salary reduction. Anyone that has an employment contract will not fall under these cost-saving measures being made as a result of the Coronavirus impact.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bruins ownership is being pilloried in the Boston media for this decision. Principal owner Jeremy Jacobs is reportedly worth $3.3 billion. This decision will do little to bolster his already low popularity.

Will the NHLPA Opt Out of the NHL CBA?

Will the NHLPA Opt Out of the NHL CBA?


NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 21, 2019

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 21, 2019

More fallout from the Milan Lucic-for-James Neal trade plus the latest contract signings in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE SCORE: James Neal is ready for a fresh start with the Edmonton Oilers following last season’s career-worst performance with the Calgary Flames. On Friday, the Flames traded the 31-year-old right-winger to the Oilers for left winger Milan Lucic.

Winger James Neal is looking forward to joining the Edmonton Oilers (Photo via NHL Images).

Neal acknowledged he had a “tough go” in 2018-19. He feels he plays his best hockey when he’s around other players who can move the puck. “For me, I’m a shooter and I do my best hockey when I’m getting open and finding fresh ice.”

Speaking of Lucic, he said former Flames captain Jarome Iginla helped convince him to waive his no-movement clause to accept the trade to Calgary. They’re also former teammates, having played together with the Boston Bruins in 2013-14.

Lucic said he and Iginla had a good talk before he accepted the trade. “He told me what a great hockey town Calgary is, how much the people are behind the Flames. It’s a fan base that loves seeing effort. They obviously want to win, but regardless, they love the heart-and-soul guys, the guys who give their all, who don’t compromise, which I like to think speaks to the way I play.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As I noted in the aftermath of the trade, it’ll be interesting to see which player benefits most from this change of scenery. At least this deal provided a bit of excitement as we enter the dog days of the NHL offseason.

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: The Carolina Hurricanes avoided salary arbitration with forward Brock McGinn, re-signing him to a two-year, $4.2-million contract. “McGinn, 25, will be paid $1.9 million in 2019-20 and $2.3 million in 2020-21.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The annual average value is $2.1 million. That’s around the going rate for a fourth-line NHL forward these days. Cap Friendly indicates the Hurricanes have over $2.4 million in salary-cap space.

DKPITTSBURGHSPORTS.COM: A source claims the Toronto Maple Leafs signed UFA forward Garrett Wilson. He played 50 games with the Penguins last season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Terms of this deal have yet to be disclosed. Given the Leafs’ cap crunch, it’s likely a two-way contract or a league minimum one-way deal that can be easily buried in the minors.

YARDBARKER: Former Minnesota Wild center Eric Fehr signed with Switzerland’s Geneve-Servette HC.

SPORTSNET: The St. Louis Blues re-signed goaltender Ville Husso to a one-year, two-way deal.

NHL CBA Watch – January 2019

NHL CBA Watch – January 2019

The current NHL collective bargaining agreement is slated to expire on Sept. 15, 2022. However, the league or the NHL Players Association each have the choice for an early opt-out. The NHL can exercise that option on Sept. 1 and the PA on Sept. 19.

If either side takes the early out, the current CBA will expire on Sept. 15, 2020.

Can the NHL & NHLPA avoid another lockout?

Given the contentious negotiation history between the two sides, it wouldn’t be surprising if there’s another lockout next year. However, there are indications another lengthy labor battle can be avoided.

On Nov. 4, 2018, Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston first raised the possibility of labor peace, noting they were already discussing the prospect of staging a World Cup of Hockey tournament in September 2020. He indicated they were also leaning toward talks aimed at avoiding CBA negotiations at that time, depending on whether one or the other votes to opt out of the current agreement.

Johnston cited colleague Elliotte Friedman indicating the league needed to know by January 2019 if staging that tournament next September was doable. Since then, there’s a belief the league has set the upcoming All-Star weekend in San Jose (Jan 25-26) as a deadline.

TSN insider Pierre LeBrun, in a recent column for The Athletic (subscription required), also reported the two sides would meet this week to discuss the World Cup. He wondered if those talks might pave the way toward a new CBA.

According to the New York Post’s Larry Brooks, the league is doing everything it can to avoid another lockout. In his Nov. 17, 2018 column, he cited sources claiming league commissioner Gary Bettman, who already has three lockouts on his resume, isn’t keen to add a fourth.

Brooks also said there was no indication at that point in time suggesting the league’s more hawkish team owners would try to push Bettman into another hardline approach with the PA. He added the atmosphere between the two sides is much less contentious compared to previous CBA talks, suggesting there is a reason for optimism as the two sides continued preliminary talks.

Bettman certainly doesn’t sound like he’s gearing up for another labor war. Last week, the commissioner told reporters he’s “not looking for a fight”, preferring to extend or renew the CBA “with minimum fanfare.” 

On Saturday, Chris Johnston reported there’s a meeting planned in Toronto later this week between the two sides. Unlike previous CBA negotiations, Johnston said there isn’t a fundamental issue that justifies another lengthy work stoppage. While smaller issues persist, he feels they’re not worth fighting about.

There’s some disagreement over whether escrow will be a significant issue. Last Saturday, Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos said escrow relief was a priority for the players. But in his column in November, Brooks reported escrow doesn’t appear the significant driving force for the players as it once was.

Brooks noted the players began this season with 11.5 percent clawed back from their pay but the league informed them to expect a postseason refund of 8 percent. Instead, the PA could seek a change in the way long-term injury payments are calculated into the salary cap.

Under the current system, the players bear the cost and subsidize the league when other players go on LTIR. If that was eliminated, Brooks said it would reduce escrow and also slightly tilt the 50-50 revenue split. He felt the league will want something significant in return, such as perhaps a redefinition of hockey-related revenue to benefit the teams.

But in an interview last week with Sportsnet’s Bob McCown and John Shannon, player agent Allan Walsh insisted escrow remains the player’s primary issue. While they aren’t happy about the high rates currently withheld from their salaries, Walsh said there are formulas that could provide some flexibility to reduce the escrow burden to a level the players could accept.

Whether the league agrees to a reduced escrow rate or a revised LTIR payment system, they’ll still want something from the PA in return.  Perhaps, as ESPN.com’s Greg Wyshynski wrote last week, it might be reduced term limits on player contracts.

Under the current CBA, re-signed players are limited to eight-year deals and unrestricted free agents to seven years. Wyshynski pointed out the league attempted to get seven-year limits on re-signed players and five years for UFAs during the last round of collective bargaining.

Acknowledging the players’ hatred of escrow, Wyshynski cautioned against giving up long-term contracts. If they do, he fears they’ll never get it back.

Not everyone is pleased with the prospect of linking CBA negotiations with a deadline for an agreement on the next World Cup of Hockey.

Last Thursday, TSN’s Frank Seravalli reported player agent Anton Thun believes the PA shouldn’t be negotiating a new CBA at this time. He also said he hadn’t heard from his clients if NHLPA director Donald Fehr had any mandate from the players to engage in extension talks.

With a high number of younger talent making an impact upon the league, Thun feels there could be a significant shift upon the league’s economic landscape within the next 12 months as those players start becoming eligible for new contracts. He feels the PA shouldn’t be extending the CBA until those effects are fully understood.

Things could get ugly between Fehr and the players if he and his staff are pressing on with CBA extension talks without the approval of the PA membership. However, it seems unlikely he’d engage in such discussions without their blessing.

At this point, everything’s in the preliminary stage. Fehr could have authority for exploratory talks with the understanding that official negotiations with the league will need the players’ consent. 

As Seravalli observed, mandate or not, the PA and the league appear to be well along with preliminary discussions. On Saturday, Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reported there’s a meeting planned in Toronto later this week between the two sides.

While the pundits caution that these are merely early discussions, all are striking an optimistic chord. Some are daring to dream of a new collective bargaining agreement without a lengthy labor battle to get it. 

If the NHL and NHLPA agree to stage the next World Cup of Hockey in September 2020, it’ll be the best early indication that a new CBA could be hammered out before then. At the very least, it’ll mean neither side will take their early opt-outs this fall, ensuring the current agreement runs its course to September 2022.

Stay tuned…