NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 30, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 30, 2020

The latest return-to-play news plus updates on Carey Price, Mikko Rantanen, Nick Foligno, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

RETURN-TO-PLAY UPDATES

NHL.COM: The NHL announced 26 players out of over 250 tested positive for COVID-19 since Phase 2 of the return-to-play plan began on June 8. Fifteen who took part in small-group training tested positive while an additional 11 tested positive outside the Phase 2 protocols. All have self-isolated and are following CDC and Health Canada protocols. Over 1, 450 tests have been implemented.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The league didn’t indicate when those players contracted the coronavirus or the severity of their symptoms. Earlier reports indicated most were asymptomatic, with a small number having a low-grade fever. We also don’t know how many of those players have since recovered.

Those numbers will increase as more players report to their NHL cities ahead of Phase 3 (mandatory training camp) on July 10. Health and social distancing protocols will be stricter in Phase 3, though the league won’t be quarantining the players during that period.

TSN: Bob McKenzie reports a decision on the two host cities for the 24-team playoff tournament could come today. While the state of Nevada is seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases, Las Vegas could still be chosen as a host because it could have the best “locked-down” or “protected” bubble of the remaining candidates.

McKenzie also reports the league and the NHLPA appear to be getting closer toward an agreement on the final two phases of the return-to-plan plan and a CBA extension. A vote could come this week. July 10 is the tentative start date for Phase 3 but it could be pushed back a little with no effect upon the start of Phase 4 on July 30.

In a lengthy Twitter post, McKenzie pondered some possible changes in the CBA extension. He wanted to know if it would be 3 or 4 years or 3 years with a mutual opt-in/opt-out in year 4. He also wondered if there would be limitations on salary variance and signing bonuses, or opt-outs of the playoff tournament for players with existing medical conditions (diabetes, asthma, etc) or penalty-free opt-outs for those uncomfortable with taking part.

McKenzie points out the two sides still haven’t reached an agreement regarding bonus money owed on July 1. He also notes they must work out an international hockey calendar, but the Winter Olympics no longer appear a consideration.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unless the bonus issue is part of the CBA extension, the two sides might need a separate agreement on that, perhaps a tentative on to push the bonuses to the end of October as they did with expiring contracts.

Until recently, it was believed the players were keen to return to the Olympics. If that’s no longer the case it’s probably because the changes in the NHL calendar over the next couple of years and ongoing concerns over the coronavirus could make participation in the 2022 Beijing Winter Games almost impossible.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Sean Shapiro reports the availability and location of hotels near American Airlines Arena played a major role in Dallas being ruled out as a potential hub city.

IN OTHER NEWS…

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens goaltender Carey Price returned to Montreal for the first time since the schedule was paused in mid-March.

NHL.COM: Colorado Avalanche winger Mikko Rantanen skated with his teammates in Phase 2 training. Rantanen had been sidelined by an injured shoulder suffered in late February

Carolina Hurricanes goaltenders Petr Mrazek and James Reimer have recovered from their previous injuries. Sidelined defensemen Dougie Hamilton, Brett Pesce, and Sami Vatanen could be ready to participate in the Phase 3 training camp.

TSN: Columbus Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno said he and his teammates aren’t interested in the possibility of his club having a shot at winning the first-overall pick in the 2020 draft. “We play to win the Stanley Cup regardless,” he told SiriusXM NHL Network Radio. He added the No. 1 pick is management’s concern.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s a silly theory floated by some fans suggesting some teams in the qualifying round could tank to become eligible for the second phase of the draft lottery to determine the winner of the No. 1 pick. They’re not going to endure Phase 3 training camp followed by a locked-down Phase 4 tournament isolated from family and friends away from their home cities while undergoing constant COVID-19 testing just to have a 12.5 percent chance at winning the rights to Alexis Lafreniere. Their motivation is winning the Stanley Cup and helping the league recoup some of their $1.1 billion in losses from the COVID-19 shutdown. 

DETROIT FREE PRESS: The Red Wings canceled their prospect tournament in September and will conduct training camp for 2020-21 at Little Caesars Arena due to COVID-19.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): The sports-marketing agency Wasserman expanded its pool of European hockey talent by acquiring Acme World Sports. Acme’s clients include Boston’s Tuukka Rask, Carolina’s Teuvo Teravainen, Dallas’ Esa Lindell, and Toronto’s Kasperi Kapanen.

VANCOUVER SUN/TAMPA BAY TIMES: Vancouver Province sportswriter Tony Gallagher has been honored by the Hockey Hall of Fame as the recipient of the Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award for journalism excellence. Tampa Bay Lightning play-by-play man Rick Peckham received the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award for outstanding contributions by a broadcaster.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to Gallagher and Peckham.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 8, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – June 8, 2020

The latest on the Sharks and Wild in today’s NHL rumor mill.

WHICH UFAS WILL THE SHARKS RE-SIGN?

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Kevin Kurz recently examined which San Jose Sharks’ unrestricted free agents could be re-signed and those who have likely played their final games in teal.

Will the San Jose Sharks bring back Joe Thornton for one more season? (Photo via NHL Images)

He feels it would make sense to bring back Joe Thornton if the long-time Sharks center accepts a $1 million or less salary to provide the club with salary-cap flexibility. He’s leaning toward Thorton’s return but doesn’t consider it a certainty.

Kurz wouldn’t be surprised if the Sharks re-signed Melker Karlsson but could also see him move on to another club. Having traded away a penalty killer in Barclay Goodrow, it might be worthwhile to re-sign Karlsson if he accepts a pay cut.

Backup goalie Aaron Dell won’t be back unless the Sharks can trade starter Martin Jones, but his contract makes him nearly impossible to move. Stefan Noesen will likely get an affordable one- or two-year deal. Unless the Sharks trade Brent Burns, Kurz expects the Sharks will part ways with Tim Heed.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ve singled out the more notable of the Sharks’ UFAs. I can see Thornton, Karlsson, and Noesen being re-signed if they’re willing to accept cost-effective deals.

Cap Friendly indicates the Sharks have over $66 million invested in 13 players for 2020-21. General manager Doug Wilson indicated he believes his club can make a quick turnaround from this season’s disappointing performance. To do so, he’ll need those aforementioned free agents to accept affordable one-year contracts or watch them depart via free agency.

UPDATE ON THE WILD

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Michael Russo recently reported the league’s proposed roster expansion to 28 skaters and an unlimited number of goaltenders would allow the Minnesota Wild to use Kaapo Kahkonen in the 24-team playoff tournament.

Devan Dubnyk and Alex Stalock are the Wild’s current goalie tandem. However, coach Dean Evason isn’t ruling out the possibility of the AHL goalie of the year becoming their starter in the tournament if he plays well in training camp. “Whoever is in there that we deem is going to play well for us in whatever position, I’m sure everybody will support him and we will go forward,” said Evason.

Russo suggested it also makes sense for Wild general manager Bill Guerin to play Kahkonen to determine if the 23-year-old netminder is ready to become their No. 1 or No. 2 goalie next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild’s goaltending situation could get interesting in the off-season if Kahkonen outplays Dubnyk and Stalock in the proposed return-to-play tournament. Dubnyk has one season left on his contract with an annual average value of over $4.33 million and a 19-team trade list. Stalock has two years left at a cheap AAV of $785K. Should Kahkonen prove himself NHL-ready, Guerin could be tempted to use Dubnyk or Stalock as trade bait to address other roster needs.

Russo also reported Marcus Foligno hopes to sign a contract extension with the Minnesota Wild. The 28-year-old forward will become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Foligno’s become an effective third-line forward for the Wild. He carries a $2.875-million annual average value on his current contract. The Wild have over $39 million invested in just seven players for 2021-22, leaving plenty of space to re-sign Foligno if they choose.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 31, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 31, 2020

Logan Couture and Blake Wheeler speak out against racism, Nick Foligno weighs in on players who feel unsafe returning to play, the league issues a ruling on 2020 conditional picks, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA/TSN: San Jose Sharks captain Logan Couture and Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler are the latest NHL players to speak out against racism.

San Jose Sharks captain Logan Couture (Photo via NHL Images).

Couture expressed his appreciation and support for teammate Evander Kane and former NHL player Akim Aliu, who’ve spoken out against racism in hockey.

Wheeler, a Minnesota native, spoke out against the death of George Floyd, whose death last week sparked riots in Minneapolis and across America.

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Penguins president and CEO David Morehouse was credited with saving a local cameraman who was being beaten by a group of protesters outside PPG Paints Arena yesterday. Morehouse dragged the cameraman to safety before he was transported to the hospital. Morehouse declined to comment through a Penguins’ spokesman.

TSN: Columbus Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno believes NHL players uncomfortable about returning to play shouldn’t be vilified. He said he would understand if a player put the priority on his health or his family’s well-being during this pandemic. “If you don’t feel safe because of a condition or just a belief, then you have every right as a human not to return to play until you feel comfortable about it,” said Foligno.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Players with medical conditions – such as diabetics like Montreal’s Max Domi or the New York Rangers’ Kaapo Kakko – could decide not to play if they feel their health could be at risk. Some with family members who’ve have or have had medical issues, such as Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk, could opt out if facing possibly eight-to-ten weeks separated from their families.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Pierre LeBrun reports the NHL sent a memo to its teams dealing with the status of conditional trades for the 2020 Draft. A club won’t be deemed as having reached the playoffs unless or until they’ve progressed into the 16-team playoffs, and playoff games or rounds will only include those in the round of 16.

For example, the Vancouver Canucks’ conditional first-rounder to the Tampa Bay Lightning in last summer’s J.T. Miller trade converts into a 2021 first-rounder if the Canucks miss the 2020 playoffs. The Lightning sent that pick to the New Jersey Devils in February as part of the Blake Coleman trade.

If the Canucks defeat the Minnesota Wild in the qualifying round of the 24-team return-to-play tournament, their 2020 first-rounder belongs to the Devils. If not, the Devils instead get the Canucks’ 2021 first-rounder.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, the eight teams eliminated from the qualifying round will be deemed as non-playoff teams.

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports the NHL Players Association stridently opposes the league’s position that teams shouldn’t be permitted to sign players from their reserve lists to 2019-20 contracts so they can participate in the 24-team tournament. While deputy commissioner Bill Daly considered those players as “ringers”, Brooks noted no one had a problem with Cale Makar joining the Colorado Avalanche out of university last spring in the Stanley Cup playoffs, or Chris Kreider doing the same with the New York Rangers in 2012.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Good point. If this has been going on for years with no complaint by the league, it doesn’t make sense to arbitrarily block it because of the change to the schedule wrought by the pandemic. As Brooks points out, it would only apply to a handful of players.

Brooks also reports the league’s return-to-play committee will likely be dissolved once the final details of the tournament are hammered out. Bracketing or re-seeding and whether the opening two playoff rounds will be best-of-five or best-of-seven are expected to be resolved this week. There’s been no talk of implementing new rules for the tournament or making full-face shields mandatory as a safety measure.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen believes Columbus has a good chance of being one of the tournament’s two host cities. He cited the number of available arena and training facilities, transportation, and the state of Ohio’s efforts to flatten its COVID-19 curve.

LOS ANGELES TIMES: The Kings have parted ways with Mike Stothers, the long-time coach of their minor-league affiliate.

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 16, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 16, 2020

A plan to resume the season could be coming soon, the latest on this year’s draft, P.K. Subban believes he’s still among the top defensemen, Ales Hemsky retires, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

LATEST ON THE NHL’S PLANS FOR THE SEASON AND THE DRAFT

TVA SPORTS: Renaud Lavoie reports a source claims the NHL and NHL Players’ Association could have a plan in place next week to determine what the remainder of the 2019-20 schedule will look like. Several issues must be worked out with the Canadian and American governments regarding travel, work vias, and self-quarantining. Decisions must also be reached determining the four hub cities and the type of playoff format. An NHL Board of Governors meeting is set tor Monday, which could shed more light on this plan.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Stars owner Tom Gaglardi believes “there’s a very high likelihood” the NHL will stage its postseason at some point this summer. “I expect we will play the season. I think we’re down to logistics, said Gaglardi. “I keep saying it, people that talk to me are tired of hearing it, but it really comes down to being able to test, effectively test on a timely basis. If we can test, I think the season is going to happen.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving also hinted this week that a decision on a return-to-play schedule could be coming soon. Whenever it does, we’ll get more details on how those other issues will be addressed. The host cities will be decided by local and state/provincial officials. Toronto mayor John Tory cautioned pro sports (even without fans) might not return to his city until this fall. That would take Toronto out of the running as a host city. 

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch scolds some NHL general managers for their resistance toward staging the 2020 Draft in June before the presumption of this season. The proposed draft lottery format based on points percentage, the risk of the draft lottery winner going on to win the Stanley Cup, the inability to trade established NHL players, and the possibility of non-contending Chicago Blackhawks and Montreal Canadiens being able to participate in an expanded playoff format are among their concerns.

New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Garrioch believes those general managers are missing a golden opportunity to capitalize on the lack of live sports for big programming ratings by holding the draft in June.

I disagree.

As The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson observed, the NFL got big ratings last month for its draft because more sports fans follow US college football than follow junior, college, and European hockey, which is where NHL prospects come from.

The possibility of a blockbuster trade involving established NHL stars generates as much excitement during the draft as the coverage of the opening round. Without those trades, many fans will probably tune out following the first round. 

IN OTHER NEWS…

NJ.COM: Despite a lousy performance this season, New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban still believes he’s among the NHL best defensemen. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Subban’s play has declined since 2017-18, prompting some to suggest that his best seasons are behind him, as well as stoking criticism that he’s putting more focus on his interests outside hockey. The 31-year-old’s confidence in his abilities remains unshakable, but he’ll need a strong performance next season to silence his doubters. 

WINNIPEG SUN: Jets winger Patrik Laine and goaltender Connor Hellebuyck are among the NHL stars taking part in an upcoming Fortnite tournament for charity. Others include Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon, Carolina’s Sebastian Aho, Ottawa’s Thomas Chabot, Toronto’s Mitch Marner, and Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno is regularly checking in with his teammates on their mental health. 

SPORTSNET: The minimum wage class-action lawsuit against the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) has been settled for $30 million. It brings to an end a six-year standoff with former players over whether “WHL, OHL, and QMJHL players are “employees” or “student-athletes.” 

TSN: The Washington Capitals extended its affiliation with the AHL’s Hershey Bears. 

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Former NHL winger Ales Hemsky announced his retirement. He spent nearly 11 of his 15 NHL seasons with the Edmonton Oilers, followed by stops with the Ottawa Senators, Dallas Stars, and Montreal Canadiens, amassing 174 goals and 572 points in 845 NHL games. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A slick playmaker, Hemsky’s best seasons were with the Oilers, which included two 70-plus point performances. He probably would’ve had more if not for injuries. Best of luck to him in his future endeavors. 










NHLers Not Giving Up Hope, But Recognize Season Could Be Over

NHLers Not Giving Up Hope, But Recognize Season Could Be Over

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 27, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 27, 2020

An Avalanche player tests positive for COVID-19, plus the latest on Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, P.K. Subban, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE DENVER POST: A Colorado Avalanche player has tested positive for COVID-19. He’s been in isolation and has recovered. The club has not released his name. The Avs were in a coronavirus “hot spot” in San Jose between March 7 and 8, during which they played the Sharks the night after the Ottawa Senators also played there. Two Senators tested positive for COVID-19. The Avs also played the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on March 9. The Kings share that venue with the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers, who had two players test positive for the virus.

TSN: Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin indicated they wouldn’t mind if the 2020 playoffs began right away if the NHL resumes this season. New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban would be in favor of a 31-team playoff tournament. His club is 13 points out of a playoff spot.

Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby (Photo via NHL Images).

Columbus Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno cautioned against agreeing to a schedule where the 2020-21 season begins soon after completion of the current one. “We’ve got to think about the health and safety of our star players,” Foligno said. “That’s a lot of games in one [calendar] year that we’re not used to. “I’m not saying guys won’t grind out a way to do it, because us hockey players will find a way. But you’ve got to think about the longevity of guys’ careers and their health as well.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I understand why players on teams currently not in playoff contention favoring a tournament that provides their clubs with some sort of relevant finish to this season. Otherwise, as Subban pointed out, they’d be working out to stay in shape simply to play some meaningless games if the league resumes the remainder of the current schedule.

Foligno makes a great point about looking after the health and safety of the players. Staging the two seasons close together without much recovery time in between will put the players at a greater risk to suffers injuries.

SPORTSNET: Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews donated $100K to the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund.

BANGOR DAILY NEWS: Detroit Red Wings goaltender (and former UMaine goalie) Jimmy Howard hopes to play one more NHL season. He acknowledged he’d have to transition to a backup role, but feels he could be a good mentor to a young netminder. Howard acknowledged that will depend on whether any other general managers feel the same way. Howard is eligible for unrestricted free agent status this summer.

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun reports the NHL is considering several options regarding its recently postponed 2020 Draft. One is staging the full draft at a later date in Montreal, though that appears a long shot. Another is holding a smaller scale draft similar to that which followed the season-killing 2004-05 lockout. A third is staging a virtual draft involving all the NHL teams’ front offices. The latter seems the likeliest option, with the Canadiens hosting a full draft in 2021 or 2022.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The full draft won’t be held. It’ll either be a stripped-down one or the virtual draft.