NHL Free Agents Still Playing The Waiting Game
The league continues to explore options to resume the season, a look at how the Blues’ revenue will be affected by the pause in the schedule, Massachusetts attorney-general calls on Bruins to compensate employees, and much more in the NHL morning coffee headlines.
TSN: NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league has been in almost constant contact with the NHL Players’ Association, its teams, general managers and medical experts since pausing the season over the coronavirus pandemic.
He also indicated concerns over what next season’s salary-cap figures could look like are well down the league’s priority list right now but hinted the final figure might not be tied to hockey-related revenue given the unusual circumstances. “(It’s) really somewhat artificial because it is a function of what we and the players’ association agree it to be,” he said. “What that means, what that number is, whether it can fit existing contracts and the like is all something that ultimately we’re going to have to work out.”
As for what the schedule will look like when the league returns, Daly stressed the importance of coming up with one that’s fair and has integrity. He pointed out the lowest number of games played by any one team is 68, constituting a meaningful season. “Whether our playoff format can mirror that legitimacy is something we’ll have to ensure.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As most clubs have played around 70 games, I think this season can be considered legitimate if they were to simply return to action by jumping into the playoffs right away. It appears they want to avoid that scenario, but the pandemic will be the deciding factor over whether this season can be saved in some form.
The NHL and NHLPA prefer finishing the season because it’ll salvage some of that projected $1 billion in potentially lost revenue if the schedule was scrapped. Daly’s comments regarding the salary cap confirm what most of us suspected. The league and the PA won’t return with a cap below the current $81.5 million. It could remain at that level for next season, or they could agree to bump it up slightly to $84 million.
A potential sticking point under the latter scenario, however, is the increase in escrow clawbacks from the players’ salaries. Another could be the long-term effects of a significant recession brought about by this pandemic. It’ll be interesting to see how the two sides navigate through those tricky waters.
NHL has another conference call with GMs scheduled for Tuesday. Another update. Teams have a lot of questions of course. Some which still can’t be answered I’m thinking.
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) March 20, 2020
STLTODAY.COM: The stoppage of play due to the coronavirus pandemic could cost the St. Louis Blues millions of dollars. The fan cost index for the Blues is $374.57 per game. Estimating capacity crowds for their final six home games, the Blues could lose around $10.2 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Though the numbers will vary, every NHL team is facing losses in the millions if their remaining home games are canceled. Because the NHL remains a gate-driven league, it’s understandable why the team owners and players are keen to return to action as soon as possible.
If they do resume the season sometime between May to August, they won’t recoup most of those losses. With millions of North Americans being hit hard financially by this pandemic, the league’s revenue streams will be adversely affected. They could maintain next season’s cap at $81.5 million, but if the economy sinks into a deep recession through next season, the league will feel it at the box office, impacting the salary cap going forward.
BOSTON HERALD: Massachusetts attorney-general Maura Healey called on the Boston Bruins’ ownership to compensate its part-time employees while the NHL schedule remains paused. The Bruins are the only club that hasn’t done so.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Whatever the reason behind ownership’s decision, it certainly doesn’t cast them in a good light, especially when Bruins players are contributing to a GoFundMe page to help those part-time employees.
NHL.COM: The Florida Department of Health informed the Florida Panthers and the BB&T Center that a part-time arena employee tested positive for COVID-19 on March 15. The employee is self-quarantined and receiving medical assistance.
WINNIPEG SUN: Jets players donated $100K to the Winnipeg Harvest food bank on Friday.
CAP FRIENDLY: has the complete list of recent entry-level NHL signings of college players.
A list of still-unsigned NHL unrestricted free agents, plus an update on Alex Tanguay.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Justin Dickie lists defenseman Matt Bartkowski, right wing David Jones, left wing Lauri Korpikoski, defenseman Kyle Quincey, goaltender Karri Ramo, blueliners Kris Russell and Dennis Seidenberg, center Jarret Stoll, left wing Alex Tanguay and defenseman James Wisniewski as 10 unsigned free agents who could still contribute to NHL teams.
LA PRESSE: Marc-Antoine Godin reports Alex Tanguay’s agent said there are two or three teams interested in his client. The 36-year-old is willing to accept a one-year contract. While some of his peers accept professional tryout offers, Tanguay’s believes netting 35 points in 70 games last season puts him in a position to receive more than a PTO. While Tanguay contacted Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin earlier this summer to express his willingness to return to the Habs, they’re not among those three potential suitors. .
Meanwhile, the agent for UFA forward Steve Bernier claims no fewer than seven teams had expressed interest in his client. It’s unknown if he’ll a get a one-way, two-way or tryout contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s tough for those remaining UFAs right now. Whatever leverage they had disappeared followed the opening days of free agency in early July. They must now wait for teams to clear some salary-cap space, or for positions to open up in training camp. Of those still available, I’d say Russell, Wisniewski, Quincky, Tanguay and Korpikoski are the best of the bunch.
Next summer’s pool of NHL free agents is a potentially deep one, but another marginal increase in the salary cap could make big-money contracts difficult to find. (more…)
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