NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 17, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 17, 2020

The NHL is still pushing for a mid-January start to 2020-21, the Wild sign Andrew Hammond as Alex Stalock remains sidelined, the Blackhawks name Stan Bowman president of hockey operations, and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: League commissioner Gary Bettman said the 2020-21 season could start in mid-January with a shortened schedule, a temporary divisional realignment with one of them composing all seven Canadian teams, division games only, and games in home arenas, hub cities or a combination of both.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman (NHL.com).

Bettman indicated discussions between the NHL and NHL Players Association are ongoing as they try to adjust to government regulations at every level arising from COVID-19. He reiterated that playing an entire season in a quarantine bubble similar to the 2020 playoffs isn’t feasible. However, the league could consider moving teams toward a hub if enough of them cannot hold training camps or games in their home arenas due to local restrictions.

The commissioner maintains the biggest challenge facing the league remains to ensure the health and safety of the players and the support staff while ensuring they’re not doing anything that puts local communities at risk.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports five cities are under consideration if the NHL begins the season in hub locations. “Columbus, Newark, Vegas, and Toronto/Edmonton” are potential hubs but they won’t be permanent bubbles as in the playoffs.

KUKLA’S KORNER: cites TSN’s Frank Seravalli tweeting he’s heard the NHL is considering a triple header for opening night, centered around the Tampa Bay Lightning raising its 2020 Stanley Cup banner (“vs. CHI?”), with a “big East clash (NYR/BOS?) first and marquee West matchup late (COL/STL?).” While the league remains focused on a Jan. 13 start, Seravalli said they’re not beholden to that date. “Could be a week later.”

THE SCORE: cited Seravalli reporting Bettman sought the council of Dr. Anthony Fauci from the National Institutes of Health over the course of the pandemic. Fauci recommended the best way to start the NHL season safely was to do so in hub cities. While that’s not the preference of the teams and the players, Seravalli said that option remains on the table.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Quebec premier Francois Legault believes the Canadiens and the league can put measures in place to protect the players. The Habs are hoping to receive permission to stage training camp at its practice facility in Brossard.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’m growing skeptical that the league can stage its season-opener on Jan. 13. Recent reports suggest a vote of approval by the league board of governors and the NHLPA executive would have to come by the end of this week to meet the necessary timelines.

The 2020-21 season will take place. The team owners and the players want it to happen. However, it could take a little longer than expected to reach an agreement because of the work required to address the issues raised by the pandemic. Jan. 13 remains possible but I wouldn’t be surprised if the season opener gets moved into late January.

TWINCITIES.COM: Minnesota Wild goaltender Alex Stalock is sidelined indefinitely with an upper-body injury. It’s expected promising Kaapo Kahkonen will back up starter Cam Talbot to begin the 2020-21 season. Talbot was signed in October to a three-year, $11 million contract.

The Wild also confirmed the signing of goalie Andrew Hammond to a one-year, two-way contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hammond will likely start the season with their affiliate in Iowa when the AHL begins its season on Feb. 5.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: The Blackhawks named Stan Bowman as their president of hockey operations. He’ll retain his role as general manager.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The move has raised questions over whether Bowman can be his own boss. I wonder if this is a possible transition move if ownership decides at some point to make a change in the GM’s office.

CALGARY SUN: Former NHL goaltender Jason LaBarbera takes over as the Flames full-time goalie coach as the club announced the creation of a restructured goaltending department.

SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ken Hadall, the man charged with theft of hockey memorabilia from Walter Gretzky, has deep ties with the Gretzky family, as well as Hockey Hall-of-Famers Doug Gilmour and Bobby Orr. Hadall was slated for induction into the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame in Parry Sound, Ontario.

Meanwhile, Ontario Provincial Police officer June Dobson also faces fraud and breach of trust charges in connection to a stick from Wayne Gretzky’s childhood sold to a memorabilia dealer for $6,000.00. The two cases aren’t related but the Dobson case stemmed from the Hadall investigation. She was a friend of Walter Gretzky for many years.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Both have not been convicted of the charges and remain innocent until proven guilty. If the latter, they would’ve taken advantage of one of the kindest men in hockey.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 16, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 16, 2020

Updates on negotiations for the 2020-21 season, two people arrested for stealing Wayne Gretzky memorabilia, Mark Messier loses money on a cannabis investment deal, the latest on Oskar Lindblom and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TSN: Darren Dreger reports issues such as roster size and taxi squads are slowing down negotiations between the NHL and NHLPA aimed at starting the 2020-21 season on Jan. 13. Frank Seravalli said the effect on the salary cap of transferring a player between the roster and the taxi squad is also part of the discussion. At this point, it would be handled similar to the rules regarding a demotion to the AHL.

Pierre LeBrun points out teams are at the mercy of local health restrictions, especially in Canada. As of Tuesday, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators each have over 30 players that have returned, while the Winnipeg Jets have nine, the Montreal Canadiens under 10, the Edmonton Oilers have 12 and the Calgary Flames 26.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those health restrictions vary from city to city and province to province. It’s affecting quarantine rules and use of training facilities, which could explain why the Jets and Canadiens have a low number of players in their respective cities.

Dreger reports the league is looking into allowing a limited number of fans to attend games in select markets depending on the restrictions of each city in each state. Seravalli points out that will be only if the league can open in all 31 of its cities. That remains in doubt as some teams, like the San Jose Sharks, are planning to open training camp in Arizona because of restrictions in their own market.

COLORADO HOCKEY NOW: Adrian Dater reports sources are saying the concept of hub cities is no longer on the drawing board. He said each team will play their regular-season home games in their own buildings with travel limited only to games within a team’s division.

Because of the new COVID-19 vaccines, the NHL feels confident it can stage a regular season in which teams travel from city to city despite the strict protocols. The league remains adamant it will not attempt to jump the queue to obtain vaccinations ahead of others.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This NH season is going to open but the projected Jan. 13 start date could change. A vote approving the format for ’20-’21 needs a vote of approval by the league board of governors and the NHLPA’s 31-member executive. It’s required by the end of this week to meet the timeline for a Jan. 13 start. That date could be pushed into late January if more time is required to work out the details.

SPORTSNET: Two people were arrested by Brantford, Ontario police after Wayne Gretzky memorabilia was stolen from his father’s home. A three-month investigation involving searches of homes in Ontario and Alberta by police (including the RCMP and Ontario Provincial Police) recovered several items with an estimated combined value of over $500K USD. The investigation is ongoing.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Walter Gretzky is the world’s most famous hockey dad and among the kindest people in hockey. Shame on those people for stealing from him.

YAHOO SPORTS: Hockey Hall-of-Famer Mark Messier is suing the CEO of an Alberta cannabis company after he allegedly lost his $500K investment. Messier claimed the company also used his celebrity to raise $30 million in funding.

THE SCORE: Philadelphia Flyers winger Oskar Lindblom is cancer-free just over a year after being diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma. He finished his treatments on July 2 and suited up with the Flyers in the 2020 playoffs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Here’s hoping Lindblom enjoys a long, cancer-free life.

TSN: cites The Athletic’s Michael Russo reporting the Minnesota Wild are close to signing free-agent goaltender Andrew Hammond. He speculates this could mean Wild backup Alex Stalock could be hurt entering training camp. Stalock reportedly hasn’t been on the ice.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Former San Jose Sharks forward Melker Karlsson has signed with Swedish club Skelleftea AIK for the remainder of the 2020-21 season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No indication if Karlsson has an out-clause if he signs with an NHL club. The report indicating it’s for the remainder of the season suggests he didn’t get any NHL offers to his liking. The flattened salary cap for this season could be a factor, which doesn’t bode well for comparable players still available in the UFA market.

STLTODAY.COM: The Blues have promoted Ryan Miller (no, not the NHL goaltender) as their new assistant general manager.

WHL.COM: The Western Hockey League has delayed the start of its 2020-21 season because of public health restrictions across Western Canada and the US Pacific Northwest. The board of governors will meet in January to discuss possible start dates.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That could affect the development of WHL players hoping to be selected in the 2021 NHL Draft.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 12, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 12, 2020

The league is exploring selling ads on players’ helmets, the Red Wings trade Dmytro Timashov to the Islanders, a Wayne Gretzky rookie card made history and an update on Guy Lapointe’s health in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman recently reported the NHL is looking into selling ads on players’ helmets. The idea was brought up during Wednesday’s Board of Governors’ meeting.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Traditionalists will howl in protest but ads on jerseys and helmets was an inevitability. COVID-19 just hastened the process. The NHL is a business and always on the lookout for revenue opportunities. The hit to hockey-related revenue brought about by the pandemic necessitates exploring this option.

Detroit Red Wings trade Dmytro Timashov to the New York Islanders (NHL Images)

NHL fans have long accepted ads on rink boards and on the ice. As long as it doesn’t turn the players into gaudy skating billboards like some European leagues it shouldn’t be an issue.

MLIVE.COM/NEWSDAY: The Detroit Red Wings yesterday traded winger Dmytro Timashov to the New York Islanders for future considerations. Timashov, 24, is a restricted free agent who played five games with the Wings last season after they claimed him off waivers from the Toronto Maple Leafs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is the first trade of an NHL player since Oct. 12, when the Vegas Golden Knights shipped defenseman Nate Schmidt to the Vancouver Canucks. 

Keep an eye on the Wings in the coming weeks once the start date for this season is officially announced. MLive.com’s Ansar Khan suggests this move leaves the Wings with sufficient salary-cap space to take on an expensive expiring contract from a cap-strapped club if that team includes a high draft pick. GM Steve Yzerman has indicated he could acquire another player before the season begins.

It’s an interesting move by the Islanders, who are pressed for cap space with Mathew Barzal to re-sign. Newsday’s Andrew Gross points out Isles GM Lou Lamoriello knows Timashov from their days with the Leafs. Perhaps Lamoriello will sign the winger to a cost-effective contract that can be buried in the minors if necessary without denting the Isles’ limited cap space for the upcoming season.

THE SCORE: A 1979 mint O-Pee-Chee Wayne Gretzky rookie card set a record by becoming the first hockey card to surpass $1 million in an auction. The card was sold on Thursday for $1.29 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As the report indicates, The Great One is still setting records over 20 years after his retirement.

NHL.COM: Hall-of-Fame defenseman Guy Lapointe has been declared cancer-free following aggressive treatment for oral cancer earlier this year. Lapointe spent 13 of his 16 NHL seasons with the Montreal Canadiens, winning six Stanley Cups.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to “Pointu” in his ongoing recovery.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 8, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 8, 2020

NHL, NHLPA target 56-game schedule starting Jan. 13, agree not to change the economic framework of CBA extension. Details and more in the morning coffee headlines.

SPORTSNET/TSN: Elliotte Friedman and Darren Dreger reported the NHL and NHLPA continue discussions aimed at a 56-game schedule beginning Jan. 13. Friedman indicates that includes “Training camps, opt-outs, testing, the schedule, the playoffs, re-alignment, you name it.”

Friedman also reports last season’s non-playoff clubs would begin training camp on Dec. 28 while the other 24 clubs begin on Jan. 1. It appears there won’t be any exhibition games. He also believes a short-term “hub plan” is being worked on but the preference remains for all teams playing in their home arenas. A potential problem is staging training camps in cities with strict COVID-19 restrictions such as Montreal, San Jose and Winnipeg.

Pierre LeBrun reports the plan will require approval from the NHL board of governors and the NHLPA membership. Friedman said there’s a desire to have it ready for approval by the end of this week.

The stalemate between the NHL and NHLPA over the league’s requests for increased escrow and salary deferral rates has ended with both sides agreeing the economic framework of the CBA won’t be changed.

Friedman and Dreger reported the players refused to consider any changes to escrow. On Sunday, they proposed to defer additional monies but wanted a significant concession from the league. Friedman reports one of their suggestions was a slight increase to the salary cap to put more money into the system. While that would’ve affected how much the players would have to give back to maintain the 50-50 revenue split, Friedman said the escrow caps in place weren’t a concern to the current group of players.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The dispute over the escrow and deferral rates was a significant obstacle. The players’ refusal to budge appears to have forced the league to consider other options to make up a potential revenue shortfall.

A cap on escrow was what the players wanted and they were justified in insisting the league abide by the agreement. They could end up owing the league much more in escrow debt toward the end of the CBA extension but they seem willing to accept that potential consequence.

Both sides want to stage a season because there’s a lot at stake here. They cannot afford not to play when other major pro leagues are carrying on with their respective schedules. There are broadcasting and advertising contracts to be honored and the potential for a lucrative new US TV deal at the end of this season.

Some readers suggested the league could afford to shut down this season because of the three lockouts since 1994-95. The difference is league headquarters and the team owners were financially prepared for work stoppages arising from labor disputes with the NHLPA. They weren’t ready for the effects of a pandemic, plus they would face a strong legal challenge from the PA.

So how will the NHL find the $300 million they tried to squeeze from the players to stage this season? ESPN.com’s Emily Kaplan reports sources are saying the league is looking into a loan plan similar to that used by the NBA to provide its teams with cash to protect their finances ahead of this season.

That Jan. 13 start date could be flexible. Prior to last night’s reports, Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley told Fox Business the season could open on Jan. 15 with the possibility it might have to slide by a week or two. Nevertheless, Foley is confident his club will be playing this season at their home arena, though it could be without fans in attendance.

IN OTHER NEWS…

THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER’s Sam Carchidi reports the Flyers are close to agreeing to a contract with Philippe Myers. “Could happen this week.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Myers is a restricted free agent coming out of his entry-level contract. It’ll be interesting to see if he gets a bridge contract or a long-term deal. We can probably expect signings of RFAs and unrestricted free agents will pick up once the Jan. 13 start date for this season is formally approved.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: The Lightning hired Rob Zettler to replace departed assistant coach Todd Richards. Zettler, a former NHL defenseman, is also the former head coach of the Lightning’s AHL affiliate in Syracuse. He worked as an assistant coach with the San Jose Sharks from 2017 to 2019.

IIHF.COM: International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel and general secretary Horst Lichtner have tested positive for COVID-19. This will not affect the IIHF’s preparations for the upcoming 2021 World Junior Championship in Edmonton.

SPORTSNET: The entire Northeast Division of the ECHL plus the Atlanta Gladiators and Norfolk Admirals have suspended play for the 2020-21 season under the league’s COVID-19 policy. The teams intend to return in 2021-22. Most are minor-league affiliates for several NHL clubs.

TORONTO STAR: A mint condition 1979 Wayne Gretzky card could become hockey’s first $1 million collectible card.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 24, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 24, 2020

More details on a possible resumption of the schedule in July, the potential plans for the 2020 Draft, the Blue Jackets re-sign goaltender Elvis Merzlikins, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

LATEST ON THE POSSIBLE RESUMPTION OF 2019-20 NHL SEASON

TSN: Bob McKenzie reports the NHL is looking at a series of phases toward re-starting the 2019-20 season. It’s currently been in Phase 1 (lockdown, quarantine, self-isolation) since mid-March. The league is optimistic about moving into Phase 2, which would see players from around the world returning to their NHL clubs and getting into a two-week quarantine period of small-group training.

Following that could see Phase 3, which could see a plan of four divisional cities hosting multiple teams staging two-week training camps. After that would be Phase 4, the resumption of games.

Darren Dreger suggests the Phase 2 period would ideally be around May 15. He said the league and the NHL Players’ Association are discussing restart strategies, but some teams aren’t optimistic about whether it’s safe enough to return anytime soon.

Pierre LeBrun reports the league is vetting 12 NHL cities for those four divisional hosts. He cites colleague Frank Seravalli indicating Toronto, Edmonton, Dallas, and Pittsburgh were under consideration. LeBrun also mentioned Minnesota (Minneapolis-St. Paul), and Columbus.

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports at least one NHL team told its players to be prepared to report on May 15 to begin informal workouts before a training camp of up to three weeks. Not every NHL club, however, is acting in a similar matter. He added Columbus is the favorite to host Metropolitan Division games.

Brooks also said there has yet to be in-depth conversations between the league and the NHLPA regarding health protocols to protect the players from COVID-19. It’s unknown if players returning from Europe would need to be quarantined for two weeks before rejoining their clubs.

WINNIPEG SUN: Paul Friesen reports Winnipeg has been removed from that list of potential locations, citing various infrastructure issues such as suitable hotel accommodation to house all those players.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A growing sense of cautious optimism has been evident this week among NHL officials over a possible resumption of the season. However, they’ve also repeatedly stressed it would depend upon ensuring the health and safety of its players and those involved in staging those games. They’re hopeful, but they’re also not going to rush things. Like provinces and states that are starting to ease back restrictions, the league will do this step by cautious step.

2020 NHL DRAFT UPDATE

TSN: Bob McKenzie reports the NHL head office is keen to stage the 2020 NHL Draft in early June, well before the proposed resumption of the schedule. Pierre LeBrun said there’s been considerable pushback from NHL general managers. They’re concerned about determining the draft order, as well as the ability to make normal trades.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Deputy commissioner Bill Daly told the Ottawa Sun that a June draft would likely use a points percentage system to determine the draft selection order. Based on the reports from McKenzie and LeBrun, however, most of the general managers are against the notion of staging the draft before the start of the season. Several teams also made deals during this season involving conditional picks to be determined by playoff performance or a player re-signing with his new club. Sorting that out could create more headaches for the league.

IN OTHER NEWS…

THE SCORE: The Columbus Blue Jackets re-signed Elvis Merzlikins to a two-year, $8-million contract extension. The 26-year-old goaltender was a restricted free agent with arbitration rights.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Merzlikins’ new deal came within a week of the Jackets re-signing Joonas Korpisalo to a two-year, $5.6-million deal. They now have over $75 million invested in 19 players for 2020-21, with Pierre-Luc Dubois and Josh Anderson still to re-sign.

Some are wondering why general manager Jarmo Kekalainen is re-signing players when next season’s salary cap has yet to be determined. Same goes for St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong. It’s been suggested their recent moves indicate the salary cap will remain at $81.5 million for next season.

THE WASHINGTON POST: Alex Ovechkin and Wayne Gretzky played to a tie in their NHL 20 matchup, raising over $41K for coronavirus relief.

STAR-TRIBUNE.COM: Former NHL player and 1980 Team USA alum Mark Pavelich is no longer resisting mental health treatment. He’s making progress toward a newly scheduled hearing to determine his fitness to stand trial for assaulting a neighbor last year.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 20, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 20, 2020

Wayne Gretzky believes the season will resume, plus the latest on Cam Talbot, Evgeny Svechnikov, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

SPORTSNET: Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky believes the NHL will be able to resume the 2019-20 schedule later this summer. “I really believe somehow, someway, that the leadership in this country and in Canada, that we’re going to figure this out,” Gretzky said. “And I really believe that we’ll see hockey and some sort of other sports in June, July and August, albeit in a different way, but I really see it coming to fruition. I think it’s going to happen.”

Wayne Gretzky believes the NHL season will resume this summer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If there’s any possible chance of resuming the schedule, crowning a Stanley Cup champion, and recouping some of their revenue lost from the current pandemic shutdown, the league and the NHL Players’ Association will give it due consideration. The logistics will be difficult, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility. Ultimately, the course of this pandemic will be the deciding factor.

Goaltender Cam Talbot believes he’s proven his worth after salvaging his NHL career with a solid bounce-back performance with the Calgary Flames this season. However, his future with the Flames remains uncertain.

Talbot, 32, is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. The Flames can afford to re-sign him, but his value could be driven up by other teams bidding for his services this summer.

CBC.CA: UFAs like Talbot, however, could find lucrative new contracts difficult to come by in this year’s free-agent market. The same goes for the top restricted free agents. NHL player agent Allan Walsh said it’s too early to tell how the market will be affected by the current shutdown of the schedule because of coronavirus concerns.

“When I talk to GMs, when I talk to people at the NHLPA, when I talk to players, when I talk to coaches, no one has answers. No one. No one knows what the market is going to look like,” Walsh said. He added there cannot be free agency until the upper limit of the salary cap for next season is established.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s ongoing speculation the league and the PA will agree to an artificial cap of at least $81.5 million for next season. While that will make things difficult for cap-strapped clubs, it won’t be as devastating to teams and pending free agents as a reduced cap would be. Most of the best players will still get healthy raises, but perhaps not as much as they would’ve had the cap risen to the original projection of $84 million to $88 million.

THE DETROIT NEWS: Red Wings forward Evgeny Svechnikov is hoping for a shot at establishing himself as a full-time NHL player. The 23-year-old has appeared in 20 games with the Wings over the past three seasons but struggled to stick in part because of injuries and inconsistency.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Svechnikov’s situation could be worth watching. Perhaps he’ll be shopped in the off-season if Wings management feels he’s not progressing as hoped.

CBS SPORTS: Defenseman Artyom Sergeyev has informed KHL team Salavat Yulaev Ufa that he will sign with the Florida Panthers when his contract expires at the end of April.