Will the Lightning or Wild make moves at the trade deadline? Which Sharks could become trade candidates? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.
WILL LIGHTNING OR WILD BECOME TRADE DEADLINE BUYERS?
THE ATHLETIC: Joe Smith recently examined whether the Tampa Bay Lightning will make any moves by the March 21 trade deadline. General manager Julien BriseBois indicated nothing was off the table if a move could be made to improve their chances of winning the Stanley Cup for the third straight year.
Complicating things, however, is the fact that the Lightning has no cap space for this season and very little for next season. Making additions would mean subtracting someone from their roster and they’ve already got some very good value contracts. They also like the additions they made last summer in Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Corey Perry and Zach Bogosian.
If BriseBois makes a move, Smith believes it’ll be for depth players along the lines of his acquisitions of Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow two years ago. He thinks the Bolts GM would part with multiple high picks if it means landing an impact player, especially one who could become a replacement for pending unrestricted free agent winger Ondrej Palat.
Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin (NHL.com).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: BriseBois could be a buyer if one or more of his players carrying a significant cap hit winds up on long-term injury reserve for the remainder of the regular season. While that worked to their advantage last season when Nikita Kucherov missed the entire 2020-21 regular season recovering from hip surgery, they might not get a similar opportunity again. If he makes an addition, it’ll be an affordable depth player. The Lightning still has a very talented roster that could make a run for a third Cup.
Pierre LeBrun last week reported Minnesota Wild GM Bill Guerin is remaining patient and examining his options as the trade deadline approaches. He’d prefer to retain his draft picks because he’s still building up the club’s prospect pipeline. His club’s lofty position in the Western Conference standings also allows him to take time to evaluate his roster’s needs.
Guerin downplayed the notion his club needs depth at center. He’s also reluctant to tinker too much with the Wild’s tight team chemistry. It’s possible he trades for a depth forward than a high-end piece like Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux, Dallas’ Joe Pavelski or San Jose’s Tomas Hertl.
The Wild GM also has to keep in mind the cap constraints he faces after this season as a result of buying out Zach Parise and Ryan Suter last summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’d still keep an eye on the Wild, especially if they start to wobble over the next few weeks. Still, there won’t be much reason to make a big addition if they continue playing well leading up to March 21.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Peng spoke with two NHL scouts and a league executive about the possible returns for those players. It appears they would fetch third-to-fifth-round picks. Bonino, Nieto and Reimer each have a year remaining on their contracts.
Concern as COVID-19 cases rises among the players, Sidney Crosby and Auston Matthews scoring reach milestones and Ben Bishop ends his playing career. Details and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
COVID-19 CASES RISING AMONG NHL PLAYERS
Carolina Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal (NHL Images).
NHL.COM: Tuesday’s game between the Carolina Hurricanes and Minnesota Wild was postponed as six Hurricanes players and a member of their training staff went into COVID protocol. Jordan Staal, Andrei Svechnikov, Steve Lorentz and Ian Cole entered the protocol one day after Sebastian Aho and Seth Jarvis did. The NHL will provide a further update on the Hurricanes schedule on Wednesday.
CALGARY SUN: The number of Flames on COVID protocol reached 10 after Milan Lucic, Sean Monahan and Noah Hanifin were placed on the list yesterday.
NEW YORK POST: Islanders center Mathew Barzal is in COVID protocol. This comes three days after Casey Cizikas was the last of eight Isles to come off the list following an outbreak that began last month.
THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Devon Toews will miss at least six games after testing positive for COVID-19.
THE PROVINCE: Four members of the Vancouver Canucks (Luke Schenn, Tucker Poolman, Brad Hunt and Juho Lammikko) have tested positive for COVID-19 since Monday. Poolman was pulled from last night’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets five minutes into the first period after the results of his test came through.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers forward Ryan McLeod joined the COVID protocol list yesterday. Head coach Dave Tippett was held out of last night’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs as a precautionary measure.
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Flyers forward Morgan Frost left last night’s game against the New Jersey Devils within the first five minutes of the first period due to COVID protocols.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: 24 NHL players entered the league’s COVID protocol within 36 hours. The good news is their symptoms (and those of players who tested positive earlier this season) were in most cases minor because all but one player is double-vaccinated. Nevertheless, they must self-isolate for between seven-to-10 days depending on the outcome of subsequent testing to prevent or slow the spread of the coronavirus.
THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun reports the NHL isn’t considering pausing its schedule yet because of the recent outbreaks. Doctors with the league and NHLPA advising both sides had a call on Tuesday evening to discuss the latest events and consider the next steps. That could include a return to enhanced protocols such as more mandated mask-wearing to daily testing of players and staff.
The outbreaks also raised concern over NHL participation in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics based on the three-to-five week quarantine rules for players who test positive while taking part in the Men’s Ice Hockey tournament. The mood among the NHLPA membership is to wait and see, review the information and reach a decision on participation as the Jan. 10 deadline to opt-out approaches.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: LeBrun also said that to his knowledge no players have yet to decide against skating in the Olympics based on those strict COVID rules. The league has left it in the NHLPA’s hands whether or not they’ll take part. It could depend on the spread of the Omicron variant between now and the Jan. 10 deadline.
NHL.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby became the 14th player in NHL history to reach 400 multi-point games by collecting two assists in a 5-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens. Crosby is the only active player to reach that mark. Evan Rodrigues had a goal and two assists as the Penguins pushed their winning streak to five straight. The Canadiens have dropped seven in a row.
Auston Matthews scored two goals to lead the Toronto Maple Leafs to a 5-1 victory over the slumping Edmonton Oilers. Matthews joined Dave Keon as the only Leaf to reach 20 goals in each of their first six seasons. The Leafs sit atop the overall standings with 42 points. Oilers defenseman Duncan Keith returned to action after missing eight games with an upper-body injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Matthews is now tied for second place in the goal-scoring race with Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin with 20 goals. Edmonton Leon Draisaitl has 23.
The Vancouver Canucks extended their winning streak to five games by nipping the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-3. The Canucks overcame a 3-0 deficit as Bo Horvat scored twice and Quinn Hughes collected three assists. They have yet to lose since Bruce Boudreau took over as head coach last week.
Vegas Golden Knights winger Max Pacioretty tallied twice to extend his goal streak to seven games in a 4-1 victory over the Boston Bruins. Mark Stone collected two assists as he and Pacioretty have each collected points in nine straight contests.
The Ottawa Senators upset the Florida Panthers 8-2. Josh Norris scored twice and added an assist, Drake Batherson had a goal and three assists and Connor Brown had three helpers.
Philadelphia Flyers winger Cam Atkinson’s hat trick led his club to a 6-1 drubbing of the New Jersey Devils. The Flyers have won three straight games after dropping their first two games under interim coach Mike Yeo.
An overtime goal by Mathieu Joseph lifted the Tampa Bay Lightning over the Los Angeles Kings 3-2. The Lightning has won six of their last seven games. With 40 points, the defending Stanley Cup champions are just two back of the league-leading Maple Leafs.
Colorado Avalanche winger Valeri Nichushkin scored two goals and Nazem Kadri had three assists to beat the New York Rangers 4-2. Nathan MacKinnon also picked up two assists for the Avalanche as they’ve won five straight.
Vladimir Tarasenko scored and chipped in two assists in the St. Louis Blues’ 4-1 victory over the Dallas Stars. Blues goalie Charlie Lindgren made 33 saves as his club is unbeaten (4-0-2) in their last six games. The Stars, meanwhile, have dropped four straight.
The Buffalo Sabres snapped a seven-game skid by doubling up the Winnipeg Jets 4-2. Rasmus Dahlin scored twice (including the game-winner) while rookie goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made 34 saves for his first career NHL win.
Detroit Red Wings goalie Alex Nedeljkovic made 34 saves to hold off the New York Islanders 2-1. Dylan Larkin and Michael Rasmussen tallied for the Wings while Anders Lee replied for the Isles.
The Seattle Kraken got a 33-save performance by Chris Driedger to down the San Jose Sharks 3-1. Calle Jarnkrok had a goal and an assist.
IN OTHER NEWS…
TWINCITIES.COM: Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin has been officially named as GM of Team USA in the 2022 Winter Olympics.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Stars goaltender Ben Bishop yesterday announced his playing career was over after struggling with a knee injury that has hampered him since the 2019 playoffs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Bishop and his family in their future endeavors. He was one of the NHL elite goaltenders between 2013-14 and 2019-20.
Bishop finishes with a record of 222 wins, 128 losses and 36 overtime losses with a career 2.32 goals-against average, .921 save percentage and 33 shutouts. He was a three-time Vezina Trophy finalist and a two-time Second Team All-Star during his tenures with the Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning.
Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff apologizes to Kyle Beach & addresses his role in the Blackhawks scandal, the Penguins and Wild GM Bill Guerin face a lawsuit over an alleged sexual assault by a former minor-league coach, plus game recaps & more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
CHEVELDAYOFF APOLOGIZES TO BEACH, ADDRESSES HIS ROLE IN BLACKHAWKS SCANDAL
WINNIPEG SUN: Jets general manager Kyle Cheveldayoff apologized to Kyle Beach during a video press conference yesterday for the alleged sexual abuse he suffered while with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010 at the hands of the club’s then-video coach. He was accompanied by Jets governor and co-owner Mark Chipman.
Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff (NHL.com).
Cheveldayoff was the Blackhawks assistant GM at the time but maintained he had limited knowledge of what happened to Beach. He said the system failed the young forward, adding no one should have to endure what he did.
The Jets GM said the details of the alleged incidents were unclear to him at the time, claiming he only learned the full information earlier this year. He was absolved of wrongdoing last week by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman as having been a “minor player” in the meeting of Blackhawks executives to discuss the incident. Cheveldayoff said it was his belief the allegations would be handled by his superiors.
Chipman expressed his full support of his general manager. He believes Cheveldayoff would have acted to help Beach had he known the full details of the allegations. Both men pledged they would do more going forward to be part of the solution league-wide to prevent future occurrences of abuse. Cheveldayoff said he’s been in touch with former player and sexual assault survivor Sheldon Kennedy and will be participating in Kennedy’s Respect in Sport program.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cheveldayoff and Chipman got emotional at times during that press conference. Both were commended by some in the media for what came across as a heartfelt apology and clarification of Cheveldayoff’s role with the Blackhawks at the time of the allegations.
Cheveldayoff’s involvement was limited to that one meeting with the Blackhawks executives, leaving him with the impression it had more to do with harassment involving text messages and unwanted advances. Nevertheless, some pundits feel there remain some unanswered questions and details about Cheveldayoff’s role in the coverup and his ongoing insistence that he knew nothing about what really happened to Kyle Beach. Time will tell if those questions are fully answered.
TSN: Rick Westhead (whose coverage of Beach’s story brought the Blackhawks scandal to light) reports Erin Skalde and husband Jarrod Skalde have filed a sexual assault lawsuit against former Pittsburgh Penguins minor-league coach Clark Donatelli, Minnesota Wild GM Bill Guerin and Penguins co-owners Mario Lemieux and Ronald Burkle.
Jarrod Skalde and Donatelli were former coaches of the Penguins’ AHL franchise in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The suit alleges Donatelli allegedly sexually assaulted Mrs. Skalde during a road trip in November 2018, accusing Guerin, Lemieux and Burkle of engaging in a coverup of the incident. The Skaldes also filed an earlier lawsuit against the Penguins claiming they fired him on May 5, 2020, for complaining to the team about the sexual assault of his wife. Guerin, who was recently named general manager of the 2022 U.S. Men’s Olympic hockey team, is being investigated by the U.S. Center for SportSafe following Skalde’s complaint filed on Oct. 5.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The lawsuit claims Guerin told Skalde to keep quiet about the alleged incident when he brought it to Guerin’s attention seven months later. The Penguins released a statement claiming they took immediate action upon being notified of the allegation in June 2019, conducting a full investigation within 72 hours and Donatelli resigned from the organization. They also said Skalde remained in his job for an additional year until the team made staff reductions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
NHL.COM: Auston Matthews scored twice, Mitch Marner had a goal and two assists and Jack Campbell turned in a 26-save shutout as the Toronto Maple Leafs blanked the Vegas Golden Knights 4-0. The Leafs (5-4-1) have won three straight while the Golden Knights record slips to 4-5-0.
The Montreal Canadiens downed the Detroit Red Wings 3-0 for their third win of the season. Jake Allen made 22 saves for the shutout while Nick Suzuki tallied his first goal of the season and assisted on two others. Wings forwards Dylan Larkin (undisclosed) and Tyler Bertuzzi (COVID protocol) missed this game.
Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin left the game in the first period after being struck in the head by a shot from teammate Brett Kulak. He went to hospital but has returned to the team following the game. Earlier in the day, the Canadiens announced goaltender Carey Price will be emerging from the NHL’s player assistance program on Nov. 6.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens offered no timetable for Price’s return to action. He underwent offseason knee surgery and was expected to be ready for the start of the season before going into the player assistance program. It could take several weeks before he makes his season debut.
Philadelphia Flyers netminder Carter Hart kicked out 29 shots for his first shutout of the season in a 3-0 victory over the Arizona Coyotes. Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier each had a goal and an assist. The Coyotes are winless in their first 10 games (0-9-1) of this season. Earlier in the day, they announced Nick Schmaltz would miss at least three-four weeks with an upper-body injury.
The Anaheim Ducks got 28 saves from John Gibson for a 4-0 shutout of the New Jersey Devils. Troy Terry scored twice to extend his points streak to nine games while Ryan Getzlaf collected three points. Struggling Ducks winger Maxime Comtois was a healthy scratch from this contest.
Kirill Kaprizov tallied his first goal of the season in overtime as the Minnesota Wild nipped the Ottawa Senators 5-4. Marcus Foligno tallied twice for the Wild while Drake Batherson and Josh Norris each had a goal and an assist for the Senators.
A shootout goal by Mark Scheifele lifted the Winnipeg Jets to a 4-3 win over the Dallas Stars. He also collected an assist in regulation to extend his points streak to seven games. Stars center Tyler Seguin picked up a goal and an assist.
The Nashville Predators dropped the Calgary Flames 3-2 on an overtime goal by Matt Duchene, snapping the latter’s six-game win streak. Duchene also picked an assist on a goal by Filip Forsberg.
J.T. Miller scored twice, including the winner in overtime, as the Vancouver Canucks overcame a 2-0 deficit to down the New York Rangers 3-2. Artemi Panarin had a goal and an assist for the Rangers.
San Jose Sharks center Tomas Hertl scored two goals and added an assist to lead his club to a 5-3 victory over the Buffalo Sabres. Jeff Skinner tallied twice for the Sabres. The Sharks played without Timo Meier, who was added to their COVID protocol list.
IN OTHER NEWS…
NHL.COM: Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid and Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Frederik Andersen were the NHL’s three stars for October 2021. Detroit Red Wings defenseman Moritz Seider was named rookie of the month.
THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar is sidelined with an upper-body injury unrelated to the offseason medical procedure that forced him to miss preseason play.
STLTODAY.COM: St. Louis Blues forward Kyle Clifford was added to their COVID protocol list yesterday.
Kyle Beach identified himself as one of the victims in the Blackhawks’ scandal, the ongoing fallout from the investigation, plus game recaps and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
KYLE BEACH STEPS FORWARD AS ACCUSER IN BLACKHAWKS SCANDAL
TSN: Former Chicago Blackhawks player Kyle Beach stepped forward as the player at the center of the investigation into allegations of sexual assault by former video coach Bradley Aldrich.
Kyle Beach (right) speaks with Rick Westhead (TSN.CA).
In an emotional 25-minute interview with Rick Westhead, Beach expressed relief and vindication that “it was no longer my word against everybody else’s,” adding it was “very special and important to me to have that truth come out yesterday”.
Beach recalled what happened to him after the abuse by Aldrich, the Blackhawks’ organization’s efforts to cover up the incident and its subsequent denials. “They said they did an investigation, they said my claims were meritless. To me, I took that as them saying to the world that I was a liar, that I was lying,” said Beach.
He singled out the role of then-head coach Joel Quenneville in the club’s handling of the incident. Quenneville said in a statement this summer that he has no prior knowledge of Beach’s claims at the time until he heard about it through the media.
Multiple players with the Blackhawks at that time also subsequently made the same claim. “I believe everyone in the locker room knew about it,” said Beach.
He also voiced his disappointment over the NHLPA’s lack of action when he informed them of the details. He believed two different people spoke with PA director Donald Fehr. “And for him to turn his back on the players when his one job is to protect the players at all cost, I don’t know how that can be your leader,” he said.
Beach said he stepped forward in part because, while the report referred to him as “John Doe”, the details made it possible to figure out his identity. He indicated it was also part of his recovery as a survivor of sexual assault. He also wants to bring about change within the NHL to assure this never happens again.
“The NHL has let me down and they’ve let other down too. And they continue to try to protect their name,” said Beach. “I hope through and through that (NHL commissioner) Gary Bettman takes this seriously and that he does his due diligence.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ve noted what I felt were key highlights from Beach’s interview. I encourage everyone to follow the above link for the video interview and the full transcript.
Beach was very brave to come forward with his story. It was heartbreaking watching him recount what happened, at one point breaking down in tears and expressing sorrow for not doing more to protect Aldrich’s subsequent victim. He did nothing wrong and yet he still felt remorse that he didn’t do more.
Kyle Beach was failed by the Blackhawks at every level. Only a handful of people, including former teammates Nick Boynton and Brent Sopel, former associate coach John Torchetti and former skills coach Paul Vincent, stood by him. He endured over 11 years of trauma before finally receiving a measure of justice. Everyone involved in make his life hell for over a decade bear full responsibility for what they didn’t do to help him and for what they did to cover it up.
The release of the investigation’s findings and Beach’s interview are not the end of this story. The repercussions are ongoing and will be long-lasting, leading hopefully to positive change that ensures no player ever faces what Beach did.
TSN: The Blackhawks released a statement following Beach’s interview expressing “deepest apologies” for what he went through and the organization’s failure to properly respond when he brought the matter to light. The statement laid the blame on former team executives.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Apologies and buck-passing don’t cut it. Try again.
NHLPA director Donald Fehr also issued an apology to Beach, acknowledging his courage in telling his story and admitting the system (of which the PA is a part) failed him. Fehr indicated the person Beach spoke with at the NHLPA was one of the program doctors in the player assistance program. While confidential between players and doctors, Fehr said the “grave nature of this incident should have resulted in further action on our part.” He also said the PA is committed to making changes to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Action speaks louder than words, Mr. Fehr.
Blackhawks stars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews told reporters last night they wished they knew more about what happened to Beach so they could’ve done more to help him. They said they didn’t he was the John Doe in the investigation until he came forward yesterday. Kane commended Beach for his courage in telling his story while Toews said he didn’t know about the allegations until training camp in 2010-11.
Both players also commented on Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman stepping down and senior VP of hockey operations Al MacIsaac being relieved of his duties. Kane considered it “necessary” and “the right moves” but also called Bowman “a great man who did a lot of things for me personally”. Toews felt they weren’t directly responsible for what happened and still had a lot of respect for them.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus said in response to those remarks, I get why Kane and Toews are remaining loyal to those who played a big role in their lives and careers but heaping praise on those two isn’t a great look.
Former Blackhawks head coach and current Florida Panthers bench boss Joel Quenneville stood by his statement to investigators that he first learned of the allegations through the media this summer. He’s slated to meet with commissioner Bettman in New York today. Quenneville was behind the bench for the Panthers’ 4-1 win over the Boston Bruins last night and didn’t speak to the media following the game.
WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Mike McIntyre reports Jets ownership is supporting general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, who will be meeting with Bettman in New York on Monday. Cheveldayoff was the Blackhawks assistant general manager in 2010 and was named in the report as part of the group of Blackhawks executives who met to discuss the allegations in May 2010.
In his statement, Cheveldayoff said he was first made aware of the allegations during that meeting. He believed a decision was reached by his superiors to have the hockey operations people deal with the on-ice production while they would handle the Aldrich allegations.
McIntyre reports Jets chairman and co-owner Mark Chipman will travel to New York with Cheveldayoff on Monday. Short of new evidence emerging or Bettman lowering the boom, McIntyre expected Cheveldayoff will keep his job.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: We don’t know what Bettman has in store for Quenneville and Cheveldayoff. Many on social media are calling for their firings or at least suspension.
NHL.COM: The Florida Panthers extended their record to 7-0-0 by defeating the Boston Bruins 4-1. Sergei Bobrovsky made 30 saves for the win while Gustav Forsling collected three assists.
Cam Atkinson scored two goals and Carter Hart kicked out 34 shots as the Philadelphia Flyers beat the Edmonton Oilers 5-3, snapping the latter’s five-game season-opening win streak. Connor McDavid had a goal and an assist for the Oilers.
Detroit Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin tallied in overtime as his club overcame a 2-0 deficit for a 3-2 victory over the Washington Capitals. Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov tallied for the Capitals.
The Toronto Maple Leafs also rallied from 2-0 to defeat the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2. William Nylander scored in overtime for the Leafs. Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews came out of COVID-19 protocol yesterday and played in this game.
An overtime goal by Evgenii Dadonov lifted the Vega Golden Knights to a 3-2 win over the Dallas Stars. Jonathan Marchessault scored late in the third for Vegas to send the game into the extra frame.
IN OTHER NEWS…
TAMPA BAY TIMES: Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov is expected to miss the next eight-to-10 weeks following surgery for a lower-body injury.
LOS ANGELES TIMES: Kings defenseman Drew Doughty will miss the next two months with a bruised knee while Sean Walker suffered season-ending ligament tears in his right knee that will require surgery.
WINNIPEG SUN: Jets captain Blake Wheeler has returned to practice after 10 days in isolation as per NHL COVID protocols.
NHL.COM: New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban received a $5,000.00 fine by the department of player safety for a dangerous trip against Calgary Flames winger Milan Lucic on Tuesday.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin is expected to be named GM of the USA Men’s Olympic Hockey Team at the 2022 Beijing Games.
More details on the plans to open the 2020-21 season on Jan. 13, the Flyers sign Philippe Myers, the Panthers’ expand their goalie coaching staff, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
MORE DETAILS EMERGE REGARDING 2020-21 NHL SEASON PLANS
TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the NHL understands that COVID-19 could affect the 2020-21 schedule. They are working on some empty days within the schedule to allow postponed games to be played.
LeBrun also indicates the league cannot go into a shortened season during a pandemic with the same rules governing roster limits. A proposal has been made to the NHLPA for expanded rosters indicating how many players each club can carry and “taxi squads”.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a taxi squad is a group of players under contract with a team who practice with the club but aren’t on the roster. They are allowed to join the team if injuries occur. Taxi squads would address the difficulties of attempting to call up players from the minors during the pandemic.
The NHLPA held a conference call yesterday to bring the 31 player reps up to speed on the latest development. A conference call with the NHL Board of Governors is slated for today.
Darren Dreger reports there will be an opt-out option for players unwilling to participate in the coming season due to COVID-19. Mandatory vaccinations have also been discussed and agreed upon by the NHL and NHLPA.
Frank Seravalli reports the Canadian teams that lack AHL affiliates in Canada (Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton) will use the taxi squad system to keep some players stashed in their home cities. The other four clubs plan to play their AHL affiliates in an all-Canadian division.
He also reports there won’t be any compliance buyouts to allow teams to garner cap relief by shedding salary without penalty.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Normal buyouts for players 26-and-older count against the salary cap as two-thirds the remaining value over twice the remaining term of the contract and one-third over twice the remaining term for players 25-and-younger.
Seravalli indicates local health authorities will play a role in determining if certain teams, such as the San Jose Sharks and Winnipeg Jets, will be allowed to open the season in their home arenas.
It will take a two-thirds majority of the NHL board of governors to approve the plan for this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Recent reports indicated some owners would prefer not playing this season if they don’t get some financial relief to offset some of their losses from a shortened schedule. Speculation suggests they number around a half-dozen, which wouldn’t be sufficient to vote down the plan for this season.
The NHL and the NHLPA agreed to abide by the rules of the CBA, meaning the league has backed off from its request for $300 million in higher escrow and salary deferral from the players. The NHL might have to consider other options, such as taking out loans, to address that financial need for some of its unhappy owners.
ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski and Emily Kaplan report the majority of the owners and players prefer a baseball-style three-game series. Hybrid bubbles or hub cities are a possibility to start the season, where teams would travel and play up to 10 games in two weeks and return home for a week.
Those hubs would be similar to those in Edmonton and Toronto during the playoffs but less strict. New Jersey, Columbus and Las Vegas are under consideration as those arenas have just one tenant, two sheets of ice and suitable nearby accommodation.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports clauses in television contracts requiring a certain number of games and/or weeks to fulfill obligations are a major factor in the sudden rush to start the season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fulfilling those obligations will also help the league in its quest for a more lucrative US national broadcasting deal following this season.
COLORADO HOCKEY NOW’s Adrian Dater tweets a league source claims training camp will open on Jan. 3 with the regular season opening on Jan. 13. “It’s not official yet, but this is what the players are hearing/being told.”
TORONTO SUN: Former Sportsnet analyst John Shannon told Lance Hornby a Canadian division will provide unique challenges for travel and broadcasting games.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens sports science and performance director Pierre Allard is telling his players to ensure they’re ready for the upcoming season. The focus is on ensuring they’re in good health and condition to avoid injury during a compressed schedule.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s a concern undoubtedly shared by the other NHL clubs based on reports in recent weeks of players engaged in voluntary workouts and off-ice training to prepare for the coming season.
IN OTHER NEWS…
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The Flyers announced Philippe Myers signed a three-year, $7.65 million contract. The 23-year-old defenseman was a restricted free agent coming off his entry-level contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That $2.55 million annual average value is a very affordable deal for the Flyers. Myers is expected to skate alongside Ivan Provorov on their top defense pairing. If he thrives in that role he’ll be in line for a more lucrative long-term contract in three year’s time.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: The Panthers hired Francois Allaire as a goaltending consultant. He’ll be reunited with former pupil Roberto Luongo, who’s now a special advisor to general manager Bill Zito.
TRIBLIVE.COM: Former Pittsburgh Penguins minor-league assistant coach Jarrod Skalde has accused the club of violating whistleblower laws after he reported a superior for sexually assaulting his wife. The lawsuit claims then-Penguins assistant GM Bill Guerin informed Skalde the superior was being terminated from his position but instructed him the reasons had to be kept quiet and not be let out. Guerin, now GM of the Minnesota Wild, denies the allegation.