Dallas Stars Stumbling At Quarter-Point Of The NHL Season
The latest on the league’s plans for the 2020-21 season, the Stars re-sign Roope Hintz, the Panthers hire Ulf Samuelsson and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports the NHL’s board of governors could get a glimpse of the league’s plans for 2020-21 during an expected conference call on Thursday. While the league’s goal remains opening on Jan. 1, there’s speculation the season won’t begin until early February. Ice has been placed back in half of the NHL arenas and players are starting to return to their home cities in anticipation of a new season.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman believes the leadership of the NHL and NHL Players Association have been in “very regular contact” regarding next season. The players he’s spoken to are keen to find out what the dates will be.
The idea of starting on Jan. 1 faces several roadblocks, including breaking for the 2020 Christmas holidays.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I weighed in yesterday on the hurdles facing the league regarding a Jan. 1 season opener. They’re starting to run out of time to reach that deadline. Starting up in February seems more realistic depending on the course of the pandemic.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Stars re-signed Roope Hintz to a three-year contract worth an annual average value of $3.15 million. The 23-year-old forward was the last of the Stars’ restricted free agents to sign a new deal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hintz enjoyed a solid sophomore campaign in 2019-20, tallying 19 goals and 33 points in 60 games. This is an affordable bridge deal for the Stars. Hintz will be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights when this contract expires. Given his development, he’ll be in line for a significant raise on his next deal.
SUN-SENTINEL.COM: The Florida Panthers hired Ulf Samuelsson as an assistant coach. A former NHL defenseman, he was head coach of Leksands IF of the Swedish Hockey League last season, scouted for the expansion Seattle Kraken, and was a former assistant coach with the Arizona Coyotes, New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks.
THE DETROIT NEWS: Justin Abdelkader wrote about his love of playing for the Detroit Red Wings in a recent article in the Players Tribune. A second-round pick of the Wings in the 2005 NHL Draft, the 33-year-old winger played spent 13 seasons with the club until he was recently bought out of his contract.
WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets signed 2020 first-round pick Cole Perfetti to an entry-level contract. Perfetti was selected 10th overall.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: A sneak peek of the Bruins retro jersey for 2020-21 may have been leaked yesterday.
The latest on the notable restricted free agents in today’s NHL rumor mill.
SPORTSNET: Luke Fox examined the latest regarding the remaining notable NHL restricted free agents.
New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello reportedly hopes to sign center Mathew Barzal to around $7.5 million per season. The young center’s camp would prefer a higher figure. Fox feels it’s highly unlikely a rival club will sign Barzal to an offer sheet worth $10.9 million or more per season as the compensation to the Isles would be four first-round picks.
Speaking of the Isles, Fox considers it a no-brainer they’ll sign defenseman Ryan Pulock after trading Devon Toews to the Colorado Avalanche in a cost-cutting move last month. Pulock’s arbitration hearing is on Nov. 6.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: An offer sheet for Barzal remains possible but increasingly unlikely. With Cap Friendly indicating 23 of the Isles rivals have less than $10 million in cap space (22 of those with less than $7 million), the possibility of an offer sheet remains remote.
Whatever Pulock gets on his contract will put a big bite into the Isles’ $8.9 million cap space. They’re allowed to exceed the cap by 10 percent during the offseason but must be cap compliant when next season begins. Lamoriello must shed some salary to sign Barzal and ensure he’s under the cap.
The Tampa Bay Lightning continue having difficulty freeing up salary-cap space to sign Anthony Cirelli and Mikhail Sergachev. GM Julien BriseBois has attempted to move veteran winger Tyler Johnson but his difficulties doing so indicate how hard it is to shed salary under the current economic conditions.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: BriseBois will have to package Johnson with a good draft pick or a quality prospect as a sweetener. Even then, he might have to pick up part of his $5 million salary-cap hit. He could find it easier trading Alex Killorn but could still be squeezed to add a pick or prospect in the deal.
Contract talks between the Columbus Blue Jackets and center Pierre-Luc Dubois have stalled but GM Jarmo Kekalainen remains unconcerned. He pointed out Zach Werenski didn’t sign last year until just before training camp.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dubois is coming off his entry-level contract and lacks arbitration rights. The Jackets also have over $12 million in cap space as a sufficient offer-sheet deterrent. No wonder Kekalainen isn’t worried.
Contract talks between the New Jersey Devils and Mackenzie Blackwood are expected to pick up shortly. The Devils bought out Cory Schneider and brought in a suitable mentor for Blackwood in Corey Crawford. Fox speculates he could seek a deal comparable to the two-year, $8 million contract of Columbus goalie Elvis Merzlikins. He also doesn’t expect the Devils will have much difficulty signing winger Jesper Bratt.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Devils have over $17 million in cap space. Even if they don’t spend to the cap, they’ve got enough for Blackwood and Bratt.
Fox thinks second-line winger Jake DeBrusk’s contract talks have taken a back seat to the Boston Bruins’ attempts to reshape their blueline after losing Torey Krug to free agency. That’s led to DeBrusk popping up in the trade rumor mill. With over $6 million in cap space, the Bruins have room to sign him but they’re also poking around the UFA market.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: DeBrusk lacks arbitration rights so the Bruins could ink him to an affordable bridge contract. That would leave enough cap room to add a defenseman via the UFA market.
Ryan Strome’s upcoming arbitration case could be worth watching. Fox cited the New York Post’s Larry Brooks back in April speculating the Rangers would prefer signing the center to a one-year contract without going through arbitration. The Rangers had debated not qualifying Strome’s rights before doing so.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Brooks reported Strome filed for a one-year contract worth $5.7 million with an arbitrator while the Rangers countered with $3.6 million. He speculated they could walk away if the arbiter awards Strome over $4.538 million.
Florida Panthers defenseman MacKenzie Weegar surfaced in trade speculation but GM Bill Zito insisted he remains a member of the Panthers. The blueliner is slated for arbitration on Nov. 8. Fox speculates Weegar could use Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk’s four-year, $14.75 million contract ($3.687 million AAV) as a comparable.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Weegar’s situation could also bear watching if it takes arbitration to settle his contract. Perhaps Zito attempts to trade the rearguard if an arbiter-awarded salary is more than the Panthers are willing to pay.
Fox suggests St. Louis Blues defenseman Vince Dunn could end up with an affordable bridge contract. The 23-year-old is coming off his entry-level deal. The same goes for Edmonton Oilers blueliner Ethan Bear.
Fox also projected the next salary for forward Roope Hintz could come in around $3 million, which will fit within the Dallas Stars’ $4.1 million cap space. It’s expected the Philadelphia Flyers will sign defenseman Philippe Myers to a short-term deal but there could be some benefit to locking him up to a longer-term deal.
More on the league’s potential plans for 2020-21, no Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2021, plus the latest on Tyler Seguin, Roope Hintz, Vince Dunn, Alexander Steen and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan reports NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league intends to take its time exploring its options for 2020-21 despite a tentative start date of Jan. 1. He also indicated it appears last season’s seven non-playoff clubs will get additional training camp time, though it hasn’t yet been finalized with the NHL Players Association.
Daly also dismissed the idea that the NHL must crown a Stanley Cup champion before the Tokyo Summer Olympics begin on July 22, 2021. He said there’s a lot to be played out on the Olympic front, adding the league has models that extend beyond the Olympic period.
Border restrictions between Canada and the United States will also factor in what the 2020-21 schedule looks like. If travel for NHL teams remains difficult between the two countries, it could result in what Daly called a possibility to “create competition within the league among the Canadian clubs.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s interesting to note that Daly isn’t rejecting the notion of the NHL schedule coinciding with the Summer Olympics. However, I don’t think that’s going to benefit the league if the playoffs are going on during the two weeks when their main US broadcaster is putting its focus on the Tokyo Games. If the Olympics are canceled or the dates changed, however, it wouldn’t affect the league’s US TV coverage.
For now, of course, this is all speculation. We don’t know yet how long the NHL season will be, let alone when the puck drops for certain.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy reports Bruins defenseman and NHLPA representative Brandon Carlo said the PA and its members remain committed to staging a full 82-games schedule for 2020-21.
Murphy believes one reason behind the 82-game push is to avoid the possibility of the league looking to amend the new collective bargaining agreement to prorate player salaries if the season is shortened by COVID-19.
Carlo also suggested there would be some hesitancy among the players to play under quarantine bubbles again, though they are open to ideas. However, they would be reluctant to be separated from their families as they were during the 2020 playoffs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: One possibility recently raised is starting next season in several hub cities where the teams play for two weeks, followed by a week back in their home cities to practice and reunite with their families. That scenario could be acceptable to the PA membership.
SPORTSNET: The Hockey Hall of Fame announced it is postponing the induction ceremony for the Class of 2020 to next year and will not name a new class for 2021.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The induction weekend is a significant event that involves a Hall of Fame game in Toronto on the Saturday prior to the actual induction ceremony gala, which takes place in the Hall with family, friends and former teammates of the inductees, as well as NHL executives and established Hall of Famers in attendance. The pandemic makes it impossible to safely stage those events.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Stars forward Tyler Seguin is expected to undergo hip surgery next week. His recovery period could take four months.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seguin labored through that injury (and a lingering knee injury) during the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs, during which he got some flak from fans and pundits for what they considered a sub-par performance on his part, with calls that he should “step up his play”. Once again, it’s worth remembering that an NHL player performing below expectations in the postseason could be nursing an injury that adversely affects their game.
Stars general manager Jim Nill said he hopes to have a new deal for Roope Hintz within the next week or two. The 23-year-old forward is a restricted free agent without arbitration rights. Nill said he’s had great discussions with Hintz’s agent. The Stars have about $4 million in cap space. Hintz’s new contract could carry an annual cap hit of between $2.5 million and $3 million.
The Stars also signed Julius Honka to a one-year, two-way contract worth $700K at the NHL level. The 24-year-old defenseman spent last season playing in Finland and had asked for a trade.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Honka is well down the Stars’ blueline depth chart and faces a daunting challenge cracking the lineup. He must also clear waivers to be demoted to their AHL affiliate.
STLTODAY.COM: St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong isn’t concerned over Vince Dunn remaining unsigned, indicating the 24-year-old defenseman is still part of their plans for next season. He pointed out it’s not unusual for restricted free agents to wait until training camp to sign contracts.
The Blues are about $1.1 million over the $81.5 million salary cap. However, Armstrong pointed out they’ll have “an abundance of cap space” given the Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Steen “situations”. Tarasenko will miss the start of the season recovering from shoulder surgery. Armstrong’s comments are a strong indicator Steen could miss the start of the season with an undisclosed injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly lists Tarasenko and Steen on injured reserve. Their combined salaries ($13.25 million) provides the Blues with ample room to re-sign Dunn. It could also provide sufficient room to make a short-term addition to their roster if necessary.
TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs signed restricted free agent forward Joey Anderson to a three-year contract (two-way in the first two seasons) worth an annual average value of $750K. They also signed unrestricted free agent goalie Michael Hutchinson to a two-year, two-way contract worth $750K annually.
SPORTSNET: The Ontario government reaffirmed its stance that bodychecking and deliberate physical contact will not take place during sports amid the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) indicates it will follow scientific studies in crafting its return-to-play plan.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: TSN’s Bob McKenzie raises some important questions about the Ontario government’s plan:
So many questions, and I’m not professing to have all the answers: 1. Can someone explain to me how so-called “bodychecking” is inherently more threatening re:Covid than standard battles for the puck that are essential aspects of even so-called non-contact hockey?
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) October 30, 2020
A look at possible offer-sheet targets and three teams that should try signing one of them in today’s NHL rumor mill.
SPORTSNET: Sonny Sachdeva listed New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal and Tampa Bay Lightning center Anthony Cirelli, defenseman Mikhail Sergachev and blueliner Erik Cernak among his eight restricted free agents who could become offer-sheet targets during this NHL offseason.
Sachdeva’s list also includes Columbus Blue Jackets center Pierre-Luc Dubois, Dallas Stars forward Roope Hintz, Edmonton Oilers defenseman Ethan Bear and Detroit Red Wings forward Anthony Mantha.
THE SCORE: Josh Wegman believes the Nashville Predators, Columbus Blue Jackets and Florida Panthers should attempt to sign Barzal or one of those Lightning RFAs to an offer sheet. He believes it makes sense for the Predators to pony up a five-year deal worth $10.9 million annually for Barzal despite having to give up two first-round picks, a second and a third to the Islanders as compensation.
Wegman suggested the Blue Jackets attempt to sign Sergachev to a four-year contract worth an annual average value of $6.5 million, costing them a first-round pick and a third-rounder in compensation. He also proposed the Panthers target Cirelli for a five-year deal with an AAV of $8 million even though the compensation to the Lightning is a first-round pick, a second-rounder and a third-rounder.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sachdeva and Wegman acknowledged the rarity of offer sheets and the difficulties in successfully signing away another team’s restricted free agent.
There’s no question most on Sachdeva’s list make tempting targets for offer sheets. However, I wouldn’t have included Dubois, Hintz, Bear or Mantha. Not because they’re not deserving but because I don’t believe any club would overpay to land one of those players.
Cap Friendly indicates the Red Wings have over $15 million in cap space, more than enough to match any offer for Mantha. The Blue Jackets have over $12 million available so matching for Dubois isn’t an issue. The Stars have over $4.1 million and could free up space if necessary without too much difficulty. The Oilers have only 732K in cap space but are expected to place Oscar Klefbom ($4.1 million) on LTIR.
Yes, those clubs could be reluctant to match if the offer is very expensive. A rival club could roll the dice and sign one of those players. With so many teams carrying limited cap space, this offseason would be the perfect time to try that tactic. However, I don’t see those with cap space willing to overspend under the current economic climate. That includes the Predators, Blue Jackets and Panthers.
In today’s NHL rumor mill, we take a look at the latest Blues speculation plus several suggested second-line center and defense targets for the Jets.
LATEST ON THE BLUES
STLTODAY.COM: In a recent live chat, Tom Timmermann was asked if the St. Louis Blues could trade Jaden Schwartz, Jake Allen, or both as cost-cutting measures.
He feels trading Allen would be the easiest solution to freeing up salary-cap space to re-sign Alex Pietrangelo. The improvement in his play this season could improve his trade value.
If Schwartz intends to seek a significant raise on his next contract in 2021, the Blues could be forced to move him. Trading him early when a team can get a full season out of him before his contract expires would improve his value.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Blues have over $79.4 million invested in 20 players, with Pietrangelo and RFA blueliner Vince Dunn their priorities to re-sign. Shedding Schwartz ($5.35 million through 2020-21, 15-team no-trade list) and Allen ($4.35 million through 2020-21) would free up $9.7 million in cap room. That’s enough to re-sign Pietrangelo, but not for Dunn.
Unless Blues management intends to let Pietrangelo walk after this season, they’ll probably have to dump around $14 million to retain their cap, re-sign Dunn, and leave sufficient cap space for other roster moves next season.
SECOND-LINE CENTER & DEFENSE OPTIONS FOR THE JETS
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Murat Ales suggested 16 candidates to address the Winnipeg Jets’ second-line center position for 2020-21.
In-house options include Bryan Little, Andrew Copp, and Jack Roslovic.
Unrestricted free agent possibilities include re-signing Cody Eakin or pursuing the Islanders’ Derick Brassard, Minnesota’s Alex Galchenyuk, Nashville’s Mikael Granlund, Arizona’s Carl Soderberg or Florida’s Erik Haula.
Trade options include Tampa Bay’s Tyler Johnson, Montreal’s Max Domi, or Dallas’ Roope Hintz.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Roslovic could be the most likely in-house option. He wants to move up into the Jets’ top-six. It might be worthwhile to give him that opportunity. If it doesn’t work, they can turn to the in-season trade market.
Granlund might be the best of those proposed UFA options, though he’s spent more time on the wing in recent years. Unless Johnson waives his no-trade clause, he’s not going to Winnipeg. Despite the speculation in the Montreal media over Domi’s future with the Habs, I think they’ll re-sign him. The Stars aren’t moving Hintz, as the big 23-year-old sophomore winger is blossoming into one of their core forwards.
Ken Wiebe (subscription required) looks at 10 defense options via the off-season free-agent and trade markets. The UFAs include Washington’s Brenden Dillon, Calgary’s Travis Hamonic, Toronto’s Tyson Barrie, and Tampa Bay’s Kevin Shattenkirk. His trade targets include Anaheim’s Josh Manson, Carolina’s Jake Gardiner, New Jersey’s Damon Severson, and Minnesota’s Matt Dumba.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dillon, Hamonic, and Barrie could be reasonable options. Hamonic is a Manitoba native and could be keen on returning home if the Flames don’t re-sign him.
I don’t see the Ducks parting with Manson, the Devils with Severson, or the Wild with Dumba. Given the state of their respective bluelines, they need those rearguards if they hope to be competitive next season. The Hurricanes, on the other hand, might gladly listen to offers for Gardiner, but I doubt the Jets’ management would be interested in him.