Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – November 29, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – November 29, 2020

Updates on the remaining notable unrestricted free agents in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.

SPORTSNET: Emily Sadler recently updated the status of the top remaining NHL unrestricted free agents. She noted the UFA market is at a standstill given the uncertainty over the season.

Mike Hoffman remains the top player available in the NHL UFA market (NHL Images).

Mike Hoffman still tops the list of available talent. Sadler noted the Nashville Predators were believed to have an interest in the winger. The Boston Bruins, Columbus Blue Jackets, Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils could use more scoring.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Predators, Jackets and Devils have the cap space to sign Hoffman to the one-year deal he’s seeking worth between $5.5 million and $6 million. If they are interested in him, however, they’re likely playing the waiting game hoping he’ll lower his asking price. Once we know when (if?) the season will begin, perhaps he’ll sign with one of them.

Sadler believes teams that fail to sign Hoffman could turn their focus toward winger Mikael Granlund. The annual average value on his previous contract was $5.75 million but he’ll have to accept less than that now.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Granlund will likely have to accept a lot less given the current economic situation and the decline in his production over the last two seasons. He could be looking at offers of $2.5 million on a one-year deal.

Travis Hamonic’s Manitoba roots, combined with the Jets’ need for blueline depth, makes Winnipeg a potential match. Sadler also suggested the Calgary Flames could use him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets are above the salary cap by over $697K but could have the wiggle room to add Hamonic (if they wish) by placing Bryan Little and his $5.29 million cap hit on LTIR. I don’t think we’ll see a reunion between Hamonic and the Flames unless he agrees to a substantial pay cut.

Sadler pointed out winger Anthony Duclair is currently training in Arizona with such notables as Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Matt Dumba and Jonathan Toews.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That might help Duclair’s value if he’s training with some of the league’s top stars. As Sadler points out, he appears determined to be at his best for the coming season.

Noting Ilya Kovalchuk’s brief but successful stint with the Canadiens, Sadler wonders if a return to Montreal is possible.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That ship sailed when the Habs acquired Josh Anderson and signed Tyler Toffoli last month.

The Vancouver Canucks could still be searching for a defenseman. Sadler suggested Sami Vatanen as a possible fit.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks are over the cap by $1.5 million but could get some relief if Micheal Ferland’s post-concussion issues put him on LTIR. His annual average value is $3.5 million, giving the Canucks some room to add Vatanen or another defenseman at an affordable price.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 25, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 25, 2020

The proposed Jan. 1 start of the 2020-21 season in jeopardy, four Blue Jackets test positive for COVID-19, plus updates on Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

LATEST RETURN-TO-PLAY NEWS

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports the lack of progress over the last five days to draft protocols could jeopardize the NHL’s proposed Jan. 1 start date for the 2020-21 season. Well-placed sources tell Brooks of continuing adamant, widespread resistance among the NHLPA membership to the league’s recent requests to renegotiate the terms of the recent CBA extension to increase the escrow and salary deferral rates.

The league made those requests citing liquidity issues. While the players’ share of hockey-related revenue cannot exceed 50 percent, Brooks said the adoption of annual escrow caps combined with uncoupling the salary cap from actual HRR has ended the assurance of a yearly 50-50 split.

Brooks notes the 10 percent salary deferral for this season was to be repaid without interest in three equal annual installments over the final three years of the extension. He wonders if the players would be amenable to adjusting the agreement if the league agrees to repay all deferred money with interest.

The stalled negotiations suggest a 48-game schedule beginning the third week in January appears more likely. The NHL returned from the 1994-95 lockout on Jan 20 and from the 2012-13 lockout on Jan. 19. Brooks reports the league remains focused on playing in home arenas with or without fans in attendance despite recent positive COVID-19 tests among two NHL teams.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHL was facing a tight schedule to meet a suitable timetable for a Jan. 1 start well before the recent lull in negotiations with the PA.

They need a 14-day training camp period in the run-up to the start of the season while last season’s seven non-playoff clubs were promised an extra seven-to-10 days of camp. Many players remain scattered across North American and Europe with those returning to Canadian clubs needing to self-isolate for 14 days. The players could also be reluctant to take part in training camp during the Christmas holidays.

The league and the PA were hoping for a Jan. 1 start in order to stage a 60-game schedule. If they cannot hammer out an agreement by the end of this week, they’ll have to push that start date to late January or early February and consider adopting a shorter schedule.

TORONTO STAR: Kevin McGran believes the prospect of a new US television agreement next season brings the promise of the NHL playing this season. The current contract with NBC Sports expires at the end of 2020-21.

Playing this season means the league could enter into lucrative new deals with a diverse group of broadcasters and/or streamers starting in ’21-’22. That includes traditional TV networks like NBC, cable networks like ESPN and Fox, and streamers such as DAZN and Amazon Prime.

The effect of COVID-19 upon league revenues could result in a less fruitful bidding war than anticipated. However, McGran points out Major League Baseball just signed a seven-year extension with Turner Sports worth a 65 percent increase annually over its previous deal with the broadcaster.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As the saying goes, it’s all about the Benjamins. That’s one of the main reasons why the NHL and the NHLPA are keen to return to play as soon as possible. That’s why commissioner Gary Bettman reportedly believes canceling the season would damage the league’s long-term health.

SPORTSNET: The Columbus Blue Jackets announced “several players” tested positive for COVID-19. Those players immediately began to quarantine and the club closed its off-ice facilities at Nationwide Arena beginning Nov. 16. This news comes a day after the Vegas Golden Knights announced four players tested positive.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This will be an ongoing concern for the NHL’s efforts to stage a 2020-21 season. Teams are following health and safety protocols similar to those in use prior to the 2020 playoffs but it doesn’t make the players immune from the coronavirus.

Edmonton Oiler captain Connor McDavid is training with Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews in Arizona (NHL Images).

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid joined Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews in Arizona earlier this month. The two superstars have skated together four days a week. They’ve been joined in recent weeks by several NHL players, including Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews and Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Players have been taking part in informal voluntary workouts and on-ice training throughout North America and Europe in preparation for whatever format the ’20-’21 schedule will be.

THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning said his players are waiting to see when training camp begins. He said it doesn’t make sense to bring everyone to Vancouver right now to go through a two-week quarantine, only to have them return home for Christmas and then go through another quarantine when they return.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Everything’s in a holding pattern right now for all NHL teams. Because of the health and safety protocols, they can’t bring their players back in anticipation of a December training camp when they don’t know if that’s even going to happen.

OTHER NOTABLE NHL HEADLINES

NHL.COM: Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel believes the club did an “awesome job” with its offseason moves. Those include adding left wing Taylor Hall and centers Eric Staal and Cody Eakin.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens center Phillip Danault said he’s had no contract talks with the club and expects to enter the final season of his current deal without an extension. He said he’ll see what happens, leaving it up to general manager Marc Bergevin.

Danault clarified that he never said he wanted to be the club’s full-time first-line center but the two-way center doesn’t want to be placed into just one role. Pat Hickey believes the Canadiens’ offseason additions of Tyler Toffoli and Josh Anderson means Danault will likely remain with linemates Brendan Gallagher and Tomas Tatar.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Danault’s future with the Canadiens will depend on the development of promising centers Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. If they outperform Danault, this season could be his last with the Habs.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Former NHL player Daniel Carcillo recently told HBO’s Real Sports that psychedelic drugs helped him cope with the aftereffects of brain trauma suffered during his playing career.

WINNIPEG SUN: Jets prospect Dylan Samberg was involved in a multi-vehicle accident in Minnesota that left him unhurt but sent four other people to hospital with life-threatening injuries.

TSN: The NHL is embroiled in a legal fight with several insurance companies refusing to pay most of the costs related to the league’s concussion lawsuit and the settlement reached with retirement players.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Former Blackhawks forward Fred Sasakamoose, one of the first Indigenous players in the NHL, passed away yesterday at age 86 from COVID-19. Sasakamoose played 11 games with the Blackhawks in 1953-54 and was a pioneer and role model for Indigenous and Native American players. Sasakamoose was inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame in 2007 and received the Order of Canada in 2017.

AZCENTRAL.COM: The Arizona Coyotes mourning the passing of nine-year-old fan Leighton Accardo, who passed away yesterday following a long battle with cancer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Sasakamoose’s family, friends and former teammates, and to the Accardo family and the Coyotes’ organization.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 24, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 24, 2020

The latest on the return-to-play discussions, four Golden Knights test positive for COVID-19, the Bruins sign Jake DeBrusk and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

RETURN-TO-PLAY NEWS

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch cited NHL insider Nick Kypreos saying there were no discussions over the weekend between the league and the NHL Players Association for the first time in weeks regarding the 2020-21 season.

 

The league remains focused on a Jan. 1 start but NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly suggested several times that date is flexible and could be pushed back a week or two.

Garrioch believes it’s been quiet of late because the two sides have likely retreated to their offices to come up with a plausible agreement acceptable to the owners. Senators owner Eugene Melnyk last week indicated not all the 31 owners are on board with the plan put forward because of the losses they’ll face for 2020-21. The players last week rejected two requests from the league for increased escrow and salary deferral rates.

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy reported “a prominent agent” said talks are currently at a standstill. Three other player agents wondered when is enough with the constant concessions the players have made since the 2004-05 lockout. One accused league commissioner Gary Bettman and the owners of using the pandemic to squeeze more out of the players. Another agent claims he knows of five or six owners seriously questioning if it makes sense to stage a season.

Murphy feels the longer negotiations drag on, the more NHL and AHL players could head overseas to play in Europe, particularly those on two-way contracts who finished last season in the AHL. He also cites a league source suggesting a Feb. 5 start date for the season remains an option.

ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan reports Bettman is dealing with a handful of disgruntled owners, with some believing they got a bad deal in the new collective bargaining agreement and a few telling the commissioner they’d prefer not to play if there are no fans because of operating losses.

According to a source, Bettman is “managing” those owners, telling them sitting out the season isn’t an option because of the damage to the league’s long-term health. However, he is trying to address their concerns, which include an infusion of cash to start the season, hence the league’s requests to the players last week.

Kaplan reports sources indicated the players remain willing to work with the league because it’s in everyone’s best interest to stage a season. If the league is trying to borrow money from the players, the PA could seek concessions such as increased health insurance for players in retirement. Kaplan also notes the NHL owners will be getting $650 million in expansion fees in 2021-22 plus a new U.S. Television deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This stalemate between the league and the PA could stretch on for weeks and put the 2020-21 season into jeopardy. But as long as Bettman and the players remain determined to return to play, the less likely the season will be canceled. There appears a genuine desire on both sides to get this done, though there’s no denying the league’s recent requests have stalled negotiations.

Barring a significant breakthrough by the end of this week, I think we can forget about the Jan. 1 start date. As Garrioch pointed out, Daly has previously suggested that start date was flexible. It could be anywhere between mid-January and mid-February, though the earlier the better if they hope to stage a meaningful schedule.

OTHER NOTABLE NHL HEADLINES

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Four Vegas Golden Knights players have tested positive for COVID-19. The club confirmed their status but declined to identify them. The four are in self-isolation and “recovering well.” The club is taking precautionary measures by closing their off-ice training facilities and player areas to players and staff through Sunday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This serves as a reminder that the pandemic will still affect the players if the 2020-21 season takes place. Without playing in a quarantine bubble as they did during the 2020 playoffs, they risk exposure to the coronavirus even with increased testing and strict health and safety protocols.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: The Bruins signed restricted free agent winger Jake DeBrusk to a two-year contract worth an annual average value of $3.675 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: DeBrusk had the bad luck to complete an entry-level contract in the midst of a pandemic that adversely affected the NHL salary cap. While his agent had suggested his client was worth $6 million per season, there was no way he was going to get that much from the Bruins or from another club via an offer sheet under the current economic conditions.

It’s a good deal for the Bruins because they get DeBrusk under contract at a reasonable short-term deal that also leaves enough cap space for other moves. The young winger still gets a decent raise and a chance for a much better deal in two years times when he’ll have arbitration rights in a potentially better economic climate.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens center Jesperi Kotkaniemi is leaving Finnish club Pori Assat and returning to Montreal in what’s considered a sign the club is preparing to stage its training camp soon. Kotkaniemi will begin a 14-day quarantine upon his return.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: He’s not the only player skating in Europe coming back to North America. If more players follow suit it’ll signal the league and the PA are close to a return-to-play agreement.

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: The Blackhawks hired Kendall Coyne Schofield as a player development coach and youth hockey growth specialist. She’s the organization’s first-ever female development coach. They also hired former NHL player Erik Condra as a player development coach.

WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets hired Dave Lowry as an assistant coach. The father of Jets center Adam Lowry said he doesn’t expect any issues with the two working for the same team.

NHL.COM: The Florida Panthers hired Shane Churla as their director of amateur scouting. The former NHL player spent the past seven seasons with the Canadiens scouting staff. He also spent seven seasons as an amateur scout with the Dallas Stars and another five in the same role with the Arizona Coyotes.










NHL Rumor Mill – November 20, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 20, 2020

A look at some predicted destinations for the top remaining UFAs in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE SCORE: Josh Wegman recently predicted destinations for the top remaining NHL unrestricted free agents.

Would Mike Hoffman be a good fit with the Los Angeles Kings? (NHL Images)

Wegman last month predicted the Los Angeles Kings as a destination for winger Mike Hoffman, considering him a good fit alongside Anze Kopitar on their top line. He suggested a four-year deal worth $5.5 million annually.

SPECTOR’ S NOTE: With Cap Friendly indicating the Kings have $13.6 million in cap space, they can easily afford Hoffman. However, I doubt general manager Rob Blake would bring a 30-year-old winger to a rebuilding roster on a multi-year deal.

Hoffman is reportedly willing to consider a one-year deal for between $5.5 million and $6.5 million. Maybe Blake would be interested in a one-year contract if he can get Hoffman at a lower rate and then flip him for futures at the trade deadline.

Wegman also suggested Anthony Duclair for the Kings. While his defensive game leaves something to be desire, his abilities could prove useful in offensive-zone starts and on the power play for a club that struggled to score last season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The 25-year-old Duclair could be a better fit with the younger Kings and much more affordable than Hoffman. His defensive play and streaky scoring, however, are areas of concern here.

Erik Haula could address the San Jose Sharks’ lack of bottom-six depth at center. He wouldn’t be overly expensive for the Sharks, who have $2.3 million in cap space. While injuries hampered him over the last two seasons, he tallied 29 goals and 26 assists in his last full campaign in 2017-18.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Haula could be a good, affordable short-term investment as a third-line center in San Jose. Given his injury history and age (29), the Sharks probably wouldn’t invest beyond one year.

The Florida Panthers could use an experienced winger like Mikael Granlund to provide much-needed secondary scoring. He’s coming off a down performance last season with the Nashville Predators but averaged 63 points per campaign in the three previous seasons. He’d be guaranteed second-line minutes with the Panthers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s speculation the Panthers could be trying to bring back Hoffman. Nevertheless, Granlund’s low production last season and the current economic situation would work in their favor here. A one-year deal for between $3.5 – $4 million might get it done.

Wegman suggests Andreas Athanasiou as a middle-six forward option for the Nashville Predators. The speedy 26-year-old winger didn’t play well last season with Detroit and Edmonton but he tallied 30 goals with the Red Wings in 2018-19.

SPECTOR’ S NOTE: I think the Predators are playing the waiting game with Hoffman hoping to land him for a lower price. If that’s not possible, maybe they’ll take a chance on Athanasiou or Duclair on a low-cost one-year contract.

Manitoba native Travis Hamonic could be a perfect fit with the Winnipeg Jets. The 30-year-old defenseman would play close to home and help improve the Jets’ porous blueline. While they’re listed as not having any cap space, they could get some wiggle room by placing center Bryan Little ($5.29 million cap hit) on long-term injury reserve.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hamonic and the Jets could be waiting to see how things shake out with Little before reaching an agreement. Then again, maybe the Jets have no interest in him.

Wegman suggests Sami Vatanen could be the best veteran free-agent defense option available to the Philadelphia Flyers, who didn’t bring in a suitable replacement for recently retired Matt Niskanen. The 29-year-old Vatanen has played 21 minutes per game in recent years and would give the Flyers a third right-handed shot.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher could surprise us, but I get the impression Erik Gustafsson will be his only UFA signing this year.










Top Three NHL Prospects For Each Central Division Team

Top Three NHL Prospects For Each Central Division Team

 










NHL Rumor Mill – November 16, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 16, 2020

A recent survey of player agents revealed which high-profile players they expect to be traded and which teams they feel still need to make a significant move. Check it out in today’s NHL rumor mill

THE ATHLETIC: A recent survey of 21 player agents conducted by Craig Custance revealed Winnipeg Jets winger Patrik Laine, Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel, and Toronto Maple Leafs forwards Mitch Marner and William Nylander topped their list of high-profile players who could change teams in the next year.

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner (NHL Images).

One agent pointed to the recent trade speculation surrounding Laine in recent weeks. Another feels Eichel will tire of losing in Buffalo. Another feels Marner could become a trade candidate if the Leafs decide to move one of their expensive forwards.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’m also leaning toward Laine because of the ongoing trade chatter and the uncertainty over his future beyond this season when he’s a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. Eichel could decide he’s had enough in Buffalo if the Sabres fail to improve but I don’t think he’s reached that point yet.

Moving Marner and his $10.8 million annual average value will be more difficult to trade than Nylander’s $6.96 million under the current economic climate. I know Dubas reportedly said Nylander wouldn’t be traded as long as he was general manager, but that doesn’t mean he can’t change his mind, especially if the Leafs make another early playoff exit.

The Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Edmonton Oilers topped their list of teams they feel still need to make a significant offseason move.

One agent believes the Bruins must figure out what direction they’re going in. Another felt they’re still a Stanley Cup contender but must find a suitable defenseman to replace the departed Torey Krug

One agent said the Lightning need to get out of their salary-cap hell. Another believes the Oilers must get better faster or they’ll run into a problem.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some of the Bruins offseason speculation suggests they’re waiting to re-sign restricted free agent winger Jake DeBrusk until after they’ve sorted the left side of their blue line. DeBrusk has also been mentioned as a possible trade chip to address that need.

The Lightning’s cap issues are well known and dominate the offseason rumor mill. They must free up sufficient cap space to re-sign RFAs Anthony Cirelli, Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak. Forwards Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn are oft-mentioned as trade candidates.

Goaltending remains the Oilers’ Achilles heel but they couldn’t or wouldn’t invest in an upgrade over the current tandem of Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith. They’re just over the $81.5 million salary cap but could get some relief by placing defenseman Oscar Klefbom and his $4.167 million cap hit on long-term injury reserve if he should undergo season-ending shoulder surgery. That could provide a little wiggle room for other moves during the season.