NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 20, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 20, 2020

The Stars defeat the Lightning in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, plus highlights from Commissioner Bettman’s state-of-the-league press conference in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Anton Khudobin made 35 save (including 22 in the third period) as the Dallas Stars defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1 in Game 1 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final. Jamie Oleksiak scored what proved to be the winning goal in the second period. Joel Hanley, Joel Kiviranta and Jason Dickinson also tallied for the Stars, while Yanni Gourde had the lone Lightning goal. Game 2 is Monday at 8 pm ET. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Stars benefited from five days off between series compared to just two for the Lightning. It was obvious through the first two periods as the Stars controlled much of the play. 

The Bolts dominated the third period but Khudobin was the difference. All of Dallas’ defensemen except for Andrej Sekera picked up a point in this game, with Oleksiak and Hanley scoring two of the Stars’ four goals. 

The fate of the 2021-22 season was the dominant theme in NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s annual state-of-the-league press conference prior to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. 

While the league targeted Dec. 1 as a possible start date, Bettman indicated he wouldn’t be surprised if that date moved to late December or January. No firm timetable has been established. 

The league is still planning to stage a full 82-games schedule and four-round best-of-seven playoff format. “How and when we do that is something that we don’t all have enough information to make any decisions, and anything would be just sheer speculation,” said Bettman. 

Bettman also said it was conceivable next season begins without fans in the arenas but transitions to some fans in the buildings as the season progresses. However, he added that was speculation at this point. Bettman noted fan attendance accounts for 50 percent of league revenues. He remains confident all 31 teams will weather the financial stress. 

The commissioner said he’d prefer to stay out of staging games next summer if at all possible. “Our fans typically like watching us through the fall, winter, and into the spring, and it’s always been a goal to be done by the end of June,” he said. 

Bettman indicates the league is considering all possibilities for staging next season. He said it’s premature to draw conclusions because so much depends upon government and travel restrictions between Canada and the United States. 

If the 2021 Winter Classic in Minneapolis on Jan. 1 has to be postponed, the league will will make “suitable, appropriate arrangement” to make it up to Minnesota Wild fans. 

This year’s expanded playoff format of 24 teams will not be continued. 

Bettman said the Seattle Kraken’s entry into the league in 2021-22 won’t be delayed. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the NHL intends on a full 82-game schedule and its usual playoff format next season, I don’t see how the league can avoid staging at least part of the playoffs next summer if the season begins sometime in January. Even an early December start would be pushing it. The only way of avoiding that is shortening the season, but the league’s broadcasting contracts could contain penalties for playing fewer games than scheduled. 

Lots of options are likely on the table for how the league returns next season. There could be a lot of regional games to reduce long-distance travel in the United States, or the Canadian teams could play against themselves until such time as restrictions ease at the US-Canadian border. 

It’s very important to league revenue to get fans back in the arenas in the safest way possible. As Bettman suggested, it could be a gradual transition where a limited number of fans are allowed in but are seated to ensure they are socially distanced. 

I believe the league will attempt to restage the Winter Classic in Minneapolis for 2022 if they have to postpone this season’s, provide that location hasn’t already been determined. 

Bettman isn’t going to acknowledge if any of the league’s 31 franchises are struggling during this pandemic. Hopefully, they can all make it through. The longer this pandemic drags on and affects league revenue, the more concern will grow.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 8, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 8, 2020

The Maple Leafs rally to tie their series with the Blue Jackets while the Canucks, Canadiens, Blackhawks, Coyotes, and Islanders march on to the playoffs. Recaps and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (Photo via NHL Images).

  NHL.COM: Auston Matthews’ overtime tally capped a four-goal rally by the Toronto Maple Leafs to edge the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-3, tying their best-of-five qualifying-round series at two games apiece. The Leafs were down 3-0 late in the third when they tied it on goals by William Nylander, John Tavares, and Zach Hyman, setting the stage for Matthews’ OT heroics. The fifth and deciding game will be played Sunday.

 

    SPECTOR’S NOTE: Until that rally, Toronto looked done and dusted. With the game and the series seemingly in the bag following a solid defensive performance, the Jackets were unprepared for the Leafs’ desperate push. Both teams are now even in third-period comebacks. The Vancouver Canucks are marching on to the playoffs after Chris Tanev’s overtime goal gave them a series-clinching 5-4 win over the Minnesota Wild in Game 4 of their qualifier. Tanev enjoyed a three-point performance while Bo Horvat, Quinn Hughes, and Tanner Pearson each had a goal and an assist.  

 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This series was a big step forward for the rebuilding Canucks. The Wild, meanwhile, enter an off-season that could lead to some significant roster changes. This game may have been the last one for long-time Wild captain Mikko Koivu. 

Carey Price had a 22-game shutout as he backstopped the Montreal Canadiens over the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-0 in Game 4 of their qualifier, winning the series 3 games to 1. Artturi Lehkonen snapped a scoreless tie on a beautiful pass by Paul Byron late in the third period. Shea Weber put it away with an empty-netter.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens out-worked and out-hit the Penguins, whose intensity seemed to wan as they struggled to put pucks past Price. The Habs goalie was outstanding in this series, silencing (for now) the critics claiming he was past his prime. 

Dominik Kubalik snapped a 2-2 third-period tie to lift the Chicago Blackhawks to a 3-2, series-ending Game 4 victory over the Edmonton Oilers. Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews collected two assists while Corey Crawford kicked out 43 shots for the win. Oilers captain Connor McDavid had two assists.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks had solid goaltending, veteran postseason experience, and scoring depth. The Oilers had McDavid’s line and not much else.

An overtime goal by Brad Richardson propelled the Arizona Coyotes to a 4-3 series-clinching win over the Nashville Predators. Coyotes goalie Darcy Kuemper made 49 saves, team captain Oliver-Ekman-Larsson collected two assists, and Phil Kessel tallied his first goal of the series.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kuemper was the difference throughout this series. Nashville dominated much of the play but couldn’t crack the Coyotes netminder. The Preds also didn’t get much secondary scoring in this series. 

Anthony Beauvillier scored twice as the New York Islanders wrapped up their series against the Florida Panthers with a convincing 5-1 victory in Game 4.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Panthers had little answer for the Islanders’ defensive system. Their lack of depth could lead to a front-office shakeup as a report claimed Dale Tallon could be out as general manager.

HEADLINES

LAS VEGAS SUN: The top seed in the Western Conference is on the line as the Vegas Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche face off today in round-robin action.

TSN: Steven Stamkos will miss today’s final round-robin game against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Tampa Bay Lightning captain is still recovering from an undisclosed injury suffered during Phase 2 training. Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Stamkos is considered to be out indefinitely for the time being.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Flyers winger Jakub Voracek is unavailable to play in today’s contest with the Lightning. As per league protocols, the club cannot elaborate as to his condition. Flyers winger James van Riemsdyk returns to the lineup after being a healthy scratch in Thursday’s win over the Washington Capitals.

MLIVE.COM: The Detroit Red Wings have loaned Filip Zadina to HC Ocelari Trinec (Czech) and Moritz Seider to Mannheim, his former German League club.

TSN: The NHL is continuing its investigation into allegations of pre-draft fitness testing by the Arizona Coyotes. A ruling could come on Monday.

NHL.COM: The Seattle Kraken named Everett Fitzhugh as their team broadcaster, making him the NHL’s first Black full-time play-by-player announcer.

 

   

 










NHL Rumor Mill – August 5, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 5, 2020

A look at possible off-season targets for the Sharks and the cost to the Red Wings of trying to move Justin Abdelkader or Frans Nielsen to the Kraken in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE MERCURY NEWS: Curtis Pashelka reports San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson will be looking to add depth to his roster in the off-season. He’s expressed interest in acquiring a forward.

Could the San Jose Sharks attempt to acquire Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson in the off-season? (Photo via NHL Images)

Pashelka listed Florida Panthers winger Evgenii Dadonov, Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson, Toronto Maple Leafs winger Kaspari Kapanen, St. Louis Blues winger Jaden Schwartz, and Vancouver Canucks winger Tyler Toffoli as potential targets.

Dadonov and Toffoli are unrestricted free agents at season’s end. Schwartz has a year left on his contract with an annual average value of $5.35 million, Kapanen is earning $3.2 million per season through 2020-21, and Johnson is signed through 2023-24 worth $5 million annually.

Pashelka wonders if the Panthers will be willing to pay out another big salary to re-sign Dadonov when they’ve already got $60 million invested in 13 players for next season. The Lightning might consider moving Johnson to free up cap space. If he’s unavailable, perhaps Alex Killorn could be a worthwhile target.

The Leafs would likely want an affordable, right-shot defenseman in return for Kapanen. It might take a third team getting involved for the Sharks to land him. The Blues also need to shed some salary. They might prefer shopping center Tyler Bozak or goalie Jake Allen, but Schwartz would draw more interest. If the Canucks fail to re-sign Toffoli, perhaps he’d consider returning to a California-based club.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pashelka also noted the Sharks have cap issues of their own, with 15 players under contract and roughly $14.9 million available next season. Adding Dadonov or Toffoli would take a big bite out of that cap room, forcing Wilson to make a salary-dumping deal. Probably better off to look at the trade market.

Kapanen carries the most affordable contract, but the asking price could be a sticking point. Johnson has a full no-trade clause and could be unwilling to waive it, whereas Killorn has a 16-team no-trade and might be amenable to moving to San Jose. The Blues could move Schwartz if push came to shove, but I see them shopping Allen and perhaps someone else.

DETROIT FREE PRESS: Helene St. James examined the cost to the Red Wings of trying to tempt the Seattle Kraken into acquiring Justin Abdelkader or Frans Nielsen next summer by packaging either player with a draft pick or prospect.

She believes it doesn’t make sense for the Wings if it means including a top prospect or a first-round pick. It also wouldn’t make sense for the Kraken to take on Abdelkader’s annual cap hit ($4.25 million through 2022-23) or Nielsen’s ($5.25 million through 2021-22) for a third- or fourth-round selection or a middling prospect.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, the Wings could be stuck with both players beyond next season. Perhaps GM Steve Yzerman can find a budget team looking to reach the cap floor, but those teams would also want something decent in the package deal.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 25, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 25, 2020

Uncertainty over the status of Coyotes GM John Chayka, plus updates on Sidney Crosby, Brent Seabrook, Corey Crawford, Torey Krug, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

IS CHAYKA OUT AS COYOTES GM?

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports there’s a growing sense John Chayka and the Arizona Coyotes are headed for a divorce. The Coyotes general manager was not present during a meeting last week between several key members of the club’s ownership group and pending free agent winger Taylor Hall. It has yet to be determined if Chayka will be traveling with the club to Edmonton for the upcoming playoff tournament. One source claims his office has been cleaned out.

Arizona Coyotes general manager John Chayka (NHL.com).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Interesting bit of intrigue as the Coyotes prepare for the upcoming qualifying round. Chayka has yet to speak with the media about this situation. We’ll likely learn more about his fate in the coming days. 

Friedman wondered if this might be tied to accusations the Coyotes violated draft-eligible workout rules earlier this year, but he added the NHL denied that was the case. He also mused over whether assistant GM Steve Sullivan might become Chayka’s replacement.

TSN’s Pierre LeBrun pointed out Chayka has three years remaining on his contract following the tournament, but Coyotes insider Craig Morgan indicates the extension runs through 2023-24. He also noted the two sides seem headed for a split. 

NOTABLE TRAINING CAMP NEWS

TRIBLIVE.COM: Sidney Crosby got a round of applause from teammates as the Pittsburgh Penguins captain returned to full practice for the first time in nearly a week. League protocols prevented the club from elaborating on Crosby’s absence, but a team source explained he’d been withheld from practice as a precautionary measure as he dealt with a minor ailment.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE/CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Defenseman Brent Seabrook won’t be joining his teammates in Edmonton for the Blackhawks’ upcoming qualifying-round series against the Oilers. He attempted to return from two hip surgeries and a shoulder surgery earlier this season but felt he wasn’t fully up to speed. Seabrook intends to spend more time building up his strength for next season’s training camp in the fall.

Goaltender Corey Crawford, however, could be traveling with the team to Edmonton. While he missed the Blackhawks’ entire training camp, he’s reportedly on their roster list. It’s unclear if he’ll be in the lineup for Game 1.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Can’t blame Seabrook for attempting to return to the lineup. As for Crawford, his addition speaks to the Blackhawks’ lack of skilled depth between the pipes. I doubt he’ll be that effective after missing their training camp following a four-month layoff. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Defenseman Torey Krug admitted the upcoming playoff tournament could be his final Stanley Cup run with the Boston Bruins. He’s an unrestricted free agent at season’s end and the flat salary cap for next season could make it difficult for the Bruins to re-sign him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see how the Bruins handle this. Cap Friendly indicates they have over $63.5 million invested in 18 players, with Krug, Jake DeBrusk, Zdeno Chara, Matt Grzelcyk, and Anders Bjork among their noteworthy free agents. It could prove a tight squeeze fitting them within their cap constraints.

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: Defenseman Aaron Ekblad missed his second consecutive Panthers’ practice yesterday. Coach Joel Quenneville couldn’t elaborate as per league protocols but indicated Ekblad had been at their training facility in recent days. He expects the blueliner will be ready for the upcoming playoff tournament.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, Ekblad’s dealing with an issue that is not related to COVID-19. Probably a minor injury.

NEW YORK POST: Young Rangers winger K’Andre Miller won’t be joining his teammate for the playoff tournament despite a solid training camp. He’s ineligible because his entry-level contract doesn’t begin until next season. Meanwhile, the Rangers loaned center Lias Andersson to Swedish Hockey League team HV-71 for 2020-21.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens defenseman Brett Kulak admitted he’d tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month after self-isolating from his teammates when he first experienced symptoms. He’s fully recovered and rejoined the club in practice this week.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: The Oilers will honor former teammate Colby Cave before their final scrimmage today by wearing his No. 12 on their jerseys. Cave passed away unexpectedly in April.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A nice tribute by the Oilers to Cave and his family. The club will auction off the jerseys at a later date with the proceeds going toward the Colby Cave Memorial fund.

IN OTHER NEWS…

THE SEATTLE TIMES: National sales of Seattle Kraken merchandise is already 50 percent higher than what the Vegas Golden Knights sold in their first 24 hours of making their merchandise available in 2017. The Kraken unveiled their nickname, logo, and jerseys on Thursday.

 










NHL Rumor Mill – July 24, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – July 24, 2020

A look at how the expansion Seattle Kraken could build their roster and coaching staff, plus the latest Predators speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

BUILDING THE KRAKEN

TSN: Following yesterday’s reveal of Seattle’s NHL expansion franchise as the Kraken, Darren Dreger examined how they could build their coaching staff and roster. He said Kraken general manager Ron Francis still intends to take his time finding the right bench boss.

Seattle Kraken general manager Ron Francis (NHL.com)

There’s speculation linking former Vegas Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant to the Seattle franchise. Dreger feels it’s safe to assume Gallant is in the mix.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gallant’s performance during the Golden Knights’ record-breaking inaugural season earned him the Jack Adams Award as the 2017-18 NHL coach of the year. He’ll be a tempting option for Francis.

Dreger also believes a flat salary cap of $81.5 million could work in the Kraken’s favor when building their roster next year. Francis could take advantage of the tough decisions some cap-strapped teams could face heading into 2021-22.

Some of those clubs could try to interest Francis in taking a high-salaried player off their hands. He could also take advantage of arbitration cases where a team rejects the arbiter’s award or those that walk away from qualifying offers for their restricted free agents.

Dreger’s colleague Travis Yost believes the Vegas Golden Knights have provided the Kraken a blueprint for building a successful expansion roster. They got secure goaltending by selecting Marc-Andre Fleury in the expansion draft, swung several trades to obtain key players such as Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, Shea Theodore, and William Karlsson, and loaded up on promising young assets through the draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Francis will have his own ideas for building his roster, but I don’t doubt he’ll also attempt to follow the Golden Knights’ template. The flat cap provides him with perhaps better opportunities to land quality talent through next summer’s expansion draft or via the trade and free-agent markets.

I’ve avoided the expansion draft guessing game some writers played during the interruption in the NHL schedule by COVID-19. A player that could be available today might be protected next year, while limited cap space could leave a supposed untouchable player unprotected. Still, it will be interesting to see what opportunities unfold for the Kraken come next summer.

COULD THE PREDATORS BUY OUT TURRIS?

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment, Adam Vingan was asked about the likelihood of the Nashville Predators buying out Kyle Turris’ contract to free salary cap space to re-sign Mikael Granlund and Craig Smith. The two forwards are slated to become unrestricted free agents at season’s end.

Buying out Turris would save the Predators $4 million annually through 2024. Vingan isn’t sure if they’ll do t but believes they should give it serious consideration. Even then, he feels the likelihood of re-signing both Granlund and Smith is low.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: PuckPedia indicates buying out Turris will also leave the Predators with $2 million in annual dead cap space through 2027-28. With the cap expected to be flat for perhaps the next two seasons and growth to be slow after that, it still might not be a bad idea to remove the bulk of Turris’ cap hit.

As per Cap Friendly, the Predators have over $72.2 million invested in 17 players for 2020-21. Buying out Turris would reduce that to $68.2 million, providing a little extra wiggle room to re-sign Granlund or Smith, or to perhaps consider more affordable options via trade or free agency.

Whether GM David Poile goes that route is another story. He could attempt to move Turris’ entire contract, but that could mean packaging the center with a high draft pick and/or a top prospect.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 24, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 24, 2020

Seattle’s expansion franchise chooses Kraken as its team name, a look at what life will be like inside the host cities for the playoff tournament, and updates on Jonathan Toews, Sidney Crosby, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE SEATTLE TIMES: Seattle’s NHL expansion franchise yesterday announced its team name will be “Kraken”. The club also unveiled its logo, a stylized S to reflect the mythical monster squid, as well as their home and away jerseys.

Seattle Kraken home jersey (NHL.com).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’m not a fan of the Kraken name, and I’m not just talking about the rum (I’m a scotch man, but I digress). I felt they should’ve picked one that better reflected the Seattle/Pacific Northwest area rather than a creature from Scandinavian lore. It’s already ensured their fans will be nicknamed “Krakheads” and their arena “The Krakhouse.”

Nevertheless, I think they did very well with the jersey rollout. The logo is well done, I like the color scheme, and the anchor on each shoulder incorporating Seattle’s Space Needle is a nice touch. That jersey could become a popular NHL merchandise item.

NHL REVEALS DETAILS OF LIFE IN PLAYOFF HUB CITIES

NHL.COM: The league yesterday released details of what life will be like for the teams in the two host cities under Phase 4 of the return-to-play plan. That included videos of accommodation and amenities within each of the Secure Zones in Edmonton and Toronto, special theme nights for selected games, and in-game sounds and supplemented crowd noise for televised games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There will be plenty of facilities and recreational activities available for everyone involved in the tournament. Those will be crucial for morale as they adjust to life under a quarantine bubble. 

LATEST PHASE 3 TRAINING CAMP NOTES

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews rejoined his teammates yesterday after missing practice on Tuesday. He also denied a report by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman claiming he voted against the return-to-play plan and CBA extension.

“I don’t know where he got that from,” said Toews. He added, “I voted yes. If anything, I kind of wanted the guys in our room to educate themselves on what was going on to the best of their ability and ultimately make their own decision.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to hear Friedman’s response. He’s among the NHL media’s well-connected pundits. In his recent 31 Thoughts podcast, he said he’d heard from several people claiming Toews had voted against the plan.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby didn’t participate in yesterday’s scrimmage but skated on his own yesterday. He hasn’t participated in practice since leaving the ice on Saturday. While league protocols prevent the Penguins from revealing details, a source explained Crosby’s absence was a precautionary measure as he deals with a minor ailment. 

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton has been listed as unfit to play after missing practice yesterday. Hamilton had recovered from a broken leg suffered last January but left the ice on Wednesday in some discomfort. Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said he hoped this wasn’t a long-term issue.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hamilton was mentioned as a possible Norris Trophy finalist before his injury. While the Hurricanes adjusted to playing without him, they’re a much better team with the puck-moving blueliner in the lineup. It would be a blow to their Stanley Cup hopes if he’s sidelined for another indefinite period. 

THE DENVER POST: Cale Makar could be close to returning to practice. The Colorado Avalanche defenseman hasn’t skated with his teammates since Saturday but took part yesterday in individual on-ice drills. Meanwhile, Avs captain Nathan MacKinnon skipped scrimmage yesterday. No explanation was given for his absence.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Carter Hart didn’t participate in the Philadelphia Flyers’ final training camp scrimmage yesterday. The young goaltender was absent from practice since Sunday but did take part in some individual on-ice training. As per league protocols, no explanation was given for his absence.

THE ATHLETIC: Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba missed yesterday’s scrimmage for undisclosed reasons. Coach Dean Evason has no expectations where Dumba will participate in today’s practice.

THE SCORE: Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella isn’t pleased with the effort of two or three of his key players during Phase 3 training camp. He didn’t mention names, but he did stop practice yesterday to yell at his players after 30 seconds of the opening drill.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tortorella’s probably not the only coach involved in the playoff tournament to have a concern about the performance of some players in training camp following a long layoff. They just don’t express it as openly as the Blue Jackets’ colorful bench boss.

MONTREAL GAZETTE/WINNIPEG SUN: Canadiens defenseman Xavier Ouellet and Jets blueliner Anthony Bitetto revealed they had tested positive for COVID-19. Both have since recovered and rejoined their teammates.