NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 6, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 6, 2021

The NHL announces sponsors for its realigned divisions, plus updates on David Pastrnak, Dougie Hamilton, Alexander Kerfoot and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The league has partnered with four sponsors for its realigned divisions for the upcoming 2020-21 season. They will be known as the Scotia NHL North Division, Honda NHL West Division, Discover NHL Central Division, and the MassMutual NHL East Division.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Or, as I and most hockey fans will refer to them, the North, West, Central and East Divisions.

This news will surely raise hackles among hockey purists already upset over ad logos appearing this season on the players’ helmets. But, as The Athletic’s Scott Burnside indicates, this move is necessary to offset some of the lost revenue this season from the absence of fans due to COVID-19 restrictions.

This could be simply a one-time thing, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the practice of division sponsors continues when things (hopefully) return to normal next season.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy yesterday said David Pastrnak was making progress in his recovery from offseason hip surgery. The original prognosis for the winger was mid-February but Cassidy suggested it could be a little earlier than that.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A late January or early February return for Pastrnak seems possible. The sooner the high-scoring winger returns to the Bruins first line, the better their chances of maintaining their status as a Stanley Cup contender this season.

NHL.COM: Dougie Hamilton wants to remain with the Carolina Hurricanes and hopes the two sides can work out a new contract. The 27-year-old defenseman is slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Hamilton said he’ll leave the negotiations to his agent and focus on the upcoming season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell has indicated a willingness to sign Hamilton to a contract extension. The blueliner’s asking price and the Hurricanes’ inclination to meet it will determine if he has a future in Carolina.

Hamilton was considered a serious contender for the Norris Trophy last season until sidelined by a broken leg last January. Another Norris-worth performance could price him out of the Hurricanes’ comfort zone.

CBS SPORTS: Toronto Maple Leafs forward Alexander Kerfoot was banged up in training camp yesterday and is listed as day-to-day with an undisclosed injury.

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Winger Alex Tuch took a maintenance day yesterday as a precautionary measure after experiencing soreness following the first day of on-ice drills on Monday.

NEW YORK POST: The New York Islanders have reportedly signed free-agent winger Matt Martin to a four-year contract worth an annual average value of $1.5 million. He’ll be 36 when this contract expires.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This deal ensures Martin could retire as an Islander, though he could be selected by Seattle in this summer’s expansion draft if left unprotected. The checking-line winger is considered one of the Isles’ glue guys, the type of hard-working player who brings the team together.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Stars defenseman Joel Hanley missed practice yesterday. He’s been declared “unfit to practice” and listed as day-to-day.

THE SCORE: Former Buffalo Sabres GM Jason Botterill was hired by the Seattle Kraken as an assistant general manager to GM Ron Francis. Former Chicago Blackhawks executive Norm McIver was hired as the Kraken’s director of player personnel.

NHLPA: Colin Wilson officially announced his retirement yesterday following 11 NHL seasons with the Nashville Predators and Colorado Avalanche. He scored 113 goals and 286 points in 632 regular-season games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Wilson and his family in their future endeavors.

Congratulations to Team USA for their 2-0 victory over Team Canada to win the gold medal at the 2021 World Junior Championships. It’s the fourth straight time in as many meetings that Team USA has defeated Canada in the gold-medal game.

Florida Panthers’ goalie prospect Spencer Knight made 34 saves for the shutout. Anaheim Ducks prospect center Trevor Zegras had a goal and an assist while Los Angeles Kings prospect center Alex Turcotte also tallied for the Americans. Zegras led the tournament with 18 points and was named tournament MVP.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Russia may be Canada’s oldest hockey rival but the United States is the biggest rival and has been for some time.










NHL Rumor Mill – December 5, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – December 5, 2020

Questions about Vladimir Tarasenko’s future with the St. Louis Blues and possible moves by the New Jersey Devils in today’s NHL rumor mill.

STLTODAY.COM: In his weekly live chat with Blues fans, Jim Thomas was asked if the St. Louis Blues might expose high-salaried veterans like Vladimir Tarasenko and David Perron in next year’s expansion draft or risk losing younger, cheaper players. Thomas doesn’t see that happening. He pointed out Perron is playing better in terms of production than he ever has, plus they’d hate to make the wrong decision with Tarasenko and see him regain his form with the Kraken.

St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko (NHL Images).

 THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Jeremy Rutherford was asked if the Blues might try to trade the injury-prone Tarasenko. Given the winger’s three shoulder surgeries, Rutherford doubted the Blues would get a good return. He felt there’s a better chance of Tarasenko helping the club upon his return from his latest surgery than a team offering a player or players who can contribute.

Rutherford was also asked if the Blues might make any more moves. While general manager Doug Armstrong hasn’t ruled out another signing, Rutherford would be surprised if it happened.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tarasenko’s recent shoulder injuries seem to have some Blues fans concerned about his performance over the remaining three years of his contract. Cap Friendly indicates signed through 2022-23 with an annual average value of $7.5 million, which could prove costly for the Blues if he cannot regain his 30-goal form.

Trading Taranseko won’t be easy if the Blues decide one day to part with him. In addition to his injury history and annual cap hit, the 28-year-old winger also has a full no-trade clause. That wouldn’t prevent him from being exposed in next year’s expansion draft but I’ll be shocked if Armstrong left him unprotected.

THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Corey Masisak was asked if the New Jersey Devils might attempt to acquire players from cap-strapped clubs, or pursue free agent Mike Hoffman on a one-year contract, or if they’d go the offer-sheet route.

Masisak noted the Devils have over $17 million in salary-cap space, though new contracts for restricted free agents Mackenzie Blackwood and Jesper Bratt could whittle that down to around $10 million. He feels Tampa Bay Lightning winger Alex Killorn could be a good fit but isn’t sure if Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald will want to tie up too much future cap space given the current economic uncertainty.

Signing a UFA like Hoffman, Mikael Granlund or Anthony Duclair to a short-term deal is possible. However, those players could be reluctant to join a team that isn’t a clear contender and risk getting moved at the trade deadline.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fitzgerald could make a move to further boost his roster before the season begins (next month?). I don’t expect a blockbuster move but perhaps he can get into the bidding for one of those UFA forwards on a cost-effective deal. Those players could be reluctant to join a non-contender on a short-term deal. With so few teams carrying sufficient cap space, however, they might not have much choice if Fitzgerald shows interest in one of them.










NHL Rumor Mill – December 1, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – December 1, 2020

An update on Patrik Laine plus recent Blackhawks and Red Wings speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Ken Wiebe prefaced his latest mailbag segment by wondering if the Winnipeg Jets could attempt to trade Patrik Laine to the Seattle Kraken if unable to sign him to a new contract. The 22-year-old winger becomes a restricted free agent with arbitration rights next summer.

Could Winnipeg Jets winger Patrik Laine end up with the Seattle Kraken next summer? (NHL Images)

Wiebe believes few teams could afford to pay Laine a hefty long-term salary or the type of return the Jets would seek. The Kraken, however, enter the league next summer unencumbered by the salary-cap constraints faced by the other clubs. Laine could prove a tempting star to build around.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wiebe is merely kicking around a theory here. We don’t know what the Jets will do with Laine or what Kraken GM Ron Francis might do if the winger hit the trade block next offseason. Nevertheless, it could be something worth monitoring as next summer’s expansion draft draws near.

Wiebe goes on to suggest there could be some unresolved issues between Laine and the Jets. However, there’s no concrete evidence suggesting the two sides have reached the point of no return and a trade becomes inevitable.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those issues are likely Laine’s rumored unhappiness over his role with the Jets. His agent suggested weeks ago his client might be better off playing for a club that would provide him first-line minutes.

It’s believed the Jets brought back Paul Stastny to address that issue. However, that will depend upon whether those two can rekindle their offensive chemistry from Stastny’s brief appearance with the club in 2018.

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: In a recent mailbag segment, Charlie Roumeliotis was asked how the Blackhawks will address a surplus of players on their roster if everyone is healthy to start the season.

If Dylan Strome is re-signed and Andrew Shaw and Zack Smith are medically cleared to play, the Blackhawks will have 15 forwards and only 12 spots available. A healthy Brent Seabrook will also result in a crowded blue line with prospects like Ian Mitchell and Wyatt Kalynuk hoping to crack the roster.

As of now, the Blackhawks intend to let training camp sort itself out. If a player gets squeezed out, that’s when a trade could be explored.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Shaw (head) and Smith (back) appear headed for LTIR. Seabrook claims he’s fully recovered from shoulder and hip surgeries and intends to play. The Hawks have the option of demoting one or two lower-salaried players if they have a fully healthy roster. If they go the trade route they could seek a draft pick or prospect.

NHL.COM: Nicholas J. Cotsonika reports Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman will continue trying to find ways to improve his roster for 2020-21. He acknowledged his club’s restrictions in trying to improve each season, pointing out it’s not as simple as swinging trades for a bunch of good players and signing a bunch of free agents.

Yzerman, however, didn’t rule out making moves before the start of the season. He’s aiming to improve in the short term while maintaining flexibility for long-term growth.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Yzerman proved last season he’s willing to use the trade market to bolster his rebuilding club. One of those moves netted Robby Fabbri, who become one of the few brights spots for the Wings amid an otherwise miserable season.

Cap Friendly indicates the Wings have over $9 million in cap space for 2020-21. If the right opportunity presents itself, Yzerman could use some of that cap room to perhaps add a player who could address some of their short and long-term needs.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 29, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 29, 2020

The latest on the return-to-play stalemate between the league and the players in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks suggests the NHL should ask the expansion Seattle Kraken for a $300 million advance on their $650 million expansion fee instead of attempting to pry that amount from the players through increased escrow and/or salary deferral rates.

The league apparently needs that much to proceed with the 2020-21 season. It is seeking an additional 16 percent salary deferral and an additional five percent in escrow from the players, who rejected those requests citing the agreed-upon rates in the CBA extension ratified in July.

Brooks points out Kraken owners David Bonderman and Jeff Bruckheimer have a combined net worth of $5 billion. He feels they can afford an advance on their team’s expansion fee so the NHL won’t face the possibility of reneging on a four-month-old labor agreement and risking accusations of unfair labor practices.

Failing that, Brooks suggests it’s up to the league and the PA to renegotiate so the players get something in return for deferring more of their salaries for this season, such as getting that money back with interest down the road. He feels neither side can afford to let the season go, pointing out the league needs to complete the final year of its media rights and TV contract with NBC Sports so it can negotiate a new deal starting in 2021-22 with perhaps multiple partners, including a streaming service.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Brooks is a good source for NHLPA information so I wouldn’t be surprised if some or all of this is coming from the union. Asking the Kraken for an advance on their expansion fee seems more reasonable than squeezing the players for more giveback. However, the existing teams’ owners might prefer having that money go directly into their pockets rather than putting it toward staging this season.

FORBES: Eric Macramalla suggests the league’s proposals for increased escrow and salary deferrals make sense. Requesting amendments to a ratified agreement is a big deal but the league considers its financial assumptions have dramatically changed and cannot be sufficiently addressed within the framework of the CBA extension.

The absence of fans has likely changed the equation for the NHL. Macramalla feels the league didn’t anticipate the absence of fans in arenas for an entire season. The PA is banking on an additional $1 billion in revenue by having some fans attending some of the games at some point in the schedule. However, that doesn’t seem too likely.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The league supposedly took into account a worst-case scenario of no fans throughout the season when it agreed to the CBA extension with the players. The fact they’re now asking for more money from the players suggests they either miscalculated what the worst case would look like or just didn’t take it seriously.

Perhaps the NHL’s requests would’ve been better received by the players if it had a good working relationship with the PA. Because of decades of contentious labor negotiations, the players are understandably wary of the league’s intentions and reluctant to give back more than they already have.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The Flyers loaning winger Michael Raffl to an Austrian League team suggests the NHL might not be starting the 2020-21 season on Jan. 1 as it originally planned.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dropping the puck on Jan. 1 requires the league to sort out its aforementioned squabble with the NHLPA. Assuming that’s done by the end of this week, it will have to move quickly to reach that target date. Otherwise, that date will be pushed to mid-January or early February.

SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Despite the recent COVID-19 outbreaks, one of Canada’s leading infectious diseases specialists feels the NHL could return to play if health protocols are strictly followed. Dr. Isaac Bogoch, who advised the NHLPA leading up to this summer’s return-to-play plan, pointed out there would be a problem at NHL rinks as those are set up with systems that adhere to public health measures. However, the players would have to be vigilant when out in their communities.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The need for vigilance was highlighted by several members of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Vegas Golden Knights recently testing positive for COVID-19.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: If the NHL season begins on Jan. 1, the Sharks will have to stage their training camp outside of San Jose. Santa Clara County has ruled all contact sports will be temporarily prohibited for the next three weeks.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 11, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 11, 2020

The latest on the NHL’s return-to-play plan for 2020-21, an update on Elias Pettersson, and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Commissioner Gary Bettman said the league is exploring temporary hub cities, temporary divisional realignments and a reduced schedule as options for staging the 2020-21 season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman (NHL.com).

Bettman said he would never ask the players to return to a strict quarantine bubble similar to the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs for an entire season. They’re exploring teams playing in their own arenas with or without fans, depending on the location, in hubs or a hybrid system.

The commissioner suggested teams would play for 10-to-12 days in hub cities without traveling, followed by returning home to their families for a week. He indicated they would have testing protocols and other things in place. While admitting it won’t be quite as effective as in a quarantine bubble, they believe they can minimize the risks “to the extent practical and sensible.”

Bettman indicated any return-to-play plan would be a collaborative effort with the NHLPA. The two sides have been in regular and constant communication but regular meetings have yet to begin.

Border restrictions between Canada and the United States, as well as travel limitations between certain states, could force a temporary divisional realignment based on region.

Bettman also pointed to a lack of fans in the stands and casual fans being less inclined to watch hockey during the summer as two key factors why television ratings were down for the 2020 playoffs.

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports deputy commissioner Bill Daly sent a memo to all 31 teams stating the league believes progress toward finalizing a recommendation for the 2020-21 season to the board of governors is being made.

If negotiations with the NHLPA can be completed by Thursday, the terms will be presented to the upcoming board of governors meeting for approval.

Daly indicated the objective remains to start on Jan. 1 with the regular-season schedule concluding in late-April. That would mean a shortened schedule of 48-56 games, with the league crowning a Stanley Cup champion before the summer and returning with a normal 82-game schedule from October to April for 2021-22.

Because of border restrictions, the seven Canadian franchises could be in their own division for at least the start of the season.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the NHL hopes to award the Stanley Cup by no later than July 15. He also said different sources have heard different potential lengths for the schedule, from as low as 56 to as high as 72 games, depending on when the season begins.

There’s a growing push for teams to play in their own buildings. One reason is the naming rights on those buildings. With fewer events, sponsorship deals could be affected.

One area of possible contention is player salaries for 2020-21. The players agreed to accept 72 percent of their gross pay for the upcoming season, but the owners feel they should be prorated if a significant decline in attendance creates losses higher than the 20 percent escrow could withstand.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Much of what Bettman said has already been previously reported or speculated upon. Bear in mind that those points he raises remain under consideration and haven’t officially approved.

The league’s plan also remains to have fans gradually returning to the arenas over the course of the season, with the hope of full arenas when the playoffs open in the spring. However, that’s going to depend on the severity of the pandemic in each region. Some could have loosened restrictions allowing a reduced number of socially distanced fans in the stands as we’ve seen in the NFL.

There was speculation suggesting the NHL could wait until as late as March to reopen to allow more fans into the stands by that point. Based on Garrioch’s report, however, the push remains to start in January and award the Cup by no later than mid-July to avoid having the playoffs drag on too deeply into the summer. I also think they want to avoid having to go up against the Tokyo Summer Olympics set to begin in late July.

While the league and the PA in constant talks, it’s interesting to note the supposed “return-to-play” committee still hasn’t met yet. It appears the leadership of both sides could be hashing out the framework of a plan and leave the finer details to the committee.

I’ve recently pointed out, however, the league is getting pressed for time to start on Jan. 1. All the players still have to return to their home cities. Training camps will have to begin in early-December, with the seven clubs that didn’t qualify for the 2020 playoffs probably to hit the ice by no later than the end of this month. The Christmas holiday break will also complicate an exhibition-game schedule.

THE SCORE: cites a report in The Athletic indicating the Vancouver Canucks haven’t yet begun substantive contract extension talks with Elias Pettersson. However, that lack of progress isn’t anything to be concerned about.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pettersson quickly established himself as the Canucks’ best player since his debut in 2018-19. He won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year that season with 66 points, followed by 66 points in 68 games last season. Pettersson, who turns 22 on Nov. 12, has yet to reach his playing prime. He’s entering the final season of his entry-level contract and will receive a significant raise in his next deal with the Canucks.

SPORTSNET: The Seattle Kraken expect to have the main portion of their training facility ready to open next July.

ECHL.COM: released its schedule of critical dates that will see it gradually start its season in two stages. The first stage will see 13 teams start their seasons on Dec. 11 with the remainder beginning on Jan. 15.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 2, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 2, 2020

The Hurricanes avoid arbitration with Warren Foegele, the Oilers sign Dominik Kahun, plus the updated arbitration list, the latest on Travis Green and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: The Carolina Hurricanes avoided arbitration with winger Warren Foegele, reaching an agreement on a one-year, $2.15 million contract.

Caroline Hurricanes forward Warren Foegele (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A reasonable short-term deal for Foegele, who tallied 13 goals and 30 points in 68 games last season. He’ll be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights next summer. Cap Friendly indicates the Hurricanes have over $80.5 million invested in 22 players for 2020-21.

NHLPA.COM: Five players have arbitration hearings slated for this month. New York Rangers center Ryan Strome’s hearing is on Nov. 5, Rangers winger Brendan Lemieux and New York Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock are on Nov. 6, Ottawa Senators defenseman Christian Jaros is set for Nov. 7, and Florida Panthers blueliner MacKenzie Weegar is on Nov. 8.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: The Oilers have come to terms with free-agent winger Dominik Kahun. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported it’s a one-year deal worth $975K and will be officially announced today.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kahun spent the last two seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres, netting a respectable 68 points in 138 games. The 25-year-old winger is a boyhood friend and former childhood teammate of Oilers star Leon Draisaitl. They were frequent linemates for Germany in several international tournaments, including the World Championships. It remains to be seen if they’ll get skating together with the Oilers.

THE PROVINCE: The effects of COVID-19 upon NHL revenue are affecting the Vancouver Canucks efforts to sign head coach Travis Green to a contract extension. Green has a year remaining on his current contract. “We’ll continue to work at it, but everybody is really in a holding pattern and we’re not the only team,” said GM Jim Benning.

EISHOCKEY NEWS: Korbinian Holzer has signed with KHL team Automobilist Yekaterinburg. He hasn’t ruled out returning to the NHL but would seek a role where he’d get plenty of ice time.

The 32-year-old defenseman said there are interested parties but everyone is being cautious.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Holzer spent eight seasons since 2010-11 in the NHL, most of those with the Anaheim Ducks. He has 27 points in 206 NHL contests.

THE ATHLETIC: Seattle Kraken GM Ron Francis believes a flat salary cap for 2021-22 could be beneficial for his club as they build their roster. He noted some cap-strapped teams used contract buyouts and trades to alleviate their situations during the current offseason. Francis also indicated his club will remain patient in naming their first head coach.

NHL.COM: The National Hockey League yesterday honored Val James, who became the first American-born black player to play in the NHL on Nov. 1, 1981. James, now 63, played 10 regular-season and playoff games with the Buffalo Sabres in 1981-82 and four games with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1986-87. He also scored the goal that gave the Rochester Americans the 1983 Calder Cup. James credited the late coach John Brophy and former NHL coach Mike Keenan for believing in him and helping him during his playing career.