NHL Rumor Mill – December 24, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – December 24, 2020

The Lightning still needs to make a cost-cutting trade despite Nikita Kucherov heading to LTIR, talk of Coyotes center Derek Stepan possibly heading to the Senators, and the latest on the Flames in today’s NHL rumor mill.

LIGHTNING COULD STILL NEED A COST-CUTTING TRADE

THE ATHLETIC: Ryan S. Clark reports losing cornerstone winger Nikita Kucherov for the regular season to hip surgery helps the Tampa Bay Lightning address their need to become salary-cap compliant before the start of the season.

The Bolts still have to sign restricted free agent center Anthony Cirelli and were trying to shop winger Tyler Johnson in a cost-cutting deal. Placing Kucherov and his $9.5 million annual average value on long-term injury reserve could free up sufficient space to re-sign Cirelli without having to move Johnson.

The Tampa Bay Lightning were trying to trade Tyler Johnson earlier in the offseason (NHL Images).

However, Lightning general Julien BriseBois said he will seek opportunities to free up more cap room. He indicates he still doesn’t have sufficient maneuverability and is speaking with a couple of teams. BriseBois revealed he had been working with a team after the playoffs on a deal for Johnson that would’ve involved a third club taking on part of the winger’s $5 million cap hit but it proved too expensive to be feasible.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly shows the Lightning sitting above the $81.5 million salary cap by over $6.89 million. Contract talks continue with the Cirelli camp. Placing Kucherov on LTIR will leave the Lightning with less than $3 million to lock up Cirelli. He has no leverage coming off his entry-level contract but his agent can justifiably argue that his client is worth more than that.

Perhaps BriseBois will still try to move Johnson or maybe Alex Killorn and his $4.45 million cap hit. Maybe he’ll consider another option. Whatever he’s got in mind will have to not only ensure sufficient room to sign Cirelli but also enough for other moves as required over the course of the season.

STEPAN TO THE SENATORS?

TSN 1200’s Shawn Simpson tweeted he’s hearing the Arizona Coyotes and Ottawa Senators are discussing a deal involving Coyotes center Derek Stepan. He has one season remaining on his contract with an annual average value of $6.5 million but his actual salary is $5 million.

The Ottawa Sun’s Ken Warren points out Stepan’s actual salary for this season consists of a $3 million signing bonus. The Coyotes lack picks in the first and third rounds of the 2021 NHL draft. The Senators have three second-round picks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stepan also lacks no-trade protection so the Coyotes can peddle him to any NHL club without his permission. The Senators would only be on the hook for $2 million of his actual salary if this goes through. He’d provide some welcome experience and leadership to their checking lines.

LATEST ON THE FLAMES

TSN: Salim Valji reports Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving recently said discussions about player movement have picked up as teams prepare for the start of the season on Jan. 13. He expects we’ll see some trade activity in the weeks leading up to the season opener.

The Flames only have around $223K in salary-cap space. Treliving expects his current roster is the one he’ll go to training camp with but indicated he continues having discussions with other teams looking for opportunities.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Treliving will probably evaluate his roster during training camp to determine any pressing needs to be addressed before Jan. 13. Given his limited cap space, he could be looking at dollar-for-dollar moves.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 24, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 24, 2020

The 2020-21 schedule is released, Nikita Kucherov sidelined for the season, plus a roundup of the latest notable signings and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The league released the schedule for the 2020-21 season. It begins on Jan. 13 with five games, including the Tampa Bay Lightning raising their 2020 Stanley Cup championship banner before facing off against the Chicago Blackhawks at Amalie Arena.

The other four games see the Pittsburgh Penguins visit the Philadelphia Flyers, the Montreal Canadiens face off against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Vancouver Canucks squaring off against the Edmonton Oilers, and the St. Louis Blues tangling with the Colorado Avalanche.

The league also announced the postponement of the 2021 Stadium Series slated for Feb. 20, 2021, featuring the Carolina Hurricanes.

Hip surgery will sideline Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: All timings for those games have yet to be announced. Those will likely be revealed after the locations for the Canadian games are determined.

TSN reported last night the five Canadian provinces hosting NHL teams released a letter calling for increased testing of players, staff and close contacts as well as enhancing the schedule to group game into blocks to reduce inter-jurisdictional travel. The other option is reinstating a bubble model similar to the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, which the league and the NHLPA aren’t keen to implement.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov has hip surgery scheduled for next week and is expected to be sidelined for the entire regular season. The club hopes to have him back in time for the 2021 playoffs beginning in May.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is a big blow to the Lightning’s scoring punch but they will receive $9.5 million in salary cap relief by placing the former Art Ross Trophy and Hart Trophy winner on long-term injury reserve. That should free up sufficient cap space to sign restricted free agent Anthony Cirelli. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t need to make a cost-cutting deal. I’ll have more about that in the Rumors section.

The Lightning also signed forwards Mathieu Joseph and Alex Volkov to short-term, one-way contracts. Joseph inked a two-year deal worth $1.475 million while Volkov inked a one-year, $700K deal.

NJ.COM: The New Jersey Devils signed goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood to a three-year, $8.4 million contract. The annual average value is $2.8 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: An affordable deal for the Devils. Blackwood will be their starting goaltender entering this season. A solid performance on his part over the course of this deal will ensure more lucrative terms on his next contract.

SPORTSNET: The Nashville Predators signed forward Erik Haula to a one-year, $1.75 million contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This signing comes on the heels of the Predators bringing back winger Mikael Granlund. It’s a good, cost-effective depth addition. Haula has an injury history but when healthy is a speedy, versatile two-way forward with a decent scoring touch who can skate on the wing or at center.

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: Goaltender Ryan Miller is returning for another season with the Anaheim Ducks, inking a one-year contract worth $1 million. He’s served as their backup netminder for the past three seasons.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No surprise here. Miller and his family live in the Anaheim area and he doesn’t want to relocate at this stage of his career.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens added more experienced depth to their forward links by signing winger Michael Frolik to a one-year, $750K contract.

WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres signed center Casey Mittelstadt to a one-year contract worth just over $874K.

SUN-SENTINEL.COM: The Florida Panthers inked goaltender Sam Montembault to a one-year, two-way deal.

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: Blackhawks forward Kirby Dach suffered an apparent injury to his right wrist during Canada’s 1-0 win over Russia in a tune-up game for the upcoming 2021 World Junior Championship in Edmonton. Dach left the game, underwent X-rays and is undergoing other tests to determine the severity of the injury.

Meanwhile, Blackhawks forward Alex Nylander recently underwent knee surgery and is expected to be sidelined for four-to-six months.

SPORTSNET: The Vancouver Canucks hired Jason King as their new assistant coach and Chris Higgins as their new skills and development coach.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 22, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 22, 2020

Nikita Kucherov could miss the start of the season, Oscar Klefbom sidelined for 2020-21, the Coyotes sign Drake Caggiula, the latest on Canadian teams playing in Ontario and BC, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE ATHLETIC: Joe Smith reports a nagging hip injury could affect Nikita Kucherov’s status for the start of the season. The Tampa Bay Lightning winger received an injection after experiencing discomfort during offseason workouts. He was expected to skate on Monday to see how he felt. The Lightning and Kucherov’s agent declined to comment.

Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The high-scoring Kucherov’s potential absence would be keenly felt by the Lightning. They could place him on long-term injury reserve if the injury is serious enough, providing salary-cap flexibility to re-sign restricted free agents Anthony Cirelli and Erik Cernak. However, the Lightning would have to shed salary to become cap compliant when he returns to the lineup later in the season. It’s still believed they’ll make a trade or two to free up enough cap room for Cirelli and Cernak.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom will miss the entire season to a shoulder injury. He’s looking into surgery and hopes to be ready to return for 2021-22.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It was widely reported Klefbom was unlikely to play this season prior to yesterday’s announcement. This leaves a big hole on the Oilers’ blueline. He and his $4.167 million annual average value will be placed on LTIR if the Oilers need the cap room to make any additions, such as perhaps a short-term replacement for Klefbom.

ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes signed forward Drake Caggiula to a one-year contract. Cap Friendly indicates it’s worth $700K, leaving the Coyotes above the $81.5 million salary cap by $3.47 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Coyotes will get cap relief by placing permanently sidelined Marian Hossa ($5.275 million) on LTIR. Caggiula has dealt with concussion injuries in the past. When healthy, he is an affordable depth forward who’ll bring some additional experience to the Coyotes’ checking lines.

TSN: Despite a province-wide lockdown beginning on Christmas eve, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said no decision has been reached yet regarding the province’s NHL teams hosting games in their own arenas. Discussions are ongoing between the province and the league.

SPORTSNET: Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning remains hopeful his club can gain the confidence of British Columbia’s health officials to receive clearance to stage home games in their own arena to start this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Recent reports suggest BC could be unlikely to sign off on the NHL’s plan for its Canadian teams to stage games in their home arenas. Ontario and Quebec seem to be leaning toward approval but that’s not a certainty. Plan B for the Canadian teams would be opening this season in a hub city such as Edmonton.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: The NHL has a plan to compensate teams that might have to change venues during the season. The San Jose Sharks are one of them, recently announcing they’ll stage training camp and open the season in Arizona.

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: The Vegas Golden Knights will begin this season without fans in attendance but haven’t closed the door on allowing a limited number of fans as the season progresses and health restrictions ease.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’ll be the plan for every NHL club. So far, only three teams – Dallas Stars, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning – could allow a limited number of fans when the season begins. The rest will make that decision based on restrictions in their areas over the course of the schedule.

TSN: Rick Westhead reports the NHL hopes to raise $15 million this season selling ads on players’ helmets. Rich clubs like the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens are pursuing $1 million deals while small-market clubs will get much less.

Westhead cites a league executive saying some of that money will be given to sponsors to make good for empty arenas. The executive denies the league is being greedy here. “Do you know how much money we are going to lose without customers in arenas? We are hemorrhaging money and we need to find any possible option for keeping our people employed.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As I’ve said before, purists hate the idea but this was inevitable. The pandemic merely hastened this decision. The league is losing a lot of revenue right now and must find whatever new streams it can to offset some of those losses. Fans got used to ads on rink boards and ice surfaces. They’ll get used to this.










Tampa Bay Lightning: 2020 Stanley Cup Champs

Tampa Bay Lightning: 2020 Stanley Cup Champs

 










Stanley Cup: Lightning Must Remain Resilient Following Game 5 Loss

Stanley Cup: Lightning Must Remain Resilient Following Game 5 Loss

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 25, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 25, 2020

The Penguins trade Patric Hornqvist to the Panthers for Mike Matheson, the latest Stanley Cup Final news and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines

TSN: After a day of uncertainty, the Pittsburgh Penguins finally traded winger Patric Hornqvist to the Florida Panthers for defenseman Mike Matheson. The Panthers also sent winger Colton Sceviour to the Penguins in the deal.

Pittsburgh Penguins trade Patric Hornqvist to the Florida Panthers (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’ S NOTE: This trade was originally reported on Wednesday but was held up due to Hornqvist’s no-trade clause and insurance concerns regarding his contract. It took a day to get those issues sorted.

The Penguins get younger by taking on the 26-year-old Matheson and 31-year-old Sceviour while the Panthers hope to benefit in the short term by the 33-year-old Hornqvist’s playoff experience and gritty style of play. Matheson struggled over the last two years but the Pens have had success taking on blueliners (like Justin Schultz and Trevor Daley) who improved once they came to Pittsburgh.

Hornqvist has three years left on his contract, Matheson six years and Sceviour one year. The Penguins don’t free up much cap space for 2020-21, swapping Hornqvist’s $5.3 million annual average value for Matheson ($4.875 million) and Sceviour ($1.2 million).

The Penguins might not be done dealing. They have a surplus of eight defensemen under NHL contracts and still have to re-sign goaltender Matt Murray or Tristan Jarry. That’s generating speculation one of those blueliners could be shopped in a cost-cutting deal.

NBC SPORTS: Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov’s consistency is among the driving factors in his club’s quest for the Stanley Cup. He’s the playoffs’ leading scorer with 30 points and has had eight multi-point games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kucherov’s performance puts him among the leading candidates for the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Stars face the Lightning tonight in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final and Game 5 on Saturday. That could put a considerable burden upon goaltender Anton Khudobin. With Ben Bishop still unfit to play, there are questions over what they’ll do between the pipes during the upcoming back-to-back stretch.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Khudobin normally backs up Bishop, but he’s played in most of the Stars’ games in this postseason. Youngster Jake Oettinger appeared in just over 36 minutes in two games, replacing Khudobin for the third period during the Stars 5-2 loss in Game 3 on Wednesday.

SPORTSNET: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is understandably proud of what the NHL accomplished with its return-to-play plan with two quarantine bubbles in Edmonton and Toronto. “It’s been nothing short of remarkable”, he said yesterday.

Bettman praised NHL chief content officer Steve Mayer and his staff of 150 people for their planning and staging of the event, as well as the governments of Alberta and Ontario and the Canadian government, and the collaborative efforts between the league and the NHLPA.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bettman’s pride is justified. The league silenced its critics by staging a safe environment for 24 teams in two NHL cities to compete for the 2020 Stanley Cup. However, he indicated the league’s intent is not to stage next season in a bubble environment. They hope to have fans in the arenas when it is safe to do so.

WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres signed center Curtis Lazar to a two-year contract extension worth an annual average value of $800K.

SPORTSNET: The Nashville Predators re-signed forward Yakov Trenin to a two-year, $1.45-million contract.

NHL.COM: The league revealed its offseason protocols for training at team facilities. The plan will be similar to Phase 2 of the NHL’s return-to-play plan.

The teams can open their training facilities if a minimum of five players request it commencing Oct. 15, though they can open them sooner at their discretion following the completion of the Stanley Cup Final. No more than 12 players will be allowed on the ice at one time, though more players may be present in the facility at the same time.

Local public health restrictions will be observed and mandatory testing for COVID-19 is required for players and training staff wishing to use the facility.