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 – October 6, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 6, 2020

Connor McDavid tests positive for COVID-19, the Wild trade Devan Dubnyk and Ryan Donato to the Sharks, Matt Niskanen retires, Penguins buy out Jack Johnson, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers captain Connor McDavid has been diagnosed with COVID-19. The club reports McDavid, 23, is experiencing minor symptoms but otherwise feeling well and self-quarantining at his Ontario home.

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid tests positive for COVID-19 (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to McDavid for a swift and full recovery. He’s the biggest NHL star to be diagnosed with the coronavirus since a report emerged in June revealing Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews also tested positive. Matthews recovered and played for the Leafs in the NHL’s return-to-play tournament in August.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA/TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild made two trades yesterday with the San Jose Sharks, shipping goaltender Devan Dubnyk (along with a seventh-round pick in 2022) and winger Ryan Donato to the Sharks for a fifth-round pick in 2022 and a third-round pick in 2021. The Wild also retained half of Dubnyk’s $4.33 million cap hit for 2020-21, which is the final season of his contract. The Wild also re-signed defenseman Carson Soucy to a three-year, $8.25-million contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dubnyk will share the Sharks’ goaltending duties with Martin Jones. General manager Doug Wilson is confident the 34-year-old netminder can regain his form after dealing with his wife’s health issues last season. Wilson also feels Donato, who was stuck on the Wild’s fourth line, could flourish given more playing time.

These moves were straightforward salary dumps by the Wild, giving them $12.5 million in salary-cap space. GM Bill Guerin has made no secret he wants to improve his goaltending plus he still needs a proven scoring center after trading Eric Staal to Buffalo last month. Perhaps he’ll put some of that cap space to addressing those needs.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Flyers defenseman Matt Niskanen has retired after 13 NHL seasons. The 33-year-old blueliner had a year remaining on his contract with a cap hit of $5.75 million. Niskanen had 72 goals and 356 points in 949 games with the Flyers, Dallas Stars, Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, winning the Stanley Cup with the latter in 2018.

The Flyers also re-signed defenseman Justin Braun to a two-year, $3.6-million contract worth annual average value of $1.8 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Niskanen in his future endeavors. His decision was reportedly based on being away from his family during the recent playoffs and uncertainty over what next season could be like. His retirement clears his cap hit from the Flyers’ books.

With the Braun signing, the Flyers have $2.9 million in cap space for 2020-21. Niskanen’s retirement could send them into the trade or free-agent market for a replacement, or it could make them reluctant to trade blueliner Shayne Gostisbehere.

TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins yesterday placed defenseman Jack Johnson on waivers for the purpose of buying out his contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This isn’t a surprising move. The writing was on the wall for Johnson when the Penguins acquired Mike Matheson last month from the Florida Panthers. The move leaves the Penguins with $1.16 million in dead cap space for the next two seasons, $1.9 million in 2022-23, dropping to $916K for the following three seasons.

TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs re-signed Jason Spezza to a one-year, $700K contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Spezza, 37, was a worthwhile depth addition playing a variety of roles for the Leafs last season. His signing scarcely dents their cap room, leaving them with $4.7 million.

THE BUFFALO NEWS: The Sabres re-signed forward Tage Thompson to a three-year contract worth $1.4 million per season.

OTTAWA SUN: The Senators re-signed defenseman Josh Brown to a two-year, $2.4-million deal.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): The Dallas Stars salary-cap space shrunk for next season, incurring over $3 million in performance bonuses last season that will count against their 2020-21 salary cap payroll.

CALGARY SUN: The Flames will be adopting their classic 1980s jerseys and color combinations for the entire 2020-21 season.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 4, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 4, 2020

Recaps of Monday’s games, plus updates on Tuukka Rask, Micheal Ferland, Michael Raffl, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Connor McDavid’s first NHL career playoff hat trick led the Edmonton Oilers over the Chicago Blackhawks 6-3, tying their best-of-five qualifying round series at one game apiece. Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins picked up three assists. Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane has a goal and an assist while teammate Alex DeBrincat collected two assists. Chicago rookie Dominik Kubalik was held scoreless after tallying five points in the series opener.

 

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This series isn’t what you’d call a defensive struggle. Indeed, it’s been a throwback to the freewheeling style of the 1980s: fast-paced, high-scoring, sloppy, and entertaining. It’s my favorite of the qualifiers thus far.

Andrei Svechnikov tallied his first playoff hat trick and Sebastian Aho collected three assists to lead the Carolina Hurricanes over the New York Rangers 4-1. Artemi Panarin replied for the Rangers. Svechnikov’s hat trick was also the first in franchise history, including its years as the Hartford Whalers. The Hurricanes hold a 2-0 series lead and can wrap things up today in Game 3.  

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It was a dominant performance by the Hurricanes’ one-two punch of Svechnikov and Aho, and by the team as a whole. Their aggressive forecheck overwhelmed the Rangers, smothering their offense and forcing them to play catch-up throughout the game.

Nikolaj Ehlers’ third-period goal snapped a 2-2 tie as the Winnipeg Jets edged the Calgary Flames 3-2, tying their best-of-five qualifying round series at a game apiece. Jansen Harkins and Adam Lowry gave the Jets an early lead but the Flames tied it on goals by Elias Lindholm and Sam Bennett. It was Ehlers’ first NHL playoff goal. Connor Hellebuyck made 28 saves for the win.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A big bounce-back win for the Jets after dropping Game 1 and losing scorers Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine. No word yet as to when those two will return to the lineup, but their teammates did a fine job compensating for their absence.

The Pittsburgh Penguins evened their series with the Montreal Canadiens with a 3-1 victory. Sidney Crosby opened the scoring and Jason Zucker tallied the game-winner late in the third period. Jesperi Kotkaniemi replied for the Habs, who were kept in this game by Carey Price’s stellar goaltending.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins were more dominant in this contest compared to the series opener, generating more quality scoring chances and keeping the underdog Canadiens on their heels. If not for Price’s performance, the Penguins would’ve enjoyed a wider margin of victory.

Four unanswered third-period goals by Mark Stone, Nate Schmidt, William Carrier, and William Karlsson powered the Vegas Golden Knights over the Dallas Stars 5-3 in round-robin play. Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen assisted on all of his club’s three goals. Before the game, Stars’ Tyler Seguin and Jason Dickinson and Golden Knights’ Ryan Reaves and Robin Lehner took a knee during the national anthems in support of racial equality.

 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Not to take anything away from the Golden Knights’ comeback, but the Stars gave this game away. They were in control entering the third period but sat back on the lead and it cost them.

The Tampa Bay Lightning edged the Washington Capitals 3-2 in round-robin action on shootout goals by Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov. The Capitals played without defenseman John Carlson, who remains sidelined after leaving last week’s exhibition game against the Hurricanes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Still no word on when Carlson will return. He could be back before the end of the week. 

HEADLINES

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Tuukka Rask was back in the Bruins’ net during practice yesterday after being “unfit to participate” over the weekend with a cough. He was tested multiple times for COVID-19 before being allowed to return.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Flyers winger Michael Raffl will miss some time after suffering an undisclosed injury during a round-robin game Sunday with the Bruins. Raffl appeared to be favoring a leg as he left the game following a collision with Bruins defenseman Jeremy Lauzon.

THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks winger Micheal Ferland received a $5,000.00 fine for spearing Minnesota Wild forward Ryan Hartman during Game 1 of their qualifier.

DETROIT FREE PRESS: The Red Wings have loaned prospect defenseman Moritz Seider to his old German club (Adler Mannheim) with the understanding he’ll return to the Wings for training camp ahead of next season. The NHL’s 2020-21 campaign is tentatively slated to begin Dec. 1.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Expect more European prospects on the seven non-playoff teams to follow the Red Wings lead. Given the usually long off-season facing those clubs, it’s best to try and get those kids some playing time where possible.

SPORTSNET: The NHL received no positive COVID-19 tests during the first week of Phase 4 of its return-to-play plan. Over 7,000 tests were administered during that time.  










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 29, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 29, 2020

Results from the first exhibition games of return-to-play, an update on David Pastrnak, the Ducks re-sign Sonny Milano, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Connor McDavid scored twice to lead the Edmonton Oilers over the Calgary Flames 4-1 as exhibition games began yesterday leading up to the upcoming playoff tournament beginning Aug. 1. Elias Lindholm netted the sole goal for the Flames, who outshot the Oilers 37-30.

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid scored twice in a 4-1 win over the Calgary Flames in exhibition play yesterday (NHL Images).

Scott Laughton scored in overtime as the Philadelphia Flyers edged the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby played over 19 minutes and said he had no issues after missing five of six practices last week to an undisclosed ailment.

The Toronto Maple Leafs tallied two shorthanded goals to double up the Montreal Canadiens 4-2. Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly scored and set up two others while Alexander Kerfoot potted two goals. The Canadiens went zero-for-six on the power play.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The overall play in those three games wasn’t bad. Granted, these were exhibition games following a nearly five-month layoff for the teams involved, lacking the intensity and crisp play one expects to see when the tournament begins on Aug.1. The players were still working out the kinks.

Nevertheless, the quality of play was better than I expected. Not great, but not horrible. The games also felt a little weird with piped-in noise and no fans, but I didn’t find it detracted from the on-ice action. I’ll get used to this as Phase 4 (hopefully) rolls on.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins winger David Pastrnak took responsibility for his actions that resulted in missing almost all of the Phase 3 training camp with his teammates. He confirmed returning to quarantine after skating with some amateur players at a rink north of Boston at the start of Phase 3. He traveled with the Bruins to Toronto for Phase 4 and has resumed practicing with his teammates.

THE PROVINCE: Canucks winger Micheal Ferland continues to impress his teammates with his play in practice. Ferland was questionable to participate in the playoff tournament after missing most of this season dealing with head-trauma symptoms. He’s expected to be in the lineup for today’s exhibition game against the Winnipeg Jets.

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: The Anaheim Ducks yesterday re-signed Sonny Milano to a two-year, $3.4 million contract. The 24-year-old winger was acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets at the February trade deadline, collecting five points in nine games with the Ducks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As per Cap Friendly, Milano’s annual average value ($1.7 million) leaves the Ducks with over $77.3 million invested in 17 players for 2020-21.

 










The Best And Worst Luck In NHL Draft Lottery History

The Best And Worst Luck In NHL Draft Lottery History

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 21, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 21, 2020

More details revealed for the Stanley Cup playoff tournament, three Canadian cities remain among potential host destinations, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

LATEST RETURN-TO-PLAY NEWS

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports the NHL released a directive to its clubs on Friday following a general managers’ meeting setting the dates for the start of the 24-team Stanley Cup tournament.

According to Brooks, the qualifying round will begin on July 30 at two host cities that will be selected within the next week or so.

Training camps scheduled to commence July 10 will last approximately two weeks, followed by a travel period (July 23 or 24) for the 24 teams to move to their respective host cities. Teams will play one exhibition game each before the tournament begins.

Training camp rosters will contain 30 skaters plus unlimited goaltenders. The tournament roster will consist of 28 skaters and unlimited goalies. Players on injured reserve won’t count again the limit.

Brooks reports coronavirus testing will be done every other day for all personnel entering the facility. It’s unclear if media will be granted access. Players and staff won’t be allowed to socialize outside the facility in numbers larger than the local social distancing guidelines.

The schedule is expected to be part of a comprehensive agreement between the NHL and NHL Players Association. It will also contain health and safety protocols for the training camps and the tournament, as well as a possible extension to the collective bargaining agreement.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given the time frame set for Phase 3 (training camp) and Phase 4 (tournament) of the return-to-play plan, the league and the PA need an agreement on the guidelines soon. Any delay could push those dates further ahead in the calendar and create further complications.

Reports indicate teams are reaching out to their players to return to their respective NHL cities by the end of this week. That will provide sufficient time for any returning players testing positive for COVID-19 to self-isolate for 14 days in order to be recovered in time for training camp.

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports it’s his understanding the NHL has reduced the number of host city candidates from 10 to six. Las Vegas remains in the mix, as well as Edmonton, Toronto, and Vancouver. A decision could come by week’s end as the league must negotiate deals (hotels, etc) with the host cities.

SPECTOR’S NOTE:  Given the rise of COVID-19 cases in some American NHL markets, there’s a chance both host cities could be in Canada, where the pandemic curve has been flattened and reduced. There’s some recent speculation out of Vancouver suggesting that city could become a front-runner. 

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Michael Russo and James Mirtle report the NHL isn’t considering pushing back the July 10 start date for training camps despite 11 players testing positive for COVID-19 since Phase 2 (voluntary small-group training) commenced on June 8.

The report cites an unnamed Western Conference player claiming the recent outbreak confirms his belief the league is moving too quickly with its return-to-play plan.

Guys are not happy. This is why we better have a full player vote and not just an executive board vote. But I’m not convinced (NHLPA executive director) Don (Fehr) is going to allow that because he knows there’s so many of us on the fence. That’s why I think the league was trying to be hush-hush on these positive tests.

In my opinion, no way we play.”

Russo and Mirtle cite several player agents indicating a growing number of their clients are expressing concern over returning to play in a hub city. One agent suggested 35 to 40 percent could be on the fence.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The players have every right to be concerned following Friday’s report of 11 positive tests among their ranks. They’re the ones putting their health – possibly their lives – at risk, as well as those of their teammates and families. If they feel the league can’t guarantee their safety, they have the power to stop the return-to-play plan dead in its tracks.

The report also suggests the league might have to give the players sufficient enticement to ease their concerns. They’re already aware that a projected loss of $1.1 billion in hockey-related revenue from canceling the season will have far-reaching consequences for their paychecks. 

Perhaps a CBA extension with some concessions from the league (like a cap on escrow and assurances of Olympic participation) might garner sufficient approval from the PA membership. They could also allow players who wish to opt-out of the tournament to do so without facing repercussions.

IN OTHER NEWS…

THE SCORE: A rare Connor McDavid rookie card fetched over $113K US at a recent auction.

NJ.COM: New Jersey Devils center Nico Hischier is spending the off-season as a reservist in the Swiss Army. Service is mandatory for Swiss citizens once they turn 18. He’ll complete his initial training in August.

THE DENVER POST: Mark Kiszla believes the Colorado Avalanche could win the Stanley Cup this year if they get decent goaltending from Philipp Grubauer or Pavel Francouz.

STLTODAY.COM: Only three Blues are expected to participate in small-group training this week as the team reopens its training facilities for the first time since mid-March. Some of the Blues are skating elsewhere in St. Louis while others are training out of town.

RUSSIAN MACHINE NEVER BREAKS: cites a report from Isport indicating Martin Erat has retired. Erat spent 13 seasons with the Nashville Predators, Washington Capitals, and Arizona Coyotes from 2001-02 to 2014-15, with nearly 11 seasons with the Predators. He went on to spend one season in the KHL and four in the Czech League. Erat tallied 176 goals and 545 points in 881 career NHL games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Erat in his future endeavors. His best seasons were with the Predators, enjoying eight straight 49-plus point seasons. He was also involved in one of the most controversial trades in Capitals history, as they gave up then-prospect Filip Forsberg as part of the deal for Erat at the 2013 NHL trade deadline. He washed out with the Caps while Forsberg would become the Preds’ best forward.