NHL Rumor Mill – December 7, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – December 7, 2020

Could the Predators have another move in store before the season begins? Will the Senators be buyers or sellers this season? Check out the latest in the NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: In a recent mailbag segment, Adam Vingan was asked if Nashville Predators general manager David Poile was done wheeling and dealing. He believes there’s no sense of urgency among NHL GMs to make moves until we know when the season will begin.

Back in October, Poile didn’t rule out making more moves. Vingan points out the Predators have nearly $13 million in cap space, though some of that will be used to sign restricted free agent Luke Kunin. He feels it would make sense to target cap-strapped clubs for a return that could address the Predators’ second-line needs.

Could the Nashville Predators attempt to acquire Alex Killorn from the Tampa Bay Lightning? (NHL Images)

Vingan and colleague Joe Smith bandied about the notion of the Predators acquiring winger Alex Killorn from the Tampa Bay Lightning, who must shed salary to re-sign Anthony Cirelli and Erik Cernak. Vingan believes Killorn would be a good fit on the Predators’ second line.

Smith feels getting back a package of futures (draft picks and/or prospects) would be crucial for the Lightning. That would include a 2021 second-round pick to replace the one traded away and something to bolster their defense prospects.

The Lightning might have to consider moving someone like Ondrej Palat if they can’t find any takers for Killorn or Tyler Johnson. Vingan believes the Predators would be very interested if Palat became available.

Vingan also acknowledged the Predators’ rumored interest in UFA winger Mike Hoffman. He’s willing to sign a one-year deal which is better than Killorn’s three-year contract. However, Vingan is uncertain if Hoffman fits into the Predators’ plans.

NBC SPORTS: Adam Getz recommends Poile go the offer sheet route by targeting Lightning center Anthony Cirelli. He points out the Preds have the cap space and the assets for compensatory draft picks to make a competitive offer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some observers believe Poile has made his offseason moves and could bank his cap space to put toward trades if necessary during the regular season. However, the need to bolster their secondary scoring could see the Preds GM make a move or two before the season opens sometime in January or February.

Poile could be playing the waiting game with Hoffman hoping to sign the UFA winger to an affordable one-year deal. Failing that, he could look at cost-effective short-term help like Andreas Athanasiou or Anthony Duclair.

Killorn or Palat are possibilities if Poile goes the trade route. It’ll depend on what the Lightning want in return. He could also look at other clubs that are trying to dump salary before the season begins.

Cirelli could get an offer sheet from a club like the Predators but if that was going to happen it would’ve been made by now. Remember, the player must be interested in signing an offer sheet. It doesn’t seem like the Cirelli camp is entertaining that notion.

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports Senators owner Eugene Melnyk believes his rebuilding club has turned the corner and the pieces are now in place to contend. He indicates the Senators’ days as trade deadline sellers are over.

We’ll be a team that’s active at the trade deadline and not as sellers, but as buyers, just like we used to be”, said Melnyk. “If you look at my track record on spending on players, we were already right up there. We were never at the top, but we were always right up there or around the center. Now, we’re going to stay somewhere in the center, depending on where it’s at. Our budgets are always somewhere around $70 million, which is in the center.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t expect the Senators to be buyers if they’re not in playoff contention. If Melnyk’s comments are anything to go by, however, they won’t be selling off veterans as they have over the past three years.

If they are contenders, they must invest wisely if they’re going to be buyers. Don’t just go for rentals but try to add players who can help them beyond just one season.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 24, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 24, 2020

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

RETURN-TO-PLAY NEWS

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OTHER NOTABLE NHL HEADLINES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 16, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 16, 2020

Senators owner Eugene Melnyk weighs in on next season, a suggestion for a 35-game schedule, how the Golden Knights roster has changed and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

OTTAWA SUN: Senators owner Eugene Melnyk is excited about his current roster, believing they’ll be competitive in 2020-21. While acknowledging there’s no guarantee next season will take place, he remains optimistic, noting the league is working hard to make it happen. He also indicated “there’s a lot of stuff that has to be done financially because everybody’s taking a big hit.”

Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk (NHL.com).

Melnyk half-jokingly said he’s not a fan of a proposed temporary Canadian division. “It’s only for a hockey reason. This is not our year. We’ll be competitive but this is the year the Canadian teams are all better. Every one of them – including mine. I’m still at the beginning of my rise up. Everybody else was good and they’re getting better.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The financial stuff Melnyk’s alluding to is the reports the league could ask the players to accept prorated salaries for ’20-’21 or deferring more of their salaries to a future date. The players have already agreed under the new CBA to receive 72 percent of their gross pay for the coming season. The PA is reportedly against proration.

Melnyk has a point about the difficulty the Senators would face in an all-Canadian division. They were better than the rebuilding Detroit Red Wings and finished just six points behind the Buffalo Sabres in the Atlantic Division last season. They’ll potentially be the weakest team in a Canadian division. The Sens wouldn’t be facing any of the other six clubs that failed to reach the playoffs last season or a Conference rival, such as the Florida Panthers, that may be weaker in the coming season.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy cited NBC Sports hockey analyst Pierre McGuire recently suggesting 35 games might be the minimum for the NHL to complete the upcoming season. American Hockey League president and CEO Scott Howson agreed with McGuire. “Well, I think a 35-game season is better than no season in any league,” he said, pointing out the difficulties both leagues could endure in the face of COVID-19.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: All the speculation thus far suggests 48 games would be the minimum the NHL would accept. Nevertheless, we can’t rule out the possibility of a 35-game season. The course of the pandemic will ultimately be the deciding factor.

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: The 2020-21 Golden Knights will look a lot different from their debut roster of 2017-18. Only nine players – William Carrier, Marc-Andre Fleury, William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, Brayden McNabb, Tomas Nosek, Reilly Smith, Shea Theodore and Alex Tuch – remain from their original lineup.

Seven players – Robin Lehner, Alec Martinez, Max Pacioretty, Ryan Reaves, Nicolas Roy, Chandler Stephenson and Mark Stone – were acquired via trade. Two (Alex Pietrangelo and Nick Holden) were signed via unrestricted free agency. Cody Glass was selected in the NHL draft while Zach Whitecloud arrived via college free agency.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Several of those players (Lehner, Pacioretty, Reaves, Stone) were in the final year of their contracts and due to become unrestricted free agents when they were acquired via trade and signed to extensions. With Cap Friendly indicating the Golden Knights carry limited cap space for the foreseeable future, they’ll probably look more toward building from within as the prospects they stockpiled develop into NHL-caliber players. They’ll also probably lose another from their “Golden Misfits” expansion draft class next summer with Nosek due to become a UFA.

THE SCORE: The NHL has completed its teasers of all 31 of their “Reverse Retro” third jerseys for 2020-21.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’m not a fan of the third jersey gimmick, but I can understand the push behind the current one. The NHL and its players need all the revenue it can get in 2020-21.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Collin Delia is looking forward to challenging for the starting goaltender position with the Blackhawks.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 14, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 14, 2020

Contract talks have broken off between the Canadiens and Brendan Gallagher, some “mutual interest” between the Leafs and Joe Thornton, three key Bruins underwent surgery last month, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TSN: Contract talks between Brendan Gallagher and the Montreal Canadiens have broken off, Gallagher’s agent Gerry Johansson told Pierre LeBrun on Tuesday. The 28-year-old winger is eligible next summer to become an unrestricted free agent.

Montreal Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ll have more about this later this morning in the Rumors section. There’s still plenty of time for the two sides to work out a new contract. Gallagher is considered among the Canadiens’ core players but this report casts early doubt over his long-term future in Montreal.

THE SCORE: cites The Athletic’s James Mirtle reporting of “some mutual interest” between the Toronto Maple Leafs and UFA center Joe Thornton in reaching an agreement on a contract. The discussions are at an early stage. The 41-year-old center is coming off a disappointing 31-point performance in 70 games last season, his worst output over a full season since his NHL debut in 1997-98.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The idea is Thornton would become the Leafs’ third-line center, allowing Alexander Kerfoot to play on the wing. The former Shark is among the greatest playmakers in NHL history and a future first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. However, the decline in his performance last season should be a concern. The Leafs might be better off looking elsewhere for a short-term third-line center.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins forwards Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak and defenseman Charlie McAvoy underwent surgeries in September. Marchand underwent sports hernia surgery on Sept. 14 and is sidelined for four months. Pastrnak had a right hip arthroscopy and labral repair on Sept. 16 with a five-month recovery period. McAvoy, meanwhile, had a right knee arthroscopy on Sept. 8 and is expected to be ready for training camp.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins will be without Pastrnak and Marchand if the 2020-21 NHL season opens in January.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: The San Jose Sharks signed Patrick Marleau and Matt Nieto to one-year contracts. Cap Friendly indicates Marleau and Nieto will each earn $700K.

TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs signed goaltender Aaron Dell to a one-year, $800K contract.

THE TENNESSEAN: The Predators signed UFA forward Brad Richardson to a one-year, $1-million contract.

NHLPA: The dates for salary arbitration have been announced:

October 20

Andrew Mangiapane
Anthony DeAngelo
Matthew Grzelcyk

October 21

Ilya Mikheyev

October 22

Connor Brown

October 25

Tyler Bertuzzi

October 26

Linus Ullmark

October 27

Sam Reinhart

October 28

Jake Virtanen

October 30

Joshua Ho-Sang

October 31

Devon Toews
Alexandar Georgiev

November 1

Nicholas Paul

November 2

Gustav Forsling

November 4

Victor Olofsson
Warren Foegele

November 5

Ryan Strome

November 6

Brendan Lemieux
Ryan Pulock

November 7

Christian Jaros

November 8

Chris Tierney
MacKenzie Weegar
Haydn Fleury

OTTAWA SUN: Senators prospect Tim Stuetzle will undergo surgery to repair a broken hand suffered during training camp with the Mannheim Eagles. The recovery time is six-to-eight weeks. Stuetzle was the Senators’ first-round pick (third overall) in the 2020 NHL Draft.

TSN: Speaking of the Senators, Eugene Melnyk has filed a defamation lawsuit against Ottawa Sun columnist Rick Gibbons regarding reports claiming the Sens owner was attempting to divert money from a club charity to his own charity and gouging the Ottawa Senators Foundation by charging exorbitant rent. The Sun subsequently published an apology and a correction of errors in Gibbon’s stories.

THE ATHLETIC: Multiple Dallas Stars employees will be furloughed for the second time this year. Team owner Tom Gagliardi is facing mounting financial difficulties as his core businesses (hotels and restaurants) continue to be affected by COVID-19.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 18, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 18, 2020

Potential progress being made toward a 24-team playoff format, Eugene Melnyk hopes the 2020 draft will be held in June and the latest on Ryan Miller in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL-NHLPA PROGRESSING TOWARD 24-TEAM FORMAT

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports sources claimed the NHL-NHLPA Return to Play committee made progress over the weekend toward a 24-team playoff format if the league resumes action this summer. He cautions more work needs to be done and it’s difficult to determine if a decision will be reached this week. Discussions are expected to continue in the coming days. LeBrun also reports the NHL Board of Governors will have a conference call slated for 3 pm ET today.

LeBrun indicated the potential format wouldn’t jump straight into playoff action, but would instead see some games leading up to the postseason. Several NHL players aren’t on board with this concept but it appears more of them would support that format. The committee also has to determine the timeline for when the self-isolation period is lifted to enable players to return to NHL facilities for small group workouts.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Washington Capitals defenseman Radko Gudas could be among the players against this idea. He reportedly believes the NHL should simply cancel the season. Gudas isn’t on the Return to Play committee, but I daresay his concerns are shared by some of his peers. He’ll get an opportunity to express his views to his NHLPA player rep, who’ll cast a vote on his teammates’ behalf on whether to resume the season. 

Capitals owner Ted Leonsis is the latest team owner to state his belief the league will return to action soon. However, this proposed return-to-play plan is drawing criticism from several pundits. The Toronto Star’s Damien Cox dismisses the notion of summertime hockey, suggesting the league is running out of time to reach a decision. The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson doesn’t see the sense of a 24-team playoff, though The Hockey New’s Ken Campbell points out the league can recoup more of its lost revenue with that format.

Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk (Photo via NHL.com).

Addressing the logistics of a 24-team format in four hub cities with many players cut off from their families while undergoing regular COVID-19 testing will be challenging. Gudas, Cox, and Matheson raise valid points that are likely shared by many hockey fans.

The NHL might not be able to pull this off. Nevertheless, they’re going to try. We’ll find out soon enough if they can do it. 

LATEST ON THE 2020 NHL DRAFT

LeBrun also believes the 2020 NHL Draft will also be a topic of discussion among the Board of Governors today. He feels there’s been too much opposition to staging the draft before resuming the season. However, it doesn’t require official approval from the governors. The final decision rests with Commissioner Gary Bettman.

SPORTSNET: Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk hopes the league stages the draft lottery and the draft next month. “I just hope that we can have some events happen in June to keep people interested. And if that’s just a draft lottery, that would be great. If it’s a draft as a draft lottery that’s even better,” Melnyk said.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Melnyk has good reason for wanting the lottery and the draft to be held next month. The Senators have three picks in the first round of this year’s draft, including two that would be second and third overall based on the current standings. That third-overall pick belonged to the San Jose Sharks.

Under the league’s proposed one-time change to this year’s draft lottery, the Senators would drop no lower than one place if a low-seeded club other than themselves or the Detroit Red Wings win the lottery. If they or the Sharks win, they’ll have the first and third overall selections.

The Senators wouldn’t be part of the proposed 24-team playoff format. Holding the lottery and the draft next month would give their fans something to get excited about for this summer and looking ahead to next season. 

THE SCORE: Anaheim Ducks goaltender Ryan Miller hopes to keep playing hockey next season, but acknowledged this pandemic could also force his retirement. “I mean the desire is there, but there’s going to be a lot of factors. First of all, we’re all going to have to address this new normal. What that means for sports and life – and wrapped up in that is family and how family is going to need to be taken care of during this time,” Miller said. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Where Miller is at this stage in his NHL career will also be a determining factor. The 39-year-old goalie is already in the twilight of his career. He’s an unrestricted free agent this summer. If he can’t sign with a California-based club, he could be forced to hang up his pads. 










Could Eugene Melnyk Sell The Ottawa Senators?

Could Eugene Melnyk Sell The Ottawa Senators?