NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 21, 2020
The Blackhawks begin rebuilding, a look ahead to next season, the latest notable contracts signings and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: In an open letter to their fans, the Blackhawks announced their commitment to “developing young players and rebuilding our roster”. The letter also stated the club needs “a stockpile of emerging talent to complement our top players” in order to return to Stanley Cup contention.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks are finally admitting what’s been apparent for some time. Years of salary-cap constraints led to cost-cutting moves that steadily eroded their depth of talent, leaving them with no choice but to restock with younger, affordable players.
TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports they want veterans such as Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Duncan Keith to be part of the rebuild. He said general manager Stan Bowman spoke with those players about their role in the club’s direction. “Now, we’ll see how those players react,” said LeBrun.
TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the joint NHL-NHLPA committee tasked with return-to-play for next season haven’t met yet but it eventually will as the league conducts internal intel among its clubs. Ten players are expected to be on this committee.
LeBrun reports the NHL general managers will be meeting on Friday. There will be discussion over when the American Hockey League will begin play as some GMs want to get their prospects playing as soon as possible. He also indicated the league and the PA have tentatively agreed that the seven clubs that didn’t qualify for return-to-play this summer will have extra training-camp time ahead of the normal training-camp period for next season.
Frank Seravalli reported NHL players are wondering if salaries will be prorated in case of a shortened season. For now, there’s been little discussion on that issue. The players are expected to receive all but 30 percent of their salaries next season, with 20 percent deducted for escrow and 10 percent deferred.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Player agent Allan Walsh believes it’s safe to assume the NHL won’t return to action on the tentative target date of Jan. 1. He believes it could be Jan. 15 or pushed to Feb. 1.
Walsh also speculated there could be multiple bubble cities with two in Canada and four in the United States where teams would travel to those cities for two weeks to play several games, return home for a week, and then travel to another bubble city for two weeks. He doesn’t expect to see any clarity on next season until mid-December.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Everything seems to be in the preparatory stage for the actual meetings between the league and the PA. Holding a regular season during the pandemic comes with a different set of challenges compared to staging the 2020 playoffs in two bubble cities.
Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley last week suggested the league could return on Feb.1 with a reduced schedule played in some sort of divisional bubbles, including a Canadian division if the border between Canada and the United States remains closed to non-essential travel. We’ll probably find out by mid-December if Foley’s remarks foreshadow the league’s intentions.
TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs avoided salary arbitration with Ilya Mikheyev by signing the winger to a two-year deal worth $1.645 million annually.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Leafs are $175K over the $81.5 million salary cap with defenseman Travis Dermott to re-sign. They’re allowed to sit over the cap by 10 percent during the offseason.
OTTAWA SUN: The Senators and Connor Brown are $2.5 million apart in contract negotiations. Brown seeks a one-year, $4.8 million deal while the Senators countered with $2.25 million. Brown’s arbitration hearing is slated for Thursday.
THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks winger Micheal Ferland is skating again but his agent said his client’s health will determine if he resumes his playing career. Ferland made three attempts to return from a concussion suffered in a game last year against the Los Angeles Kings.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: The Bruins signed forward Karson Kuhlman to a two-year, $1.5 million contract. It’s a two-way deal in the first year.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens signed Kaiden Guhle to an entry-level contract. The 18-year-old defenseman was the Habs first-round pick (16th overall) in this year’s NHL Draft.
THE SEATTLE TIMES: Geoff Baker reports Kraken general manager Ron Francis said the ownership of the expansion club has approved spending toward the upper limit of the 2021-22 salary cap as long as they aren’t hamstrung in future years.
Baker speculates players with hefty contracts lacking no-movement protection, such as San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns, Tampa Bay Lightning winger Tyler Johnson, Washington Capitals winger T.J. Oshie and Vancouver Canucks goaltender Braden Holtby, could be targeted by the Kraken if left unprotected in next year’s expansion draft.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Expect Francis to use the Vegas Golden Knights as his template for building an expansion roster. Thanks to some savvy moves including trades and free-agent signings, the Golden Knights became a Stanley Cup Finalist in their inaugural season and a perennial playoff club ever since.