NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 21, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 21, 2020

The NHL and NHLPA formally approve a 56-game season, the Blues will reportedly name Ryan O’Reilly as team captain, and more in today’s morning coffee headlines

TSN: The NHL and NHL Players Association formally agreed yesterday to play a 56-game season commencing on Jan. 13, 2021.

The league’s aim is to return to a normal hockey calendar for the 2021-22 season.

Both sides intend to be flexible and adaptable to ensure compliance with local and national health and safety directives for their players and game-related personnel.

The new NHL divisions for 2020-21 (TSN.ca).

The league will be split into four divisions (see chart at left) for this season with no conferences. Training camp open for last season’s seven non-playoff teams on Dec. 31. The rest of the league begins camp on Jan. 3. There won’t be any exhibition games.

The playoffs will feature 16 teams in a best-of-seven, four-round format that will conclude no later than July 15. The top-four teams in each division will qualify, featuring intradivisional matchups in the first two rounds (1 vs 4, 2 vs 3). The two semifinal winners will face off in the Stanley Cup Final.

Frank Seravalli reports multiple provincial health authorities in Canada have not yet signed off on the league’s plan and protocol amid concerns over rising COVID-19 rates in several provinces. Discussions between the league and the provinces are expected to continue this week. If no agreement is reached, the seven Canadian teams could begin the season in a hub city such as Edmonton or in US cities.

Several US teams, such as the Dallas Stars, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning, are expected to begin the season with a limited number of fans in their arenas.

The San Jose Sharks announced they will train and open the season in Arizona due to the ban on mass gatherings in Santa Clara County, California.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHL is making this change to the divisions and playoff format for this season only. Nevertheless, it’ll be interesting to see how fans respond to these changes. If the reaction is positive, perhaps the league would consider adopting them going forward.

The critical dates are as follows:

Dec: 31: Training camp opens for last season’s seven non-playoff teams,

Jan.3: Training camps open for the remaining 24 teams,

April 12: NHL trade deadline,

May 8: End of the regular season,

May 11: Stanley Cup playoffs begin,

July 15: Last possible day to award the Stanley Cup,

July 21: Seattle Kraken expansion draft,

July 23-24: NHL Draft (location to be determined),

July 28: Free agency begins,

October: 2021-22 regular season begins.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some of those regular-season and playoff dates could change depending on the course of the pandemic. The league intends to leave some wiggle room in the schedule for games postponed by the pandemic. The NHL Draft could be staged in Montreal as that’s where this year’s draft was supposed to be held.

SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston reports the Canadian teams will face off against each other 10 times in the upcoming season.

Health authorities in British Columbia have raised the most concerns over the NHL’s plan, while Ontario and Quebec have yet to formally commit. Alberta and Manitoba are believed most comfortable with the plan while Quebec Premier Francois Legault expressed his happiness – “Bonne nouvelle! (Good news!) – following yesterday’s announcement by the league.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Vancouver Canucks seem most likely to be starting this season playing in another city. Ontario is going into a month-long province-wide lockdown on Christmas eve, which could force the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs into a hub city in Edmonton. It remains to be seen what Quebec will do. The teams in those provinces could be allowed to return to their arenas if restrictions ease over the course of the season. We’ll probably learn more before the end of this week.

Johnston’s colleague Elliotte Friedman reports training camp will consist of 36 players and an unlimited number of goaltenders. He also indicates no-movement clauses are extended through July. That will allow players who have one to use it if they wish during the expansion draft. The entry-level slide for rookies drops this season from 10 games to seven.

PUCKPEDIA: examines some interesting aspects of the transition rules for the coming season and the effects upon the salary cap for 2020-21.

THE MERCURY NEWS: San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson confirmed some of the team’s players skating in Europe in recent months tested positive for COVID-19. However, none who trained in San Jose tested positive. They’re not aware of any player currently prevented by the coronavirus from traveling to North America.

THE ATHLETIC: Jeremy Rutherford cites sources claiming Ryan O’Reilly will be named the new captain of the St. Louis Blues. He will replace Alex Pietrangelo, who signed with the Vegas Golden Knights in October.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: O’Reilly is a perfect choice for team captain. As Rutherford points out, he’s become a leader and a core player since joining the Blues in 2018. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Blues won the 2019 Stanley Cup and the Selke Trophy in 2019.

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 3, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 3, 2020

League commissioner Gary Bettman talks about efforts to start the 2020-21 season, a look at how the league could change coming out of the pandemic, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

SPORTSNET: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the league’s target date of Jan. 1 to open the 2020-21 season remains a “work in progress influenced largely by what we’re hearing from the medical experts.” He made the remarks at the Sports Business Journal’s “Dealmakers in Sport” panel on Wednesday.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman (NHL.com).

Bettman insisted the NHL remains focused on health and safety, adding the league is taking its time evaluating ways to move forward with the season. He’s hopeful a widespread vaccine distribution will enable the league to return to normal for 2021-22.

The commissioner also addressed the recent stalemate with the NHLPA over the league’s request for increased escrow and salary deferral rates that have stalled return-to-play negotiations. He doesn’t view it as renegotiating the CBA extension but merely addressing how the division of hockey-related revenue will be affected by the pandemic.

Chris Johnston reports Bettman said there’s been no ultimatum made to the NHLPA, claiming it’s unfair to characterize his discussions with the union as a renegotiation. “We made a number of assumptions collectively over the summer, most of which are not applicable anymore,” said the commissioner. “ There are a lot of things we have to deal with if we’re going to return to play.”

Johnston also notes Bettman pointing out the 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue contained in the CBA. The commissioner said if the players end up getting overpaid they’ll have to repay the overage to the league over time if they don’t repay in the short term. He adds the two sides have had discussed the stresses on the system and how to navigate them, insisting the league is trying to find ways to continue working together.

I know it’s being portrayed as something else and it’s unfortunate and it’s inaccurate because at the end of the day if the system gets stressed it’s going to get stressed for the both of us,” said Bettman.

The commissioner also said the league is willing to shorten training camps and play one or two exhibition games before the season begins.

TSN: Frank Seravalli reports the NHLPA declined to comment yesterday on Bettman’s remarks. While the commissioner suggested the players could end up owing the league “more money than anyone imagined,” Seravalli cites sources saying the best, moderate, and worst-case scenarios were all fully modeled for both sides during the CBA extension negotiations.

Seravalli believes Bettman was also sending an unsubtle message to the players that the longer their potential debt to the league lingers, the lower future salary caps will be, in turn limiting their future earnings.

Asked if the current impasse might kill the 2020-21 season, Bettman said there are letters in the CBA put in for “our benefit” if things got out of control, “so we each have rights which we can adhere to.”

THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun believes Bettman is feeling pressure from some owners to alleviate cash concerns for the coming season. That explains why the commissioner made his recent requests for changes to the escrow and deferral rates.

While the players could stay resolute and call Bettman’s bluff, LeBrun believes they could instead accept increased salary deferral (though not at the league’s proposed rate) in exchange for something in return.

LeBrun also feels the course of the pandemic is becoming a greater obstacle to starting the season. He feels the prudent move for the league and PA is to give up on a Jan. 1 start and instead go for puck drop on Feb. 1 in the hope there’s a downturn in COVID-19 cases by then.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The players have every right to be upset over the league’s attempt to change those rates that were agreed upon in the CBA extension. While Bettman is correct that things have changed since the extension was ratified, he went into that agreement knowing what the worst-case scenario would be. He either didn’t really understand how serious it would be (doubtful) or he didn’t believe the worst-case would happen (plausible).

As Bettman noted, the CBA stipulates a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue. The PA’s likely argument, as reported by the New York Post’s Larry Brooks, is the assurance of the 50-50 split has been undone by the artificial caps on escrow combined with unlinking the salary cap from actual hockey-related revenue for the short term.

I don’t see the league agreeing with that argument. Bettman made that clear with his remarks about the players paying back the potential overage for this season.

Recent reports indicate Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr resumed daily discussions. I agree with LeBrun’s take that the players will likely accept an increase in salary deferral in exchange for something from the league.

My question is why Bettman didn’t make that pitch when he made his initial proposal? He had to know what the players’ reaction would be. Perhaps negotiations wouldn’t have stalled if he’d simply included a sweetener (like interest on the salary deferral) with his proposals. The commissioner either misjudged how the players would react or simply didn’t care.

SPORTSNET: Ads on jerseys, expanded playoffs, player-specific sponsorship and embracing gambling are four possible changes we could see in the NHL coming out of the pandemic.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHL will be getting a lucrative new US television contract at the end of this season and the additional hockey-related revenue from the expansion Seattle Kraken. Nevertheless, the pandemic’s effects upon revenue in the short term could force the league to seek new sources of revenue once the pandemic has passed.

FORBES.COM: Sports lawyer Eric Macramalla explains why an NHL lockout isn’t possible despite the intensified haggling over players’ salaries. The CBA prevents the league from locking out the players during the course of the agreement. It also prevents the players from going on strike. The league could suspend the season citing the pandemic as an event beyond its control but could have a difficult time justifying that if the PA took the league to court. Macramalla feels the current dispute can be settled because both sides have a vested interest in playing the coming season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Agreed. The pandemic is a greater factor in determining the start of the season.

 










Potential Problem Areas In The New NHL CBA

Potential Problem Areas In The New NHL CBA

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 12, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 12, 2020

Steven Stamkos to miss training camp, Mike Green and Karl Alzner opt-out of return-to-play plan, more tidbits from the new CBA extension, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: Diana C. Nearhos reports Lightning captain Steven Stamkos suffered a leg injury during recent voluntary workouts and won’t be a full participant when the clubs begin training camp on Monday. General manager Julien BriseBois said Stamkos is expected to be ready when the Bolts begin round-robin play on August 3 in Toronto.

Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos (Photo via NHL Images).

​SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stamkos’ recent injury history will be a concern for the Lightning during the playoff tournament. Nearhos points out he suffered three previous injuries (including two confirmed lower-body) this season.

TSN: Citing family health reasons, Edmonton Oilers defenseman Mike Green has decided to opt-out of the return-to-play tournament.

SPORTSNET’s Chris Johnston reports Montreal Canadiens defenseman Karl Alzner is also opting out. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON:  The Bruins’ Steven Kampfer is also opting out over family health reasons..

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Calgary Flames blueliner Travis Hamonic, Dallas Stars rearguard Roman Polak, and Vancouver Canucks winger Sven Baertschi are also giving it a pass. Players wishing to opt-out without penalty for whatever reason have until 5 pm ET on Monday to so do in writing to the NHLPA and NHL Central Registry.

SPORTSNET: Minnesota Wild defenseman Greg Pateryn is sidelined indefinitely with an upper-body injury.

THE SCORE: Teams participating in the return-to-play plan aren’t permitted to disclose information regarding player injuries or illness. The NHL cites the unique circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. They and the NHLPA are doing so out of respect for an individual player’s right to medical privacy.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That decision will generate plenty of unwanted speculation over a player’s health when he mysteriously goes missing from a game or two or an entire series or the entire tournament, especially if it’s a superstar like Edmonton’s Connor McDavid or Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby. I wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes something that carries over beyond this season.

LAS VEGAS SUN: Jesse Granger reports NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Las Vegas was excluded as a host city for the return-to-play tournament because of rising COVID-19 cases in Nevada.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Daly confirmed what many of us already suspected.

TSN: Mark Masters reports the Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers canceled video conferences scheduled for today to discuss their selection as NHL host cities. The postponement was because the league still has some final details to work out with the Canadian government.

PUCKPEDIA: There’s a special arbitration wrinkle for this off-season only. Within four days of a team walking away from an arbitration award, the team and the player can agree to a contract equal to the offer the team presented at the arbitration hearing. This might give the player an opportunity to rethink things if the arbiter’s award was higher than what the team can afford.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Brad Alberts is the new CEO and president of the Dallas Stars. Former CEO Jim Lites becomes the club’s chairman.

SPORTSNET: The Minnesota Wild hired Judd Brackett as their new director of amateur scouting. Brackett previously held a similar role with the Vancouver Canucks from 2015 until this year, helping them select Elias Petterssen, Brock Boeser, and Quinn Hughes.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 11, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 11, 2020

The NHL and NHLPA ratify the return-to-play plan and the CBA extension, two players opt-out, and more in today’s morning coffee headlines

NHL.COM: The league and the NHLPA yesterday ratified the return-to-play plan and the extension to the collective bargaining agreement.

NHL and NHLPA ratify return-to-play plan and CBA extension (Image via NHL.com).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHLPA vote wasn’t close. TSN’s Frank Seravalli reports 79 percent of the players were in favor (502 to 135). So much for suggestions that a majority wouldn’t approve the plan.

The 24-team playoff tournament will begin on Aug. 1 in Edmonton and Toronto. Training camps will open in each team’s local markets on Monday, July 13.

Critical dates for the tournament and the off-season are as follows:

July 13 – Training camp begins

July 26 – Teams arrive in hub cities

July 28-30 – Exhibition games

August 1 – Best-of-five qualifying round begins

August 10* – Phase 2 of the draft lottery

August 11 – First round of the playoffs begins (all playoff rounds are best-of-seven)

August 25* – Second round of the playoffs begins

September 8* – Conference Finals begins

September 22* – Stanley Cup Final begins

October 4* – Last possible date for playoffs

Oct. 9 – 10* – NHL Draft

*Subject to change

The league has released the tournament schedule. The Eastern Conference qualifier kicks off with the New York Rangers vs the Carolina Hurricanes, the Florida Panthers vs the New York Islanders, and the Montreal Canadiens vs the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Western Conference opens with the Chicago Blackhawks vs the Edmonton Oilers and the Winnipeg Jets vs the Calgary Flames. Broadcast times TBA.

TSN: Bob McKenzie reports the players will have until 5 pm ET Monday, July 13 to opt-out of Phase 3 and Phase 4 of the return-to-play plan for any reason without penalty. They must do so in writing to the NHLPA and NHL Central Registry.

CALGARY SUN: Flames defenseman Travis Hamonic has exercised his right to opt-out, citing the health of his young daughter.

TSN’S Rick Dhaliwal reports Vancouver Canucks winger Sven Baertschi has also opted out.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As TSN’s Pierre LeBrun said, we shouldn’t judge any player who decides not to participate. These are trying times and we should respect their decisions.

NHL.COM: The main details of the CBA extension include:

The salary cap remaining at $81.5 million for 2020-21 and increasing incrementally in the following years if hockey-related revenue reaches certain thresholds,

Escrow deductions from players salaries will be capped at 20 percent for 2020-21, gradually dropping to 6 percent for each of the final three seasons of the agreement,

A year will be added to the CBA (to 2026-27) if the players’ escrow debt for this season exceeds $125 million but is less than $250 million,

Players defer 10 percent of their salaries (including signing bonuses) for 2020-21, which will be repaid in equal installments over three seasons beginning in 2022-23.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s my understanding this will not reduce a team’s salary-cap hit for next season. It’s a reduction in actual salary, not the cap hit.

The one-week interview period for unrestricted free agents has been permanently eliminated,

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, back to the old frenzy of general managers negotiating with player agents starting at noon ET on the opening day of the free-agent market.

All no-trade and no-movement clauses will carry with the player if he agrees to waive it to be traded. Previously, those clauses became inactive once a player agreed to waive it and was moved.

Teams won’t carry a cap charge for a player who signs a 35-and-older contract and subsequently retires before that contract expires.

Teams will no longer include conditions in trades involving the signing of the traded player to a new contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, no conditional draft picks included in the deal. It’s also still to be determined how that might affect conditional trades made before this season’s schedule was interrupted by COVID-19.

Most of the main points were previously reported and duly noted on this site. You can get the full details on the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the CBA extension by following this link. There are, however, several other interesting tidbits:

Teams no longer need to wait until after the trade deadline to re-sign a player to an eight-year contract extension.

Qualifying offers for restricted free agents are no longer equal to the final year’s salary. It will instead be based on the average annual value of the contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: For example, if the player’s AAV was $5 million but the final year of the contract paid him $7.5 million in actual salary, the team only has to tender a QO of $5 million.

Teams can begin to sign restricted free agents and draft picks to contracts for 2020-21 starting Monday, July 13. They can also extend players who are on contracts that expire after the end of the 2020-21 season.

SPORTSNET’s Elliotte Friedman reports teams that incur a performance bonus overage can distribute that penalty over the next two seasons.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Craig Custance reports of a significant change to salary arbitration. Once an arbitration hearing begins, a settlement is not allowed.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In previous years, teams and players could settle following the hearing and before the arbiter reached his decision. This change should encourage both sides to hammer out an agreement before the hearing starts.

TSN: Frank Seravalli reports the MOU contains a paragraph indicating the NHL has the power to pro-rate or cancel salaries outright if forced to cease or reduce operations from conditions arising from a state of war or other causes beyond the league’s control.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seravalli believes it’s likely not the league’s intention to use that clause. Nevertheless, it could go into effect if it is forced to reduce next season’s planned 82-games schedule. Something to keep in mind if that should come to pass given the uncertainty caused by COVID-19.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 9, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 9, 2020

The tentative schedule for the rest of this season, more tidbits from the CBA extension, Devils to hire Lindy Ruff as head coach, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

LATEST RETURN-TO-PLAY AND CBA EXTENSION NEWS

TSN: Frank Seravalli provided updates to the tentative key dates for the NHL’s return-to-play plan.

More details revealed of the NHL-NHLPA return-to-play plan & CBA extension (Image via NHL.com).

July 13 remains the start date for training camps under Phase 3. On July 24, teams will travel to their respective hub city for the playoff tournament under Phase 4.

July 25: Exhibition games begin

July 30: Qualifying round begins

Aug. 9: Opening round of the playoffs begins

Aug. 23: Second round begins

Sept. 6: Conference Finals begin

Sept. 20: Stanley Cup Final begins

Oct. 2: Last possible game of the Cup Final

Oct. 6: 2020 NHL Draft. The draft must be held following the end of the playoffs and before free agency begins

Oct. 9: Free Agency begins (or seven days following the end of the Stanley Cup Final, whichever is later)

Nov. 17: Training camps open for the 2020-21 season

Dec. 1: 2020-21 regular season begins

All dates are subject to change.

The NHL and NHLPA also have an agreement to abandon the return-to-play plan if the number of players opting-out on a team- or league-wide basis adversely affects the integrity of the post-season.

COLORADO SPORTS NOW: Adrian Dater reports the opt-out deadline has been extended to Monday night (July 13).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Most observers doubt a large number of players will opt-out. We’ll know for certain by Monday night.

Bob McKenzie reports the summary of the memorandum of understanding lists Edmonton and Toronto as the host cities for Phase 4. The Eastern Conference teams will play in Toronto and the Western Conference clubs in Edmonton. The Conference Finals and the Stanley Cup Final will be held in one host city but that has yet to be determined.

The final paycheck for 2019-20 that the players deferred will now be used to pay down escrow.

The late start of the 2020-21 season means the players will receive one paycheck in the fall.

ESPN: Greg Wyshynski reports the NHL is working on its US broadcast plans for the 24-team playoff tournament. The qualification and round-robin games will be shown locally on regional sports networks. Discussions are ongoing over how many of the games will be shown nationally on NBC Sports Network.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unsubstantiated rumors suggested the games would be televised on pay-per-view. That’s not happening because of existing television contracts in the United States and Canada.

THE HOCKEY NEWS’ Jason Kay cited reports of an Edmonton hospital effectively shutting its doors because of a full-facility COVID-19 outbreak. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said “at this point” he doesn’t expect it’ll affect the league’s hub city announcement.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t think it’ll affect things as long as there’s no indication it could spread into the proposed secure area of The Ice District in Edmonton.

Some interesting CBA extension tidbits were revealed:

Frank Seravalli reports the one-week interview period for unrestricted free agents before the start of the free-agent market has been eliminated.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, it’s back to general managers working the phones with player agents trying to hammer out new contracts. I’m pleased with this development, as it will bring back the intrigue and excitement that was disappearing from the start of the free-agent period Because of the interview period, we knew where most of the top UFAs were going a day or two before the market opened. Now, it’s back to the good old guessing game as it should be. 

The maximum entry-level base salary will rise to $950K for 2022-23 and 2023-24, then to $975K for 2024-25 and 2025-26, and $1 million for 2026-27. Entry-level bonuses will also increase.

TVA SPORTS’ Renaud Lavoie reports trade conditions that make it harder for a player to re-sign with the team that acquired him won’t be allowed. For example, if a player is traded for a third-round pick but it becomes a first if the player signs with his new club.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports clubs that have a performance overage for this season will have the option to evenly distribute it between 2020-21 and 2021-22 (50 percent each season).

IN OTHER NEWS…

NORTHJERSEY.COM: cites NHL Network’s Kevin Weekes reporting the New Jersey Devils are expected to name Lindy Ruff as their new head coach. Ruff is an assistant coach with the New York Rangers and is the former head coach of the Buffalo Sabres and Dallas Stars. The Devils are also expected to make interim general manager Tom Fitzgerald their full-time GM.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ruff’s hiring is garnering mixed reactions from Devils fans. Supporters cite his experience and success in Buffalo, while detractors consider him the wrong coach for a rebuilding club. 

Fitzgerald earned his opportunity as the full-time GM, going a good job in difficult circumstances on short notice following the midseason firing of Ray Shero.

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: George Richards reports Chris Pronger has stepped down as the Florida Panthers senior VP of hockey operations to focus on his family’s high-end travel agency business.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Michael Russo cites a source reporting Minnesota Wild GM Bill Guerin is willing to sign prospect Kirill Kaprizov for 2019-20 and burn the first year of his three-year entry-level deal if Kaprizov is willing to do so. Under the terms of the CBA extension, he wouldn’t be allowed to participate in the upcoming playoff tournament.