Activity Slows In The NHL Offseason Trade Market
More on the league’s plans to possibly resume this season, plus the latest on Drew Doughty, Brandon Carlo, Dale Hawerchuk and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Commissioner Gary Bettman told CNN the league continues to explore all options to resume the 2019-20 season while awaiting word for clearance from authorities. “When we’ll have an opportunity to return depends on things that we have absolutely no control over, because it all starts with everybody’s health and well-being,” said Bettman. “And until there’s a sense that people can get together, not just to fill our arenas but even our players to get together to work out, we don’t know when we can come back.”
Bettman also said the league and the NHL Players Association discussed the length of time it would take for the players to prepare for the resumption of the season. While the players are training at home, Bettman said it would take between two-to-three weeks to get back into playing shape.
THE SCORE: cites TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reporting the NHL is willing to delay the start of 2020-21 to November to conclude this season. It would cancel the All-Star Game and the accompanying bye weeks, and extend the post-season into late June. The league also prefers playing some regular-season contests before the playoffs and would condense the postseason if necessary.
LOS ANGELES TIMES: Kings defenseman Drew Doughty is skeptical about finishing this season. “We have no idea when this virus is going to be over,” he said. “We’re just sitting here waiting, working out, getting ready to hopefully return at any point. I would think the NHL or whoever has to make a decision will make some type of decision on that soon. It seems like it’s going to be pretty tough to return, to resume the season or the playoffs.”
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo is among those hopeful the league can resume in some fashion and complete this season. “It’s been great to hear that we’re going to work as hard we can to establish as many games as we can for this season and still try to make the ultimate goal of awarding a Stanley Cup happen,” said Carlo, the Bruins NHLPA player rep. “I’m trying to do everything I can to stay in shape because I am optimistic about the season returning.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Like most of you, I doubt this NHL season is salvageable. Nevertheless, I don’t fault the league and the PA exploring every option to return to action. While the pandemic will likely stretch through the summer and into the fall, there’s nothing wrong with being prepared in case the coronavirus runs its course faster than projected or a vaccine is discovered and distributed quicker than anticipated.
PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Pierre McGuire predicts the salary cap could decline by 25 percent to 40 percent. A 25 percent drop would put next season’s cap at $61 million, while 40 percent would lower it to $49 million. McGuire believes the NHL and NHLPA will have to come up with some creative ideas to address this potential problem. On a positive note, he said he’s never seen better cooperation between the two sides in his 31-year hockey career.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s already been reported several times by different sources that the league and PA won’t let the cap drop for next season. There’s talk of setting an artificial number at $81.5 million. It’ll be interesting to see how they address this situation.
SPORTSNET: Hall-of-Famer Dale Hawerchuk completed his final round of chemotherapy for stomach cancer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes for a full recovery.
CTV NEWS SASKATOON: A highway memorial involving hundreds of cars lined the highway to Battleford, Saskatchewan to show support for the family of the late Colby Cave, who passed away last week. Cave was originally from North Battleford.
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: Anaheim Ducks players and families pledged 200 meals a day for the staff at UCI Medical Center.
The league continues to explore options to resume the season, a look at how the Blues’ revenue will be affected by the pause in the schedule, Massachusetts attorney-general calls on Bruins to compensate employees, and much more in the NHL morning coffee headlines.
TSN: NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league has been in almost constant contact with the NHL Players’ Association, its teams, general managers and medical experts since pausing the season over the coronavirus pandemic.
He also indicated concerns over what next season’s salary-cap figures could look like are well down the league’s priority list right now but hinted the final figure might not be tied to hockey-related revenue given the unusual circumstances. “(It’s) really somewhat artificial because it is a function of what we and the players’ association agree it to be,” he said. “What that means, what that number is, whether it can fit existing contracts and the like is all something that ultimately we’re going to have to work out.”
As for what the schedule will look like when the league returns, Daly stressed the importance of coming up with one that’s fair and has integrity. He pointed out the lowest number of games played by any one team is 68, constituting a meaningful season. “Whether our playoff format can mirror that legitimacy is something we’ll have to ensure.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As most clubs have played around 70 games, I think this season can be considered legitimate if they were to simply return to action by jumping into the playoffs right away. It appears they want to avoid that scenario, but the pandemic will be the deciding factor over whether this season can be saved in some form.
The NHL and NHLPA prefer finishing the season because it’ll salvage some of that projected $1 billion in potentially lost revenue if the schedule was scrapped. Daly’s comments regarding the salary cap confirm what most of us suspected. The league and the PA won’t return with a cap below the current $81.5 million. It could remain at that level for next season, or they could agree to bump it up slightly to $84 million.
A potential sticking point under the latter scenario, however, is the increase in escrow clawbacks from the players’ salaries. Another could be the long-term effects of a significant recession brought about by this pandemic. It’ll be interesting to see how the two sides navigate through those tricky waters.
NHL has another conference call with GMs scheduled for Tuesday. Another update. Teams have a lot of questions of course. Some which still can’t be answered I’m thinking.
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) March 20, 2020
STLTODAY.COM: The stoppage of play due to the coronavirus pandemic could cost the St. Louis Blues millions of dollars. The fan cost index for the Blues is $374.57 per game. Estimating capacity crowds for their final six home games, the Blues could lose around $10.2 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Though the numbers will vary, every NHL team is facing losses in the millions if their remaining home games are canceled. Because the NHL remains a gate-driven league, it’s understandable why the team owners and players are keen to return to action as soon as possible.
If they do resume the season sometime between May to August, they won’t recoup most of those losses. With millions of North Americans being hit hard financially by this pandemic, the league’s revenue streams will be adversely affected. They could maintain next season’s cap at $81.5 million, but if the economy sinks into a deep recession through next season, the league will feel it at the box office, impacting the salary cap going forward.
BOSTON HERALD: Massachusetts attorney-general Maura Healey called on the Boston Bruins’ ownership to compensate its part-time employees while the NHL schedule remains paused. The Bruins are the only club that hasn’t done so.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Whatever the reason behind ownership’s decision, it certainly doesn’t cast them in a good light, especially when Bruins players are contributing to a GoFundMe page to help those part-time employees.
NHL.COM: The Florida Department of Health informed the Florida Panthers and the BB&T Center that a part-time arena employee tested positive for COVID-19 on March 15. The employee is self-quarantined and receiving medical assistance.
WINNIPEG SUN: Jets players donated $100K to the Winnipeg Harvest food bank on Friday.
CAP FRIENDLY: has the complete list of recent entry-level NHL signings of college players.
The NHL could be shut down until May, the latest on the potential effect upon the salary cap, and much more in today’s morning coffee headlines.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending the cancellation or postponement of all events consisting of at least 50 people for eight weeks throughout the United States. That would mean the NHL is unlikely to return to action until mid-May at the earliest.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the league still intends on finishing the regular season and staging a full playoff schedule, the Stanley Cup wouldn’t be awarded until probably late July or early August.
THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun believes the Summer Olympics (July 24 – Aug. 9) could be the “drop-dead” period when resuming the NHL season no longer makes sense. He doubts the league wants the Stanley Cup Final going up against the Olympics. He also feels the NHL won’t drag out a decision if it gets a strong sense it cannot continue the season.
Citing multiple sources, LeBrun feels the league and the NHL Players Association won’t let teams fall into salary-cap hell by allowing the cap to drop by millions of dollars for 2020-21. In this exceptional circumstance, both sides can agree to an artificial cap that makes sense for all sides.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As I and others (including LeBrun) have pointed out, the league and the PA agreed to an artificial cap for 2013-14 after coming out of the 2012-13 lockout, keeping it at the ’11-’12 level ($64.3 million). I expect they’ll at least maintain it at this season’s level ($81.5 million) if necessary.
TSN: LeBrun also reports it’s business as usual for college free agents hoping to sign NHL contracts. Colleague Mark Masters, meanwhile, interviewed two experts in the field of athletic performance over how the players can remain in shape during their period of self-quarantine.
Speaking of business as usual, the Anaheim Ducks yesterday placed forward Kiefer Sherwood on waivers.
SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston reports the league wants its players to remain in the cities where they play for their protection and to make it easier to assess the overall health of the NHL community.
All five of Toronto’s professional sports teams combined to create a special assistance fund for event staff affected by the suspension of all major sports in the city.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens announced a support plan to assist game-day employees dealing with income loss during the pause to the NHL season.
WINNIPEG SUN: Following considerable public backlash, Jets chairman Mark Chipman announced the club would compensate part-time arena employees full pay for missed events.
CALGARY SUN: The Flames also reversed course under public pressure and will compensate their part-time and hourly employees.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Perhaps the Flames ownership was shamed into action after it was reported their players were donating to a fundraising page to assist those employees. The Ottawa Senators are reportedly the only Canadian team yet to announce any support plan for their employees.
THE TENNESSEAN: Nashville Predators center Nick Bonino took to social media to urge the city’s citizens to stay away from large gatherings to prevent spreading the coronavirus. “There is no excuse,” he wrote. “We have a chance to lock down our cities now, close restaurants and bars, or, if safe, only offer takeout/delivery, anything to slow the spread.”
THE HOCKEY NEWS: The Swedish Ice Hockey Association canceled the remainder of its season.
THE SCORE: The KHL is defending its decision to continue its playoffs despite one of its best teams (Jokerit) dropping out over coronavirus concerns. “The (COVID-19) pandemic is a rapidly evolving situation, and in this regard, KHL is in consultation with clubs and all relevant authorities to diligently manage the impact of this matter.”
DEADSPIN: Now that quarantines are going into effect, Jesse Spector is revisiting old video games like NES Hockey.
How could the pause on the NHL schedule affect next season’s salary cap? What measures could be taken to cope? Check out the latest in today’s rumor mill.
THE ATHLETIC: Regarding the effect upon the salary cap, Pierre LeBrun suggests the league and the NHL Players Association could agree to toss aside the CBA rules in this emergency and perhaps agree to an artificial number for next season. He cited a source saying they can do that as long as both sides agree it’s the best course of action. That would prevent the cap from falling by millions and putting teams into roster Armageddon. The PA will also want to avoid putting their players into a crazy escrow situation.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cynics will point to the contentious labor history between the NHL and NHLPA to cast doubt over potential cooperation on an artificial cap for next season. Given the lack of rancor in ongoing collective bargaining talks before the pausing of the schedule, I believe they’ll get something worked out. This is a unique situation, and neither side wants a scenario whereby some teams end up gutting their rosters to become cap compliant.
The template is already there. They agreed to an artificial number to avoid roster upheaval coming out of the 2012-13 lockout. I also expect they’ll work out an escrow calculation for next season that will be acceptable to the players.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks believes a revenue-enhancing plan could address the league’s salary-cap number for 2020-21 if this season is cancelled. He speculates the league and the PA could agree to keep the cap at $81.5 million if they believe there will be an immediate rebound in consumer spending and ticket-buying behavior. However, Brooks feels a flat cap could wreak havoc upon the league with half the teams using long-term injury exemptions to be cap compliant.
Brooks also speculates the league and the PA could adopt an amnesty buyout policy this summer that would not count against a team’s salary-cap payroll. It’s a tactic the league employed following the previous NHL lockout. Regarding the playoffs, he envisions scrapping the rest of the regular-season schedule in favor of an expanded playoff schedule with knockout rounds involving 20-24 teams to drive up fan interest and revenue.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: We can’t rule out amnesty buyouts as a means of providing a measure of cap relief. Following the 2012-13 lockout, each team was allowed two amnesty buyouts spread over two seasons.
As for the playoffs, the format will depend upon when the league can return to action. If it’s in late-April, they’ll probably just play out the remaining schedule and stage the playoffs so that they end by late June. If it moves into May, shorter options could be considered in addition to perhaps playing into July.
THE ATHLETIC: Examining key questions surrounding the Edmonton Oilers in the wake of the pause in the regular season, Daniel Nugent-Bowman and Jonathan Willis wonder what happens to traded draft picks with games-played conditions attached.
The most complicated is the 2020 third-rounder involved in last summer’s James Neal/Milan Lucic trade. “That pick flips to Calgary if Neal scores 21 goals and Lucic trails his goal count by 10 or more.” Neal currently has 19 goals.
They also wondered if this would affect when the Oilers could offer contracts to free agents such as Riley Sheahan and Mike Smith. Performance bonuses could also be affected, as well as the Oilers’ salary-cap plans for next season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those issues aren’t unique to the Oilers. Every club will seek direction depending on the final decision regarding the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs.
Speaking of the Oilers, Sportnet’s Elliotte Friedman earlier this week said he didn’t think management was talking contract extension yet with Smith. He dismissed rumblings claiming the two sides discussed a one-year deal. Friedman also believes they could wait until the end of the season to talk contract with Sheahan.
What next for the NHL in the wake of pausing the season over coronavirus concerns? What could be the effect upon the playoff race and the off-season? Check out the latest in today’s morning coffee headlines.
SPORTSNET: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the league had been closely monitoring what was going on regarding the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus before its decision to pause the schedule. He admitted the NBA having a player test positive and forcing the cancellation of a game left him no doubt this would be a game-changer.
Bettman said he’s hesitant to use the word “suspension”, remaining hopeful the season will resume at some point. He’s not sure how far it could push the schedule into the summer. The league is taking a day-to-day approach for now.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll depend upon how long before the spread of the virus is significantly slowed or contained. TSN’s Frank Seravalli cited an NHL governor telling colleague Darren Dreger the league is focused for now on returning to action within three weeks, but that will depend upon the players’ health, how many (if any) contracted the virus, and recommendations from the health community.
THE SCORE: The playoff picture, the ripple effect upon the off-season schedule, and the salary cap are the major storylines to monitor as the NHL pauses the remainder of the 2019-20 schedule over coronavirus concerns.
Depending on when the league returns to action, it could pick up its schedule where it left off, play an abbreviated number of games to begin the playoffs closer to the starting date, or cancel the rest of the regular season and opt for a wild-card play-in or beginning the postseason based on the standings at the time the regular season was paused.
It could also affect the dates when the league stages its annual prospect combine and draft in June. The annual July 1 start date for free agency could also change. Next season’s salary cap could remain closer to this season’s $81.5 million rather than reach the projected range of $84 million to $88 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I daresay the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery, slated for April 9, will move to a different date later in the spring.
NEW YORK POST: Teams are standing pat with no practices or meetings. That could change if they think they’ll start playing games again.
Most teams intend to deal with their ticket holders individually. Most could be willing to transfer those tickets to next season.
If the players are still paid during the hiatus, they could end up giving it all back via escrow to ensure the 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue with team owners. As for hourly workers at arenas, individual teams could examine some form of compensation.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Toronto Maple Leafs (via Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment) and Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley announced they’ll look after their arena staff during this period. I expect the other clubs either have a plan in place for their respective personnel or are working on one.
ESPN.COM: NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said it’s a team-by-team thing for testing players for COVID-19. “Testing kits are controlled by local health, and each state is allocated different amounts based on population and experience. At this point, the need for testing is greater than the supply of tests. That will start to change as manufacturers are ramping up production.”
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: The San Jose Sharks announced a part-time employee at SAP Center in San Jose tested positive for the coronavirus. The individual is under self-quarantine and receiving care from medical personnel.
SPORTSNET: The International Ice Hockey Federation is considering cancelling the Men’s World Championships. The 16-team tournament is set to begin on May 8.
NBC SPORTS: The AHL, ECHL, and CHL are following the NHL’s lead and pausing their schedules.
THE SCORE: Despite the interruption in the schedule, New York Rangers winger Brendan Lemieux will have a hearing today for interfering Colorado Avalanche forward Joonas Donskoi during Wednesday night’s contest.
CALGARY SUN: Long-time Flames executive Ken King passed away at age 68. He was team president and chief executive officer for many years beginning in 2001, and until recently played a role in securing a deal for a new arena in downtown Calgary.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to King’s family, friends, and the Flames’ organization.