NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 16, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 16, 2020

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.

NHL arenas could remain dark until mid-May.

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.










NHL Rumor Mill – March 13, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – March 13, 2020

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.

Uncertainty over the remainder of the NHL season is giving rise to salary-cap speculation for next season.

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.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 13, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 13, 2020

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.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman remains hopeful of resuming the remainder of this season (Photo via NHL.com).

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.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 5, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 5, 2020

Flyers on the rise, salary cap could significantly increase next season, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: The Philadelphia Flyers picked up their seventh straight victory by beating the Washington Capitals 5-2. Kevin Hayes and Ivan Provorov each had a goal and an assist for the Flyers (85 points) as they moved to within one point of the Metropolitan Division-leading Capitals. It was a costly win, as winger James van Riemsdyk is sidelined indefinitely after suffering a broken hand blocking a shot. The Flyers have 16 victories in their last 21 games, while the Capitals have just four in their last 10 outings.

James van Riemsdyk was sidelined during the Philadelphia Flyers 5-2 win over the Washington Capitals (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flyers are surging at the right time and could supplant the slumping Capitals atop the Metro. They’re a deeper team thriving under head coach Alain Vigneault this season. It’ll be interesting to see how they cope without van Riemsdyk, who tallied 31 points in his last 41 contests.

An overtime goal by T.J. Brodie gave the Calgary Flames a 3-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. With 77 points, the Flames opened a three-point lead over the Vancouver Canucks for third place in the Pacific Division. The Jackets (78 points) picked up a point to move into the first wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference.

The Arizona Coyotes overcame a 2-1 deficit to double up the Canucks 4-2. Carl Soderberg and Oliver Ekman-Larsson each had a goal and an assist as the Coyotes (74 points) moved into a three-way tie with the Canucks and Winnipeg Jets, though the latter two hold the last two wild-card berths with 34 wins each.

Rickard Rakell’s overtime tally lifted the Anaheim Ducks over the Colorado Avalanche 4-3, snapping the latter’s seven-game winning streak. Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog had a goal and two assists. Colorado has 88 points, two behind the Central Division-leading St. Louis Blues.

HEADLINES

The salary cap for 2020-21 could rise to between $84 million to $88 million, according to NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly. The cap is currently at $81.5 million. The increase will depend upon the NHLPA triggering its annual escalator clause. Daly also said the league is discussing a formula with the PA that could provide general managers with an annual cap figure earlier than they do now. That formula is part of ongoing CBA extension talks with the Players’ Association.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I assumed the cap could reach $84 million next season, but that potentially higher total surprised me. It will certainly benefit clubs with limited salary-cap space, such as the Arizona Coyotes, St. Louis Blues, and Toronto Maple Leafs.

NEW YORK POST: Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk required 90 stitches after being struck near his left eye in the face by a skate blade during Tuesday’s loss to the Montreal Canadiens. His eye was undamaged, but he’ll remain sidelined until the swelling goes down and his eye opens again.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Boychuk wears a visor, but it couldn’t provide full facial protection from a fluke injury like that.

CBS SPORTS: New York Rangers winger Chris Kreider faces a four-to-six week recovery from a broken foot suffered last week against the Flyers.

OTTAWA SUN: The Senators dismissed CEO Jim Little following what he described as a heated argument he had with team owner Eugene Melnyk. A team source claimed cited “a pattern of behavior, not just one incident, among other things,” that led to Little’s dismissal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That source’s name wouldn’t rhyme with “Meugene Elnyk”, would it?

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: The NHL is prohibiting its employees from making work-related trips outside North America over concerns about the coronavirus.










NHL Rumor Mill – December 12, 2019

NHL Rumor Mill – December 12, 2019

The latest salary-cap speculation, plus updates on Taylor Hall, Ilya Kovalchuk, and more in today’s NHL rumor mill.

HIGHLIGHTS FROM FRIEDMAN’S LATEST “31 THOUGHTS”

SPORTSNET: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman declined to project next season’s salary cap, but Elliotte Friedman reports some clubs have the impression it could reach between $84-$85 million. Based on concerns over a lockout, he points out many players structured their contracts with low cash payouts for 2020-21. That means a lower escrow clawback, which could prompt the NHLPA to use their annual escalator clause to raise the cap ceiling by up to five percent.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: After several years of seeing annual cap projections coming in lower than anticipated, I think the clubs will make a conservative estimate for their cap payrolls next season. If it comes in higher than expected, they’ll have more flexibility to add or retain talent.

Could the New York Islanders get into the bidding for New Jersey Devils winger Taylor Hall? (Photo via NHL Images)

Friedman believes the New York Islanders could use a scorer. “But I’m not expecting Lou Lamoriello to tell me how he feels about Taylor Hall.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Isles are on my list of realistic bidders for the New Jersey Devils winger. Lamoriello never tips his hand and rival GMs know not to leak trade discussions at the risk of him shutting down negotiations. Nevertheless, it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s looked into the Devils’ asking price.

Speaking of Hall, TVA Sports’ Renaud Lavoie reports the Montreal Canadiens aren’t interested in acquiring Hall. He claims the fact the Devils don’t want to give Hall a six- to eight-year deal raises a red flag. Acquiring Hall this season would be a waste of assets for the Habs. He’d improve their scoring, but not their defensive depth, and that’s their biggest concern right now.

Friedman believes the Los Angeles Kings could attempt to work out some sort of contract termination for Ilya Kovalchuk once his final bonus is paid on Dec. 15.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Kings reportedly looked into trading the 36-year-old winger without success. Maybe they’ll have better luck after Sunday but I doubt it. He’s been a healthy scratch for a month now.

St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong isn’t sharing details on his contract talks with Alex Pietrangelo. He said they prefer keeping negotiations in-house. “I know it’s a long time until June 30, 2020.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pietrangelo could depart next summer via free agency, but the Blues won’t trade him before the Feb. 24 deadline. They’re attempting to repeat as Stanley Cup champions, and Pietrangelo will play a key role in that quest.

Friedman has his doubts the Toronto Maple Leafs will upgrade their backup goaltending. He claims they’re not enamored with what’s available in the trade market.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pittsburgh’s Tristan Jarry and the New York Rangers’ Alexandar Georgiev have come up in media speculation, but I don’t believe either guy is available. Looks like the Leafs are stuck with what they’ve got for the time being.

Jarry’s played very well backing up starter Matt Murray. Given the latter’s injury history, they probably won’t part with Jarry or Casey DeSmith this season. Despite all the fuss over Georgiev becoming waiver-eligible soon, Rangers GM Jeff Gorton doesn’t sound like he’s keen to part with him.

Speaking of the Leafs, Friedman said a rival GM claimed they learned they could easily trade winger Kasperi Kapanen during their previous losing skid. However, they don’t want to move him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Leafs GM Kyle Dubas is proving adept at juggling his limited salary-cap space. At some point, however, he could face making a cost-cutting deal to address a roster need, such as their backup goaltending. That could force him into making a difficult decision about Kapanen or another salaried roster player.

Friedman reports the Pittsburgh Penguins were testing the market on winger Alex Galchenyuk. He believes the Buffalo Sabres looking into it. “There were rumblings about Ottawa, but a few sources pooh-poohed that,” said Friedman.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators have had recent success with reclamation projects, such as Anthony Duclair. While it’s tempting to suggest Galchenyuk’s inconsistency scared them off, perhaps they’re simply unwilling to acquire a player slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Friedman believes the Carolina Hurricanes had interest in Dallas Stars free-agent defenseman Julius Honka before Dec. 1. He wonders what the summer might bring for Honka, who needs a fresh start.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 23, 2019

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 23, 2019

The 2019-20 salary cap limits finally revealed, Leafs close to re-signing Kapanen and Johnsson, plus updates on Sergei Bobrovsky, Artemi Panarin, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The league finally released the salary-cap limits for 2019-20. The upper level will be $81.5 million and the minimum is $60.2 million. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As rumored, the upper level is $1.5 million less than the projected $83 million. Cap-strapped teams like the Vegas Golden Knights, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Edmonton Oilers (stick tap to Cap Friendly) could be forced to make cost-cutting trades this summer. 

The 2019 NHL draft was completed yesterday. USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-18 team made history with a record 17 players selected. 

TSN: The Toronto Maple Leafs are reportedly close to re-signing winger Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson. Kapanen is expected to get a three-year deal worth $3.2 million per season while Johnsson will receive four years at $3.4 million per. The deals, however, won’t be finalized until their salary-cap situation is clarified.

The Toronto Maple Leafs reportedly have new contracts in place for wingers Kasperi Kapanen (above, photo via NHL Images) and Andreas Johnsson.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, once the Leafs sort out Mitch Marner’s contract situation, they’ll formally announce those new contracts.

Not surprising those two are getting affordable deals. Each reached the 20-goal plateau for the first time but they’re coming out of their entry-level deals and had almost no leverage. The odds were low of one of them receiving an offer sheet. If necessary, those contracts would also be easy to move. 

Columbus Blue Jackets winger Artemi Panarin and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky will meet with the Florida Panthers tomorrow. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree with TSN’s Bob McKenzie that Bobrovsky could be the Panthers’ priority. They desperately need a reliable starting goaltender. They’ve already got a proven top-line left wing in Jonathan Huberdeau. Panarin a luxury they don’t need, especially when they also need another top-four defenseman. 

NEW YORK POST: Islanders captain Anders Lee isn’t happy that he doesn’t have a new contract yet. “I didn’t think we’d get to this point,” Lee told NHL.com. “The process hasn’t … I haven’t enjoyed it, but it is what it is. We want to make sure that everything is done right and it’s right for both of us, for both sides. I hope it works out. They’re working on it right now.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Term, not dollars, is the sticking point. The Isles are reportedly willing to go to five years but Lee wants six or seven. The UFA interview period begins today and Lee and his agent can speak with other clubs if they wish. It’s rumored the Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild could be interested in talking to him.

NHL.COM:  Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill confirms winger Mats Zuccarello intends to test the UFA market on July 1. However, he could still sign with the Stars. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sounds like Zuccarello will fish for the best offer on the open market and see if the Stars will match it. 

THE TENNESSEAN’s Paul Skrbina took to Twitter reporting the Nashville Predators won’t be re-signing pending UFAs Wayne Simmonds, Zac Rinaldo, and Cody McLeod. It also doesn’t sound like Brian Boyle will be back but GM David Poile has met with his agent. 

NHL.COM: The Chicago Blackhawks acquired forward John Quenneville from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for forward John Hayden. 

SPORTSNET: The Vancouver Canucks traded forward Tom Pyatt and a sixth-round pick to the San Jose Sharks for Francis Perron and a seventh-round selection.