NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 20, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 20, 2020

More details emerge for the 2020-21 season plus the latest in Ilya Kovalchuk, Braden Holtby, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TSN: With the NHL and NHLPA reaching a tentative agreement for the 2020-21 season, the league’s focus shifts toward negotiations with the five provincial health authorities for the seven Canadian franchises.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly (NHL.com).

The league hopes those clubs will play this season in an all-Canadian division with each team hosting games in their own arenas. Darren Dreger reports NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly is directly involved in ongoing negotiations with the provinces.

Frank Seravalli reports the league has drafted strict protocols for road games. Players and team staff will be limited to the practice rink, game rink and hotel. No outside facilities, bars, restaurants or shops. All meals will be in the team hotel. No guests, no use of hotel fitness facilities, no housekeeping. There will also be assigned seats on chartered buses and planes, with in-flight catering where possible.

Ryan Rishaug reported last night the British Columbia government at this point remains unwilling to allow NHL teams to travel into the province for games. That might change as discussions continue.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seravalli also indicated the NHL’s travel protocols continue to change based on input from the provincial health authorities. The league seems willing to do as much as possible to ensure the Canadian teams can stage their games in their own arenas.

Based on recent reports it appears the Vancouver Canucks could be the only club unable to start the season at home. That could change depending on the course of the league’s discussions with the province of British Columbia.

The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reports a league executive said one solution could be having the Canucks play their games in Edmonton until the situation is resolved. That would make more sense than moving all seven into one Canadian hub city or having them play all their games in the United States.

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the NHL has scheduled a conference call for its Board of Governors for noon ET today and for the general managers at 2 pm ET.

Mark your calendars, NHL fans. The 2021 free-agent market is slated to open on Wednesday, July 28, 2021.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No word yet as to a tentative date for the 2021 trade deadline. It’s usually held 40 days before the last day of the regular season. If that calculation remains in place for this season, March 29 would be trade deadline day.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the opt-out deadline to participate in this season for players on last year’s non-playoff teams is Dec. 24, with Dec. 27 for the others. Group II free agents (RFAs) must be signed by Feb. 11 to be eligible to play this season. Players on one-year contracts can extend on March 12.

THE SCORE: The San Jose Sharks will be hosting training camp and start the regular season in Arizona owing to COVID-19 restrictions in California’s Santa Clara County.

RDS.CA: A report out of Russia indicates Ilya Kovalchuk could return to the KHL for the coming season. The 37-year-old Kovalchuk reportedly hasn’t found any takers in the NHL free-agent market. He played in the KHL from 2012 to 2018 with St. Petersburg SKA. The report suggests he’ll sign with Avangard Omsk.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A once-dominant scorer, Kovalchuk struggled with the Los Angeles Kings upon his return to the NHL in 2018 and was bought out of his contract last fall. He showed flashes of his high-scoring form during a brief tenure with the Montreal Canadiens until traded to the Washington Capitals, where he was pretty much invisible during the Capitals’ disappointing performance in the 2020 playoffs.

SPORTSNET: After the design for his new mask was criticized as cultural appropriation, Vancouver Canucks goaltender Braden Holtby and his mask designer are collaborating with an Indigenous artist on a new design.

CALGARY SUN: The Flames signed defenseman Oliver Kylington to a one-year, two-way contract worth $787,500 at the NHL level.

THE BUFFALO NEWS: Former Sabres defenseman Nathan Paetsch has retired after 17 professional seasons. Paetsch played the bulk of his career in the AHL with the Rochester Americans, Grand Rapids Griffins and Syracuse Crunch. He spent parts of five NHL seasons with the Sabres and Columbus Blue Jackets.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Paetsch in his future endeavors.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 19, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 19, 2020

The NHL and NHLPA reach a tentative agreement for the 2020-21 season. Check out the details in today’s morning coffee headlines.

TSN/SPORTSNET: reported on the tentative agreement on the 2020-21 season reached last night by the NHL and NHLPA.

The agreement requires ratification by the league board of governors and the PA executive board. The latter verbally supported moving ahead with the agreement last night. The board of governors’ vote is expected Sunday or Monday.

Here are the pertinent details:

– It will be a 56-game schedule commencing on Jan. 13. Training camps for last season’s seven non-playoff clubs will commence on Dec. 31. The other 24 teams will begin camp on Jan. 3. There won’t be exhibition games.

– The regular season would tentatively end on May 8. The Stanley Cup playoffs would end by the first week of July.

All dates are subject to change.

– The proposed divisions break down as follows:

Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg,

Boston, Buffalo, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington,

Carolina, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Florida, Nashville and Tampa Bay,

Anaheim, Arizona, Colorado, Los Angeles, Minnesota, San Jose, St. Louis and Vegas.

– Each division will produce four playoff teams. The postseason will be inter-division with each division winner becoming Stanley Cup semifinalists seeded by regular-season points.

– The tentative plan is for every team to play in their home arenas this season instead of playing in hub cities, though the latter remains a possibility.

– A player can opt-out from this season if he or an immediate family member is considered part of a high-risk category. That player will not be paid for this season and his team will have the option of carrying over his contract for one year.

– Rosters will be capped at 23 players with the salary cap at $81.5 million. Players on one-way NHL contracts will not have their salaries prorated. Those in the AHL on two-way contracts will have prorated salaries based on how many games are played in that league, with a 40 percent minimum salary payout.

– Teams will be permitted to carry four-to-six extra players (taxi squad), including a mandatory third goaltender. Those players will practice and travel with the team. For salary cap purposes, those extra players will be treated as AHL call-ups. Players will have to clear waivers to be put on the taxi squad. Players on that squad will be paid an AHL salary if on a two-way contract.

– As part of the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols, players will be tested every other day, possibly every day, and will be expected to have minimal outside contact. Charter planes will be used for all travel and health standards at road hotels and restaurants strictly monitored. Players will be confined to the rink and the hotel.

– The fate of the proposed Canadian Division rests with the five health authorities in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. The league and the seven Canadian teams are in ongoing discussions with those provincial and regional authorities.

It’s believed the biggest sticking point is whether NHL players will be subject to intra-provincial travel quarantine restrictions. Failing that, the Canadian teams could play in a hub city like Edmonton or spend the season in the United States.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The proposed agreement is expected to be rubber-stamped by the BoG and the PA executive. We’ll likely learn more details in the coming days. Much will depend, of course, on whether the five provincial health authorities sign off on the plan of an all-Canadian division. Some reports cited sources expressing confidence that agreement will be reached. We’ll find out soon enough. 

The fate of the seven Canadian teams will determine most of those aforementioned dates and the divisional realignments. Those could change if those clubs are forced to spend the season playing in the United States.

Understandably, that’s the last option for the league and those clubs, whose players won’t be thrilled about potentially spending at least five months living in hotels away from their families. They also probably wouldn’t be happy about playing in a hub city in Canada but at least they could have the opportunity to travel back to their NHL cities to see their families.

A Canadian team would be guaranteed a spot as a Stanley Cup semifinalist under the proposed playoff format for the season.

It’ll be interesting to see how many players opt-out of this season. Only a handful did so during the 2020 playoffs. Going any entire season without a paycheck will be a strong enticement to suit up.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 18, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 18, 2020

The seven Canadian teams could play all their games this season in the US, Henrik Lundqvist sidelined by a heart condition, Alexander Steen hangs up his skates, the Panthers sign Anthony Duclair, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TSN: Frank Seravalli reports the NHL and the seven Canadian franchises have been trying to work out protocols with the provincial health authorities but the latter has not yet signed off on them. The league’s preference is for its 31 teams to play their game in their own arenas. If that’s not possible, the Canadian teams could play in one hub city or play all their games this season in the United States. Seravalli said the league remains optimistic this can be sorted out.

Pierre LeBrun believes this information being revealed to the public could work to the NHL’s advantage, putting a little public pressure upon the provincial governments. If the seven Canadian franchise must play this season in the United States it would mean the end of the proposed Canadian division, forcing another temporary divisional realignment.

Seravalli also revealed the NHLPA wants to ensure the players decide whether they’ll receive COVID-19 vaccinations. He said it will be their choice.

SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston reports the provincial authorities must be comfortable with the league’s health protocols, which are still being negotiated with the NHLPA. Future talks are expected with the health authorities at the provincial and federal levels.

Johnston indicates moving the seven Canadian franchise this season to the US would follow the precedent set by MLB and the NBA. The Toronto Blue Jays played their 2020 season in the US while the Toronto Raptors will begin this season in Tampa.

TORONTO STAR: Kevin McGran reports the plan for an all-Canadian division this season remains very much alive. League and PA sources indicate moving the Canadian clubs to the United States this season is one of the last options.

One source indicated the Canadian COVID restrictions “aren’t the sticking points,” adding they expected that “everything will be resolved to mutual satisfaction. Another said the topic was mentioned but hasn’t received much discussion. McGran said the Toronto Maple Leafs met with Ontario officials Wednesday and have another on Friday.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Pat Hickey reports the Canadiens are close to an agreement with Quebec officials allowing them to hold training camp at their practice facility in Brossard. Paul Wilson, the Canadiens vice president for public relations, said he was encouraged by Premier Francois Legault’s “enthusiastic” for an NHL return to action in mid-January.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The initial reports of the Canadian clubs possibly playing all their games in the US this season generated quite a stir on social media, creating the impression an all-Canadian division was doomed. However, this doesn’t appear to be a fait accompli.

A heart condition sidelined Washington Capitals goalie Henrik Lundqvist (NHL Images).

The league and the PA very much want to play their games in their home arenas. The difficulty seems to be coming up with protocols that will satisfy provincial officials. While this could still go off the rails, the league seems confident this can be worked out.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Henrik Lundqvist won’t be playing for the Capitals this season after all. The 38-year-old goaltender released a statement yesterday indicating he’s been sidelined by a heart condition for which he’s receiving treatment. Lundqvist signed with the Capitals as a free agent in October after being bought out of the final year of his contract by the New York Rangers.

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports Lundqvist’s condition isn’t life-threatening and not related to COVID-19. Given the goalie’s age, however, he speculates this could mean the end of his playing career.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lundqvist didn’t say he was retiring so it’s possible the future Hall-of-Famer might return in 2021-22 with the Capitals or another NHL club. Here’s hoping he makes a complete recovery.

The Capitals will place him on injured reserve for the season as they try to determine how to replace him. I’ll have more about that in the Rumors section.

STLTODAY.COM: Blues winger Alexander Steen is hanging up his skates after being diagnosed with “multiple levels of degenerative herniated discs of his lumbar spine.” The 36-year-old began his NHL career with the Toronto Maple Leafs but was traded early in the 2008-09 season to the St. Louis Blues, where he spent the remainder of his 15-year playing career. He tallied 622 points in 1,018 games and helped the Blues win the Stanley Cup in 2019.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Steen in his future endeavors. He became an invaluable core player and leader with the Blues. Because he’s not officially retired, he will be placed on long-term injury reserve. That will provide the Blues with some much-needed salary-cap wiggle room. I’ll have more in the Rumors section.

THE SCORE: The Florida Panthers signed Anthony Duclair to a one-year, $1.7 million contract. The 25-year-old winger became an unrestricted free agent after the Ottawa Senators declined to send him a qualifying offer. The signing leaves the Panthers with over $6.6 million in cap space.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Duclair will be an affordable replacement for the departed Mike Hoffman, though he probably won’t score with the same consistency. The Panthers could make another addition but it remains to be seen if they’ll invest that cap space in a trade or free agency or promote from within.

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports the NHL is exploring the possibility of pushing the 2021 Draft to December 2021. The reason is most of the junior leagues haven’t begun to play yet because of COVID-19. Scouts are also limited in their ability to travel and scout prospects in North American and Europe.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Garrioch points out nothing is set in stone and this remains a concept. However, I agree that it could make sense. Current health protocols are making it difficult to properly evaluate prospects during this season. Moving the draft to December would buy them time to scout those prospects if things return to some semblance of normal when next fall rolls around.

SPORTSNET: The Vancouver Canucks signed forward Justin Bailey to a one-year, two-way contract.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 16, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 16, 2020

Updates on negotiations for the 2020-21 season, two people arrested for stealing Wayne Gretzky memorabilia, Mark Messier loses money on a cannabis investment deal, the latest on Oskar Lindblom and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TSN: Darren Dreger reports issues such as roster size and taxi squads are slowing down negotiations between the NHL and NHLPA aimed at starting the 2020-21 season on Jan. 13. Frank Seravalli said the effect on the salary cap of transferring a player between the roster and the taxi squad is also part of the discussion. At this point, it would be handled similar to the rules regarding a demotion to the AHL.

Pierre LeBrun points out teams are at the mercy of local health restrictions, especially in Canada. As of Tuesday, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators each have over 30 players that have returned, while the Winnipeg Jets have nine, the Montreal Canadiens under 10, the Edmonton Oilers have 12 and the Calgary Flames 26.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those health restrictions vary from city to city and province to province. It’s affecting quarantine rules and use of training facilities, which could explain why the Jets and Canadiens have a low number of players in their respective cities.

Dreger reports the league is looking into allowing a limited number of fans to attend games in select markets depending on the restrictions of each city in each state. Seravalli points out that will be only if the league can open in all 31 of its cities. That remains in doubt as some teams, like the San Jose Sharks, are planning to open training camp in Arizona because of restrictions in their own market.

COLORADO HOCKEY NOW: Adrian Dater reports sources are saying the concept of hub cities is no longer on the drawing board. He said each team will play their regular-season home games in their own buildings with travel limited only to games within a team’s division.

Because of the new COVID-19 vaccines, the NHL feels confident it can stage a regular season in which teams travel from city to city despite the strict protocols. The league remains adamant it will not attempt to jump the queue to obtain vaccinations ahead of others.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This NH season is going to open but the projected Jan. 13 start date could change. A vote approving the format for ’20-’21 needs a vote of approval by the league board of governors and the NHLPA’s 31-member executive. It’s required by the end of this week to meet the timeline for a Jan. 13 start. That date could be pushed into late January if more time is required to work out the details.

SPORTSNET: Two people were arrested by Brantford, Ontario police after Wayne Gretzky memorabilia was stolen from his father’s home. A three-month investigation involving searches of homes in Ontario and Alberta by police (including the RCMP and Ontario Provincial Police) recovered several items with an estimated combined value of over $500K USD. The investigation is ongoing.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Walter Gretzky is the world’s most famous hockey dad and among the kindest people in hockey. Shame on those people for stealing from him.

YAHOO SPORTS: Hockey Hall-of-Famer Mark Messier is suing the CEO of an Alberta cannabis company after he allegedly lost his $500K investment. Messier claimed the company also used his celebrity to raise $30 million in funding.

THE SCORE: Philadelphia Flyers winger Oskar Lindblom is cancer-free just over a year after being diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma. He finished his treatments on July 2 and suited up with the Flyers in the 2020 playoffs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Here’s hoping Lindblom enjoys a long, cancer-free life.

TSN: cites The Athletic’s Michael Russo reporting the Minnesota Wild are close to signing free-agent goaltender Andrew Hammond. He speculates this could mean Wild backup Alex Stalock could be hurt entering training camp. Stalock reportedly hasn’t been on the ice.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Former San Jose Sharks forward Melker Karlsson has signed with Swedish club Skelleftea AIK for the remainder of the 2020-21 season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No indication if Karlsson has an out-clause if he signs with an NHL club. The report indicating it’s for the remainder of the season suggests he didn’t get any NHL offers to his liking. The flattened salary cap for this season could be a factor, which doesn’t bode well for comparable players still available in the UFA market.

STLTODAY.COM: The Blues have promoted Ryan Miller (no, not the NHL goaltender) as their new assistant general manager.

WHL.COM: The Western Hockey League has delayed the start of its 2020-21 season because of public health restrictions across Western Canada and the US Pacific Northwest. The board of governors will meet in January to discuss possible start dates.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That could affect the development of WHL players hoping to be selected in the 2021 NHL Draft.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 15, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 15, 2020

Players are returning to their respective teams as negotiations continue between the NHL and NHLPA on a format for the 2020-21 season. Check out the latest in the morning coffee headlines.

TORONTO SUN: Joe Thornton reportedly departed Switzerland yesterday on his way to joining the Maple Leafs. The 41-year-old center played with HC Davos in preparation for a shortened 2020-21 NHL season.

Joe Thornton has left Switzerland to join the Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Thornton is among a number of players reportedly returning to their NHL club over the last week or two. His return to North America is seen as another indication the NHL is making progress in its plans toward starting this season in mid-January. 

THE DETROIT NEWS: Red Wings center Dylan Larkin is looking forward to returning to the ice with his teammates for the first time since the pandemic derailed the 2019-20 regular season. Larkin found it tough mentally dealing with the uncertainty over when this season would begin.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Red Wings are among the seven clubs that missed the playoffs last season. Those teams are expected to begin training camp on Dec. 31, four days before the other 24 clubs.

THE PROVINCE: The Vancouver Canucks’ proposal for a 14-day group quarantine of their players returning from Europe and the United States has apparently been rejected by local health officials. “Everything I’m hearing is that they didn’t accept the group cohort quarantine,” said general manager Jim Benning.

The Canucks presented a training-camp style plan where those players would practice as a group at Rogers Arena with a professional athlete exemption, traveling only to and from the arena and their homes.

TSN: Darren Dreger reports the NHL and NHLPA announced Monday they are making progress toward a 56-game schedule for this season. He indicates the majority of players are returning to their teams, especially those in Canada whose players must quarantine for 14 days before joining their teammates.

The focus remains playing in all 31 arenas but Plan B is playing in hub cities. An agreement on a format will have to reached by the end of this week to meet the timeline to open training camps in two weeks’ time.

TORONTO STAR: Kevin McGran reports the NHL Players Association’s 31-member executive committee could vote as early as Wednesday on a wide-ranging plan for the ’20-’21 season. The NHL Board of Governors would vote on Thursday.

An industry source tells McGran the two sides are working “around the clock on transitional rules and return-to-play protocols, and working to firm up agreements for logistical issues.” Another source tells McGran he doesn’t see any issue that could derail negotiations. “It’s just a matter of how long it’s going to take. I don’t see any reason not to play a season.”

Issues still to be sorted out include the timing for the 2021 NHL Draft and the expansion draft, new dates for free agency if the 2021 playoffs stretch into July, and rules governing cross-border trades.

NEW YORK POST’s Larry Brooks reports players are being told to expect training camp to begin shortly after New Year’s Day. Teams have been told to expect the season to begin between Jan. 13 and 16.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: COVID-19 is a pretty good reason not to play but the team owners and the players want this season to take place. With the NFL season ongoing, the NBA opening their season on Dec. 22 and MLB spring training slated to begin on Feb. 27, the NHL doesn’t want to disappear from the sports calendar. The owners want to salvage whatever revenue they can while the players need to get paid.

ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes are expected to hire Cory Stillman as an assistant coach. A two-time Stanley Cup champion during his 16-year NHL playing career, Stillman has worked at the front-office level with the Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers. He also spent two seasons as head coach of the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves.










Labor Trouble Brewing Again In The NHL?

Labor Trouble Brewing Again In The NHL?