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?

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 13, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 13, 2020

The players could end up owing the owners millions of dollars by the end of this CBA, plus the latest on Braden Holtby, Nick Robertson, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

SPORTSNET: During the latest “31 Thoughts” podcast, Elliotte Friedman speculated the next round of collective bargaining between the NHL and NHL Players Association at the end of the current CBA could be affected by the players’ unwillingness to accept a higher rate of escrow and additional salary deferrals for the coming season.

Friedman noted the effects of COVID-19 upon hockey-related revenue means the players’ share for this season will exceed 50 percent. Under the terms of the CBA, the players have to repay any overage to the owners, but the 20 percent cap on escrow for 2020-21 means the players will still owe millions of dollars to the owners.

The players may feel vindicated by digging in their heels and forcing the league to adhere to the terms of the CBA. However, Friedman feels there’s a major bill coming due at the end of the current agreement that will be paid in large part by young players currently starting their NHL careers and those yet to come.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The players were within their rights under the CBA to reject the league’s requests for additional escrow and salary deferral. But as Friedman also noted, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was right when he indicated the players could end up paying back more at the end of this agreement if they didn’t pay that overage during the coming season.

This could set the stage for another contentious round of negotiations as the extension to the CBA expires in September 2026. Of course, that’s not a front-burner issue right now given the push for staging a season in the middle of a pandemic. Rest assured, however, it will take on greater significance during the final two years of the agreement.

Perhaps the two sides can work out a deal that avoids another potential work stoppage in six years’ time. That will require considerable foresight on both sides.

I don’t expect Bettman and the team owners to just let this issue lie. Sure, they need labor peace right now to get a shortened season underway in order to fulfill their broadcasting and advertising contracts and prepare to entertain bids for a more lucrative US television deal next summer. They also want to ensure a smooth path for the Seattle Kraken’s debut in 2021-22. However, the NHL could raise the overage issue with the players again at some point within the next couple of years.

THE SCORE: Josh Gold-Smith lists his winners and losers of the NHL’s proposed divisional realignment for the coming season. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs are among his clubs that benefit while the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks are among those that could suffer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some teams will be affected more than others by the quality of the opponents within their realigned divisions. Time zones and travel could also become a factor.

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Braden Holtby said he won’t wear the new Indigenous-themed mask he planned to use this season following complaints that it appropriated aboriginal culture. “I just wanted to make sure I apologize to anyone I had offended,” said Holtby.

TSN: Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nick Robertson won’t be joining Team USA at the upcoming World Junior Championship in Edmonton. The Leafs training camp is slated to open during the tournament.

AZCENTRAL.COM: Former hockey agency executive David Ludwig has been hired by the Arizona Coyotes as their new director of hockey operations and salary cap compliance.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 11, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 11, 2020

The latest on the NHL efforts to open the 2020-21 season on Jan. 13 in today’s morning coffee headlines.

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports negotiations are continuing between the NHL and NHLPA on an agreement for the 2020-21 season to put to a vote by their respective sides by perhaps the end of next week. Ratification is needed as soon as possible for players on last season’s seven non-playoff clubs that require 14-day quarantines before joining their clubs in training camp on Dec. 31.

Darren Dreger indicates everyone involved in the process remains hopeful. However, there are club executives, general managers and players agents who are skeptical this can be accomplished for a Jan. 13 puck drop because of the work that still needs to be done.

Frank Seravalli noted there are as many as four or five teams that could be unable to host games in their home arenas because of local health restrictions. Playing in a hybrid bubble or hub cities with a two weeks in, one week out schedule remains an option if necessary before eventually rolling out to all 31 NHL cities.

LeBrun also reported there won’t be any restrictions on trades between Canadian and American clubs during the season. Players involved in those deals would be subject to whatever quarantine regulations there are in that state or province.

Regarding divisional realignment, LeBrun said the NHL is looking into making a few adjustments. The Minnesota Wild and Dallas Stars are among the clubs that could be changing divisions. The original realignment saw the Wild in a division with Tampa Bay, Florida, Nashville, Carolina, Columbus, Detroit and Chicago. The Stars were to play with San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Vegas, Colorado, Arizona and St. Louis.

SPORTSNET: Divisional realignment is among the pressing issues to be resolved by the NHL and NHLPA before the 2020-21 season can begin. Playoff format, taxi squads, expanded rosters, exhibition games, training camps, bubble or hub cities and COVID protocols must also be addressed.

NHL insider John Shannon reported on Twitter the NHL is interested in securing COVID-19 vaccines when and if they become available for private sale. “The league is adamant they would not jump the line to do so,” said Shannon.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That Jan. 13 start date could get pushed into late January or early February because of the complex issues that must be worked out. The course of the pandemic will also be the ultimate deciding factor.

The skepticism among some around the NHL is understandable. Nevertheless, the league and the PA have demonstrated they can reach agreements in a timely manner when it’s to their mutual benefit. It wouldn’t surprise me if they get this hammered out by this time next week.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 9, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 9, 2020

More details on the plans to open the 2020-21 season on Jan. 13, the Flyers sign Philippe Myers, the Panthers’ expand their goalie coaching staff, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

MORE DETAILS EMERGE REGARDING 2020-21 NHL SEASON PLANS

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the NHL understands that COVID-19 could affect the 2020-21 schedule. They are working on some empty days within the schedule to allow postponed games to be played.

LeBrun also indicates the league cannot go into a shortened season during a pandemic with the same rules governing roster limits. A proposal has been made to the NHLPA for expanded rosters indicating how many players each club can carry and “taxi squads”.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a taxi squad is a group of players under contract with a team who practice with the club but aren’t on the roster. They are allowed to join the team if injuries occur. Taxi squads would address the difficulties of attempting to call up players from the minors during the pandemic.

The NHLPA held a conference call yesterday to bring the 31 player reps up to speed on the latest development. A conference call with the NHL Board of Governors is slated for today.

Darren Dreger reports there will be an opt-out option for players unwilling to participate in the coming season due to COVID-19. Mandatory vaccinations have also been discussed and agreed upon by the NHL and NHLPA.

Frank Seravalli reports the Canadian teams that lack AHL affiliates in Canada (Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton) will use the taxi squad system to keep some players stashed in their home cities. The other four clubs plan to play their AHL affiliates in an all-Canadian division.

He also reports there won’t be any compliance buyouts to allow teams to garner cap relief by shedding salary without penalty.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Normal buyouts for players 26-and-older count against the salary cap as two-thirds the remaining value over twice the remaining term of the contract and one-third over twice the remaining term for players 25-and-younger.

Seravalli indicates local health authorities will play a role in determining if certain teams, such as the San Jose Sharks and Winnipeg Jets, will be allowed to open the season in their home arenas.

It will take a two-thirds majority of the NHL board of governors to approve the plan for this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Recent reports indicated some owners would prefer not playing this season if they don’t get some financial relief to offset some of their losses from a shortened schedule. Speculation suggests they number around a half-dozen, which wouldn’t be sufficient to vote down the plan for this season.

The NHL and the NHLPA agreed to abide by the rules of the CBA, meaning the league has backed off from its request for $300 million in higher escrow and salary deferral from the players. The NHL might have to consider other options, such as taking out loans, to address that financial need for some of its unhappy owners.

ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski and Emily Kaplan report the majority of the owners and players prefer a baseball-style three-game series. Hybrid bubbles or hub cities are a possibility to start the season, where teams would travel and play up to 10 games in two weeks and return home for a week.

Those hubs would be similar to those in Edmonton and Toronto during the playoffs but less strict. New Jersey, Columbus and Las Vegas are under consideration as those arenas have just one tenant, two sheets of ice and suitable nearby accommodation.

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports clauses in television contracts requiring a certain number of games and/or weeks to fulfill obligations are a major factor in the sudden rush to start the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fulfilling those obligations will also help the league in its quest for a more lucrative US national broadcasting deal following this season.

COLORADO HOCKEY NOW’s Adrian Dater tweets a league source claims training camp will open on Jan. 3 with the regular season opening on Jan. 13. “It’s not official yet, but this is what the players are hearing/being told.”

TORONTO SUN: Former Sportsnet analyst John Shannon told Lance Hornby a Canadian division will provide unique challenges for travel and broadcasting games.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens sports science and performance director Pierre Allard is telling his players to ensure they’re ready for the upcoming season. The focus is on ensuring they’re in good health and condition to avoid injury during a compressed schedule.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s a concern undoubtedly shared by the other NHL clubs based on reports in recent weeks of players engaged in voluntary workouts and off-ice training to prepare for the coming season.

IN OTHER NEWS…

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The Flyers announced Philippe Myers signed a three-year, $7.65 million contract. The 23-year-old defenseman was a restricted free agent coming off his entry-level contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That $2.55 million annual average value is a very affordable deal for the Flyers. Myers is expected to skate alongside Ivan Provorov on their top defense pairing. If he thrives in that role he’ll be in line for a more lucrative long-term contract in three year’s time.

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: The Panthers hired Francois Allaire as a goaltending consultant. He’ll be reunited with former pupil Roberto Luongo, who’s now a special advisor to general manager Bill Zito.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Former Pittsburgh Penguins minor-league assistant coach Jarrod Skalde has accused the club of violating whistleblower laws after he reported a superior for sexually assaulting his wife. The lawsuit claims then-Penguins assistant GM Bill Guerin informed Skalde the superior was being terminated from his position but instructed him the reasons had to be kept quiet and not be let out. Guerin, now GM of the Minnesota Wild, denies the allegation.