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.










Start Date and Format for NHL’s 2020-21 Season in Sight

Start Date and Format for NHL’s 2020-21 Season in Sight

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 8, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 8, 2020

NHL, NHLPA target 56-game schedule starting Jan. 13, agree not to change the economic framework of CBA extension. Details and more in the morning coffee headlines.

SPORTSNET/TSN: Elliotte Friedman and Darren Dreger reported the NHL and NHLPA continue discussions aimed at a 56-game schedule beginning Jan. 13. Friedman indicates that includes “Training camps, opt-outs, testing, the schedule, the playoffs, re-alignment, you name it.”

Friedman also reports last season’s non-playoff clubs would begin training camp on Dec. 28 while the other 24 clubs begin on Jan. 1. It appears there won’t be any exhibition games. He also believes a short-term “hub plan” is being worked on but the preference remains for all teams playing in their home arenas. A potential problem is staging training camps in cities with strict COVID-19 restrictions such as Montreal, San Jose and Winnipeg.

Pierre LeBrun reports the plan will require approval from the NHL board of governors and the NHLPA membership. Friedman said there’s a desire to have it ready for approval by the end of this week.

The stalemate between the NHL and NHLPA over the league’s requests for increased escrow and salary deferral rates has ended with both sides agreeing the economic framework of the CBA won’t be changed.

Friedman and Dreger reported the players refused to consider any changes to escrow. On Sunday, they proposed to defer additional monies but wanted a significant concession from the league. Friedman reports one of their suggestions was a slight increase to the salary cap to put more money into the system. While that would’ve affected how much the players would have to give back to maintain the 50-50 revenue split, Friedman said the escrow caps in place weren’t a concern to the current group of players.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The dispute over the escrow and deferral rates was a significant obstacle. The players’ refusal to budge appears to have forced the league to consider other options to make up a potential revenue shortfall.

A cap on escrow was what the players wanted and they were justified in insisting the league abide by the agreement. They could end up owing the league much more in escrow debt toward the end of the CBA extension but they seem willing to accept that potential consequence.

Both sides want to stage a season because there’s a lot at stake here. They cannot afford not to play when other major pro leagues are carrying on with their respective schedules. There are broadcasting and advertising contracts to be honored and the potential for a lucrative new US TV deal at the end of this season.

Some readers suggested the league could afford to shut down this season because of the three lockouts since 1994-95. The difference is league headquarters and the team owners were financially prepared for work stoppages arising from labor disputes with the NHLPA. They weren’t ready for the effects of a pandemic, plus they would face a strong legal challenge from the PA.

So how will the NHL find the $300 million they tried to squeeze from the players to stage this season? ESPN.com’s Emily Kaplan reports sources are saying the league is looking into a loan plan similar to that used by the NBA to provide its teams with cash to protect their finances ahead of this season.

That Jan. 13 start date could be flexible. Prior to last night’s reports, Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley told Fox Business the season could open on Jan. 15 with the possibility it might have to slide by a week or two. Nevertheless, Foley is confident his club will be playing this season at their home arena, though it could be without fans in attendance.

IN OTHER NEWS…

THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER’s Sam Carchidi reports the Flyers are close to agreeing to a contract with Philippe Myers. “Could happen this week.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Myers is a restricted free agent coming out of his entry-level contract. It’ll be interesting to see if he gets a bridge contract or a long-term deal. We can probably expect signings of RFAs and unrestricted free agents will pick up once the Jan. 13 start date for this season is formally approved.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: The Lightning hired Rob Zettler to replace departed assistant coach Todd Richards. Zettler, a former NHL defenseman, is also the former head coach of the Lightning’s AHL affiliate in Syracuse. He worked as an assistant coach with the San Jose Sharks from 2017 to 2019.

IIHF.COM: International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel and general secretary Horst Lichtner have tested positive for COVID-19. This will not affect the IIHF’s preparations for the upcoming 2021 World Junior Championship in Edmonton.

SPORTSNET: The entire Northeast Division of the ECHL plus the Atlanta Gladiators and Norfolk Admirals have suspended play for the 2020-21 season under the league’s COVID-19 policy. The teams intend to return in 2021-22. Most are minor-league affiliates for several NHL clubs.

TORONTO STAR: A mint condition 1979 Wayne Gretzky card could become hockey’s first $1 million collectible card.










NHL Salary Stalemate Could Put Bettman in Jeopardy

NHL Salary Stalemate Could Put Bettman in Jeopardy

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 6, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 6, 2020

An update on negotiations for starting the 2020-21 season, the stalemate over escrow and salary deferrals, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TSN’s Pierre LeBrun took to Twitter last night reporting some communication between the NHL and NHL Players’ Association but “nothing big to relay.” He feels this week will be important if the two sides hope to open the 2020-21 season by mid-January.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy recently cited usually pessimistic player agent Alan Walsh telling TSN 690 Montreal he’s “99.99999 percent sure we are playing hockey this year.”

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports sources are saying an alternate plan involving a 48-game schedule beginning Feb. 1 appears the more likely option.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some might consider talk of staging the season during a pandemic as wishful thinking. Nevertheless, the league and the PA are determined to pull this off because both sides need whatever revenue they can get. They also don’t want to disappear from the sports calendar while other pro leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB) press on with their seasons.

There appears to be significant movement between the two sides in recent days toward agreement on a truncated regular-season schedule ending in early May at the latest, with the Stanley Cup awarded between late June and early July. The only hurdles are the course of the pandemic and sorting out the impasse over player salaries between the league and the PA. Speaking of which…

Brooks believes NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is right when he suggested last week it would be better if the players gave back more money to the owners this season rather than having escrow debt explode in the latter years of the CBA. Nevertheless, he still feels Bettman was out of line attempting to change the terms of the CBA regarding escrow caps and salary deferrals despite his insistence he wasn’t trying to renegotiate the deal.

Bettman is also facing heat by the owners after they were left mostly uninformed over the terms of the CBA extension and given little time to review the details before it was put to a vote. A half-dozen teams don’t want to play this season unless the players agree to those requested changes to escrow and salary deferrals.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The worst-case scenario was taken into account during negotiations on the CBA extension. Both sides must deal with the consequences.

The players are within their rights to reject the league’s requests. However, refusing to pay back more this season means potentially facing hundreds of millions of escrow debt to the owners down the road if hockey-related revenue is slow to return to pre-pandemic levels.

Recent media speculation suggests the players won’t agree to a hike in the escrow rate but could bend on the salary deferrals if they get something back from the league. Perhaps we’ll see some progress on that front by the end of this week.

THE WASHINGTON POST: Scientists are studying why there have been more cases of COVID-19 outbreaks in hockey than in other youth sports. They’re hoping to find clues about the ideal conditions in which the coronavirus thrives and how to stop it. There’s speculation the virus could be trapped around head level due to rinks that by design restrict airflow, temperature and humidity.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHL was able to prevent any coronavirus spread among its players during the 2020 playoffs due to rigorous testing of players and staff and regular cleaning of its facilities. Nevertheless, results from those studies of youth hockey could benefit the sport at every level during this pandemic.

NBC SPORTS: Former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow has joined the ownership group of the Jacksonville Icemen, the ECHL affiliate of the Winnipeg Jets and the AHL’s Manitoba Moose.