NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 5, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 5, 2020

The league announces transition to Phase 2 of its Return-To-Play Plan, the Stanley Cup playoffs will follow best-of-seven format following the qualifying round, a Penguins player tests positive for COVID-19, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL ANNOUNCES PHASE 2 DATE OF RETURN-TO-PLAY FORMAT

NHL.COM: The league yesterday announced it will transition to the second phase of its Return-To-Play Plan effective Monday, June 8. The 31 clubs will be allowed to open their training facilities for small-group training as per Phase 2 protocols, which includes the approval of municipal and state/provincial health officials. A maximum of six players can train together at a time on a voluntary basis.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports not all clubs will be in a position to open right away. Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston cites numbers of players in town, the appointment of hygiene officers, and the cost are among the issues. Phase 3, which is opening training camps, is expected to be implemented in July if all goes well.

2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS TO BE BEST-OF-SEVEN FOR ALL ROUNDS

The league also announced yesterday the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs will be a best-of-seven for all four rounds following the qualifying round. In each round, the highest remaining seed in each conference will face the lowest remaining seed, the second-highest remaining seed in each will face the second-lowest, and so on.

“Everybody is used to a best-of-7,” Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang told The Associated Press. “You know how it’s structured. You know how it feels if you lose the first two or you win the first two. You kind of know all the scenarios that can go through a best-of-7.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Only the qualifying round will be best-of-five. Chris Johnston reported the “integrity” of the playoffs was the deciding factor that was important for the playoffs. However, he pointed out the entire playoff tournament could stretch to 68 days, which could pose a challenge if there’s a second COVID-19 outbreak this fall.

Tiebreakers for the round-robin round involving the top-four teams in each conference will be decided by regular-season points percentage. Once the round-robin is concluded, the seeding order for those eight clubs will remain the same throughout the playoffs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The New York Post’s Larry Brooks reports the league wanted a best-of-five format for the first two playoff rounds for brevity. The players, however, insisted on the best-of-seven.

PENGUINS PLAYER TEST POSITIVE FOR COVID-19

PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW: The Penguins yesterday released a statement indicating one of their players tested positive for COVID-19. The player is not in Pittsburgh, self-isolated at home since he first experienced symptoms, and is recovering and feeling well. Those in close contact with the player since his diagnosis have been notified.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This player is the first in over two months to test positive for COVID-19. It is a reminder of the challenge facing the league in ensuring the health and safety of the players during training camps and the 24-team playoff tournament.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said one positive test wouldn’t derail the process. The league intends to implement daily testing to monitor all players and staff.

LATEST NHL CBA NEWS

TSN: Darren Dreger reports discussions between the NHL and NHL Players’ Association over extending the current collective bargaining agreement have intensified as of late. Escrow, the salary cap, and hockey-related revenue were the main discussion points.

An escrow stability plan is a crucial point for the players. They want to know if it’ll be 20 percent for the foreseeable future or more than 25 percent. They also want to know what the salary cap will be for 2020-21. Dreger said an NHLPA negotiating committee involving perhaps 10-or-more players is being formed.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman cites multiple sources claiming there’s a legitimate attempt to get a CBA extension by the time play resumes later this summer. He suggested there could be a 20 percent escrow cap and a flat salary cap of $81.5 million for the next several seasons.

A CBA extension could be the only silver lining to emerge from the cloud of uncertainty currently hanging over the NHL thanks to COVID-19. The current agreement will expire in September 2022, but the last thing the league needs is contentious labor talks threatening yet another lockout in two years’ time. Both sides must work together to overcome the current financial issues they’re facing from the pandemic.

IN OTHER NEWS…

THE SCORE: NHL Hall of Famer Willie O’Ree is troubled by the death of George Floyd and the violent confrontations between police and protesters in the United States.

“I’m 84 years old and didn’t think I’d witness some of the stuff that’s going on, but this dates back to the slavery age,” O’Ree said. “It’s very discouraging to see what’s going on now.”

O’Ree made history in 1958 by becoming the first black player in the NHL.

OTTAWA SUN: The Ottawa Senators foundation announced it will be severing ties with the hockey club’s parent group when their agreement expires on July 31. Ken Warren reports it’s believed Senators owner Eugene Melnyk wanted more control over the direction of the charity.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 28, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 28, 2020

The latest on the hub cities bids, Red Wings confirm Jeff Blashill will return as head coach, plus the latest on Alex Ovechkin, Max Domi, and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

WILL A CANADIAN CITY BECOME AN NHL HUB?

TSN: Edmonton, Toronto, and Vancouver are among the 10 under consideration to serve as the two host cities for the NHL’s 24-team tournament to determine the 2020 Stanley Cup champion. However, they will be out of the running if the Canadian government doesn’t exempt NHL players from its 14-day mandatory self-quarantine for non-essential travelers crossing the Canadian border. The league indicated it will decide on the two host cities in another three or four weeks.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has sent a letter to Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau encouraging the federal government to deem professional athletes and training staff as essential workers. BC Premier John Horgan also hopes Vancouver will become a hub city but said his province’s 14-day self-quarantine rule will remain in place for the foreseeable future.

TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan isn’t calling on the local or provincial governments to push for Toronto as a host city. Lisa MacLeod, Ontario’s minister of heritage, sports, and tourism, is willing to make the case with the federal government.

Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan (Photo via NHL.com).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The U.S. government recently signed legislation deeming pro athletes essential workers, lifting restrictions on NHL players from other countries traveling to work into the United States. If the Canadian government doesn’t follow suit, both hub cities will be in the U.S.

Las Vegas, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Columbus are believed among the leading candidates, but they could have competition from Pittsburgh. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf is allowing sports teams in his state to return to action, and the Penguins have submitted a bid to become an NHL host. 

LATEST ON THE NHL RETURN TO PLAY FORMAT

THE HOCKEY NEWS: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the expanded 24-team playoff format is a one-off. “I think our regular season is incredible. Our competitive balance is extraordinary. Our playoffs are the best in sports. What we have is terrific. This is dealing with a unique situation. This, in my view, is a one-time thing.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some observers wondered if the league would considering expanding future playoffs if the 24-team format proves popular with fans. While Bettman is shooting down that possibility, one can’t help but wonder if the expansion of the league to 32 teams might see some within the league push for a 20-team format. 

ESPN.COM: Donald Fehr, Executive Director of the NHL Players’ Association, said the PA will defer to the proper health authorities if a player tests positive for COVID-19 during the tournament. He expects management will pick up the costs of testing players and considers it unlikely a player will be suspended or have their contract terminated for testing positive for the coronavirus. 

Fehr also said the PA continues to negotiate with the league regarding players with underlying medical conditions, living in hub cities, separation from families, and critical dates calendar, but believes the two sides will find resolutions to those issues. He wouldn’t say how much the remaining decisions might be tied to a new collective bargaining agreement. Asked if the relationship between the league and the PA has been collaborative, Fehr declined to “put any adjectives” on it, suggesting people would interpret it in different ways.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Despite Fehr’s comments, the two sides are working together to come up with an acceptable return-to-play plan. There’s been plenty of reports since the summer of 2018 over the appearance of an improved negotiating relationship regarding a new CBA. Nevertheless, time will tell if this means labor peace is on the horizon.

THE SCORE: listed six deals that could be in limbo involving conditional draft picks. Among them, Toronto’s conditional first-round pick sent to Carolina last June in the Patrick Marleau trade, the two picks Arizona sent to New Jersey in the Taylor Hall trade, and Vancouver’s 2020 first-round pick sent to Tampa Bay for J.T. Miller that was later sent to New Jersey to acquire Blake Coleman.

IN OTHER NEWS…

THE DETROIT NEWS: Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman said Jeff Blashill will return as head coach next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wings are in the midst of a major rebuild. Blashill couldn’t be faulted for the lack of skilled depth throughout the roster this season.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin and wife Nastya welcomed their second son Ilya on Wednesday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to the Ovechkins.

TVA SPORTS: Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin said the team and the league would never put Max Domi in a situation that would expose him to COVID-19. Domi is diabetic and more susceptible to contracting the virus. Bergevin said Domi won’t play if the medical staff says he can’t play.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Safe to say that will apply to all NHL players with underlying medical conditions.

Bergevin also said Jonathan Drouin is cleared to play, but Jesperi Kotkaniemi might not be fully recovered from his spleen injury to take part in the qualifying round.

AMNY.COM: New York Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech has been cleared to play. He’d been sidelined since January with an Achilles injury. Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck, and Johnny Boychuk will also be ready to participate in the qualifying round.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins center Nick Bjugstad underwent season-ending surgery on Tuesday to repair a herniated disc

WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres defenseman Lawrence Pilut is reportedly considering signing a contract with a KHL team. However, this could be a negotiating ploy on his part. He’s a restricted free agent at the end of this season.

SPORTSNET: NHL Hall of Famer Willie O’Ree and former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy are among the 11 new inductees into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame. O’Ree has been involved in many diversity initiatives at all levels of hockey, while Kennedy has spent years advocating to protect vulnerable athletes and victims of sexual abuse.

 










The Story Of Willie O’Ree Offers A Message of Hope

The Story Of Willie O’Ree Offers A Message of Hope

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 17, 2019

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 17, 2019

The Blackhawks trade Artem Anisimov to the Senators for Zack Smith, plus the latest free-agent signings in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines. 

CHICAGO TRIBUNE/OTTAWA SUN: The Chicago Blackhawks yesterday traded center Artem Anisimov to the Ottawa Senators for forward Zack Smith. 

The Chicago Blackhawks traded Artem Anisimov to the Ottawa Senators for Zack Smith (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This move addresses needs for both clubs. The Senators get some offensive skill in Anisimov while Smith brings more defensive skill and toughness up front for the Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks also free up an additional $1.3 million in cap space by swapping Anisimov’s $4.55-million annual average value (through 2020-21) for Smith’s $3.25 million. The Senators, meanwhile, will only pay $2 million of Anisimov’s actual salary for this season and $1.5 million in 2020-21. 

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: The Capitals re-signed forward Jakub Vrana to a two-year, $6.7-million contract. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Vrana, 23, completed his entry-level contract and lacked arbitration rights this summer. With the Capitals squeezed for cap space, he’s doing them a favor by accepting this bridge deal. Vrana’s coming off a career-best 24-goal, 47-point performance. If he continues to improve he’ll be in line for a significant raise on his next contract. 

NORTHJERSEY.COM: The New Jersey Devils re-signed defenseman Connor Carrick to a two-year deal worth an annual average value of $1.5 million. 

TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild re-signed winger Ryan Donato to a two-year, $3.8-million contract. He netted 16 points in 22 games after being acquired from the Boston Bruins in a late-season trade. 

TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins re-signed forward Teddy Blueger to a two-year, one-way contract worth $750K per season. 

ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: The Anaheim Ducks confirmed their signing of defenseman Michael Del Zotto to a one-year, $750K contract. Blueliner Chris Wideman was inked to a one-year, two-way contract. 

NEWSOBSERVER.COM: The Carolina Hurricanes re-signed defenseman Haydn Fleury to a one-year, $850K contract and defenseman Gustav Forsling to a one-year, two-way contract that will pay $874,125 at the NHL level.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: The Oilers signed UFA forward Josh Archibald to a one-year, $1-million contract. 

LOS ANGELES TIMES: The Kings re-signed goaltender Cal Petersen to a three-year contract worth over $858K per season. It’s a two-way deal for 2019-20 and one-way for the next two seasons. 

SEATTLE TIMES: Hall-of-Famer Ron Francis is set to become the general manager of the NHL’s Seattle expansion franchise. Francis is also the former general manager of the Carolina Hurricanes. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The budget-conscious Hurricanes failed to reach the playoffs during Francis’ tenure. However, he brought in young players like Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen and Warren Foegele to Carolina and developed young talent like Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce. All played key roles in the Hurricanes’ march to the 2019 Eastern Conference Final.

THE SCORE: U.S. Senators Tim Scott of South Carolina and Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan are pushing their colleagues to honor Willie O’Ree with the Congressional Gold Medal. O’Ree was the first black player in the NHL and was inducted last year into the Hockey Hall of Fame. 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 27, 2018

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 27, 2018

Hockey Hall of Fame class of 2018 revealed, latest notable contract signings and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines. 

NHL.COM: Goaltender Martin Brodeur, forward Martin O’Ree, right wing Willie O’Ree. Russian forward Alexander Yakushev, women’s hockey forward Jayna Hefford and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman were selected for induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame. 

Goaltending great Martin Brodeur is among the Hockey Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018 (Photo via NHL.com)

Brodeur holds several NHL goaltending records, including most victories and shutouts, and won three Stanley Cups with the New Jersey Devils. St. Louis is a two-time winner of the Art Ross Trophy and won a Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

O’Ree was the first black player in NHL history and became an inspiration for many aspiring black players. Yakushev was a high-scoring forward known to North American hockey fans for his play with the Soviet Union all-stars in the 1972 Summit Series. Hefford won four Olympic gold medals for Canada in women’s hockey.

Under Bettman’s watch, the NHL has broaden in popularity and become a more global sport. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to the class of 2018. No surprise to me that Brodeur and St. Louis were inducted this year. The elections of O’Ree and Yakushev were long overdue, especially for the trailblazing O’Ree, who also had a long and productive career at the minor league level. Hefford was a pioneer of women’s hockey and a key reason behind Canada’s success in international competition.

Bettman has significantly contributed to improving the NHL product, expanding its popularity and increasing its revenues. However, his constant labor battles with the NHLPA (including three lockouts) and his reluctance to acknowledge the link between head trauma and CTE tarnish his legacy. Former players Nick Boynton and Dan Carcillo, who are suing the league for what they claim was its failure to warn them of the long-term effects of head trauma, weren’t pleased with Bettman’s induction into the Hall. 

TAMPA BAY TIMES: The Lightning re-signed forward J.T. Miller to a five-year contract worth $26.25 million. The annual average value is $5.25 million and the deal also includes a modified no-trade clause that kicks in next July 1. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Miller’s production has steadily increased over the past three years, rising from 43 and 56 points in 2015-16 and 2016-17 to a career-high 58 points split between the Lightning and New York Rangers this season. This deal locks up the 25-year-old through his playing prime. 

TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins re-signed winger Bryan Rust to a four-year, $14-million contract. The 26-year-old’s new contract counts as $3.5 million per season against the salary cap. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The length of this deal raised a few eyebrows, as Rust was considered among the Penguins’ potential trade candidates following their second-round playoff elimination by the Washington Capitals. This signing leaves the Penguins with about $4.25-million in cap space.

OTTAWA CITIZEN: The Senators yesterday placed forward Alex Burrows on unconditional waivers for the purpose of buying out the final year of his contract. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Because Burrows was over 35 when he signed this contract, the Senators won’t receive any cap relief from this buyout. 

TSN: The Vancouver Canucks re-signed defenseman Derrick Pouliot to a one-year, $1.1-million contract 

TVA SPORTS’ Renaud Lavoie reports the Winnipeg Jets re-signed defenseman Joe Morrow to a one-year, $1 million contract. 

TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild have hired Tom Kurvers as assistant general manager. 

LOS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: The Vegas Golden Knights are suing StubHub “alleging the resale ticketing site owes the team almost $1.5 million in playoff ticket sales profits.”

 











NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 18, 2018

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 18, 2018

Brad Marchand was among three Boston Bruins to tally two points in their 4-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens (Photo via NHL Images).

Game recaps, Willie O’Ree honored plus updates on Corey Crawford, Bobby Ryan and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines. 

NHL.COM: The Boston Bruins spoiled the return of former head coach and Montreal Canadiens bench boss Claude Julien by defeating his Habs 4-1. Brad Marchand, David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron each collected two points as the Bruins extended their points streak to 14 games. 

Boston fans gave Julien, who coached the Bruins to a Stanley Cup in 2011 during his nearly 10-year tenure with the club, a standing ovation during a video tribute. Before the game, the Bruins honored Willie O’Ree on the 60th anniversary of his NHL debut with the Bruins as the league’s first black player. 

Long-time Bruins anthem singer Rene Rancourt also announced he will retire at the end of this season. The 78-year-old Rancourt began singing the anthems at Bruins games in 1975-76. 

A four-goal second period powered the Anaheim Ducks to a 5-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Before the game, the Penguins announced starting goaltender Matt Murray is on an indefinite leave of absence following the death of his father, James. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Murray and his family. 

SPORTSNET: Chicago Blackhawks senior adviser Scotty Bowman dismissed reports claiming Hawks starting goaltender Corey Crawford is suffering from vertigo, saying it’s likely post-concussion symptoms. Crawford’s been on injured reserve since Dec. 27 and there’s no timetable for his return. Prior to Bowman’s comments, there were some reports suggesting Crawford could miss the remainder of the season.

OTTAWA SUN: The Senators received some good news as winger Bobby Ryan (hand injury) declared himself good to go as the club prepares to emerge from its bye week in the schedule. There were concerns Ryan could miss a significant amount of time. 

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Blue Jackets claimed veteran forward Jussi Jokinen off waivers from the Los Angeles Kings. The move was made to offset the absence of winger Sonny Milano, who could miss four-to-six weeks with an torn oblique muscle. 

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: The Capitals unveiled its Stadium Series jersey for their game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 3 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.