NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 24, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 24, 2020

The latest on the return-to-play discussions, four Golden Knights test positive for COVID-19, the Bruins sign Jake DeBrusk and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

RETURN-TO-PLAY NEWS

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch cited NHL insider Nick Kypreos saying there were no discussions over the weekend between the league and the NHL Players Association for the first time in weeks regarding the 2020-21 season.

 

The league remains focused on a Jan. 1 start but NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly suggested several times that date is flexible and could be pushed back a week or two.

Garrioch believes it’s been quiet of late because the two sides have likely retreated to their offices to come up with a plausible agreement acceptable to the owners. Senators owner Eugene Melnyk last week indicated not all the 31 owners are on board with the plan put forward because of the losses they’ll face for 2020-21. The players last week rejected two requests from the league for increased escrow and salary deferral rates.

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy reported “a prominent agent” said talks are currently at a standstill. Three other player agents wondered when is enough with the constant concessions the players have made since the 2004-05 lockout. One accused league commissioner Gary Bettman and the owners of using the pandemic to squeeze more out of the players. Another agent claims he knows of five or six owners seriously questioning if it makes sense to stage a season.

Murphy feels the longer negotiations drag on, the more NHL and AHL players could head overseas to play in Europe, particularly those on two-way contracts who finished last season in the AHL. He also cites a league source suggesting a Feb. 5 start date for the season remains an option.

ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan reports Bettman is dealing with a handful of disgruntled owners, with some believing they got a bad deal in the new collective bargaining agreement and a few telling the commissioner they’d prefer not to play if there are no fans because of operating losses.

According to a source, Bettman is “managing” those owners, telling them sitting out the season isn’t an option because of the damage to the league’s long-term health. However, he is trying to address their concerns, which include an infusion of cash to start the season, hence the league’s requests to the players last week.

Kaplan reports sources indicated the players remain willing to work with the league because it’s in everyone’s best interest to stage a season. If the league is trying to borrow money from the players, the PA could seek concessions such as increased health insurance for players in retirement. Kaplan also notes the NHL owners will be getting $650 million in expansion fees in 2021-22 plus a new U.S. Television deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This stalemate between the league and the PA could stretch on for weeks and put the 2020-21 season into jeopardy. But as long as Bettman and the players remain determined to return to play, the less likely the season will be canceled. There appears a genuine desire on both sides to get this done, though there’s no denying the league’s recent requests have stalled negotiations.

Barring a significant breakthrough by the end of this week, I think we can forget about the Jan. 1 start date. As Garrioch pointed out, Daly has previously suggested that start date was flexible. It could be anywhere between mid-January and mid-February, though the earlier the better if they hope to stage a meaningful schedule.

OTHER NOTABLE NHL HEADLINES

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Four Vegas Golden Knights players have tested positive for COVID-19. The club confirmed their status but declined to identify them. The four are in self-isolation and “recovering well.” The club is taking precautionary measures by closing their off-ice training facilities and player areas to players and staff through Sunday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This serves as a reminder that the pandemic will still affect the players if the 2020-21 season takes place. Without playing in a quarantine bubble as they did during the 2020 playoffs, they risk exposure to the coronavirus even with increased testing and strict health and safety protocols.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: The Bruins signed restricted free agent winger Jake DeBrusk to a two-year contract worth an annual average value of $3.675 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: DeBrusk had the bad luck to complete an entry-level contract in the midst of a pandemic that adversely affected the NHL salary cap. While his agent had suggested his client was worth $6 million per season, there was no way he was going to get that much from the Bruins or from another club via an offer sheet under the current economic conditions.

It’s a good deal for the Bruins because they get DeBrusk under contract at a reasonable short-term deal that also leaves enough cap space for other moves. The young winger still gets a decent raise and a chance for a much better deal in two years times when he’ll have arbitration rights in a potentially better economic climate.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens center Jesperi Kotkaniemi is leaving Finnish club Pori Assat and returning to Montreal in what’s considered a sign the club is preparing to stage its training camp soon. Kotkaniemi will begin a 14-day quarantine upon his return.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: He’s not the only player skating in Europe coming back to North America. If more players follow suit it’ll signal the league and the PA are close to a return-to-play agreement.

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: The Blackhawks hired Kendall Coyne Schofield as a player development coach and youth hockey growth specialist. She’s the organization’s first-ever female development coach. They also hired former NHL player Erik Condra as a player development coach.

WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets hired Dave Lowry as an assistant coach. The father of Jets center Adam Lowry said he doesn’t expect any issues with the two working for the same team.

NHL.COM: The Florida Panthers hired Shane Churla as their director of amateur scouting. The former NHL player spent the past seven seasons with the Canadiens scouting staff. He also spent seven seasons as an amateur scout with the Dallas Stars and another five in the same role with the Arizona Coyotes.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 23, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 23, 2020

Latest return-to-play news plus updates on Max Domi, Nikita Zadorov, Jesse Puljujarvi and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TORONTO STAR: Damien Cox suggests hockey could return to normal by next September with coronavirus vaccines on the way. The NHL, meanwhile, is attempting to stage a shortened 2020-21 season with empty arenas, an all-Canadian division, a canceled All-Star break and playoffs that could finish in mid-July.

Talk of starting the season on Jan. 1 appears increasingly unlikely with each passing day. The pandemic is hitting rates in some American states not seen elsewhere in the world. Meanwhile, the all-Canadian division could hit a snag with rising COVID-19 rates in the provinces with NHL clubs.

Setting aside the entire season, however, doesn’t make sense for the league from a business standpoint. Return-to-play negotiations hit a snag last week over the league’s request for additional escrow and salary deferral from the players.

THE PROVINCE: An NHL player agent told Ben Kuzma the players hold the leverage in return-to-play negotiations because league commissioner Gary Bettman “has to preserve the integrity of the game and they have to play a season – whatever it looks like.” Failure to do so, according to the agent, would hurt the league’s brand.

If it was a just a clear deferral, I think players individually would look at that, if they had the flexibility,” added the agent. “But players are in different situations. If a guy is on a long-term deal, would it make sense for him to defer some money this year? That’s a voluntary decision and it might be able to work, but the players and league have to agree on it.

And part of the problem with deferred income is that in the U.S., it’s not guaranteed. So, if an owner wants to declare bankruptcy, the first thing a court is going to throw away is unsecured debt. And if you secure it, you add tax to that particular year.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHL and NHLPA are running out of time to reach an agreement on a return-to-play plan for Jan. 1. The quickest way to that route would be the league backing off on their requests for increased escrow and salary deferral rates, but I don’t see Bettman and the team owners doing that. The players have dug in their heels. If the league does the same, the entire 2020-21 season will be in jeopardy.

ESPN.COM: In a recent interview with Greg Wyshynski, Max Domi addressed his recent trade from the Montreal Canadiens to the Columbus Blue Jackets. He pointed to his and the Canadiens’ struggles last season as factors that led to the deal, but he expressed no ill will toward his former club.

Domi’s looking forward to playing for the Blue Jackets as he feels they’re a team that’s ready to win. “They’re the hardest team to play against in the league. I can tell you that first-hand.”

THE ATHLETIC: Nikita Zadorov is looking forward to a larger role and more responsibilities with the Chicago Blackhawks after being largely a third-pair defenseman with the Colorado Avalanche. Zadorov was traded last month to the Blackhawks.

SPORTSNET: Jesse Puljujarvi’s improvement in Finland bodes well for his return this season to the Edmonton Oilers. He spent all of last season with the Oilers over a contract dispute.

TORONTO SUN: Defenseman Mikko Lehtonen terminated his contract last week with KHL club Jokerit Helsinki and is heading to Toronto to join the Maple Leafs. The 26-year-old defenseman signed a one-year, entry-level deal with the Leafs in May and was loaned to Jokerit in August.

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: The Florida Panthers have officially partnered with the ECHL’s Greenville Swamp Rabbits.










NHL Rumor Mill – November 20, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 20, 2020

A look at some predicted destinations for the top remaining UFAs in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE SCORE: Josh Wegman recently predicted destinations for the top remaining NHL unrestricted free agents.

Would Mike Hoffman be a good fit with the Los Angeles Kings? (NHL Images)

Wegman last month predicted the Los Angeles Kings as a destination for winger Mike Hoffman, considering him a good fit alongside Anze Kopitar on their top line. He suggested a four-year deal worth $5.5 million annually.

SPECTOR’ S NOTE: With Cap Friendly indicating the Kings have $13.6 million in cap space, they can easily afford Hoffman. However, I doubt general manager Rob Blake would bring a 30-year-old winger to a rebuilding roster on a multi-year deal.

Hoffman is reportedly willing to consider a one-year deal for between $5.5 million and $6.5 million. Maybe Blake would be interested in a one-year contract if he can get Hoffman at a lower rate and then flip him for futures at the trade deadline.

Wegman also suggested Anthony Duclair for the Kings. While his defensive game leaves something to be desire, his abilities could prove useful in offensive-zone starts and on the power play for a club that struggled to score last season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The 25-year-old Duclair could be a better fit with the younger Kings and much more affordable than Hoffman. His defensive play and streaky scoring, however, are areas of concern here.

Erik Haula could address the San Jose Sharks’ lack of bottom-six depth at center. He wouldn’t be overly expensive for the Sharks, who have $2.3 million in cap space. While injuries hampered him over the last two seasons, he tallied 29 goals and 26 assists in his last full campaign in 2017-18.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Haula could be a good, affordable short-term investment as a third-line center in San Jose. Given his injury history and age (29), the Sharks probably wouldn’t invest beyond one year.

The Florida Panthers could use an experienced winger like Mikael Granlund to provide much-needed secondary scoring. He’s coming off a down performance last season with the Nashville Predators but averaged 63 points per campaign in the three previous seasons. He’d be guaranteed second-line minutes with the Panthers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s speculation the Panthers could be trying to bring back Hoffman. Nevertheless, Granlund’s low production last season and the current economic situation would work in their favor here. A one-year deal for between $3.5 – $4 million might get it done.

Wegman suggests Andreas Athanasiou as a middle-six forward option for the Nashville Predators. The speedy 26-year-old winger didn’t play well last season with Detroit and Edmonton but he tallied 30 goals with the Red Wings in 2018-19.

SPECTOR’ S NOTE: I think the Predators are playing the waiting game with Hoffman hoping to land him for a lower price. If that’s not possible, maybe they’ll take a chance on Athanasiou or Duclair on a low-cost one-year contract.

Manitoba native Travis Hamonic could be a perfect fit with the Winnipeg Jets. The 30-year-old defenseman would play close to home and help improve the Jets’ porous blueline. While they’re listed as not having any cap space, they could get some wiggle room by placing center Bryan Little ($5.29 million cap hit) on long-term injury reserve.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hamonic and the Jets could be waiting to see how things shake out with Little before reaching an agreement. Then again, maybe the Jets have no interest in him.

Wegman suggests Sami Vatanen could be the best veteran free-agent defense option available to the Philadelphia Flyers, who didn’t bring in a suitable replacement for recently retired Matt Niskanen. The 29-year-old Vatanen has played 21 minutes per game in recent years and would give the Flyers a third right-handed shot.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher could surprise us, but I get the impression Erik Gustafsson will be his only UFA signing this year.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 18, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 18, 2020

The NHL seeks more financial concessions from its players, the latest on return-to-play plans for 2020-21, and much more in today’s morning coffee headlines.

NHL RETURN-TO-PLAY UPDATE

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks cites multiple sources claiming the NHL is seeking financial concessions from its players in the form of a 13 percent deferral on their gross pay for 2020-21. The NHL Players Association agreed to a 10 percent deferral in the recent six-year extension of the collective bargaining agreement. That’s in addition to the 20 percent in escrow payments for this season being deducted from their salaries.

Brooks is unclear if this represents an ultimatum from the league or its initial position for a separate negotiation regarding player salaries for the coming season. He notes the CBA Memo of Understanding rules out prorating salaries for this season. It allows for clubs and players to negotiate additional deferments on a case-by-case basis, but what the NHL seeks is uniform and league-wide.

If the players agree to the 13 percent deferral, they would receive 61.6 percent of their ’20-’21 pay, with 23 percent to be returned at later dates.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman cited two sources saying the NHL hasn’t made an official proposal regarding an additional deferral. However, the subject did come up in conversations between the league and the NHLPA. It received a mixed reaction with some questioning altering a deal made several months ago while others believe that not playing is the worst result.

Friedman noted the short timeline to work out an agreement in time to reach the NHL’s tentative Jan. 1 start date. He sees this issue as part of the process of working toward an accord.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Deferral seems the only workable alternative if prorating salaries isn’t an option. While the PA membership has a right to question making changes to a recent agreement, this is not a normal situation.

The MOU was made in early July with an eye on starting the 2020-21 schedule by mid-to-late November. The pandemic, however, has changed those plans. All NHL teams face varying degrees of revenue losses even if they return on what’s expected to be a shortened ’20-’21 schedule with, at best, limited fan attendance.

Deferring payments could be better for the players than prorating their salaries. They’ll eventually get that money in installments over the latter years of the CBA extension as revenue improves once the pandemic has passed.

In a series of tweets, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports the league and the PA continue daily calls to put together a plan for this season. The 16-player return-to-play committee has convened internally almost daily over the past week but not with the league. Talks between the NHL and NHLPA remain at higher levels.

LeBrun said both sides still hope for a Jan. 1 start date with an eye on awarding the Stanley Cup by no later than July 15. Most conversations have focused on a 60-game schedule. The next seven-to-10 days will be crucial toward achieving a puck drop on New Year’s Day.

The players on the NHLPA return-to-play committee are David Backes, Darren Helm, David Savard, Justin Faulk, Lars Eller, Sam Gagner, Justin Abdelkader, Ian Cole, Zach Hyman, Ron Hainsey, Claude Giroux, Ryan Dzingel, Andrew Copp, Alex Biega, Chris Kreider and Mark Scheifele.

NOTABLE HEADLINES

NHL.COM: The Florida Panthers named Brett Peterson as assistant general manager, making him the first black assistant GM in the NHL. Peterson, 39, played five years as a minor pro defenseman with the AHL, ECHL and IHL from 2004-05 to 2008-09. He spent the last 11 years as a player agent.

THE ATHLETIC: San Jose Sharks forward Tomas Hertl said he’s recovered from the devastating season-ending knee injury suffered in January. He began skating in August and has been on the ice three days a week. Hertl said he’ll be ready to go for the upcoming season.

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Alex Pietrangelo purchased a $6-million mansion in Summerlin, Nevada. The former St. Louis Blues defenseman signed a seven-year, $61.6 million contract last month with the Vegas Golden Knights.

STLTODAY.COM: The Blues hired Ryan Podell as their new strength and conditioning coach. Podell was the sports science/conditioning coach with the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts. He also spent two seasons with the NBA’s Portland Trailblazers and six seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers organization, including four years with the Flyers.

 










Will NHL Teams With Cap Space Target Their Cap-Strapped Rivals?

Will NHL Teams With Cap Space Target Their Cap-Strapped Rivals?

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 10, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 10, 2020

The latest on the league’s plans for the 2020-21 season, the Stars re-sign Roope Hintz, the Panthers hire Ulf Samuelsson and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports the NHL’s board of governors could get a glimpse of the league’s plans for 2020-21 during an expected conference call on Thursday. While the league’s goal remains opening on Jan. 1, there’s speculation the season won’t begin until early February. Ice has been placed back in half of the NHL arenas and players are starting to return to their home cities in anticipation of a new season.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman believes the leadership of the NHL and NHL Players Association have been in “very regular contact” regarding next season. The players he’s spoken to are keen to find out what the dates will be.

Dallas Stars forward Roope Hintz (NHL Images).

The idea of starting on Jan. 1 faces several roadblocks, including breaking for the 2020 Christmas holidays.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I weighed in yesterday on the hurdles facing the league regarding a Jan. 1 season opener. They’re starting to run out of time to reach that deadline. Starting up in February seems more realistic depending on the course of the pandemic.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Stars re-signed Roope Hintz to a three-year contract worth an annual average value of $3.15 million. The 23-year-old forward was the last of the Stars’ restricted free agents to sign a new deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hintz enjoyed a solid sophomore campaign in 2019-20, tallying 19 goals and 33 points in 60 games. This is an affordable bridge deal for the Stars. Hintz will be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights when this contract expires. Given his development, he’ll be in line for a significant raise on his next deal.

SUN-SENTINEL.COM: The Florida Panthers hired Ulf Samuelsson as an assistant coach. A former NHL defenseman, he was head coach of Leksands IF of the Swedish Hockey League last season, scouted for the expansion Seattle Kraken, and was a former assistant coach with the Arizona Coyotes, New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks.

THE DETROIT NEWS: Justin Abdelkader wrote about his love of playing for the Detroit Red Wings in a recent article in the Players Tribune. A second-round pick of the Wings in the 2005 NHL Draft, the 33-year-old winger played spent 13 seasons with the club until he was recently bought out of his contract.

WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets signed 2020 first-round pick Cole Perfetti to an entry-level contract. Perfetti was selected 10th overall.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: A sneak peek of the Bruins retro jersey for 2020-21 may have been leaked yesterday.