NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 27, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 27, 2020

A placeholder team wins the first-overall pick in a chaotic opening phase of the draft lottery, a new CBA extension may be getting close, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

WINNER OF NHL DRAFT LOTTERY STILL TO BE DETERMINED

NHL.COM: A placeholder team won the first-overall selection in the first phase of the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery on Friday evening. The Los Angeles Kings will select second overall while the Ottawa Senators will pick third. The Senators also hold the fifth-overall pick which was acquired from the San Jose Sharks in the Erik Karlsson trade in 2018.

The Detroit Red Wings slid to fourth overall despite having the worst regular-season record. The Anaheim Ducks, New Jersey Devils, and Buffalo Sabres will pick sixth, seventh, and eighth respectively.

The placeholder team will be one of the eight eliminated from the qualifying round of the 24-team tournament. That club will be decided in a second lottery held following the completion of the qualifying round and before the opening round of the playoffs. All eight of those eliminated teams will have a 12.5 percent chance of winning the first-overall pick and the right to select Rimouski Oceanic winger Alexis Lafreniere, considered this year’s top prospect.

Picks No. 9 to 15 will be determined based on inverse order according to points percentage. The remaining picks will be determined by the playoff results.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was the worst possible outcome, but what else did we expect in this crazy NHL season? There is now a real chance that a team already loaded with superstars – like the Edmonton Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins, or Toronto Maple Leafs – will win the lottery and select Lafreniere.

The Leafs traded their pick last year to Carolina in the Patrick Marleau trade, but it was a top-10 protected pick. If the Leafs are eliminated from the qualifying round and win the lottery, the league would have to honor the conditions and allow the Leafs to keep that selection.

There is also a chance the Chicago Blackhawks or Montreal Canadiens could win that pick. Both clubs were all but eliminated from postseason contention before COVID-19 forced the league to come up with a season-saving playoff tournament allowing those two to compete for the Stanley Cup. Winning the first-overall selection could be one helluva consolation prize for one of them if they end up eliminated from the qualifying round.

This result sucks for rebuilding teams like the Wings and Senators, who need a franchise player to build around. That’s not to say they won’t get good players, perhaps even a future superstar, in their current spots, but Lafreniere is considered a “can’t-miss kid”. The Kings, meanwhile, have to be pleased to move up from fourth to second overall.

This one-off draft lottery plan wasn’t going to please everyone, but there was a sense that Detroit or Ottawa could end up with the first-overall pick. The results will only stoke criticism, not only of the way this particular lottery was planned but also of the format in general.

NHL, NHLPA GETTING CLOSER TO A NEW CBA?

ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski reports the NHL and NHL Players’ Association are closing in on a new collective bargaining agreement that would address the league’s revenue losses stemming from pausing the schedule because of COVID-19. A memorandum of understanding is expected soon, perhaps by Sunday at the earliest.

The framework being discussed is a six-year CBA that would also cover 2020-21 and 2021-22, the final two years of the current agreement. It could see a cap on escrow at 20 percent for the first two years, after which it would revert to the traditional system as league revenues are expected to rise following a new U.S. television agreement and the addition of Seattle as the league’s 32nd franchise.

The salary cap would reportedly freeze at $81.5 million for the next two seasons and potentially rise by $1 million for year three. One source told Wyshynski the cap might not be linked back to revenue until the latter years of the agreement.

Both sides are said to agree with a 10 percent one-time salary deferral for the players. That money is not a rollback and would be paid back to the players at a lower rate of escrow in two years.

Wyshynski also reported the possibility of a delay in starting training camps on July 10 as part of Phase 3 of the return-to-play plan. That’s because of the enormity of what’s on the table and players still making their way back to their respective NHL cities for Phase 3.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: TSN’s Pierre LeBrun and Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman have also reported on the CBA talks included in the return-to-play plan. Friedman also said it’s possible the start of training camps could be changed by perhaps two or three days but it wouldn’t upset the remaining timetable. The playoff tournament under Phase 4 is slated to begin on July 30.

A CBA extension would be an unexpected silver lining to emerge from this delayed season. Both sides were engaged in ongoing discussions for a new agreement before the pandemic struck. With the current agreement set to expire in September 2022, the possibility of six more years of labor peace would be welcome news. 

IN OTHER NEWS…

ASSOCIATED PRESS: The NHL and NHLPA aren’t considering placing players under quarantine bubbles when training camps open next month. The players will be instructed to remain at home when not at the rink. They will also undergo frequent testing and maintain health protocols in the hope of preventing any coronavirus outbreaks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As I’ve said before, Phase 3 will determine if the playoff tournament under Phase 4 takes place. The league insists a handful of positive tests won’t derail its plans, but that could change if some players on several teams come down with the coronavirus in the coming weeks.

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports we’ll have to see what develops over this weekend regarding an announcement of the two hub cities for Phase 4. He believes it’s extremely close between Edmonton and Toronto as both cities seem to have provincial health clearance. Las Vegas remains an expected choice for one of the two cities.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Barring unforeseen issues, it appears Edmonton or Toronto will be named as one of those hub cities within the next several days.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Stars general manager Jim Nill said there’s a good chance defenseman Roman Polak won’t rejoin the team to finish this season. He indicated he’ll honor Polak’s decision but left the door open if the blueliner changed his mind. Nill said no other Stars have expressed reservations about returning to Dallas.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 16, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 16, 2020

Sabres fire GM Jason Botterill, league commissioner Gary Bettman talks about the return-to-play plan, plus the latest on Patrick Kane, David Pastrnak, Braden Holtby, Josh Anderson, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

**UPDATE** 

The Buffalo Sabres have relieved Jason Botterill of his duties as general manager. They’ve named Senior VP of Business Administration Kevyn Adams as Botterill’s replacement. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This news broke earlier this morning. I hope to have more about this in tomorrow’s update. It was only three weeks ago that Botterill received the backing of Sabres ownership for another season. It’ll be interesting to find out what brought about this sudden change of heart, as well as what it could mean for the coaching and scouting staffs.

LATEST RETURN-TO-PLAY NEWS

ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan reports NHL commissioner Gary Bettman believes the league’s return-to-play plan will maintain the integrity of the playoffs without being too gimmicky.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman (Photo via NHL.com).

“I think everybody can feel good, based on the combination of the play-in round and the way we’re going to run the playoffs, that this will be a full competition which will bring out the best in our teams and our players,” said Bettman.

The NHL intends to return later this summer with a 24-team tournament involving a round-robin for the top eight teams and a qualifying round for the other 16.

Bettman indicated the league has worked closely with the NHL Players’ Association since games were paused in mid-March. The two sides continue to negotiate key details, including playing under a quarantine bubble and the location of the two host cities for the tournament.

The commissioner also said the league intends to test every player and member of each team’s 50-person traveling party daily for COVID-19. A player testing positive will be isolated and contact tracing will monitor everyone in close proximity of that player. Bettman said the league has been told an isolated case or two won’t affect their plans to go forward.

Bettman also said the league is in discussions with the Canadian government regarding easing restrictions for the country’s 14-day quarantine period for visitors.

TSN: Frank Seravalli reports Bettman admitted 56 percent of the league’s players remain outside of their respective NHL cities, with 17 percent of them still in Europe. So we’ve got a lot of people to move around and we have to get people back from outside of North America.” 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The round-robin and qualifying rounds are a bit gimmicky, but necessary given this unusual situation. Once the playoffs begin, it’s the usual four-round, best-of-seven tournament.

The discussions with the Canadian government will affect the location of one of the two host cities. It’s believed the league wants one in Canada, but that won’t be possible if the government maintains its strict border protocols. That will also affect training camps for the six Canadian teams (Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, and Montreal) participating in the tournament. There’s already talk that some of them could hold training camps in the United States.

Phase 3 of the return-to-play plan involves training camps opening on July 10. The league has a limited time to get their players back to their respective NHL cities.

SPORTSNET: Hockey analyst and former NHLer Kevin Bieksa said several players he’s spoken to remain skeptical of the return-to-play plan. He said they don’t have their equipment and still have skated.

Bieksa added there remains several issues to be sorted out. Not only with the safety measures and protocol and everything but I don’t even know if it’s been discussed with the (NHLPA) and the league how they’re going to divide HRR (hockey-related revenue).”

Some critics have dismissed the proposed tournament as the NHL putting the players at risk solely for the sake of profit. What the league is doing is attempting to recoup roughly half of its $1.1 billion in lost revenue from pausing the schedule. This depends, however, on the willing participation of the players.

With the salary cap tied to hockey-related revenue, the majority of players (based on the 29-2 vote by NHLPA player reps approving the return-to-play plan) are agreeable to this tournament. They aren’t being forced into this. If a majority aren’t confident their health and safety can be assured, they have the power to shut this down at any time.

AWFUL ANNOUNCING: cites a report in Sports Business Journal claiming the NHL is halting all negotiations for its next television contract until the end of 2020.

IN OTHER NEWS…

THE SCORE: Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane doesn’t believe whoever wins the 2020 Stanley Cup should have an asterisk beside their name.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There are no asterisks beside the NHL teams that won the Stanley Cup during the Second World War when some of the league’s best players were serving overseas. There’s no asterisk beside the 1994-95 New Jersey Devils or 2012-13 Chicago Blackhawks for winning the Cup during lockout-shortened seasons. There shouldn’t be, and won’t be, an asterisk beside the potential 2020 Cup champion.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins winger David Pastrnak is more upset about missing the 100-point plateau than the 50-goal mark. With 48 goals and 95 points in 70 games, Pastrnak was on pace for his first 50-goal, 100-point campaign when the schedule was paused.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals head coach Todd Reirden said the starting goaltender role is Braden Holtby’s to lose in the playoff tournament. “Braden Holtby’s body of work in playoff games speaks for itself and how he definitely helped our team to win our first-ever Stanley Cup and was a huge, huge part of that,” Reirden said.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Aaron Portzline reports Columbus Blue Jackets winger Josh Anderson will remain sidelined by shoulder surgery until after September.

LAS VEGAS SUN: The Vegas Golden Knights re-signed Ryan Reaves to a two-year, $3.5 million contract extension. The 33-year-old winger is completing a two-year, $5.5-million deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some observers suggest Reaves’ accepting less money to re-sign with the Golden Knights could be a harbinger of what many of this year’s unrestricted free agents could face when the season is over. However, he likely would’ve had to accept a similar deal from the Golden Knights even without the possibility of a flat salary cap for next season. Before re-signing Reaves, the Golden Knights had over $73 million invested in 15 players for 2020-21.

SPORTSDAY: Dallas Stars defenseman Roman Polak signed a three-year contract with Czech club HC Vitkovice. He’s still under contract with the Stars for this season but told a Czech paper he might not return if the NHL stages its playoff tournament. Stars general manager Jim Nill said the team can’t make a player return against their wishes. If anyone wants to stay home, that is their decision. His contract expires at the end of this season, so no issues there.”

SPORTSNET: The American Hockey League has formed a return-to-play task force to prepare for its 2020-21 season.