Several Players Already Declare Unfit to Participate In NHL Training Camps
Recent Avalanche and Blues speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.
NHL.COM: Brett Amadon wondered whether the Colorado Avalanche can re-sign pending free agents such as captain Gabriel Landeskog, Brandon Saad, Cale Makar and Philipp Grubauer before next season.
Landeskog, Saad and Grubauer are due to become unrestricted free agents next summer. Makar becomes a restricted free agent without arbitration rights. General manager Joe Sakic said he’s started a dialogue with his captain. Amadon notes the Avs have leverage with Makar, but the futures of Saad and Grubauer are less clear.
Regarding Grubauer, Amadon pointed to injuries and inconsistency affecting the 29-year-old goaltender’s performance since his acquisition from the Washington Capitals in 2018. He was also outplayed last season by rookie Pavel Francouz.
NBC SPORTS: Adam Gretz recently wondered if there’s a way the Avalanche can re-sign Saad or if he is merely a one-year rental player. He considers the 28-year-old winger a reliable two-way top-six forward who’ll net 20 goals and around 50 points each season.
With five other players (Landeskog, Grubauer, Ian Cole, Matt Calvert and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare) also due to become UFAs, Gretz notes the Avs’ salary-cap space will disappear quickly. He speculates it could cost between $5 million and $5.5 million annually to keep Saad, especially if they let some other players go. However, Landeskog and the goaltending situation will likely be the Avs’ priority heading into next summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As per Cap Friendly, the Avalanche have $55.1 million invested in 12 players for 2021-22. Landeskog could cost around $7 million annually. Makar could get a bridge deal but he’ll still be in line for a significant raise, perhaps up to $5 million annually if Sakic decides to play hardball. The 35-year-old Bellemare probably won’t be back. Cole and Calvert could be affordable re-signings though the Avs could consider younger, cost-effective options.
There could be room to keep Saad if he proves a good fit. He’s earning $6 million annually on his current deal and could be reluctant to accept less than that approaching UFA eligibility for the first time. His status will become clearer once the regular season ends.
Grubauer’s situation could be interesting. Sakic said he’s happy with his current goalie tandem so I doubt he intends to make any changes there heading into this season. However, if Grubauer’s outplayed by Francouz again, Sakic could anoint him as his full-time starter by the season’s end. He could then seek an experienced backup next summer who’ll fit more easily within the Avalanche’s ’21-’22 budget.
NBC SPORTS: Gretz also believes the St. Louis Blues have some big decisions to make regarding winger Jaden Schwartz and goaltender Jordan Binnington. Both players are eligible for UFA status next summer.
Gretz suggests the Blues know what it could cost to re-sign Schwartz because they have an identical player in center Brayden Schenn, who they signed to an eight-year, $52 million extension. The decision, however, could come down to whether they want to invest that much in another player closing in on his 30th birthday.
Binnington could be a big question mark. He’s had a series of highs (winning the Stanley Cup in 2019), lows (the 2020 playoffs) and a little bit of in-between (the 2019-20 regular season). Nevertheless, Gretz considers him a solid starting NHL goalie.
The Blues have $55 million invested in their payroll for ’21-’22, but that will shrink once RFA defenseman Vince Dunn is signed before the start of this season. If it costs $6.5 million annually to sign Schwartz and if Dunn costs $3 million, they’ll have $16 million left for seven spots. That includes Binnington, who could get a deal comparable to what Matt Murray and Jacob Markstrom received ($6 million to $6.5 million annually) this summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I suspect the Blues will do all they can to re-sign Schwartz. It could take $6.5 million annually to keep him but the length of the deal could be a sticking point. He could seek seven years while management could prefer four or five.
Unless Binnington’s performance goes downhill this season I doubt they’ll let him walk. Having traded Jake Allen, with no suitable replacements within their system and perhaps a lack of suitable options via next summer’s UFA market, they could have little choice but to sign him for perhaps around $6 million annually.
The latest on the league’s 2020-21 plans plus updates on Brandon Saad, Brent Seabrook and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
TVA SPORTS: Renaud Lavoie reports NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said yesterday the league’s goal remains to start the season on Jan. 1. “But if it has to be postponed for a week or two, it won’t change our plans,” he said.
Lavoie believes it’s now impossible for the league to stage a full 82-game season. Daly wouldn’t confirm this but acknowledged the possibility of a shortened schedule.
Daly indicated they’re studying all financial models but the priority remains to ensure the health of the players. A baseball-style schedule that would reduce travel and the risks associated with COVID-19, including a Canadian division, would make the most sense.
Most observers believe the season will be at least 48 games. Lavoie feels a 60-game schedule seems logical, which would mean a club like the Montreal Canadiens would play 10 games against each team in the Canadian division.
Lavoie noted team owners want to play in their own arenas rather than in hub cities because they can generate more revenue.
The elephant in the room is whether the players would be paid in proportion to the number of games played in 2020-21. It was agreed under the new CBA they would receive 72 percent of their salaries for ’20-’21 regardless of the number of games played. Daly was reluctant to discuss the possibility of the league requesting the players be paid on a prorated basis, adding the priority is working toward a solution together to open the season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: An 82-game schedule is a fantasy. Most of the speculation ranges from as low as 48 games to as many as 72, though the sweet spot could be in the 60-68 game span.
Starting up on Jan. 1 could be difficult given the narrow time frame the NHL has to hammer out what next season will look like. Players also have to return to their teams and a training-camp timetable must be sorted out. I wouldn’t be surprised if the start of the season is pushed ahead to mid – or late January.
Reports yesterday indicated the NHL Players Association was against prorating players’ salaries, but there was talk the league could seek another deferral of a portion of their salaries. That would be more palatable for the players as they would still get their money but at a later date. How much of a deferral and for how long remains to be seen.
THE SCORE: Brandon Saad said he’s hoping to remain with the Colorado Avalanche beyond his current contract. The 28-year-old winger was acquired last month from the Chicago Blackhawks. He’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That will depend on how well Saad performs with the Avalanche next season, as well as how much he’ll seek for salary on his next contract and for how long. Cap Friendly indicates they have over $55.1 million invested in 12 players for 2021-22, with Gabriel Landeskog, Cale Makar, Philipp Grubauer and Tyson Jost among their other notable free agents. New deals for Landeskog and Makar alone will each up a considerable chunk of their cap space.
THE ATHLETIC: Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook told Pierre LeBrun he intends to play next season and silence the doubters. The 35-year-old blueliner’s performance has declined in part due to multiple injuries, but he’s resumed skating and has no plans to retire.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That would also eliminate the possibility of the Blackhawks placing Seabrook and his $6.875 million cap hit for 2020-21 on long-term injury reserve in order to bolster their roster via free agency.
LAS VEGAS SUN: Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Shea Theodore has created a fund in honor of his late grandmother who succumbed to breast cancer. The fund will pay for preventative cancer care for women without insurance coverage.
SPORTSNET: The Ottawa Senators signed forward Micheal Haley to a one-year, two-way contract.
Among the proposals the AHL is looking at for 2020-21 is an all-Canadian division with Belleville, Toronto, Laval and Manitoba. Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton don’t want to relocate their AHL teams to Canada because of the expense involved. #Sens #NHLJets #Leafs #Habs
— Bruce Garrioch (@SunGarrioch) November 13, 2020
NBC Sports Chicago’s Charlie Roumeliotis reports the Blackhawks traded winger Brandon Saad and defenseman Dennis Gilbert to the Colorado Avalanche for defensemen Nikita Zadorov and Anton Lindholm.
SPECTOR’ S NOTE: The Blackhawks are also retaining $1 million of Saad $6 million salary-cap hit for 2020-21.
This move should take the Avalanche out of the bidding for unrestricted free agent left wing Taylor Hall. Saad, 26, will skate on left wing on the Avs’ second line. He’s a former two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Blackhawks who tallied 20-plus goals in five of the last six seasons, including 21 in 58 games last season. Saad is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
Gilbert, 23, is a physical defenseman who split last season between the Blackhawks and their AHL affiliate. He’s in the third year of his entry-level deal at a more affordable $925k, far cheaper than what it would’ve cost the Avs to re-sign Zadorov, a restricted free agent coming off a one-year, $3.2-million contract. Whether he’ll earn a full-time role with the Avs remains to be seen.
The 6-foot-6, 235-pound Zadorov will bring size and physicality to the Blackhawks’ blueline. Cap Friendly reports he’s already agreed to a one-year. $3.2 million deal with the Hawks. Lindholm, 25, spent parts of the past four season between the Avs and their minor-league affiliate.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports the Toronto Maple Leafs traded forward Andreas Johnsson to the New Jersey Devils for forward Joey Anderson.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Friedman’s colleague Chris Johnston reports the Devils are acquiring Johnsson’s full $3.4 million annual average value through 2022-23. Anderson, 22, is a restricted free agent who played 52 games over the last two seasons with the Devils.
This is an obvious salary dump by the Leafs to clear cap space following yesterday’s signings of T.J. Brodie and Wayne Simmonds. The Leafs were above the $81.5 million cap by over $1 million following those signings. This will provide some additional cap space but they could need a little more to re-sign Anderson and fellow restricted free agents Travis Dermott and Ilya Mikheyev.
Johnsson will provide some much-needed depth to the Devils’ forward lines. While the 25-year-old winger was hampered by injury last season, he’s a good skater with a decent scoring touch. He tallied 20 goals and 43 points as a rookie in 2018-19.