NHL Unfinished Business: The Salary Cap
The latest speculation on how the NHL’s schedule pause could affect the playoff schedule and the salary cap in today’s rumor roundup.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman examined some of the biggest questions facing the NHL after pausing its season over coronavirus concerns.
Noting how the NHL, NBA and Major League Soccer announced their temporary media guidelines this week at the same time, he believes they’re getting the same medical information and are in communication with each other. He suspects resumption of their respective seasons could also occur at the same time.
THE ATHLETIC: Scott Powers and Mark Lazerus report NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told the board of governors on Thursday that canceling the regular season would cost the league a whopping $1 billion. The hope is to return to work on April 15, stage a one-week mini-training camp, finish out the regular season followed by a possible shortened playoff schedule that ends in July, though that might not be possible.
Aaron Portzline reports there’s a belief the NHL season is over for clubs with no chance of reaching the playoffs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Friedman notes NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced the pause for his schedule was 30 days. I suspect the NHL and MLS will follow suit. Barring any improvement in containing and reducing the COVID-19 coronavirus, the earliest the NHL returns to action could be April 12, though that it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s later than that.
Unless the coronavirus is still raging through North America until June, I expect we’ll see some form of a shortened regular-season schedule, perhaps even just a “play-in” for the playoff bubble clubs, following by the first two rounds of the playoffs being best-of-five and the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final being best-of-seven.
Friedman reports the NHL could see a $1 billion hit to hockey-related revenue because of this schedule pause. That could result in the salary cap dropping below the current $81.5 million, potentially hurting teams and players. He feels that’s an incentive for the NHL and NHLPA to agree to an artificial cap number for next season.
THE ATHLETIC: Craig Custance points out the financial impact of this schedule pause will affect each team differently. The NHL is more reliant on gate-driven revenue than the other major professional leagues. The average NHL clubs earns $1.7 million per game, with higher-revenue clubs earning twice that. A popular NHL club like the Toronto Maple Leafs won’t feel the effects of this pause as much as a struggling franchise like the Arizona Coyotes.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Friedman reminded us the NHL and NHLPA agreed to an artificial salary-cap number for 2013-14 after a lockout cost half of the previous season. I daresay they’ll do the same to ensure next season’s cap at least remains at $81.5 million. There’s also talk of employing amnesty buyouts, but that probably won’t be necessary under an artificial cap that’s at or slightly above the current level.
The Stars fire head coach Jim Montgomery, the latest from the Board of Governors meetings, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Dallas Stars 2-0 victory over the New Jersey Devils was overshadowed by the news earlier in the day that the Stars had fired head coach Jim Montgomery for “unprofessional conduct”. Assistant coach Rick Bowness has taken over on an interim basis. Ben Bishop made 26 saves for the shutout.
General manager Jim Nill didn’t shed light on Montgomery’s alleged infraction. He said there was no criminal investigation and no former or current players were connected to the incident. There was no comment from Montgomery or the Stars’ ownership. The Stars players were shocked and confused by the decision.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Montgomery’s firing wasn’t related to the recent allegations leveled at several former NHL coaches for abusive or racist behavior. Nevertheless, there’s a puzzling lack of information behind his dismissal. It’ll be interesting to see if any further details are revealed directly or via leaks to the media.
After blowing a 3-0 lead, the Carolina Hurricanes tallied three unanswered goals to down the Edmonton Oilers 6-3. Sebastian Aho scored twice while Dougie Hamilton, Teuvo Teravainen, and Andrei Svechnikov each collected two points. Connor McDavid had three assists and Zack Kassian tallied twice for the Oilers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: After looking dominant through their first 23 games, the Oilers are wobbling a bit of late, winning just four of their last 10 contests. Some Oilers fans are worried their club could be poised for another collapse as defensive and goaltending issues become a concern.
The Calgary Flames picked up their sixth straight victory by downing the Arizona Coyotes 5-2. Flames goalie Cam Talbot kicked out 46 shots for the win. Michael Frolik and Zac Rinaldo each had a goal and an assist. Earlier in the day, the Flames announced winger Matthew Tkachuk was listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury. The Coyotes also announced defenseman Jason Demers is week-to-week with a lower-body injury.
John Tavares scored twice and set up another as the Toronto Maple Leafs rolled to a 4-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. Mitch Marner collected two assists. Former Leaf Josh Leivo tallied for the Canucks.
Marc-Andre Fleury made 28 saves to backstop the Vegas Golden Knights to a 5-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. It was Fleury’s first game since Nov. 23 after taking a leave of absence to be with his dying father. Blackhawks defenseman Calvin de Haan left the game in the first period with an injured right shoulder.
Alex Killorn scored and set up another as the Tampa Bay Lightning edged the Florida Panthers 2-1. Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky made 46 saves in a losing cause.
The Montreal Canadiens scored four unanswered goals to down the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-1. Shea Weber, Brendan Gallagher, Tomas Tatar, and Joel Armia each had a goal and an assist. Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry had his franchise-record shutout streak end at 177:14.
Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel extended his points streak to 14 games in a 5-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues. Eichel scored twice while teammates Sam Reinhart and Johan Larsson each tallied a goal and an assist. The Blues have lost three straight games.
Nashville Predators goalie Juuse Saros turned aside 24 shots to beat the San Jose Sharks 3-1. Filip Forsberg and Calle Jarnkrok each collected two points. The Sharks are winless in their last five games (0-4-1).
Shootout goals by Rickard Rakell and Max Comtois gave the Anaheim Ducks a 3-2 win over the Minnesota Wild. Before the game, the Wild honored captain Mikko Koivu for reaching 1,000 career NHL games.
A three-goal outburst late in the second period carried the Winnipeg Jets over the Detroit Red Wings 5-1. Blake Wheeler and Andrew Copp each had a goal and an assist. The Wings are winless in their last 12 contests (0-10-2).
Los Angeles Kings netminder Jonathan Quick made 29 saves to hold off the New York Rangers 3-1. Tyler Toffoli had a goal and an assist.
IN OTHER NEWS…
SPORTSNET: The NHL won’t be staging a World Cup of Hockey tournament in 2021. The league and the NHLPA are instead focused on staging tournaments in 2024 and 2028. Discussions remain open on Olympic participation, depending on what the International Olympic Committee brings to the table.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the IOC agrees to cover the cost for the players’ travel, insurance, and accommodation expenses, as well as agree to share broadcasting and licensing revenue, I believe the NHL would agree to return to the Olympics.
TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports NHL commissioner Gary Bettman still hasn’t revealed his projected figure for next season’s salary cap. One league governor told LeBrun several different ranges were discussed, including a low range of $82.5 million, a modest increase over the current $81.5 million. Another governor suggested $83.5 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: After years of lofty projections that fell short, it appears the league could be more conservative in their estimates for 2020-21.
Game recaps, notes from Board of Governors meetings, Flyers hire Chuck Fletcher as GM, latest trades and more from a busy Monday in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov extended his points streak to 10 games with a goal and three assists in a 5-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils. Brayden Point had a goal and two assists.
The Nashville Predators edged the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 to hand the latter their third straight loss. Kevin Fiala snapped a 1-1 tie with a third-period goal.
With Connor McDavid ailing and out of the lineup, the Edmonton Oilers fell 4-1 to the Dallas Stars. Brett Ritchie had a goal and an assist for the Stars.
Winnipeg Jets center Mark Scheifele, Arizona Coyotes goaltender Adin Hill, and Florida Panthers left wing Jonathan Huberdeau are the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Dec. 2, 2019.
The Philadelphia Flyers hired former Minnesota Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher as their new GM. Fletcher takes over from Ron Hextall, who was fired last week.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ll have a look at Fletcher’s possible immediate plans later this morning in the Rumors section.
SPORTSNET: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman projected the salary cap for next season could reach $83 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That would be another healthy increase in the cap, jumping $3.5 million over the current $79.5 million ceiling. The finalized figure will be announced by late-June.
If, as expected, the Board of Governors approves the addition of Seattle as the NHL’s 32nd franchise later today, it’s expected their first season will be 2021-22.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s expected the KeyArena in Seattle won’t be ready to go until November 2020, which would explain the rationale behind pushing their inaugural campaign to the following season. It would also remove a key piece of leverage away from the NHLPA should they opt to take the early out from the current CBA next September. The league probably doesn’t want to risk a potential labor war potentially messing up the debut of their new franchise.
Bettman also said the league has informed the NHLPA that it needs to know by next month if they’re willing to sign off on a World Cup of Hockey tournament in 2020. “For the last year and a half, two years, we’ve been anxious to anchor plans for a World Cup but for whatever reason, the players’ association hasn’t been prepared to do that,” said Bettman.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The reason being the players prefer the Winter Olympics over the World Cup of Hockey. Still, if the NHLPA agrees to take part in the tournament, it could mean they won’t exercise their early-out from the current CBA next September. Fingers crossed, kids!
STLTODAY.COM: The St. Louis Blues placed defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (hand), winger Robby Fabbri (separated shoulder), and forward Alexander Steen (concussion) on injured reserve. Pietrangelo and Fabbri could be sidelined until at least Christmas while Steen is listed as day-to-day.
TSN: Toronto Maple Leafs winger William Nylander said he was told by GM Kyle Dubas he wouldn’t be traded as long as Dubas is running the Leafs. Nylander and the Leafs recently ended a lengthy contract standoff.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t doubt Dubas was sincere and Nylander undoubtedly believes him. But Nylander lacks no-trade protection until the final season of his new six-year contract. A lot can happen over that time period to change Dubas’ mind if he remains the GM over that period.
Speaking of the Leafs, they traded forward Josh Leivo to the Vancouver Canucks for forward Michael Carcone and temporarily loaned defenseman Travis Dermott to their AHL affiliate to make room for Nylander. Dermott’s expected back on their roster later today.
TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins traded winger Daniel Sprong to the Anaheim Ducks for defenseman Marcus Pettersson.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Both trades saw their clubs swapping young players who weren’t working out, with their new teams hoping the change of scenery improves their respective performances.
MLIVE.COM: Detroit Red Wings forward Tyler Bertuzzi received a two-game suspension “unsportsmanlike conduct and roughing on Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Calvert.”
NHL.COM: The Los Angeles Kings claimed forward Brendan Leipsic off waivers from the Vancouver Canucks.