NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 3, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 3, 2020

An update on the 2020-21 schedule, Brendan Shanahan weighs in on fighting and hitting, the Sharks add a depth winger, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE SCORE: reports ESPN.com citing sources claiming the NHL won’t consider anything less than a 48-game schedule if they’re forced to play a shortened schedule for 2020-21. A league source told Greg Wyshynski the ultimate goal is to end up with fans in the arenas. “I don’t think we’ll get to capacity, but I think we’ll have enough socially distanced fans,” said the source. The NHL definitely wants fans in the stands for the playoffs if local health restrictions allow it.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHL relies more on gate revenue than any of the other major North American professional sports leagues. The sooner they can safely get fans back in the stands, the better for league revenue and the salary cap.

Playing a full 82-game season starting Jan. 1, 2021, and allowing fans gradually back into the arenas over the course of the season is their apparent target. However, there’s also talk they could push that start date to February or March on a shortened schedule (48 to 60 games) if it would safely allow more fans into the arenas by then.

Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan isn’t a fan of big hits that result in injuries. During an interview with the “SmartLess” podcast, Shanahan said, “I know people get pissed at me when I say stuff like this, but I don’t get excited to see a big hit. I get excited when I see a big goal…I don’t want to see any of these young guys on the ice getting carried off.”

Shanahan also believes there’s still a place for fighting if a player is protecting a teammate, but not if it’s to intimidate or hurt another player.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fans who love that style of hockey will decry Shanahan’s comments, but the league’s been trending away from targeted hits and premeditated fights for several years. Shanahan played a role in addressing those issues during his tenure as the NHL’s senior vice president.

SPORTSNET: The San Jose Sharks signed winger Kurtis Gabriel to a one-year contract. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates it’s a two-way deal worth $700K at the NHL level.

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: The Panthers have hired Paul Krepelka as assistant general manager. A former player agent, he spent the past two seasons as senior vice-president of hockey operations for the Carolina Hurricanes.

MLIVE.COM: Detroit Red Wings prospect Jared McIsaac underwent surgery on his left shoulder and will be sidelined five-to-six months.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 21, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 21, 2020

Brendan Shanahan and Bill Guerin remain optimistic the season will resume, the latest on Chris Kreider, the league rejects the Blue Jackets’ signing Mikhail Grigorenko, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TSN: Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan believes the sidelined NHL 2019-20 season could resume at some point in the coming months. He indicated there’s plenty of determination between team owners and players to return to action, but he also stressed it would be determined by having health care services becoming better prepared to cope with and contain the coronavirus.

Nevertheless, Shanahan feels the NHL has more flexibility to resume its schedule than most people realize. “I don’t really believe stories of these crazy neutral sites. I still always think if we’re going to do this it’s going to be in a hockey market. A market where the infrastructure for putting on hockey and hockey games is available.” Shanahan doubts the season would resume with fans in attendance, but feels there would be an appetite for games on television.

NHL.COM: Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin also believes the season will resume in empty arenas later this year. “The bottom line is, we’re not doing anything unless it’s safe for everybody. And if it is, I think we will, and I think it would be the right thing to do. It’ll be a little unusual, a little unorthodox, but that’s OK. If we just wrap our arms around it and accept it, it will be fine. Once we start playing hockey, you play hockey.”

New York Rangers winger Chris Kreider is recovering well from a foot fracture (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Critics will consider Shanahan’s and Guerin’s comments as wishful thinking. Perhaps it is, but it reflects the genuine desire among the league and the NHL Players’ Association to complete the season, award the Stanley Cup, and recoup some of their lost revenue. The course of the coronavirus, however, remains the determining factor.

ESPN.COM: New York Rangers winger Chris Kreider said his recovery from a foot fracture is going well. He anticipates he’ll be ready to return to the lineup if the NHL season resumes this summer.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Blues Jackets signing Mikhail Grigorenko to a one-year, $1.2- million contract yesterday was rejected by the NHL Central Registry. The Jackets issued a statement indicating it was due to a misunderstanding over the window for filing contracts. “We have been in contact with the league and Dan Milstein, Grigorenko’s agent, and the contract will be re-filed on July 1.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Grigorenko finished his contract with the KHL’s CSKA Moscow and is considered an unrestricted free agent. However, the Jackets cannot officially sign him until July 1, which is when the league’s free-agent period begins. That date could change depending on whether the league resumes its season this summer. Grigorenko could sign with another NHL club, but I think he’ll stick with the Jackets as they refile in July or later this summer.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford indicated everyone in his club’s various hockey operations departments have been regularly discussing contingency plans for the remainder of the season, including the draft and free agency. He said they’ve been talking four or five days a week.

ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes have held calls with their players to review the season and looking ahead. “We had 15, 20 minutes per guy, talking,” said head coach Rick Tocchet. “It’s not exit meetings because I still believe that we’re going to play in the next couple months, I’m trying to be optimistic. But I think it’s important that you stay connected with the team. I know it’s a little harder to do that.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I suspect every club is doing the same as the Penguins and Coyotes. Talking to their players while the hockey ops map out its plans for resuming the season and the off-season.

TSN: The Ottawa Senators hired Anthony LeBlanc as their president of business operations. The former Blackberry executive served as president, chief executive officer and alternate governor of the Arizona Coyotes from 2013 to 2017. LeBlanc replaced Jim Little, who was fired six weeks ago after less than two months on the job followed a heated disagreement with team owner Eugene Melnyk.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best of luck ot LeBlanc in his new job. He’s gonna need it.

Did Early Success Derail The Leafs?

Did Early Success Derail The Leafs?


NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 15, 2019

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 15, 2019

Bruins take a commanding 3-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Final, Leafs re-sign Brendan Shanahan, Sabres to name Raph Kruger as head coach. Details and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines. 

NHL.COM: Tuukka Rask made 35 saves as his Boston Bruins edged the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1, taking a commanding 3-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Final. Chris Wagner and Brad Marchand scored for the Bruins while Calvin de Haan replied for the Hurricanes. Game 4 goes tomorrow night in Raleigh at 8 pm ET.

Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask backstopped his club to victory over the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Hurricanes had their best game of this series. They controlled most of the play, generated plenty of scoring opportunities and were the more physical of the two clubs. They also got a steady effort from backup goalie Curtis McElhinney. But it wasn’t enough to beat Rask, who was outstanding in this game.

The Hurricanes also missed about half-a-dozen glorious scoring chances and failed to cash in on the power play. They now find themselves on the verge of getting swept out of the Conference Final. 

NBC SPORTS: Wagner suffered an injured right arm after blocking a shot in the third period. His arm was in a sling following the game and he’ll get x-rays to determine the severity of the injury. 

TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs yesterday announced clubs president Brendan Shanahan signed a six-year contract extension. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Color me unsurprised by this news. Under Shanahan’s stewardship, the Leafs rose from one of the worst teams in the league into one of the best during the regular season.

WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres are today expected to announce they’ve hired Ralph Kruger as their new head coach. Krueger was the head coach of the Edmonton Oilers in 2012-13.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Apart from coaching Team Europe in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, Krueger’s been out of the game for a while. For the past five years, he was chairman of the Southhampton Football Club in the English Premier League. However, he’s a highly-regarded hockey coach. Many Oilers followers believe their club made a big mistake firing Krueger after only one season. 

THE ATHLETIC: George Richards reports Columbus Blue Jackets teammates Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin are vacationing in South Florida. Bobrovsky insists the trip is merely a post-playoff holiday. Rumors link the duo to the Florida Panthers. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The trip prompted speculation this foreshadows their anticipated signings with the Panthers on July 1. The duo remains the property of the Blue Jackets until then. 

THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic said he’d prefer re-signing winger Mikko Rantanen to a long-term contract. He also has no problem inking him to a short-term deal if necessary. Rantanen is completing an entry-level contract and could become the Avalanche’s highest-paid player. 

TSN.CA: Buffalo Sabres defenseman Brandon Montour will miss the remainder of the World Championships with a lower-body injury. Playing for Canada, Montour suffered the injury during a 6-5 win over Slovakia on Monday. 

The Shanaplan Meets NHL Salary-Cap Reality

The Shanaplan Meets NHL Salary-Cap Reality

When Brendan Shanahan was hired as president of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2014, his strategy for rebuilding the moribund roster was quickly dubbed “The Shanaplan” by long-suffering denizens of Leafs Nation.

He cleaned house behind the bench and in the front office. In came well-respected hockey men like Mike Babcock as head coach and Lou Lamoriello as general manager, along with Lamoriello’s eventual successor Kyle Dubas.

Brendan Shanahan’s plan to build the Toronto Maple Leafs into a champion will soon face it’s first significant salary-cap test. (Photo via NHL.com)

The Leafs struck gold in the opening rounds of three successive drafts, selecting forwards William Nylander (2014), Mitch Marner (2015) and Auston Matthews (2016). Since 2016-17, the trio played crucial roles in turning the Leafs from a perennial non-contender into a dominant team.

The Leafs restocked with talent while shedding salary in the process. Expensive, unhappy veterans Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf were sent packing. In came forwards John Tavares, Patrick Marleau and goaltender Frederik Andersen. Zach Hyman, Kasperi Kapanen, and Travis Dermott were picked up via trades and the draft.

Thus far, “The Shanaplan” is a success. The Leafs are off to a sizzling start to 2018-19, leading the league in scoring. As of Oct. 13, Matthews and defenseman Morgan Rielly were atop the scoring race with Marner and Tavares among the top-six. Matthews and Tavares sat first and third in goals while Rielly was the league’s assist leader. 

Leafs fans are once again daring to dream of the end of their long Stanley Cup drought. Unfortunately, the Shanaplan could be derailed by the NHL’s salary cap.

Despite inking Tavares to a pricey seven-year, $77-million contract, the Leafs entered this season with over $12 million in projected salary-cap space. However, they’re currently mired in a contract standoff with restricted free agent Nylander, who’s back home in Sweden while his agent handles negotiations.

Earlier this month, Shanahan seemed to hint the Leafs would prefer if those players accepted a little less than the full market value in order for the club to maintain a winning franchise.  So far, Nylander doesn’t seem willing to accept any hometown discounts.

Both sides reportedly prefer a long-term contract but money is the sticking point. The Nylander camp apparently seeks over $8-million per season while the Leafs prefer something between $6 million to $6.5 million.

There’s also talk the two sides are working on a short-term bridge deal but the annual salary again remains an issue. The Leafs are believed offering closer to $4 million per season while Nylander could seek over $5 million annually. 

Whether Nylander is worth $8 million is debatable. The Leafs can afford to re-sign him for that much this season if they wished. However, that would take a much bigger bite out of their salary-cap payroll next summer when Matthews and Marner become restricted free agents.

We don’t know what Matthews and Marner will set as asking prices. However, there’s already talk Matthews could command around $12.5 million per season. Should Marner exceed last season’s 69-point performance, he could be in line for $10 million annually.

Assuming the Leafs re-sign those two to those rumored asking prices and paid Nylander $8 million per, they’ll be investing over $30 million in just three players. That total will push their cap payroll for next season, already at over $49 million, to over $79 million tied up in just 14 players. If management can convince Matthews, Marner, and Nylander to accept, say, a combined $25 million, the cap payroll would still come in at close to $75 million. 

Even if the salary cap rose to $84 million for 2019-20, they still won’t have much payroll remaining to flesh out the rest of their roster. That includes re-signing or replacing veteran defensemen Jake Gardiner and Ron Hainsey, both due to become unrestricted free agent next summer.

That limited wiggle room under the cap ceiling could prompt second-guessing over the wisdom of investing $11 million annually in Tavares. There could also be some grumbling over Marleau’s $6.25-million cap hit through 2019-20 or defenseman Nikita Zaitsev’s $4.25 million per season through 2023-24.

Given the rising young talent already on the roster, it can be argued the Leafs didn’t need to sign Tavares. Perhaps that money would’ve been better invested in bolstering their questionable blueline depth or maybe pursuing more affordable forward options.

Of course, it’ll all be considered worth it if the Leafs end their 51-year Stanley Cup drought next spring but that’s not a certainty.

Despite their offensive prowess, they’re tied with the lowly Detroit Red Wings for the most goals against (22). They’re top-heavy at forward, especially on the first two lines. Andersen is a good goaltender but he’s yet to prove he can carry a club to championship glory. Should these factors derail their championship hopes, they won’t have enough cap room to fix those problems.

The Leafs are starting to navigate a potential salary-cap minefield of their own making. One wrong move could blow up their Stanley Cup dreams.


NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 31, 2016

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 31, 2016

San Jose Sharks forward Patrick Marleau (right) celebrates his goal against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Game recaps, Islanders put Halak on waivers & more in your NHL morning coffee headlines. 

NHL.com: Patrick Marleau had a two-point performance (one goal, one assist) and rookie backup goaltender Aaron Dell made 21 saves for his first NHL shutout to give the San Jose Sharks a 2-0 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers.

Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic was struck in the face by a Shayne Gostisbehere slapshot in the final seconds of the third period.  Flyers goalie Steve Mason injured his right hand in the first period. Neither injury is thought to be serious. 

Jay McClement’s third-period goal stood as the winner while Cam Ward made 27 saves as the Carolina Hurricanes edged the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2. The ‘Hawks also lost center Marcus Kruger in the second period to an upper-body injury and it’s expected he’ll be sidelined for a while. Blackhawks blueliner Brian Campbell was a healthy scratch, bringing his consecutive games-played steak of 423 to an end. 

Loui Eriksson had a goal and an assist while Henrik Sedin scored in overtime to give the Vancouver Canucks a 3-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks, who are 0-7 in OT this season. 

Filip Forsberg and Mike Ribeiro each collected two points while rookie goalie Juuse Saros picked up his first NHL shutout as the Nashville Predators blanked the St. Louis Blues 4-0. 

The New York Islanders yesterday placed goaltender Jaroslav Halak on waivers. If he clears by noon ET today, he could be demoted to the Islanders’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Islanders were riding a three-goalie system of Halak, Thomas Greiss and J-F Berube this season. It appears the front office is tired of Halak’s inconsistency. He carries a $4.5 million cap hit, and if demoted the Isles will get $950K of cap relief. I’ll have more on the Halak situation later this morning in the Rumors section. 

STARTRIBUNE.COM:  The Columbus Blue Jackets will face off tonight against the Minnesota Wild. The Jackets are riding a 14-game winning streak while the Wild have won 12 straight. It’s the first time in NHL history that two teams with win streaks of at least 12 games will face each other. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is my game of the night, folks. The league’s two hottest teams facing off with lengthy winning streaks on the line. 

SPORTSNET: Gare Joyce with a fascinating read on the evolution of Brendan Shanahan from NHL player to becoming one of the league’s most influential executives and architect of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ rebuilding program.

POST-GAZETTE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz could be playing himself into the 2017 All-Star Game. He’s tied for first “among Metropolitan Division defensemen in goals (7). Fourth in assists (16). Third in points (23). Tied for second in plus/minus (plus-22). Second in Corsi For Per 60 minutes of ice time (CF60 of 61.8). Third in Shots Against Per 60 (SA60 of 28.42). Tied for first in Scoring Chances Per 60 (SCA60 of 8.28).”

NBC SPORTS: Given the current uncertainty over NHL participation in the 2018 Winter Olympics, the league is working on two schedules for 2017-18. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Perhaps I’m grasping at straws, but this signals that the league and the NHLPA aren’t done trying to work out an arrangement for Olympic participation next season in exchange for extending the current collective bargaining agreement by three years to 2025. 

EDMONTON JOURNAL: The Oilers activated defenseman Mark Fayne off injured reserve and assigned him to their AHL affiliate in Bakersfield.