NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 9, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 9, 2021

COVID-19 strikes the Stars and Blue Jackets, plus updates on Henrik Lundqvist, Corey Crawford and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Stars’ training facilities are closed indefinitely and the club’s practices canceled after six players and two staff tested positive for COVID-19. The NHL is revising the Stars’ regular-season schedule with the expectation the club won’t be able to play until Jan. 19 at the earliest. That means their season-opener on Jan. 14 and their following two games (Jan. 15 and Jan. 17) will be rescheduled.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Stars and the league haven’t revealed which players tested positive for the coronavirus. The report noted forwards Jason Robertson, Joel L’Esperance and Tye Felhaber and defensemen Joel Hanley were missing from the Stars’ last practice but it’s unknown if those absences were injury- or illness-related.

While the Stars’ facilities are closed indefinitely they could reopen soon. As the report observed, the St. Louis Blues and Tampa Bay Lightning had several players test positive before the start of the 2020 playoffs, but their facilities opened several days later.

Despite the NHL’s health and safety protocols, it was inevitable COVID-19 would make its presence felt. Unlike the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs, the upcoming regular season isn’t being held in hub cities under strict quarantine conditions.

The coronavirus also affected Major League Baseball and the National Football League this season but those leagues managed to complete their seasons. This outbreak won’t prevent the start of the NHL’s overall schedule, but it means the Stars’ 56-game schedule has become more compressed.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Blue Jackets yesterday held 17 players out of practice for precautionary reasons. Most were regular roster players, including team captain Nick Foligno, forwards Oliver Bjorkstrand and Max Domi and defensemen Seth Jones, Vladislav Gavrikov and David Savard. The Jackets didn’t indicate if any of the absent players had tested positive for COVID-19.

Columbus Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: We’ll find out during this weekend if those players will remain sidelined and if the Jackets will be carrying on with their practice sessions. Their season-opener is Jan. 14. The report observed the Jackets dealt with an outbreak last month during small-group workouts that closed their practice facilities for a week.

NHL.COM: Henrik Lundqvist took to social media on Friday to report he is recovering well from his recent five-hour open-heart surgery. Lundqvist had signed with the Washington Capitals but his heart condition sidelined him for the entire season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to King Henrik for a swift and full recovery.

NJ.COM: Corey Crawford is taking an indefinite leave of absence from the New Jersey Devils for personal reasons. The 36-year-old goalie signed a two-year deal with the Devils in October. There’s no timeline for his return. The Devils are expected to turn to Scott Wedgewood as Mackenzie Blackwood’s backup.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Here’s hoping things are okay for Crawford and his family and he returns to action soon.

WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres signed center Riley Sheahan to a one-year, $700K contract. Sheahan was attending Sabres’ training camp on a professional tryout offer.

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: Anaheim Ducks defenseman Brendan Guhle suffered a sprained right knee during a collision with another player. He’ll be sidelined for six weeks.

CAP FRIENDLY: Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, New York Rangers blueliner Adam Fox, Pittsburgh Penguins rearguard John Marino, Washington Capitals goalie Ilya Samsonov and Ottawa Senators winger Brady Tkachuk are among several players within five games of losing their waiver-exempt status.

ESPN.COM: Long-time Pittsburgh Penguins play-by-play man Mike Lange, 72, is sitting out the start of the 2020-21 season as a precaution due to COVID-19.

TSN: The province of Manitoba has given approval for the Winnipeg Jets to stage games in their home arena.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: All seven Canadian teams have the approval of their respective provinces to play in their home cities this season.

THE MERCURY NEWS: Growing number of COVID-19 cases in California’s Santa Clara County is casting doubt on whether the San Jose Sharks can return to the SAP Center early next month as scheduled. The Sharks are starting the season on the road because of the county’s current restrictions on sporting events.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 30, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 30, 2020

Jonathan Toews sidelined by a mysterious illness, P.K. Subban and Lindsey Vonn end their relationship, Nico Hischier sidelined, Jack Roslovic asks for a trade, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Jonathan Toews has been sidelined by a mysterious illness that’s left him “drained and lethargic,” according to a statement released yesterday by the Blackhawks captain. There’s no timetable for his return.

Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews sidelined indefinitely (NHL Images).

Toews indicated he’ll be working with doctors to better understand his condition. He said he won’t join his teammates until his health and fitness levels return to where he feels he can play at an elite level.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Here’s hoping Toews can make a complete recovery and return to action soon.

This is terrible news for a Blackhawks club already reeling from the recent loss of promising center Kirby Dach (fractured wrist) and Alex Nylander (knee surgery) for the next four-to-six months.

Toews’ absence is a major setback for the Blackhawks entering this season. Instead of challenging for a playoff berth, they could become a lottery team in the 2021 draft. I’ll have more about the Blackhawks in the rumors section.

ESPN.COM: One of pro sports’ notable power couples is no more. New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban and former Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn ended their relationship after three years together.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Subban won’t be looking back on 2020 with any fondness. In addition to splitting up with Vonn, his declining performance dropped him out of the ranks of the NHL’s all-star players.

SPORTSNET: Speaking of the Devils, center Nico Hischier will miss the upcoming start of training camp with an injured leg. Fortunately, the issue isn’t expected to be long term.

TSN: Jack Roslovic has asked the Winnipeg Jets for a trade. The restricted free agent forward is reportedly home in Columbus and won’t be joining his teammates in training camp when it opens on Sunday. If he returns to the Jets, he’ll have to undergo a seven-day quarantine and have four negative COVID-19 tests.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Roslovic frequently surfaced in trade speculation during this offseason. I’ll have more about his status in the Rumors sections.

LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS: The Kings officially announced they’ve signed forward Andreas Athanasiou to a one-year, $1.2 million contract.

The Buffalo Sabres are bringing veteran center Riley Sheahan to training camp on a PTO.

NHL.COM: The Edmonton Oilers signed forward Devin Shore and defenseman Ryan Stanton to professional tryout offers.

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: The Panthers signed goaltender Scott Darling to a professional tryout offer (PTO).

TSN: Speaking of the Panthers, they’ve informed their season-ticket holders that they are allowing 25 percent capacity at the BB&T Center when the season begins.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Insert tired joke about the Panthers’ usually woeful attendance here.

THE TENNESSEAN: The Nashville Predators are working on a plan to allow a limited number of fans at Bridgestone Arena after receiving approval from Nashville’s Board of Health.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 26, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 26, 2020

As the 24 teams involved in the return-to-play plan move to their hub cities for the upcoming playoff tournament, check out the latest NHL morning coffee headlines.

TRAINING CAMP UPDATES

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford finally took part in training camp yesterday and confirmed he had tested positive for COVID-19. After self-quarantining in Chicago for the past several weeks, Crawford received clearance to resume practicing and will travel with his teammates to Edmonton for the upcoming playoff tournament.

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That explains why the Blackhawks management and coaching staff were so cryptic about Crawford’s status over the past two weeks. It’s potentially good news for the Hawks if their long-time starter can shake off the rust before they face off against the Oilers in their qualifying round series. He’ll only have a few days to try to get up to speed.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins winger David Pastrnak will travel with his teammates to Toronto for the upcoming tournament after missing all but one practice due to potential exposure to someone with COVID-19. Ondrej Kase’s status, however, remains uncertain after being unfit to participate in Phase 3 training.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kase’s situation has sparked speculation he tested positive for COVID-19 because league protocols prevent the Bruins from elaborating on his condition.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: An injury suffered before Phase 3 training camp will prevent goaltender Ilya Samsonov from traveling to Toronto with his Capitals teammates. He’ll remain in Washington for treatment and is expected to be healthy for the 2020-21 season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fortunately for the Capitals, long-time starter Braden Holtby had a good training camp and should be match-fit for the upcoming tournament. Nevertheless, the loss of Samsonov could become a significant factor if Holtby should be sidelined or struggles in the playoffs.

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Dougie Hamilton was absent from the Carolina Hurricanes’ final training-camp session yesterday. He’s been sidelined since Wednesday after leaving the ice in some discomfort. Forward Martin Necas left the ice on Saturday but his condition isn’t considered serious.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hamilton’s return would provide a big boost to an already-deep Hurricanes defense corps. They can adjust without him but they’d be much better with the mobile Hamilton patrolling the blueline.

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Jets winger Nikolaj Ehlers skated briefly yesterday but didn’t scrimmage with his teammates. He’s believed to be nursing an injury as he was held out of Thursday’s scrimmage.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse was held out of practice yesterday as a precautionary measure after tweaking something earlier in the week. Center Riley Sheahan left yesterday’s scrimmage with an apparent injury.

THE DENVER POST: Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar returned to Colorado Avalanche practice yesterday.

PHILLY.COM: Flyers goaltender Carter Hart took part in a full practice yesterday and said he’ll be ready for the club’s upcoming exhibition game this week against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks winger Micheal Ferland has played his way back into a regular roster spot. He’ll be traveling with his teammates to Edmonton for the playoff tournament. Ferland missed most of this season and the early part of training camp dealing with head trauma symptoms.

LATEST ON CHAYKA AND THE COYOTES

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the relationship between the Arizona Coyotes ownership and general manager John Chayka apparently fell apart over the latter receiving a job opportunity with another club.

The Coyotes were approached about Chayka’s availability and permitted him to explore the offer. An NHL source said the offer wasn’t for a general manager position. When it became apparent Chayka could leave, the Coyotes resisted. The two sides reportedly discussed a transition period where he would finish out the season as Coyotes GM, but talks fell apart. 

AZ COYOTES INSIDER Craig Morgan asked a Coyotes spokesperson about Chayka’s status but they declined to comment. Morgan also said the job opportunity wasn’t with another team but was another professional opportunity.

AZCENTRAL: Kent Somers and Richard Morin report the Coyotes ownership group made a contract offer to Taylor Hall during a recent dinner meeting. Chayka was not part of that meeting and learned about the offer a day or two later.

OTTAWA CITIZEN: Patrick Johnston suggests Buffalo could be a destination for Chayka. Pegula Sports and Entertainment own the Sabres, the NFL Bill, and the AHL’s Rochester Americans.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Morgan wonders why the Coyotes balked after granting Chayka permission to explore it. What’s apparent is the relationship between the two sides is eroding, perhaps to the point where Chayka seems to be on his way out. It’s a puzzling situation that could become an unnecessary distraction as the Coyotes head to Edmonton for the upcoming playoff tournament.










NHL Rumor Mill – May 14, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – May 14, 2020

The latest Flames and Oilers speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

COULD FLAMES AFFORD PIETRANGELO?

SPORTSNET: In a recent mailbag segment, Eric Francis was asked if the Calgary Flames could sign Alex Pietrangelo if the St. Louis Blues captain hits the open market in the off-season.

While it’s not outside the realm of possibility, Francis believes it would be a hefty price tag to squeeze under a flat salary cap. It would also prevent the Flames from re-signing pending free agents such as T.J. Brodie, Travis Hamonic, Erik Gustafsson, and Derek Forbort.

Could the Calgary Flames afford to sign Alex Pietrangelo? (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Could the Flames sign Pietrangelo? Sure, anything’s possible. Can they afford him? Naaah!

The 30-year-old defenseman is completing a seven-year, $45.5-million contract with an annual average value of $6.5 million. He could command around $9 million annually as a UFA. Even if he accepted considerably less (say, $7.5 million AAV), the Flames lack the cap space to sign him and still have enough to fill out the rest of their defense corps.

Signing Pietrangelo would push their payroll to between $71.5 million and $73.5 million invested in 14 players, leaving little to flesh out the blueline, re-sign RFA Andrew Mangiapane, and re-sign or replace goaltender Cam Talbot. 

LATEST OILERS SPECULATION

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jim Matheson reported limited salary-cap space could hamper Oilers GM Ken Holland’s efforts to sign players.

Re-signing defenseman Ethan Bear could be tricky. The Oilers would prefer a team-friendly six-year deal comparable to Oscar Klefbom’s $4.1-million annual average value, but they don’t have that much available. Matheson suspects Bear will get a two-year bridge deal between $2.2 and $3 million annually. Matheson also wondered if Holland might consider replacing Matt Benning with a more affordable Evan Bouchard ($894K). 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: According to Cap Friendly, the Oilers have over $71.3 million committed to 16 players for 2020-21. Unless they make a significant salary dump, like trading or buying out James Neal, they won’t be making any major off-season additions. 

Bear is completing his entry-level contract and lacks arbitration rights. He’s proven himself as a top-four NHL defenseman but lacks leverage to command a big payday. A cost-effective, short-term bridge deal with the promise of a significant raise down the road appears the likely option. 

Matheson thinks Holland, “in a perfect world”, would try to trade Jesse Puljujarvi’s rights to the Florida Panthers for another right-winger and first-round draft pick like Owen Tippett. “But, that’s a trade for the 2020-2021 season. And it’s unlikely Holland would deal Puljujarvi’s rights at the 2020 draft unless it’s for a first-rounder because he’s has played 139 NHL games and he was the fourth overall pick in 2016.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In the real world, the Panthers won’t make that move. I don’t see many teams agreeing to part with a first-rounder for Puljujarvi. Maybe Holland calls a club with spare first-round picks in this year’s draft (hello there, Ottawa Senators), but I doubt they’ll be interested. 

He’d like to re-sign pending UFA forwards Riley Sheahan and Tyler Ennis to affordable short-term deals. His recent signing of Gaetan Haas could be insurance in case Sheahan decides to test the market. 










NHL Rumor Mill – May 4, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – May 4, 2020

Check out the latest Oilers and Flames speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

OILERS

SPORTSNET: In a recent mailbag segment, Mark Spector was asked if Edmonton Oilers winger James Neal would be a compliance buyout candidate if the NHL allows for such buyouts this off-season. He believes they should, for while he believes the Oilers won the Neal-Milan Lucic trade with the Flames, it would be a good idea to shed the winger’s $5.75 million annual average value for the next three years.

Should the Edmonton Oilers buy out James Neal in the off-season? (Photo via NHL Images)

(NOT MARK) SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ll leave the debate over who won the Neal-for-Lucic trade for Oilers and Flames fans. If the league allows for compliance buyouts, I will be surprised if the Oilers don’t use it to shed Neal’s cap hit. While his stats improved playing for the Oilers, his best seasons are behind him. Getting his cap hit off the books would free up space to bring in a younger, perhaps more affordable replacement.

The Athletic’s Jonathan Willis has suggested going the normal buyout route with Neal if the compliance option isn’t on the table. While it would leave the Oilers with over $1.9 million in dead cap space over the next six years, Willis felt it would be worth it in a summer where every NHL team faces salary-cap challenges.

Speaking of compliance buyouts, there’s an assumption among some NHL followers that this is going to happen because of the effects of the pandemic upon league revenue. However, that’s not a certainty right now.

If the league and the PA agree to keep the cap at $81.5 million for 2020-21, they could decide there’s no need for compliance buyouts. I can only see that option implemented if the salary cap declines. 

EDMONTON SUN: Jim Matheson recently reported the Oilers could attempt to re-sign Tyler Ennis because they like his ability to move up and down the lineup. He speculates the 30-year-old Edmonton native might accept $1 million to play in his hometown. He also thinks Oilers general manager Ken Holland wants to bring back Riley Sheahan, but only if he’s paying him as a fourth-line center. Sheahan spent part of this season in a third-line role.

FLAMES

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Scott Cruickshank recently speculated over which players could depart the Calgary Flames in the off-season. He lumped  T.J Brodie, Travis Hamonic, Derek Forbort, Erik Gustafsson, Michael Stone, Cam Talbot, and Sam Bennett among the “could stay or go” category.  All but Bennett are unrestricted free agents at season’s end.

Cruickshank suggested keeping one of Brodie or Hamonic and one of Forbort or Gustafsson. Talbot’s future in Calgary depends on whether he still sees himself as a starting goalie again. He also wondered if the Flames should remain patient with Bennett or trade him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flames salary-cap space and how much those pending UFAs seek will also determine who stays or goes. As per Cap Friendly, they have over $64.5 million invested in 13 players for 2020-21.

Cruickshank also included Tobias Rieder and Zac Rinaldo among that group. While they would be affordable to retain, I believe they’re more in the “go” category. 










NHL Rumor Mill – March 13, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – March 13, 2020

How could the pause on the NHL schedule affect next season’s salary cap? What measures could be taken to cope? Check out the latest in today’s rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: Regarding the effect upon the salary cap, Pierre LeBrun suggests the league and the NHL Players Association could agree to toss aside the CBA rules in this emergency and perhaps agree to an artificial number for next season. He cited a source saying they can do that as long as both sides agree it’s the best course of action. That would prevent the cap from falling by millions and putting teams into roster Armageddon. The PA will also want to avoid putting their players into a crazy escrow situation.

Uncertainty over the remainder of the NHL season is giving rise to salary-cap speculation for next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cynics will point to the contentious labor history between the NHL and NHLPA to cast doubt over potential cooperation on an artificial cap for next season. Given the lack of rancor in ongoing collective bargaining talks before the pausing of the schedule, I believe they’ll get something worked out. This is a unique situation, and neither side wants a scenario whereby some teams end up gutting their rosters to become cap compliant.

The template is already there. They agreed to an artificial number to avoid roster upheaval coming out of the 2012-13 lockout. I also expect they’ll work out an escrow calculation for next season that will be acceptable to the players.

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks believes a revenue-enhancing plan could address the league’s salary-cap number for 2020-21 if this season is cancelled. He speculates the league and the PA could agree to keep the cap at $81.5 million if they believe there will be an immediate rebound in consumer spending and ticket-buying behavior. However, Brooks feels a flat cap could wreak havoc upon the league with half the teams using long-term injury exemptions to be cap compliant.

Brooks also speculates the league and the PA could adopt an amnesty buyout policy this summer that would not count against a team’s salary-cap payroll. It’s a tactic the league employed following the previous NHL lockout. Regarding the playoffs, he envisions scrapping the rest of the regular-season schedule in favor of an expanded playoff schedule with knockout rounds involving 20-24 teams to drive up fan interest and revenue.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: We can’t rule out amnesty buyouts as a means of providing a measure of cap relief. Following the 2012-13 lockout, each team was allowed two amnesty buyouts spread over two seasons.

As for the playoffs, the format will depend upon when the league can return to action. If it’s in late-April, they’ll probably just play out the remaining schedule and stage the playoffs so that they end by late June. If it moves into May, shorter options could be considered in addition to perhaps playing into July.

THE ATHLETIC: Examining key questions surrounding the Edmonton Oilers in the wake of the pause in the regular season, Daniel Nugent-Bowman and Jonathan Willis wonder what happens to traded draft picks with games-played conditions attached.

The most complicated is the 2020 third-rounder involved in last summer’s James Neal/Milan Lucic trade. “That pick flips to Calgary if Neal scores 21 goals and Lucic trails his goal count by 10 or more.” Neal currently has 19 goals.

They also wondered if this would affect when the Oilers could offer contracts to free agents such as Riley Sheahan and Mike Smith. Performance bonuses could also be affected, as well as the Oilers’ salary-cap plans for next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those issues aren’t unique to the Oilers. Every club will seek direction depending on the final decision regarding the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs.

Speaking of the Oilers, Sportnet’s Elliotte Friedman earlier this week said he didn’t think management was talking contract extension yet with Smith. He dismissed rumblings claiming the two sides discussed a one-year deal. Friedman also believes they could wait until the end of the season to talk contract with Sheahan.