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.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 6, 2019

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 6, 2019

The latest on Mikko Rantanen, Milan Lucic, Vladimir Tarasenko, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TSN: Colorado Avalanche winger Mikko Rantanen is currently skating in Norway awaiting a new contract. His focus, however, is returning to the Avs. “For me, the only option is the NHL. And how the future will turn out, you never know.”

Colorado Avalanche free agent Mikko Rantanen considers playing in the NHL his only option (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some will seize upon that last sentence to suggest Rantanen might prefer playing for another NHL club or might be traded if he and the Avs fail to agree to a new deal. Don’t bother, he’s going to be re-signed by the Avalanche.

With over $15 million in cap space (stick tap to Cap Friendly), they can easily afford him. Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic said he’s hoping to get Rantanen under contract before training camp opens next week.

SPORTSNET: Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving downplayed remarks made by Milan Lucic in which some Edmonton Oilers fans considered a direct swipe at Oilers captain Connor McDavid.

Lucic said he felt pressure to overachieve in Edmonton. He believes he’ll be more successful playing alongside an older captain (Mark Giordano) in Calgary as he did playing with Zdeno Chara in Boston.

“Totally ridiculous”, said Treliving of the supposed “swipe”, pointing out Lucic’s friendship with McDavid.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Much ado about nothing. Lucic was probably feeling the pressure of being a team leader for a mediocre Oilers club while struggling with his own declining performance. Surrounded by a deeper roster in Calgary, he won’t have to shoulder that burden. 

THE SCORE: St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko said he’ll be ready for training camp after off-season shoulder surgery and a knee scope following the Stanley Cup playoffs.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: The Oilers signed center Riley Sheahan to a one-year, $900k contract. This move was made in part because center Kyle Brodziak (back issues) isn’t expected to pass his training-camp physical next week.

LAS VEGAS SUN: The Vegas Golden Knights signed Jimmy Schuldt to a one-year, one-way contract worth $800K.

NBC SPORTS: U.S. women’s hockey star Kendell Coyne Schofield will be a color commentator for select San Jose Sharks games this season.

ESPN.COM: The NHL “dropped Jogmo World Corp. as a primary technology partner in its player and puck tracking plans.” They’re in the process of finding a replacement, vowing the technology will be up and running in time for the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs. “A league source said that technology company SMT is the league’s new partner.”

TSN: The NHL and NHL Players Association are set to meet on Friday to renew collective bargaining agreement talks. The PA has until Sept. 15 to decide whether it’ll terminate the current CBA effective a year from now.

League commissioner Gary Bettman said he’s willing to work with the PA to address its concerns. “Whatever (players) want in their period of having to decide what to do, we’ll try to be as accommodating as possible,” said Bettman.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given the contentious labor history between the league and the PA, it’s easy to look at Bettman’s comments with a jaundiced eye. This time, however, the league appears keen to avoid another lockout. CBA extension talks have been ongoing for nearly a year now, lacking the tension and rancour of previous years.

 










NHL Rumor Mill – July 23, 2019

NHL Rumor Mill – July 23, 2019

Updates on Jake Gardiner and Nikita Gusev, plus five players who could need training camp to get new contracts in today’s NHL rumor mill. 

WHY IS GARDINER STILL UNSIGNED?

TSN: Bryan Hayes and Mike Johnson discussed why former Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner remains unsigned. Johnson said he’d heard whispers suggesting Gardiner enjoyed playing for the Leafs so much he’d prefer taking a lesser deal for Toronto. Hayes wondered if he’d accept a one-year deal to bolster his value for next summer’s market.

Speculation abounds over why Jake Gardiner remains unsigned (Photo via NHL Images).

Hayes considers Gardiner a top-four defenseman on most teams in the league and doesn’t believe he’s not getting calls. His back, which was injured last season, could be an issue but Hayes isn’t convinced that’s the case.

Hayes feels Gardiner wants to play for a specific club and believes it’s the Leafs, despite the flak he sometimes got from fans and media. Both men point out the blueliner was very popular with his Leafs teammates. 

Both agree it could depend upon the outcome of Mitch Marner’s contract talks. Johnson also wondered if the Montreal Canadiens could be a destination for Gardiner if there’s no deal to be had with the Leafs. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ve assumed Gardiner became the odd man out in the musical chairs that is the NHL UFA market. In other words, the teams that might have had interest in him no longer have sufficient cap space to sign him to a lucrative long-term deal. That would force Gardiner to accept a short-term deal for below market value. I also felt last season’s back injury might have scared off potential suitors. 

Hayes and Johnson, however, believe something else is afoot. They raise good points about Gardiner’s back and the possibility he prefers returning to the Leafs or only playing in specific markets. Nevertheless there hasn’t been a peep from the blueliner or his representatives that he’s close to inking a new deal.

I don’t see Gardiner returning to the Leafs unless Marner accepts a very affordable bridge deal, which I doubt he will. Still, Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas has done a good job juggling his club’s limited salary-cap space this summer. Maybe he’s got one more trick up his sleeve that could bring Gardiner back for one more year. 

GUSEV COULD STAY IN THE KHL

TSN: cites a report from a Russian news outlet indicating the agent for winger Nikita Gusev will advise his client to remain in the KHL if he isn’t re-signed by the Vegas Golden Knights or traded before a set date. Yuri Nikolaev said he’s aware the Golden Knights have received trade offers for his client but Gusev prefers to re-sign with Vegas. The two sides are reportedly around $2 million apart, with Gusev seeking $4 million and the Knights offering up $2 million. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It appears Gusev’s agent is trying to speed things along for his client. Over two weeks ago, it appeared the Russian winger’s NHL rights were on the verge of being traded but things have gone quiet since then. The Golden Knights’ limited salary-cap space could force Gusev to accept their offer if he’s determined to play in the NHL this season. 

FIVE NHL VETERANS WHO COULD NEED TRAINING CAMP TO GET NEW CONTRACTS.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Derick Brassard and Andrew MacDonald top Jared Clinton’s recent list of five veteran NHLers who could need training camp to land new contracts. Riley Sheahan, Devante Smith-Pelly, and Tobias Rieder round out the list. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I wouldn’t be surprised if all five accept professional tryout offers if they remain unsigned when September rolls around. Some of them could also avoid that possibility by inking cheap one-year deals in hopes of bolstering their value for next summer.