NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 23, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 23, 2020

The NHL postpones the 2021 Winter Classic and All-Star Weekend, the latest notable contract signings and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The league postponed the 2021 Winter Classic and the All-Star Weekend for this season. The Winter Classic was slated for Jan. 1, 2021 at Target Field in Minneapolis featuring the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues. The Florida Panthers were to host the 2021 All-Star Weekend at BB&T Center in Sunrise from Jan. 29-31.

NHL postpones 2021 Winter Classic (NHL.com).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those events could be pushed ahead to the same locations for next season. There’s talk the league still hopes to begin the 2020-21 season sometime in January. These postponements indicate that’s not going to happen. At the very least, it won’t happen with fans in the arenas in the early going.

TSN: Darren Dreger reports the status of the developmental leagues like the AHL and the Major Juniors will be a pressing issue at today’s meeting of NHL general managers. However, the league’s high-level executives aren’t going to be able to provide answers for their GMs.

Pierre LeBrun reports of a constant dialogue between NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr and their chief lieutenants regarding plans for next season. He added there’s a bigger appetite among team owners, general managers and players to have a greater voice on those plans because there’s so much at stake. LeBrun also said whatever the season looks like when it begins likely won’t be what it’ll look like toward the end.

Frank Seravalli reported one of the biggest conversations is a cost-benefit analysis for the NHL. It would be problematic for the league if revenue for next season is lower than the total salaries owed to the players. The players will also be getting paid on Oct 31 for the first time since April, receiving 8.1 percent of the salaries to tide them over for whenever the season begins.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It will be very difficult for NHL prospects to get suitable playing time considering the difficulties their development leagues face to stage their respective seasons. As for what the NHL season will look like, the league has indicated it could begin without fans in the arenas but they could gradually allow fans into the stands over the course of the schedule depending on local health and safety protocols. That will ultimately determine what the league’s revenue looks like by season’s end and its potential effect upon player salaries.

Speaking of next season, the Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons reports the Canadian government is looking at a pilot COVID-19 testing program that would replace the current 14-day quarantine period for people entering the country with rapid testings at airports and border entry crossings. If those prove successful, it could open up travel for NHL teams between the two countries.

OTTAWA SUN: The Senators avoided arbitration with Connor Brown by signing him to a three-year deal worth an annual average value of $3.6 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A fair deal for both sides. Brown quickly established himself as a key player for the Senators after joining them in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He finished second in team scoring, netting career-highs in assists (27) and points (43) in 71 games last season.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Stars re-signed winger Denis Gurianov to a two-year contract worth $2.55 million annually.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gurianov led the Stars in goals last season (20) and finished second in playoff goals with nine. This new contract will be a bargain for the Stars if the 23-year-old winger continues to develop as a goal scorer. Cap Friendly indicates they have $77.4 million invested in 21 players with Roope Hintz left to re-sign.

THE PROVINCE: The Vancouver Canucks avoided arbitration with Jake Virtanen by signing the winger to a two-year contract worth an AAV of $2.55 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Virtanen had a career-best performance (18 goals, 36 points in 69 games) last season but followed up with a disappointing effort (two goals, three points in 16 games) in the playoffs. He’ll be under pressure to step up and improve his overall game next season. The Canucks are $1.5 million over the $81.5 million salary cap but could get relief by placing winger MIcheal Ferland on long-term injury reserve if he’s unable to play next season. 

NJ.COM: The New Jersey Devils signed former Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dmitry Kulikov to a one-year, $1.15 million contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Devils needed experienced depth on the blueline. This is a cost-effective short-term deal they hope will help to address that issue.

CALGARY SUN: The Flames signed former Pittsburgh Penguins forward Dominik Simon to a one-year, $700K contract.

THE DENVER POST: The Colorado Avalanche’s home arena is changing its name from the Pepsi Center to Ball Arena.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 26, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 26, 2020

What next for the Leafs and Penguins following yesterday’s Kasperi Kapanen trade? Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TORONTO SUN: Lance Hornby singled out the Maple Leafs’ acquisition of a first-round pick (15th overall) and prospect forward Filip Hallander while freeing up salary-cap space from shipping winger Kasperi Kapanen to the Pittsburgh Penguins yesterday. Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas isn’t ruling out shopping that pick if it would help his team. “If there’s another Jake Muzzin, we’d be interested, to put it mildly,” he said.

Dubas also suggested he might not be done dealing. “I don’t think this will be it for us,” he said. “We need to gain greater (cap) flexibility than what we have.” The Leafs GM pointed out they have to re-sign restricted free agents Travis Dermott and Ilya Mikheyev and he’d like more space to address other needs.

Could Frederik Andersen become the next player traded by the Toronto Maple Leafs? (NHL Images)

Hornby’s colleague Michael Traikos wondered if the Leafs will trade another third-line winger, or replace goaltender Frederik Andersen with a more affordable (but unproven) option, or break up their core. He feels they need a defenseman or two and a scoring forward who plays with a snarl like former Leafs Nazem Kadri is doing with the Colorado Avalanche.

Traikos suggested trading Kapanen opens up cap room to perhaps pursue Boston’s Torey Krug, Calgary’s T.J. Brodie or Travis Hamonic or Vancouver’s Chris Tanev via free agency. They could even pursue St. Louis’ Alex Pietrangelo if Dubas moves out another player like Andreas Johnsson, Alexander Kerfoot, or even William Nylander.

Signing Pietrangelo, however, could cost between $8 million and $11 million annually. Traikos also warns there’s no certainty those free-agent blueliners will sign with the Leafs. “After all, it’s not like the team has won anything lately.”

THE SCORE: Josh Gold-Smith cites The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reported the Leafs also spoke to the Anaheim Ducks, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, and New Jersey Devils before trading Kapanen to the Penguins. The Leafs attempted to reacquire the pick they sent to the Hurricanes last summer but the Canes weren’t interested in parting with the 13th overall selection. The Blackhawks also balked on moving their first-round pick (17th overall).

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): James Mirtle cites sources indicating Kapanen wasn’t the only player dangled by Dubas in the trade market since the Leafs were eliminated from the qualifying round two weeks ago.

Andersen could apparently be had in a salary-dumping deal, leading Mirtle to wonder if the Edmonton Oilers might be interested if they can find the cap room. Kerfoot, Pierre Engvall, and Johnsson were also mentioned. The Leafs could free up $17 million if they could move all four.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dubas is not done making moves after yet another disappointing postseason performance. I concur with Traikos that the Leafs GM must bolster his blueline and bring in a physical scorer. Perhaps he’ll revisit talks with some of those clubs he spoke with regarding Kapanen. 

I wouldn’t be surprised if Dubas shops that first-round pick. Their core players – Nylander, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, and Morgan Rielly – will be between 22 and 29 when next season begins. The Leafs don’t want to waste their playing primes.  They’re in “win-now” mode and could use that pick to bring in a player who can immediately address a roster need. If there are no suitable offers, Dubas can retain that pick and perhaps use the prospect selected as part of a deal in the near future to bring in an impact player.

Signing any of those UFA defensemen listed by Traikos will require freeing up more salary-cap payroll. Cap Friendly indicates the Leafs have $73.7 million tied up in 16 players. Signing one of those blueliners will eat up most or all of that cap room, leaving nothing for Dermott and Mikheyev.

Landing Pietrangelo won’t be easy. Indeed, it might not be possible, as the Blues captain already stated his wish is to stay in St. Louis. And no, he’s not going to accept less than whatever the Blues offer to “come home” to Toronto. St. Louis is his home now and it’s where he wants to stay. If that’s not possible, he’ll seek a lucrative deal in the UFA market despite the flattened salary cap for next season. If the Leafs want him, they’ll have to pay a lot to sign him.

Krug will also be expensive, though nowhere near as much as Pietrangelo. Figure it could cost between $6-$7 million annually. Brodie, Hamonic or Tanev won’t cost that much but they’ll still eat up a big chunk of change, perhaps over $5 million annually. Assuming the flat cap hurts their UFA value, they could seek cap hits similar to what they’re making now.

Moving Andersen is dangerous unless Dubas intends to add a better option and that might not be readily available. He could pursue Braden Holtby or Robin Lehner via free agency, but either guy could cost more than Andersen’s current $5 million AAV. In Holtby’s case, it would be ponying up for what appears to be a declining asset.

It’ll be interesting to see what Dubas and his capologist have in mind. They proved capable of salary-cap gymnastics last summer, but those moves failed to improve the Leafs. He must do better this time around and that won’t be easy given the current economic landscape.

PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW: Seth Rorabaugh believes the Penguins’ addition of Kapanen rules out re-signing pending UFA winger Conor Sheary. He also suggests it clouds the futures of restricted free agent goalies Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry and forwards Jared McCann and Dominik Simon.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Pierre LeBrun suggests Murray could be the next Penguin on the move. Rutherford already indicated he needs to trade one of his goalies and sources told LeBrun his focus is on moving Murray. His RFA status (with arbitration rights) is a sticking point. One source said they’re worried the goalie could command $6 million in arbitration, after which he’s eligible for unrestricted free-agent status.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Murray’s injury history and inconsistent play could also be a concern. Rutherford might have to package him with a draft pick or prospect if teams are worried about his contract for next season.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 15, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 15, 2020

The latest on the NHL’s efforts to resume its season, Mitch Marner, Max Domi, and Matt Dumba weigh in with their thoughts, and much more in today’s morning coffee headlines.

UPDATES ON NHL’S EFFORTS TO RETURN TO ACTION

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the NHL-NHLPA Return to Play Committee could meet for the third time this week to discuss concepts over what resuming the season would look like. A 24-team play-in involving the Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Blackhawks isn’t sitting well with some players and team executives. Under that scenario, the Canadiens would face the Pittsburgh Penguins, who sit 15 points above the Habs in the Eastern Conference standings.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports he’s also heard some pushback against the 24-team playoff scenario. There are also questions over the format (Best-of-three? Best of five?) for the opening round.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Going the 24-team format allows two of the NHL’s biggest markets (Montreal and Chicago) into the playoffs, which would draw potentially higher television ratings. In his column for The Athletic, LeBrun said the Canadiens and Blackhawks would participate in that format if asked, but they’re not pushing for it.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this gets whittled down to a regular 16-team postseason based on points percentage or a 20-team format where there’s a short-term play-in period for the bubble teams. 

Darren Dreger reports some players expressed concerns about escrow payments going forward. A source told Dreger there’s no indication the return-to-play plans will be tied to the CBA economic issues.

If the border closure between Canada and the United States is extended to June 21, Bob McKenzie wondered how that would affect the return-to-play plans. He said the NHL is in contact with the governments of both countries and it might not be an impediment.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving told Sportsnet’s Eric Francis that he’s sensing some momentum toward a preliminary plan for resuming the season could be in place by next week. However, he also said that will depend upon the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. He also believes discussions are going on between the league and the Canadian and American governments. 

LeBrun said he’s been told there are eight or nine teams in the running to become one of the four host cities under the return-to-play plan. Edmonton, Vancouver, Toronto, Minnesota, and Vegas are among those believed in the running.

McKenzie said the prospect of staging the 2020 NHL Draft in June could be fading. The league still thinks it’s a great idea but widespread support isn’t there. “I think the NHL is starting to get the idea that the time, the effort and the political capital that would be required to convince enough teams that it is a good idea, might not be worth it,” said McKenzie.

Toronto Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman also said there’s been considerable pushback against staging the draft before the resumption of the season. He indicated half the teams are believed against it, while there weren’t many teams willing to fight for a June draft. 

A decision is reportedly expected sometime next week. NHL headquarters could ignore this and decide to hold it in June, but there’s obviously a growing sense that might not happen. 

LATEST ON MARNER, DOMI, DUMBA, AND GRUBAUER.

THE SCORE: Toronto Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner believes safety must be the priority for the NHL’s return to play. “My thought on this is, OK, I’m all down for starting everything back up, let’s rock,” he said. “But what if someone gets sick and dies? What happens? It’s awful to think about, but still.”

THE HOCKEY NEWS:  Ken Campbell believes Marner’s concern is legitimate, one that many NHL players are likely grappling with as the league and the PA discuss resuming the season. Campbell interviewed Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at Toronto General Hospital, regarding Marner’s concern. Bogoch believes everyone involved must be fully aware of the risks but noted the risk for the players is relatively low because of their youth and conditioning.

TVA SPORTS: Montreal Canadiens center Max Domi could be at a higher risk than most players. “Being a Type 1 diabetic, it’s something that raises some concern. But you really don’t know how everyone’s going to be affected by this disease. Being a Type 1 doesn’t change much. I would handle myself the same way as if I didn’t have it,” he said.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I daresay Marner’s concerns are shared by other players. As long as the league can ensure the health and safety of the players, they’ll approve returning to play this summer.

Speaking of that vote, The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reported it’s his understanding the 31 player reps will vote on an official return-to-play format.  “The player reps are in constant communication with their teammates so their vote should be reflective of what the players on their respective team want.”

TWINCITIES.COM: Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba hopes for a chance to resume his season. He felt his game was improving in the weeks before the schedule was paused. Dumba believes he spent too much time last summer rehabbing a surgically repaired pectoral muscle and not enough on other areas of his game.

EISHOCKEY NEWS: Colorado Avalanche goaltender Philipp Grubauer opted to remain in Denver rather than return to his native Germany to ride out the league’s mandatory self-quarantine period. Unlike other parts of the United States, Grubauer felt the local and state officials in Colorado were doing a good job addressing the pandemic. He’s spent a good deal of time maintaining his conditioning by cycling. 

Grubauer said the league wants the players to be prepared for a possible resumption of play. The longer it takes, the less likely a return will happen, but Grubauer feels optimistic over a possible return. As to what the schedule might look like, he speculated it could be compressed to playing two games in a row, followed by a day off and then two more games.

IN OTHER NEWS…

TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins forward Dominik Simon underwent surgery on his left shoulder April 29 to repair a torn labrum. He is expected to be sidelined six to seven months.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller said he underwent a second surgery on his troublesome knee a couple of months ago. He had surgery last year to repair a fractured kneecap and missed this season as he faced setbacks in his recovery. 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 5, 2018

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 5, 2018

The Washington Capitals within one game of winning the Stanley Cup. Details and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines. 

NHL.COM: Evgeny Kuznetsov collected four assists and T.J. Oshie had a goal and two assists to lead the Washington Capitals to a 6-2 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 4 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final. Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby had another solid outing with 28 saves. James Neal and Reilly Smith tallied for the Golden Knights. Game 5 goes Thursday in Las Vegas with the Capitals holding a 3-1 series lead. 

Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov collected four assists in his club’s 6-2 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 4 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Golden Knights didn’t lack for quality scoring chances, especially early in the first period. The game seemed to turn after Neal, with an open net, clanked a shot off the post. The Capitals struck for three goals in the first and entered the third period with a 4-0 lead. The Golden Knights did make it interesting in the third by cutting the lead to 4-2 before the Capitals put the game away. Washington’s special-team play made the difference, going three-for-five on the power play and killing off four penalties. 

LE JOURNAL DE MONTREAL: cites TVA Sports’ Renaud Lavoie reporting contract negotiations have not started yet between the Montreal Canadiens and captain Max Pacioretty, who is a year away from unrestricted free agent status. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: TSN’s Darren Dreger last week reported the two sides had engaged in preliminary discussions regarding a contract extension. 

TRIBLIVE.COM: Player agent Allan Walsh shot down speculation his client, Pittsburgh Penguins forward Dominik Simon, might play in the KHL next season if unable to reach agreement on a new contract with the Penguins. Walsh maintains Simon’s priority is playing in the NHL. 

SPORTSNET: Ottawa Senators assistant general manager Randy Lee has pleaded not guilty to sexual harassment allegations in Buffalo. 

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Former NHL defenseman James Wisniewski was hospitalized last Friday with broken ribs following a single-car accident outside Columbus. PGA golfer Bud Cauley was also seriously injured. Both men are reportedly in stable condition. 

VANCOUVER SUN: It’s been 10 years (May 29) since Canucks defenseman Luc Bourdon was killed in a motorcycle crash in New Brunswick. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Has it really been that long ago? It only seems like a year or two since Bourdon’s tragic passing. Such a shame that a young man with a promising future in the NHL had his life cut short. 

TSN: NHL referee and amateur golfer Garrett Rank has qualified for the U.S. Open.