NHL Buyout Barometer – Atlantic Division (Part 1)
League commissioner Gary Bettman admits finishing the regular season might not be possible, Oilers forward Colby Cave in a medically-induced coma, plus the latest on Sergei Bobrovsky, Jeff Skinner and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
SPORTSNET: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman admitted finishing the regular season might not be possible, though he stressed many options are under consideration. One could see games played at neutral sites if teams aren’t allowed to play in their home arenas. It could take at least a couple of more weeks for clarity on how the pandemic affects all 31 NHL markets.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: While NHL fans and pundits are calling upon Bettman to cancel the season and the playoffs, the league and the NHLPA are determined to salvage the rest of the schedule. Failing that, they’ll attempt to stage the Stanley Cup playoffs in some format during the summer.
Of course, it’ll depend upon how long it takes before the pandemic has run its course and is eventually contained. If the current situation persists through the summer, Bettman and company will have no choice but to scrap the season and look toward gearing up for 2020-21.
THE ATHLETIC: Pierre LeBrun reports being told it’s very unlikely the league would consider just one neutral site because it won’t work for its purposes. Scenarios include two locations where they each had two rinks apiece that the league could use, or four locations for 16 teams, or eight locations. LeBrun indicated it’s still very early in those discussions.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers forward Colby Cave underwent emergency surgery yesterday in Toronto to remove a colloid cyst that was putting pressure on his brain. He remains in a medically-induced coma. The condition is not related to the COVID-19 pandemic, nor was it the result of an accident.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Here’s hoping Cave makes a full recovery and resumes his playing career.
THE DENVER POST: A third Colorado Avalanche player tested positive for COVID-19. He’s in self-isolation and hasn’t had close contact with his teammates or team staff. The league has had eight players test positive for the coronavirus, including five Ottawa Senators.
TSN: Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland said it’s his understanding his club will keep its conditional third-round pick from the Milan Lucic-for-James Neal swap last summer if the season doesn’t resume. The Flames would’ve received the pick if Neal scored at least 21 goals this season and Lucic tallied 10-or-fewer goals than Neal. The latter had netted 19 goals when the schedule was paused.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky is earning praise for his efforts to help the local community during the pandemic. Bobrovsky pledged $100K to cover the salaries of the Panthers’ home arena part-time staff. His teammates and team owner Vinnie Viola subsequently jumped on board to cover those employee losses.
Bobrovsky is also working with the Panthers’ Foundation to equip first responders and medical workers with N95 masks. “I think I just tried to do the right thing for those people, to support them and help them from my side,” said Bobrovsky.
KITCHENER TODAY: Former Kitchener Rangers winger Jeff Skinner donated $53,000 to the Food Bank of Waterloo Region. The donation number is a reference to the No. 53 he wired with the Rangers and wears today with the Buffalo Sabres.
TSN: Montreal Canadiens coach Claude Julien said young center Jesperi Kotkaniemi is resting at home in Finland and suffered no setbacks in his recovering from an injured spleen suffered on March 11.
NBC SPORTS: Former NHL general managers Brian Burke and Mike O’Connell are feuding over Burke’s attempt to acquire Joe Thornton during his tenure as Anaheim Ducks GM in 2005. O’Connell, the Bruins GM at the time, eventually shipped Thornton to the San Jose Sharks. Burke is still bitter about it, believing he’d made a better offer. O’Connell, however, called Burke’s claims a fabrication.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s nothing like a pissing contest between two former NHL GMs to provide a momentary distraction from this pandemic and its effects upon the NHL season.
OTTAWA SUN: Three more Senators’ players and one staff member tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total to seven people aboard the club’s charter flight that returned from their California road trip on March 12. The club indicated the five players and the staff member have all recovered. Broadcaster Gord Wilson confirmed a positive test on Friday.
League deputy commissioner Bill Daly said there aren’t any plans to test the entire Senators team. “Everyone who had symptoms was tested,” Daly said.”There really is no reason to test anyone else. No one is symptomatic and no one is sick and they all have been in self-quarantine for three weeks.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators have been hardest hit among the 31 NHL teams by this pandemic. Fortunately, it seems they suffered mild symptoms and most recovered quickly.
THE BUFFALO NEWS: Sabres captain Jack Eichel is partnering with hockey manufacturing company Bauer to donate 5,000 protective shields to Buffalo area hospitals. Teammate Jeff Skinner, meanwhile, is donating $53,000 to a fund created by Pegula Sports and Entertainment to help frontline health care workers and others affected by the coronavirus in Western New York.
TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins defensemen Brian Dumoulin and John Marino will be ready to go if the NHL season resumes. Dumoulin underwent surgery in December to repair lacerated ankle tendons. Marino missed five games in March before the schedule was paused recovered from broken facial bones.
THE SCORE: Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin said he won’t be interviewing coaching candidates during the NHL’s schedule hiatus. He’s happy thus far with the work of Dean Evason, who took over as head coach in mid-February on an interim basis after Bruce Boudreau was fired. The Wild are 8-4-0 under Evason.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild are one point out of a wild-card berth in the Western Conference. Guerin sounds like he wants to continue evaluating Evason before deciding if he’ll keep him on the job or seek a full-time replacement.
THE DETROIT NEWS: The play of Jonathan Bernier, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Robby Fabbri was among the pleasant surprises in an otherwise disappointing season for the Red Wings.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: The ECHL and Professional Hockey Players’ Association announced a relief fund to help the league’s players and their families left without salaries following the cancellation of the season.
Micheal Ferland’s agent Jason Davidson : “Mike is back in Brandon working out and experiencing zero symptoms.” #Canucks
— Rick Dhaliwal (@DhaliwalSports) April 1, 2020
Oilers coach Dave Tippett says injured players Joakim Nygard and Mike Green will be ready if/when season resumes. — Daniel Nugent-Bowman (@DNBsports) March 31, 2020
Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask ponders retirement at the end of his current contract, plus a look at several potential compliance buyout candidates in today’s NHL rumor mill.
COULD RASK RETIRE AT THE END OF HIS CONTRACT?
THE SCORE: Brandon Maron reports Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask isn’t ruling out retirement at the end of his current contract. In an interview with the Boston Globe’s Matt Porter, Rask hinted at hanging up his pads when his contract expires in 2021. “I have one year left in the contract, so we’ll see if I even play,” Rask said. “We’ll see. Always a possibility.”
The 33-year-old netminder ruled out returning to play in his native Finland, citing family reasons. “Just be home. The wear and tear of the travel with two, almost three kids now, makes you think. I love to do it. But it’s tough.” Maron indicates Rask leads the league in goals-against average (2.12) and sits second with a .929 save percentage.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: While that report will likely cause the collective hearts of Bruins fans to skip a beat, Rask isn’t saying for certain that he’s packing it in after next season. It could just be some early posturing on his part to perhaps encourage Bruins management to open contract extension talks following the end of this season, whenever that might be.
Nevertheless, it’s an indication that Rask re-signing with Boston isn’t a sure thing. If he does retire, the Bruins will be scrambling to find a suitable replacement next year.
POSSIBLE COMPLIANCE BUYOUT CANDIDATES
EDMONTON JOURNAL: David Staples recently examined which players could receive compliance buyouts if the NHL implements that policy to help cap-strapped club shed salary next season. He cited Sportsnet analyst Brian Burke floating that possibility in a recent interview with Bob Stauffer on Oilers Now: “I’ve heard discussion of compliance buyouts to help teams get to this new cap, to solve some of their problems. Which they gave in the last CBA, each team got two cap-compliance buyouts which were exempt from the cap. I’ve heard talk of that, said Burke.
Staples considers “Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader and Frans Nielson…Andrew Ladd of the New York Islanders, Milan Lucic of the Flames, Kyle Okposo of the Sabres, and Loui Eriksson of Vancouver” as the most obvious possibilities among NHL forwards.
Defensemen could include New Jersey’s P.K. Subban and St. Louis’ Justin Faulk, while Florida’s Sergei Bobrovsky, Nashville’s Pekka Rinne, the New York Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist and New Jersey’s Cory Schneider (provided his injury status would allow it) are his likely goalie candidates.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Interesting compilation from Staples. I agree with his assessment of those most likely to receive compliance (amnesty) buyouts.
For now, of course, there’s no certainty the NHL and NHL Players Association will implement that buyout scheme. Much will depend upon whether the league can finish this season and how much of their lost revenue they can recoup.
The two sides could also agree to an artificial cap that could be higher than the current $81.5 million. That would eliminate the need for such buyouts.
The NHL community mourns the death of former NBA star Kobe Bryant, plus the latest on Jeff Skinner, Anthony Duclair and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.
THE SCORE: The NHL community took to social media yesterday mourning the death of former NBA star Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in a helicopter crash in California. Wayne Gretzky, Alex Ovechkin, Henrik Lundqvist, Martin Brodeur, P.K. Subban, and Mitch Marner were among those expressing their condolences to Bryant’s family on Twitter yesterday.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My sympathies to Bryant’s family, friends, and former teammates.
Marner and Toronto Maple Leafs teammate Frederik Andersen voiced their support for the establishment of a viable professional women’s hockey league. “A lot of those players are great players, and to see them not in a league right now is disappointing,” Marner said. “I really hope they get a league back up and running.”
Ottawa Senators winger and All-Star representative Anthony Duclair hopes to stay in Ottawa and help the rebuilding club. “When the change is gonna happen, when Ottawa’s gonna become a contender, I want to be part of that,” Duclair added. “So I’m working as hard as I can.” Duclair is a restricted free agent this summer with arbitration rights, but there have been no contract talks thus far with Senators management.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Duclair rejuvenated his sagging NHL career with the Senators. General manager Pierre Dorion’s focus is on his unrestricted free agents, like center Jean-Gabriel Pageau. I daresay contract talks with Duclair will commence at some point following the end of the regular season. Given how well he’s played since coming to Ottawa last season, I expect they’ll try to keep him.
WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres winger Jeff Skinner returned to practice yesterday for the first time since suffering an upper-body injury on Dec. 27. He could be in the lineup when the Sabres face the Senators on Tuesday.
STLTODAY.COM: Blues defenseman Colton Parayko will return to action tonight after missing seven games with an upper-body injury. Winger Sammy Blais (wrist injury) could also be back. The Blues also placed winger Troy Brouwer on waivers yesterday.
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: The Anaheim Ducks recalled forward Troy Terry from his AHL conditioning stint.
NEW YORK POST: The Rangers have loaned forward Lias Andersson to Swedish club HV71. Andersson had left the Rangers’ AHL affiliate last month and requested a trade, but there appears to be a thaw in the relationship between the 21-year-old forward and Rangers’ management.