Time For The Predators To Part Ways With GM Poile
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.
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.
Check out the latest on Vladimir Tarasenko, P.K. Subban, Jarome Iginla and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
STLTODAY.COM: St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko is over two months into recovery from offseason shoulder surgery and seems to be doing well. He and teammate Alexander Steen won’t be healthy enough to be on the active roster when the season begins.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban’s marriage to skier Lindsey Vonn was slated for this past July but is now indefinitely on hold due to COVID-19. They’re waiting until their families, spread throughout North America and Europe, can safely attend.
CALGARY SUN: A Boston TV station had no idea they were interviewing NHL Hall-of-Famer Jarome Iginla when speaking with several local motorists dealing with a winter storm on Friday. Iginla and his family live in the Boston area.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It probably would’ve been a different story if Iginla had spent the bulk of his playing career with the Bruins instead of with the Calgary Flames. He only played one season with the Bruins in 2013-14, reaching the 30-goal plateau for the 12th and final time in his 20-year NHL career.
THE SCORE: Former NHL forward Thomas Vanek believes the league isn’t as tough as it was early in his career. He points out big defensemen like Chris Pronger and Derian Hatcher were rarely called for penalties for inflicting punishment on forwards parked in front of the net. “Now the game has changed. You’ve got a lot of smaller defensemen who are more mobile,” said Vanek. “They cross-check a little bit, but those guys (Pronger, Hatcher) are nonexistent really anymore.”
RDS: Former NHL forward Maxim Lapierre announced his retirement on Sunday. He tallied 65 goals and 74 assists for 139 points in 614 games with the Montreal Canadiens, Anaheim Ducks, Vancouver Canucks, St. Louis Blues and Pittsburgh Penguins from 2005-06 to 2014-15. He spent the last five seasons playing in Sweden, Switzerland and Germany.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Lapierre in his future endeavors.
NHL.COM: Former NHL linesman Neil Armstrong passed away Sunday at age 87. He officiated in 1,744 NHL regular-season games from 1957 to 1978 and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991. He was the father of St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Armstrong’s family, friends and colleagues.
Details emerge from the NHL board of governors briefing for the 2020-21 season, the Sharks could face vacating their arena, an update on Bobby Ryan and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.
TSN: Frank Seravalli provides details from the NHL’s board of governors conference call and the NHLPA executive board conference call on Thursday.
The league reiterated its intent to open the 2020-21 season on Jan. 1, 2021, in its video conference call with its board of governors on Thursday. Neither that date nor a format for the season, however, is carved in stone. Many governors and owners wonder if Feb. 1 might be more realistic.
Players have not yet been provided a date to report to their respective cities.
There’s a growing appetite for teams to open their seasons in their own arenas rather than in hybrid bubbles, though the latter remains an option. The cost of operating those bubbles and the potential lost revenue with games staged at neutral sites is behind the preference for each team to travel city to city to complete a shortened regular season as the NFL and MLB have done.
Under that scheme, there would be temporary divisional realignments, including an all-Canadian division. Teams would be permitted to have a limited number of fans based on local and regional health regulations, with the hope that capacities could expand over the course of a season and a vaccine becomes available. It would also allow teams to recoup in-arena signage and broadcasting ad revenue.
Teams would travel to divisional opponents to face each other in short series of games similar to that of a baseball schedule to reduce travel and players’ time away from their families.
The only certainty is there won’t be an 82-games schedule. Various models involved 48 to 62-game schedules.
NHL players have braced for a possible proration of salaries. Under the new CBA they agreed to be paid 72 percent of their salaries for 2020-21, with 20 percent paid back to owners for last season’s losses plus a 10 percent deferral. Seravalli explains it’s 72 percent because it’s 20 percent off the top plus 10 percent of the remaining 80 percent.
NHLPA members were told to expect an ask of increased salary deferral for next season rather than proration. It won’t change what they get paid, only when they get it, but they might be expected to give up something in return, though it has yet to be determined what that might be.
Seravalli’s colleague Pierre LeBrun reported there are now 16 players on the return-to-play committee, including Ian Cole, Zach Hyman, Claude Giroux and Ron Hainsey. Last spring’s committee involved just five players. It appears the committee is currently working more internally with the Players Association while the PA and the league hold higher-level discussions.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports the NHL envisions a 14-day training camp as the run-up to the start of the season. If it’s Jan. 1, that could cause some conflicts for players to spend time with their families during Christmas because of COVID-19 travel restrictions. It probably wouldn’t be a deal-breaker but it could become a topic of conversation.
Brooks adds NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr is steadfast that the union won’t accept salary proration for a season of fewer than 82 games. Meanwhile, sources claim three-to-five owners said they’d be unable to survive under these circumstances and would be better off not playing the season. He also said the league has pitched a further salary deferral to the PA rather than proration.
Players remain scattered across the globe while the return-to-play committee has yet to stage a meeting.
SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ken Campbell reports the league remains cautious in its approach to opening next season. As they did in this summer’s successful return-to-play playoff tournament, they’re taking their time and garnering as much information as possible before making firm announcements on a 2020-21 schedule.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the league is going with a January 1 start, their 14-day training camp will have to begin no later than Dec. 18. Last season’s seven non-playoff clubs were promised an earlier start of 7-to-10 days, which could see them begin on Dec. 8.
The return-to-play committee still has some time to hammer out an agreement for a Jan. 1 start but they must get started soon. It’s looking like the NHL and NHLPA bigwigs will work out the main issues and the committee could end up addressing secondary issues.
The players will definitely prefer another salary deferral over proration. That the league is willing to offer up deferral over proration indicates they don’t want labor strife to derail their plans for next season. As Seravalli pointed out, however, they’re probably going to have to give up something in return. It could be accepting a much higher deferral rate.
Any return-to-play plan, however, depends upon the course of the pandemic. The league and the players may want to start as soon as possible, but the growing number of cases throughout North America could push that start date into February or March.
IN OTHER NEWS…
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Proposed development around the SAP Center could force the San Jose Sharks to leave the arena. Team president Jonathan Becher said the Sharks don’t want to leave, but the city’s plans for developing the area surrounding the arena could make it difficult for fans to get to the area. It’s unclear if Becher’s statement means the Sharks would have to build a new arena or move to another city in the Bay Area.
THE ATHLETIC: Craig Custance reports Bobby Ryan admitted he was shocked when the Ottawa Senators informed him they were buying out his contract. He said the conversation lasted about a minute. “There’s not really much to say. What do you say, really? I said, “OK, thank you, good luck” and that’s it,” said Ryan.
Ryan also said he was impressed by the pitch of Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman. He indicated he chose the rebuilding Wings because he felt he still had some high-end hockey left in him and didn’t want to be a third- or fourth-line player. Yzerman told him he’d get the opportunity to skate on the top nine in Detroit.
He added the Wings GM said if Ryan’s having a good year and wants to move on and there’s interest in the winger at the trade deadline, they can sit down and discuss those things.
CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Malcolm Subban has an opportunity to become a starting goaltender with the Blackhawks. The club intends to make it a competition between Subban, Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen which will play out over the course of the season.
A look at seven teams that could weaponize their cap space plus an update on Mike Hoffman in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.
SPORTSNET: Ryan Dixon recently listed the Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators, Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, Columbus Blue Jackets, Florida Panthers, and Los Angeles Kings as seven teams that could use their cap space to target cap-strapped clubs looking to shed salary.
All have $11.5 million or more in cap room. Some have already put that available cash to good use, as the Wings acquired defenseman Marc Staal while the Senators landed goaltender Matt Murray.
Dixon noted the rumors linking the Predators to unrestricted free agent winger Mike Hoffman but felt if they were going to sign him it would’ve happened by now. He also wondered if the Devils would use their cap room to absorb a healthy chunk of P.K. Subban’s salary if it would land them a decent draft pick or prospect.
The Blue Jackets must re-sign Pierre-Luc Dubois, who’s a restricted free agent lacking arbitration rights. However, Dixon feels there could be enough space after he signs to perhaps make a bold move.
THE ATHLETIC: Adam Vingan mused over whether the Predators would weaponize their cap space. An obvious target is the Tampa Bay Lightning, who must shed salary to re-sign restricted free agents Anthony Cirelli, Mikhail Sergachev, and Erik Cernak. Trade options could include Alex Killorn or Yanni Gourde. Vingan also suggested trying to sign one of those RFAs to an offer sheet.
Vingan also suggested the Predators target Vegas Golden Knights winger Jonathan Marchessault. He also proposed taking a bad contract from the New York Islanders (such as Johnny Boychuk, Andrew Ladd or Leo Komarov) for picks and prospects, then burying the veteran in the minors.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those seven teams may have the cap space but that doesn’t mean they will target a club looking to dump salary. The Wings and Senators could wait until training camp to see if any teams get desperate to become cap compliant. For now, however, it seems like they’ve made their big moves.
Dixon made an interesting suggestion about the Devils picking up part of Subban’s $9 million annual salary-cap hit to facilitate a deal. At this stage, however, I believe they would prefer acquiring a player that can help them now rather than stocking up further on futures. That’s a move I can see them doing, provided they can drum up interest in Subban, whose stock has declined over the last couple of seasons.
The Jackets could go after another forward once they re-sign Dubois but I think shipping Josh Anderson to Montreal for Max Domi has addressed that issue. GM Jarmo Kekalainen might prefer leaving some cap space available for later in the season.
Panthers GM Bill Zito could also be operating under a cap ceiling lower than the league’s $81.5 million, which would explain why he hasn’t made a big splash yet. Kings GM Rob Blake could make another move or two but so far seems content building up his roster from within.
The Predators reportedly have a serious interest in Hoffman. Maybe general manager David Poile is considering other options, but he could be playing the waiting game in the hope the veteran winger lowers his asking price. And speaking of Hoffman…
THE SCORE: Brandon Maron cited The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reporting the offers Hoffman has received thus far are “bargain city.” However, his agent claims his client is willing to wait for the deal he believes he deserves.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Joe Haggerty reports the Boston Bruins are among a half-dozen teams interested in Hoffman. He also cited LeBrun’s report, noting the winger’s received one-year offers between $3.5 million and $4.5 million. Haggerty said it sounds like the Predators, Panthers, St. Louis Blues and Edmonton Oilers are also interested in Hoffman.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t expect Hoffman will put pen to paper with one of those clubs until around the start of training camp. Time will tell if he gets a one-year, $6 million deal or settles for less.
Has Henrik Lundqvist played his final game with the Rangers? What’s the latest Devils’ speculation? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.
NEW YORK POST: During his analysis of the Rangers’ 4-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 2 of their qualifying-round series, Larry Brooks wondered if goaltender Henrik Lundqvist played his final game for the Blueshirts. The long-time Rangers starter has appeared in 129 consecutive playoff games.
With the Rangers facing elimination today, Brooks speculates Igor Shesterkin could get the start if healthy or backup Alexandar Georgiev could get the call.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lundqvist didn’t play badly in Game 2, but he wasn’t as sharp as in Game 1. As a team, the Rangers have struggled against the Hurricanes’ smothering forecheck. Head coach David Quinn could opt for Shesterkin or Georgiev as part of a lineup shake-up for today’s crucial Game 3.
Lundqvist has one year remaining on his contract worth an annual average value of $8.5 million. He also carries a full no-movement clause. Since Shesterkin joined the lineup there’s been growing speculation the Rangers could ask him to waive his clause. Their other option is buying out his contract.
The Rangers need to free up the cap room to re-sign or replace Georgiev, Tony DeAngelo, Brendan Lemieux, and Ryan Strome. They’re slated to become restricted free agents with arbitration rights at the end of the season. Trading or buying out Lundqvist could be the only solution.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment, Corey Masisak was asked about the possibility of the New Jersey Devils moving defenseman P.K. Subban in the off-season. He doesn’t expect that will happen, suggesting Subban’s trade value is lower than it was a year ago when the Devils acquired him. His contract also runs through 2021-22 and carries an annual cap hit of $9 million. He doubts the Devils will give up on the blueliner after one bad season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Subban’s play declined over the past two seasons. Combine that with his cap hit and the Devils won’t find many takers unless they agree to pick up half of his AAV, and even then, they’ll probably have to add a sweetener.
Asked if Tampa Bay Lightning winger Alex Killorn would be a fit with the Devils, Masisak believes he’d be a good trade target, provided the Devils aren’t on his 16-team no-trade list. He also likes the fact Killorn has three years remaining on his contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Killorn would be a terrific addition among the Devils’ top-six forwards. The Lightning could shop him to free up cap space to re-sign Anthony Cirelli and Mikhail Sergachev. The sticking point, of course, is his modified no-trade, but if the Devils are on his list of preferred destinations, they should definitely explore that option.