NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 25, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 25, 2020

The proposed Jan. 1 start of the 2020-21 season in jeopardy, four Blue Jackets test positive for COVID-19, plus updates on Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

LATEST RETURN-TO-PLAY NEWS

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports the lack of progress over the last five days to draft protocols could jeopardize the NHL’s proposed Jan. 1 start date for the 2020-21 season. Well-placed sources tell Brooks of continuing adamant, widespread resistance among the NHLPA membership to the league’s recent requests to renegotiate the terms of the recent CBA extension to increase the escrow and salary deferral rates.

The league made those requests citing liquidity issues. While the players’ share of hockey-related revenue cannot exceed 50 percent, Brooks said the adoption of annual escrow caps combined with uncoupling the salary cap from actual HRR has ended the assurance of a yearly 50-50 split.

Brooks notes the 10 percent salary deferral for this season was to be repaid without interest in three equal annual installments over the final three years of the extension. He wonders if the players would be amenable to adjusting the agreement if the league agrees to repay all deferred money with interest.

The stalled negotiations suggest a 48-game schedule beginning the third week in January appears more likely. The NHL returned from the 1994-95 lockout on Jan 20 and from the 2012-13 lockout on Jan. 19. Brooks reports the league remains focused on playing in home arenas with or without fans in attendance despite recent positive COVID-19 tests among two NHL teams.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHL was facing a tight schedule to meet a suitable timetable for a Jan. 1 start well before the recent lull in negotiations with the PA.

They need a 14-day training camp period in the run-up to the start of the season while last season’s seven non-playoff clubs were promised an extra seven-to-10 days of camp. Many players remain scattered across North American and Europe with those returning to Canadian clubs needing to self-isolate for 14 days. The players could also be reluctant to take part in training camp during the Christmas holidays.

The league and the PA were hoping for a Jan. 1 start in order to stage a 60-game schedule. If they cannot hammer out an agreement by the end of this week, they’ll have to push that start date to late January or early February and consider adopting a shorter schedule.

TORONTO STAR: Kevin McGran believes the prospect of a new US television agreement next season brings the promise of the NHL playing this season. The current contract with NBC Sports expires at the end of 2020-21.

Playing this season means the league could enter into lucrative new deals with a diverse group of broadcasters and/or streamers starting in ’21-’22. That includes traditional TV networks like NBC, cable networks like ESPN and Fox, and streamers such as DAZN and Amazon Prime.

The effect of COVID-19 upon league revenues could result in a less fruitful bidding war than anticipated. However, McGran points out Major League Baseball just signed a seven-year extension with Turner Sports worth a 65 percent increase annually over its previous deal with the broadcaster.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As the saying goes, it’s all about the Benjamins. That’s one of the main reasons why the NHL and the NHLPA are keen to return to play as soon as possible. That’s why commissioner Gary Bettman reportedly believes canceling the season would damage the league’s long-term health.

SPORTSNET: The Columbus Blue Jackets announced “several players” tested positive for COVID-19. Those players immediately began to quarantine and the club closed its off-ice facilities at Nationwide Arena beginning Nov. 16. This news comes a day after the Vegas Golden Knights announced four players tested positive.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This will be an ongoing concern for the NHL’s efforts to stage a 2020-21 season. Teams are following health and safety protocols similar to those in use prior to the 2020 playoffs but it doesn’t make the players immune from the coronavirus.

Edmonton Oiler captain Connor McDavid is training with Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews in Arizona (NHL Images).

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid joined Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews in Arizona earlier this month. The two superstars have skated together four days a week. They’ve been joined in recent weeks by several NHL players, including Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews and Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Players have been taking part in informal voluntary workouts and on-ice training throughout North America and Europe in preparation for whatever format the ’20-’21 schedule will be.

THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning said his players are waiting to see when training camp begins. He said it doesn’t make sense to bring everyone to Vancouver right now to go through a two-week quarantine, only to have them return home for Christmas and then go through another quarantine when they return.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Everything’s in a holding pattern right now for all NHL teams. Because of the health and safety protocols, they can’t bring their players back in anticipation of a December training camp when they don’t know if that’s even going to happen.

OTHER NOTABLE NHL HEADLINES

NHL.COM: Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel believes the club did an “awesome job” with its offseason moves. Those include adding left wing Taylor Hall and centers Eric Staal and Cody Eakin.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens center Phillip Danault said he’s had no contract talks with the club and expects to enter the final season of his current deal without an extension. He said he’ll see what happens, leaving it up to general manager Marc Bergevin.

Danault clarified that he never said he wanted to be the club’s full-time first-line center but the two-way center doesn’t want to be placed into just one role. Pat Hickey believes the Canadiens’ offseason additions of Tyler Toffoli and Josh Anderson means Danault will likely remain with linemates Brendan Gallagher and Tomas Tatar.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Danault’s future with the Canadiens will depend on the development of promising centers Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. If they outperform Danault, this season could be his last with the Habs.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Former NHL player Daniel Carcillo recently told HBO’s Real Sports that psychedelic drugs helped him cope with the aftereffects of brain trauma suffered during his playing career.

WINNIPEG SUN: Jets prospect Dylan Samberg was involved in a multi-vehicle accident in Minnesota that left him unhurt but sent four other people to hospital with life-threatening injuries.

TSN: The NHL is embroiled in a legal fight with several insurance companies refusing to pay most of the costs related to the league’s concussion lawsuit and the settlement reached with retirement players.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Former Blackhawks forward Fred Sasakamoose, one of the first Indigenous players in the NHL, passed away yesterday at age 86 from COVID-19. Sasakamoose played 11 games with the Blackhawks in 1953-54 and was a pioneer and role model for Indigenous and Native American players. Sasakamoose was inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame in 2007 and received the Order of Canada in 2017.

AZCENTRAL.COM: The Arizona Coyotes mourning the passing of nine-year-old fan Leighton Accardo, who passed away yesterday following a long battle with cancer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Sasakamoose’s family, friends and former teammates, and to the Accardo family and the Coyotes’ organization.










NHL Rumor Mill – November 12, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – November 12, 2020

The latest on Johnny Gaudreau and Mike Hoffman plus an update on the Blackhawks in today’s NHL rumor mill.

NHL.COM: In a recent mailbag segment, Tracey Myers was asked about the trade rumors surrounding Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau and if a move to the Philadelphia Flyers would help his production.

Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau was the subject of trade speculation (NHL Images).

Myers acknowledged last season’s dip in Gaudreau’s production but believes he’ll bounce back in 2020-21. She noted the winger has two years remaining on his contract and his desire to stay in Calgary. While there might be Philadelphia fans who’d welcome seeing the Salem, NJ native in a Flyers jersey, Myers doubts the Flames are ready to move him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There were plenty of calls from many of the Flames faithful demanding Gaudreau be traded following the club’s disappointing performance in the 2020 playoffs. However, Flames general manager Brad Treliving shot down that notion and defending his embattled scorer. I agree with Myers’ take, but that situation could change if Gaudreau has another sub-par performance or the Flames make another early postseason exit.

Myers was also asked if the St. Louis Blues could sign free-agent winger Mike Hoffman to a cheap, one-year contract, and if he’d be a good fit in the tight Blues locker room.

She noted they found sufficient offense when winger Vladimir Tarasenko missed most of last season. With Tarasenko sidelined again with shoulder surgery for five months, she suggested inking Hoffman to replace some of his offense might be worth looking into. Hoffman is willing to accept a one-year contract and Myers feels he’d be a good fit with the Blues.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Blues GM Doug Armstrong didn’t rule out making another addition via free agency but suggested it might not make sense dollar-wise. Cap Friendly indicates the Blues sit above the $81.5 million cap by over $1.175 million with defenseman Vince Dunn still to sign.

Armstrong gets some cap relief by placing Tarasenko ($7.5 million) and Alex Steen ($5.75 million) on long-term injury reserve, but he’ll have to clear cap room when they return to the lineup at some point during the season. Hoffman is also believed seeking $6 million on a one-year deal, which could prove too expensive for the Blues to absorb.

Asked if the Chicago Blackhawks could find a buyer for one of their four big contracts, Myers believes Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook will finish their careers in Chicago.

Toews, Kane and Keith are signed through 2022-23, Seabrook through 2023-24. They all have full no-movement clauses. She noted Toews recently said he has no interest in playing anywhere else and would be surprised if Kane and Keith felt differently. The Blackhawks have given no indication they’re trading Seabrook. Given his contract, Myers considers it unlikely.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Maybe one or more of those four will feel differently in a couple of years if the rebuilding Blackhawks haven’t made sufficient progress. For now, I don’t expect either of them to be changing teams. Their contracts remain tough to move and their no-movement clauses give them full control over their futures.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 28, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 28, 2020

Check out the latest notable contract signings plus an update on the Penguins in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE DENVER POST: The Colorado Avalanche signed Devon Toews to a four-year, $16.4 million contract. The annual average cap hit is $4.1 million. The 26-year-old defenseman will earn $2.35 million in 2020-21, $3.55 million in 2021-22, $4.6 million in 2022-23 and $5.9 million in 2023-24.

Colorado Avalanche sign Devon Toews to a four-year contract (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Avalanche acquired Toews earlier this month from the New York Islanders. Avs general manager Joe Sakic praised him as a “smart, two-way, puck-moving defenseman who is a durable defender and is excellent in transition”.

Toews is getting a significant raise over the $700K per season of his previous contract. Like a number of contracts signed during this offseason, his deal is backloaded to pay him more in actual salary in the latter years as league revenue is expected to increase.

THE DETROIT NEWS: An arbiter has awarded Tyler Bertuzzi a salary of $3.5 million for 2020-21. The 25-year-old Red Wings forward sought $4.25 million while the club offered $3.15 million. He earned $1.4 million last season. He will be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights at the end of next season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bertuzzi was going to get a substantial raise given his performance over the last two seasons. It’s curious that he and the Wings needed arbitration to sort this out considering how narrow the gap was between them. It’ll be interesting to see if Bertuzzi goes that route again next year.

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: The Carolina Hurricanes avoided arbitration with Haydn Fleury, signing the 24-year-old defenseman to a two-year contract worth an annual average value of $1.3 million.

NEW YORK POST: The Islanders and winger Josh Ho-Sang avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, two-way deal worth $700K at the NHL level.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ho-Sang requested a trade last year but the Isles couldn’t find any takers. This could be his last chance to stick with the franchise.

WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets signed restricted free agent forward Jansen Harkins to a two-year contract worth $725K per season.

OTTAWA SUN: The Senators signed forward Filip Chlapik to a one-year, two-way contract worth $750K at the NHL level.

THE PROVINCE: Former Vancouver Canucks defenseman Oscar Fantenberg has signed with KHL club SKA St. Petersburg.

THE SCORE: cites The Athletic reporting the Pittsburgh Penguins are exploring the possibility of hiring former Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon in some capacity.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins could also be considering bringing back Jason Botterill, who was fired as Buffalo Sabres GM earlier this year.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 25, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – October 25, 2020

More details on what next season might look like, update salary-arbitration schedule, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks provides more tidbitS on what next season might look like following the NHL’s meeting with general managers on Friday.

When will the NHL return with full arenas? (NHL.com)

The objective remains to start on Jan. 1 and playing a full 82-game schedule with full arenas but the league knows that’s unlikely. It will continue monitoring the course of COVID-19, travel restrictions between Canada and the United States, and regulations regarding large indoor gatherings to determine which teams could allow fans in arenas and how many.

A shorter schedule and playing in several hub cities require authorization from the league and the NHL Players’ Association. Players and staff wouldn’t be segregated from the general public but could be expected to follow protocols similar to those of Major League Baseball during their 2020 season.

Groups of teams could shuttle into designated hub cities for two-three weeks, then return to their home cities for a week of practice before heading to the next hub. There could be a geographical realignment of divisions, including an all-Canadian division.

Training camps would be 14 days and limited to 35 players. The seven clubs that didn’t qualify for the 2020 return-to-play would have an additional seven-to-10 days. Each team would play three to four exhibition games.

Brooks also reported team facilities are currently allowed to be open under Phase 2 restrictions for up to 12 players on the ice at the same time. Players would be tested twice weekly and are asked not to skate in other arenas once they’re “in-market”. Most players have yet to be “in-market” because they’re training at home awaiting definitive word on the training camp schedule.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Nothing has been decided yet for training camp or next season’s schedule. That’s to be determined by a return-to-play committee involving the league and the PA which is expected to begin meeting soon. Brooks’ report, and those from TSN, Sportsnet and The Athletic since Friday give us at least some idea of what’s under consideration.

NHLPA: Twelve of the 26 players who filed for salary arbitration have avoided hearings by reaching agreement on new contracts with their respective teams. Those still scheduled for hearings include Detroit’s Tyler Bertuzzi (today), Buffalo’s Linus Ullmark, Sam Reinhart and Victor Olofsson, Colorado’s Devon Toews, the New York Rangers’ Ryan Strome and the New York Islanders’ Ryan Pulock. The final date of hearings is Nov. 8.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman yesterday reported Ullmark seeks $4.1 million while the Sabres countered with $1.8 million. Big gap to close there.

CALGARY SUN: The Flames signed free-agent winger Josh Leivo to a one-year, $875K contract. He joins former Vancouver Canucks teammates Jacob Markstrom, Chris Tanev and Louis Domingue who signed with the Flames this month.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ladies and gentlemen, your Calgary Canucks, er, Flames!










How Will The Blackhawks Rebuild Affect Their Veteran Core?

How Will The Blackhawks Rebuild Affect Their Veteran Core?

 










NHL Rumor Mill – October 23, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – October 23, 2020

The latest on the Blackhawks and Avalanche in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: Mark Lazerus reports the Chicago Blackhawks’ core of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook isn’t going anywhere anytime soon as the club undergoes a rebuild.

Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith (NHL Images).

The contracts of Toews and Kane ($10.5 million annually through 2022-23 with full no-movement clauses) are largely untradeable plus they both want to stay with the Blackhawks. Seabrook’s injury history and his full no-movement clause could also keep him in Chicago. However, Lazerus speculates maybe a trade with the expansion Seattle Kraken next summer could be worked out if the blueliner agrees to waive his clause to be nearer his home in Richmond, British Columbia.

Lazerus speculates Keith could be the most likely to be moved. He carries a reasonable $5.538-million AAV but will earn over $6 million in actual salary over the remaining three years of his deal. He also has a full no-movement clause but at 37 doesn’t have as much time to wait on a rebuild.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lazerus emphasizes he’s merely speculating and isn’t saying any of those four will be traded anytime soon. A lot can happen over the remaining three years of the respective contracts of Toews, Kane and Keith and the four years on Seabrook’s contract.

Nevertheless, trying to move any of them in the current economic climate would be very difficult even if they were willing to accept a trade. Toews and Kane would attract considerable interest if they hit the trade block but the Blackhawks would have to pick up a big chunk of their respective cap hits or take back a significant toxic contract to facilitate a deal.

THE DENVER POST: Mike Chambers recently noted the Colorado Avalanche were sitting with around $5.2 million in salary-cap space following their recent re-signing of Tyson Jost to a one-year deal. They still must re-sign defenseman Devon Toews, who was recently acquired from the New York Islanders.

Chambers also believes the Avs need to add another defenseman and a physical veteran depth forward to add some toughness to their checking lines.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Toews’ arbitration hearing is slated for Oct. 31. Cap Friendly indicates he’s coming off a two-year, $1.4 million contract and will seek a significant raise over his $700K AAV.

If general manager Joe Sakic signs Toews for around $2.5 million annually on a short-term deal it should leave enough to bring in a couple of inexpensive UFAs to address those other needs and leave a bit of wiggle room under the cap for other moves during the season.