Pandemic impacting NHL Training Camp for Prized Prospects
Details of tentative CBA extension, more details on the return-to-play plan, an update on the league’s COVID-19 testing, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
KEY DETAILS FROM TENTATIVE CBA EXTENSION
NHL.COM: The NHL and NHLPA yesterday reached an agreement in principle on a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for a four-year extension to the collective bargaining agreement. The extension, as well as the protocols for Phases 3 and 4 of the return-to-play plan, are subject to ratification by the league board of governors and the PA membership later this week.
Among the key details of the tentative CBA extension (as per TSN):
The agreement would expire on Sept. 15, 2026. It can be extended to 2027 if the escrow debts owed to the NHL team owners for 2019-20 exceed $125 million by the end of the deal,
The salary cap will be frozen at $81.5 million for 2020-21 and remain there until league revenue returns to $4.8 billion. After that, the cap will be determined by a new formula relying on actual hockey-related revenue (HRR) from two years ago and projected HRR for the immediately prior season,
An escrow cap will be implemented, with the players paying no more than 20 percent in 2020-21, 14 to 18 percent in 2021-22, 10 percent in 2022-23, and six percent annually for the final three seasons of the deal,
The players will defer 10 percent of their salary and signing bonuses for 2020-21, which will be returned to them in equal installments over each of the final three seasons of the agreement,
All front-loaded contracts will be limited to less than 50 percent variability between the highest and lowest compensation years,
No limits on signing bonuses,
The NHL will participate in the 2022 Beijing Olympics and the 2026 Milan Olympic pending negotiations with the IOC and IIHF,
The minimum salary will be $700k in 2020-21, rising to $750K for the next three seasons, $775K for 2024-25, and $800k in 2025-26.
Some notable new ones include:
The salary cap recapture penalty will not exceed the player’s normal salary-cap hit, but it will take longer to pay it back.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Call this the Shea Weber rule. As TSN’s Frank Seravalli explained, if Weber retired before his contract expired in 2025-26, the Nashville Predators would’ve been tagged with a cap recapture of over $24 million for that season because of the way Weber’s actual salary was structured. Now, they’ll face a cap recapture penalty of $7.86 million, but it will take them three additional seasons to pay that back.
Players on contracts expiring after 2020-21 are eligible to sign contract extensions beginning in 2021-22 three days following the ratification of the CBA extension,
Players with expiring contracts on teams not participating in the upcoming playoff tournament and those who opt-out of the tournament are eligible to sign contracts outside North America. However, those who opt-out won’t be permitted to return for the 2020-21 NHL season. Those on the non-playoff clubs that sign outside North America would be eligible to return if offered a new contract,
Prospect players can sign entry-level contracts but will not be eligible to play in the upcoming playoff tournament. They will be eligible to join their teams next season and will be considered one year closer to free agency.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That means Montreal Canadiens defenseman Alexander Romanov, Minnesota Wild forward Kirill Kaprizov, and New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin won’t be suiting up for their respective clubs in the playoff tournament.
NHL & NHLPA RELEASES PHASE 3 AND 4 RETURN-TO-PLAY DETAILS
NHL.COM: The league and the PA also released answers to key questions regarding the protocols for Phases 3 and 4 of their tentative return-to-play plan. As with the CBA extension, this plan is subject to ratification from the board of governors and PA membership.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Several of the key points were noted in yesterday’s morning coffee headlines.
THE NATIONAL POST: Michael Traikos reports Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious diseases physician based in Mississauga, was impressed with the NHL’s 47-page protocol list, especially those covering life in the two host cities of Edmonton and Toronto. “This plan could work. It is certainly a possibility,” he said. Chakrabarti doesn’t believe there’s any danger of the players spreading COVID-19 in those host cities. Once players are in the bubble there’s no getting out, plus there’s less chance of the virus getting in and infecting the players.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: No system is perfect and there’s always a risk of the coronavirus breaching that bubble. Nevertheless, the odds of that happening are considerably reduced because of the strict protocols for Phase 4.
Getting to Phase 4, however, will be a challenge. While the teams participating in the tournament will be under stricter protocols in Phase 3 than they currently are, they will still be traveling to and from their homes daily and interacting with members of the public, putting them at risk of contracting the virus. Speaking of which…
NHL.COM: The league provided their latest COVID-19 testing update, indicating nine more players have tested positive during Phase 2. Of over 2,900 tests of 396 players, 23 came back positive. That’s an increase of eight positives tests from players skating in Phase 2 protocols and one positive from a player outside that protocol. Those players have been in self-isolation and are following Health Canada and CDC guidelines.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Phase 3, which starts on July 13, will determine if the playoff tournament takes place. A big spike in tests over the next three weeks could postpone, delay, or cancel Phase 4.
IN OTHER NEWS…
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Kevin Hayes is this season’s winner of the Gene Hart Memorial Award.
SPORTSNET: It’s unlikely Calgary Flames defenseman Juuso Valimaki will participate in the playoff tournament. He missed the entire season to a knee injury, but playing in the tournament would make him eligible for next year’s expansion draft.
TORONTO SUN: Former NHL player Eddie Shack has been in and out of hospital battling cancer for the past eight months.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Shack is among the most popular personalities in hockey. I met him as a kid during the 1970s when he was doing promotional work for The Pop Shoppe and he couldn’t have been nicer. Many years later, he signed a stick for me at an NHL Oldtimers Game in Calgary. Here’s hoping “The Entertainer” pulls through.
The latest on the Sharks, Flames and Red Wings in today’s NHL rumor mill.
WILL THORNTON AND MARLEAU RETURN TO THE SHARKS?
THE ATHLETIC: Kevin Kurz expects Joe Thornton will return for another season with the San Jose Sharks. The delay in signing the 40-year-old center could be because the Sharks haven’t finished shaping their roster for the upcoming season. They still need depth at right wing and perhaps a more reliable backup goaltender.
Kurz is less assured about a possible reunion with Patrick Marleau. The former Shark agreed in June to be traded by the Toronto Maple Leafs to the Carolina Hurricanes, who bought out the final year of his contract.
Kurz believes there’s isn’t a “handshake-type agreement” between the Sharks and Marleau as there is with Thornton. Marleau isn’t a right winger and general manager Doug Wilson doesn’t like to add veteran players who would take away playing time from younger ones.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With over $4 million in salary-cap room, the Sharks have enough to bring back Thornton and Marleau on affordable one-year, bonus-heavy contracts.
Thornton’s return is assured. If Wilson finds a younger, cost-effective right wing via trade or free agency, that’ll put an end to any talk of a Marleau reunion.
UPDATE ON THE FLAMES DEFENSE
SPORTSNET: Eric Francis reports Juuso Valimaki’s knee injury changes Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving’s plans for T.J. Brodie. Treliving was shopping Brodie and nearly shipped the defenseman to Toronto for center Nazem Kadri but the latter refused to waive his no-trade clause. Kadri was later traded to the Colorado Avalanche.
With Treliving now seeking a replacement for Valimaki, Francis considers it likely “trade talk involving Brodie will now cease.” He expects Oliver Kylington should easily slide in Valimaki’s spot on the Flames blueline. Instead of moving Brodie to free up salary-cap space to re-sign Matthew Tkachuk, the focus could instead shift to trading winger Michael Frolik ($4.3 million).
THE HOCKEY NEWS: If Treliving opts to shop around for blueline depth, Jared Clinton suggests unrestricted free agents such as Ben Hutton or Joe Morrow. He also proposed contacting the St. Louis Blues about Joel Edmundson or Carl Gunnarsson, or shipping Frolik to the Los Angeles Kings for Derek Forbort.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Failing to trade Brodie this summer may be a blessing in disguise following Valimaki’s injury. Treliving doesn’t seem too concerned about finding a suitable replacement. If he seeks a more experienced and affordable option, he shouldn’t encounter much difficulty finding one via trade or free agency. He could also wait until after training camp or pre-season play to go that route.
LATEST ON THE WINGS DEFENSE
THE DETROIT NEWS: Ted Kulfan recently reported changes will be ongoing this season for the Red Wings defense corps. They’re waiting to see if veteran Niklas Kronwall will return or retire. Trevor Daley, Jonathan Ericsson, and Mike Green are all a year away from unrestricted free agent status. Kulfan doubts they have a future with the Wings. If they stay healthy, he expects they’ll likely be moved by the trade deadline if the Wings are out of playoff contention by then.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wings blueline was a work in progress before Steve Yzerman took over this spring as general manager. That work will continue throughout this season and into next summer. Don’t expect the Wings to get much back in return for Daley, Ericsson, or Green.
The Panthers will retire Roberto Luongo’s number, the Hurricanes re-sign Don Waddell, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
SUN-SENTINEL.COM: Roberto Luongo will become the first player in Florida Panthers history to have his number retired. The ceremony will be held on March 7, 2020, before a game against the Montreal Canadiens.
Luongo retired in June after 20 NHL seasons. He “ranks second in NHL history in games played by a goaltender (1,044), third in wins (489) and ninth in shutouts (77). He is one of only three goaltenders in NHL history to have played in 1,000 games.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A worthy honor for future Hall-of-Famer Luongo, who spent over half of his career with the Panthers. He’s their franchise leader for goalies in games played (572), wins (230), and shutouts (38).
NEWSOBSERVER.COM: The Carolina Hurricanes yesterday signed general manager and team president Don Waddell to a three-year contract extension. Waddell recently raised eyebrows by interviewing with the Minnesota Wild for their vacant GM role.
Waddell also said unrestricted free agent winger Justin Williams remains undecided over his plans.
THE ATHLETIC: With Waddell out of the running for the Wild GM job, the front-runners appear to be “former Philadelphia Flyers GM Ron Hextall, current Pittsburgh Penguins assistant GM Bill Guerin and current New Jersey assistant GM Tom Fitzgerald.”
The Wild are also reportedly interested in speaking with Columbus Blue Jackets associate GM Bill Zito and New York Rangers assistant GM Chris Drury. So far, they haven’t been granted permission to speak with either man.
CALGARY SUN: Flames defenseman Juuso Valimaki could be sidelined six-to-nine months after suffering “suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee while off-season training in Nokia.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Valimaki was expected to become a third-pairing regular on the Flames blueline this season. His absence is already raising speculation over how the Flames will address this situation. I’ll have more in the Rumors section.
THE SCORE: Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Cody Ceci and his common-law partner Jamie Thompson are being sued by a dinner-party guest who suffered second- and third-degree burns on May 2018. Thompson “tried to refill a burner on an outdoor tabletop fireplace and accidentally ignited Engel with flaming liquid fuel.”
ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes will be donating $20,000 to the Arizona Bobcats youth hockey team after a trailer containing their equipment was stolen on Sunday.