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.










Five NHL Salary Arbitration Hearings Worth Watching

Five NHL Salary Arbitration Hearings Worth Watching

 










NHL Rumor Mill – September 30, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – September 30, 2020

The latest on the Lightning, Oilers, Jets, Coyotes, Canucks and Senators in today’s NHL rumor mill

WHAT NEXT FOR THE LIGHTNING?

ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski wondered how the cap-strapped Tampa Bay Lightning will navigate the offseason following their Stanley Cup win. Only three defensemen (Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh and Braydon Coburn) are under contract for next season, with Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak restricted free agents while Kevin Shattenkirk, Zach Bogosian and Luke Schenn are among their unrestricted free agents. Center Anthony Cirelli is an RFA due for a big raise.

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Tyler Johnson (NHL Images).

Wyshynski observes the Lightning have $5.3 million in cap space. It’s expected they’ll have to move a veteran forward to free up cap space, with Tyler Johnson ($5 million annual value, no-trade clause) and Alex Killorn ($4.45 million AAV, modified no-trade) among the trade candidates.

TSN: Pierre LeBrun also mentioned Johnson as a trade candidate as well as center Yanni Gourde ($5.16 million). He points out both could be tough to move because of their full no-trade clauses.

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Mike McIntyre suggests the Winnipeg Jets attempt to trade for Cirelli. Noting the Lightning’s cap situation, he feels picks and/or prospects could be the return. Failing that, McIntyre suggests attempting to sign Cirelli to an offer sheet worth between $4.2 million and $6.3 million AAV.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lots of general managers will be interested in what Lightning GM Julien BriseBois will do to address his cap issue and re-sign Cirelli and Sergachev. Shopping one or two veteran forwards seems the likely play, though that could prove difficult if there isn’t much of a market for them or if interested clubs insist on a sweetener in the deal. Killorn’s lesser cap hit and modified no-trade makes him easier to move than Johnson and Gourde

An offer sheet for Cirelli is possible, provided he’s willing to sign one. If he does, the Bolts can spend over the cap ceiling by 10 percent in the offseason to match the offer, though they must be cap compliant when next season begins.

OILERS INTERESTED IN EKMAN-LARSSON, KUEMPER?

TSN: Darren Dreger reports the Edmonton Oilers are among the clubs with interest in Oliver Ekman-Larsson. The Arizona Coyotes’ defenseman carries a hefty contract ($8.25 million AAV through 2026-27, full no-movement clause), making it a difficult transaction for the Oilers. Dreger also adds the Boston Bruins in the mix.

Pierre LeBrun adds the Oilers are looking at goaltenders and believes they’ve spoken to the Coyotes about Darcy Kuemper. He also said they have shown interest in Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray and Carolina’s Petr Mrazek and could keep an eye on Jacob Markstrom’s contract talks with the Vancouver Canucks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Edmonton Journal’s David Staples doesn’t see any of those players coming to Edmonton because of the Oilers’ cap constraints. Unless GM Ken Holland intends to dump some salary to make room for one of those players, I agree with Staples’ take.

VIRTANEN ON THE MOVE?

TSN: Darren Dreger suggests the Vancouver Canucks might not have much choice but to trade Jake Virtanen. The 24-year-old winger is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. The Canucks would like to keep him but it could cost $3 million annually on a two-year deal. Dreger indicated other teams are interested in Virtanen.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Canucks have $14.2 million in cap space but they’re also trying to re-sign Jacob Markstrom and Tyler Toffoli, which will eat up a big chunk of their available cap payroll. Depending on how those negotiations go, they could be forced to shop Virtanen.

The Canucks could also shed salary to free up additional cap room. The Province’s Steve Ewen reports GM Jim Benning is rumored to be trying to move Loui Eriksson or Brandon Sutter. He noted Eriksson’s agent said he has permission from Benning to speak with other clubs about brokering a deal, though Ewen speculates that could also require packaging the winger with a sweetener like a draft pick or prospect.

LATEST ON THE SENATORS

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch suggested possible options for the Senators if they decide to bring in an experienced goaltender. Free-agent targets could include Vancouver’s Jacob Markstrom, Washington’s Braden Holtby, Vegas’ Robin Lehner, Calgary’s Cam Talbot, Dallas’ Anton Khudobin and the New York Islanders’ Thomas Greiss. Trade options include Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray, Arizona’s Darcy Kuemper and Carolina’s Petr Mrazek.

Garrioch also reports the Senators are willing to listen to offers for the fifth-overall pick in this year’s draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators have plenty of goaltending options to choose from and the cap space and trade assets to make it happen. It’ll be interesting to see what route they take.










NHL Offseason Lookahead – Vancouver Canucks

NHL Offseason Lookahead – Vancouver Canucks

 










NHL Rumor Mill – September 9, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – September 9, 2020

Could the Penguins trade Kris Letang? Are the Blackhawks trying to re-sign Corey Crawford? Could Wayne Simmonds join the Leafs? What’s the latest on the Canucks? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.

COULD THE PENGUINS TRADE LETANG?

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Rob Rossi reports Kris Letang would like to retire as a Pittsburgh Penguin but feels the club could try to trade him. Neither ownership nor management feels the club would be better without Letang and the return of Todd Reirden as an assistant coach could benefit the 33-year-old defenseman.

Nevertheless, Rossi cites multiple team sources saying Letang expects to be traded. League sources claim Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford was gauging the market value of the veteran blueliner but he’s not actively shopping him. Rutherford reportedly confided to associates that the right thing is for Letang, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to retire as Penguins-for-life.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t dismiss the possibility of Letang getting traded, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s suiting up with the Penguins next season.

Letang’s contract won’t be easy to move. He has two years remaining on his contract worth $7.25 million per season. He also has an 18-team no-trade list and a no-movement clause preventing him from being demoted to the minors. The flattened salary cap for 2020-21 will also affect his trade value.

I don’t fault Rutherford for exploring the trade market to see what’s out there for Letang. He probably doesn’t think he’ll find a suitable deal but it doesn’t hurt to consider that option. Maybe a club on the blueliner’s list of preferred trade destinations makes an offer too good to pass up.

BLACKHAWKS MAKE OFFER TO CRAWFORD

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Scott Powers reports the Chicago Blackhawks are believed to have offered Corey Crawford a one-year contract worth around $3.5 million. The 35-year-old goaltender is an unrestricted free agent on Oct. 9.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Crawford’s completing a six-year, $36-million contract worth $6 million annually, but he knows he’s not getting that much for an annual average value again. The netminder is also aware of the Hawks’ cap constraints. Maybe he takes the hometown discount on a one-year deal, especially if that $3.5-million offer is the base salary for a bonus-laden deal.

SIMMONDS EXPRESSES INTEREST IN JOING THE LEAFS

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Pierre LeBrun reports Wayne Simmonds believes the Toronto Maple Leafs are a team where he could have an impact right away. The 32-year-old winger is a UFA on Oct. 9 and spent last season split between the New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres. He recently moved his family north of Toronto and spends a lot of time in the city.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Simmonds also indicated he’s open to everything as free agency approaches. “Whoever wants to choose me, I’ll be waiting. I’ll definitely be ready to go,” he told LeBrun. He’s also aware of the cap constraints facing the Leafs and other teams for next season.

Injuries hampered Simmonds’ performance over the past two years, limiting his effectiveness as a power forward. Still, he could be an affordable signing for clubs seeking veteran grit and leadership. Maybe a cap-strapped club like the Leafs comes calling.

THE LATEST ON THE CANUCKS

THE PROVINCE: Patrick Johnston reports re-signing goaltender Jacob Markstrom is the top priority for Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning. It’s believed the Markstrom camp seeks over $6-million annually while the Canucks are believed to have countered with $5.5 million per season.

Re-signing Markstrom could affect the rest of the roster. Johnston also points out the Canucks are unlikely to keep Markstrom and promising goalie Thatcher Demko in next year’s expansion draft.

Johnston also reports Jake Virtanen could be shopped in the trade market. The 24-year-old winger is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights, but with Benning hoping to re-sign pending UFA winger Tyler Toffoli, Virtanen would be demoted to third- or fourth-line duty. Benning indicated they’ve been patient with Virtanen but was expecting more production from the winger, especially in the playoffs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: With $64.4 million invested in 16 players next season, a deal worth over $6 million annually for Markstrom will bite deeply into the Canucks’ remaining cap space. So will a new contract for Toffoli.

Trading Virtanen would allow money that would’ve gone to him be put toward re-signing Toffoli or another player. However, Benning still must shed salary to absorb new contracts for Markstrom and Toffoli and leave sufficient room for other moves.

Benning’s reportedly attempted to move winger Loui Eriksson ($6-million annually through 2021-22) without success. Brandon Sutter ($4.35 million) could be another trade candidate. The Canucks GM might get some wiggle room if Micheal Ferland ($3.5 million AAV through 2022-23) starts the season on long-term injury reserve, but he’ll have to make cap room for Ferland’s return.










NHL Rumor Mill – September 7, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – September 7, 2020

Will the Canucks re-sign Jacob Markstrom? Could the Predators pursue Taylor Hall? What could the Wild do during the offseason?

WHAT WILL THE CANUCKS DO WITH MARKSTROM?

TORONTO SUN: Steve Simmons mused over what the Vancouver Canucks will do with Jacob Markstrom. The 30-year-old goaltender is an unrestricted free agent this fall. Simmons points out they also have promising Thatcher Demko and must expose a goalie in next year’s expansion draft. He wonders if the Colorado Avalanche might pursue Markstrom if he hits the open market.

THE PROVINCE: Patrick Johnston reports the Canucks have $15 million in salary-cap space for next season to spend on six players to fill out their roster. They’ll have to find an experienced backup for Demko if they part ways with Markstrom. If they re-sign Markstrom, Demko could become a fascinating trade chip.

Johnston also wondered what Canucks general manager Jim Benning will do with Jake Virtanen. The 24-year-old winger is a fan favorite and a restricted free agent, but he has arbitration rights and struggled with consistency. Benning must also prioritize his other free agents, including UFAs like Tyler Toffoli and Chris Tanev and RFAs Troy Stecher and Tyler Motte.

Jim Benning could also look at a cost-cutting move or two to free up cap space to re-sign key players. Candidates could include Loui Eriksson, Brandon Sutter, Jay Beagle or Sven Baertschi.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Thomas Drance also examined the Canucks’ free agent and salary-cap issues for the offseason. If they can free up cap space, he feels they must bring in a top-four, right-handed defenseman and upgrade their third-line center position.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This will be an interesting offseason for the Canucks. How Benning addresses his club’s needs and cap issues will have far-reaching consequences. The goaltending is the priority. Simmons makes a good point about the risk of losing one of them in the expansion draft.

Some might argue passing on Markstrom after watching Demko’s playoff performance, but three outstanding games isn’t a large enough body of work to crown him as their starter going forward. On the other hand, this year’s goalie market is a deep one and they could bring in a quality veteran at a reasonable price to tutor Demko if they part ways with Markstrom.

COULD THE PREDATORS SIGN TAYLOR HALL?

THE ATHLETIC: (subscription required): Adam Vingan was asked in a recent mailbag segment about Scott Burnside suggesting the Nashville Predators as a destination for Taylor Hall because of his connection with coach John Hynes. The Arizona Coyotes left wing is this summer’s top UFA forward and played well for Hynes during their time with the New Jersey Devils.

Citing Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston suggesting Hall could a stable, winning situation where he fits in well over filling up his bank account, Vingan doesn’t see the Predators meeting that requirement. He cautions against signing an aging player at this stage.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t see Predators GM David Poile making a big splash in this year’s UFA market. His club has $72.2 million tied up in 17 players. Poile will try to shed center Kyle Turris’ $6 million per season cap hit through 2023-24 but that won’t be easy. He could be forced to absorb a big chunk of Turris’ cap hit or buy him out and carry $2 million in annual dead-cap space through 2027-28.

LATEST ON THE WILD

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In a recent mailbag segment, Michael Russo was asked if the Minnesota Wild will do any contract buyouts. He felt there’s a chance, suggesting if they did so for goalie Devan Dubnyk or center Victor Rask it would be to create roster spots rather than clear cap space. He also felt Alex Stalock would only fetch a mid-round draft pick if placed on the trade block. Russo doesn’t believe GM Bill Guerin will pursue Vancouver’s Jacob Markstrom if he becomes available in the free-agent market.

In a second mailbag segment, Russo noted the Wild have to protect Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon in next year’s expansion draft because of their no-movement clauses. If they decide to protect just three defensemen, this is the offseason to move Matt Dumba or Jonas Brodin unless they intend to move one of them before the 2021 trade deadline. Brodin has a year left on his contract and could be the one to get traded if he proves too expensive to re-sign.

Russo is against trading Brodin to Montreal for Max Domi because he doesn’t feel Domi can address the Wild’s need for a first-line center. Asked if Guerin could pursue Calgary Flames center Sean Monahan, Russo feels the asking price would be steep. If Monahan is available, the Flames will want a first-line center to replace him.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I expect Guerin will be busy in the offseason. He indicated he wasn’t happy with his goaltending and pointed out his club’s need for a first-line center.

He could move Stalock or Dubnyk and promote promising goalie Kaapa Kahkonen. Russo said he could seek them signing Braden Holtby or Cam Talbot to buy Kahkonen some time if they part ways with Dubnyk, but those two could prove expensive signings, especially Holtby.

Some in the Montreal media suggested swapping Domi for Brodin or Dumba. I think Guerin shares Russo’s opinion of the Habs’ center. Domi could be a good second-line center but he’s not the proven No.1 the Wild need. Guerin also sought to tamp down the expectations of Wild fans calling for him to pursue a first-line center, pointing out teams typically don’t part with that type of player.