NHL Offseason Lookahead – Carolina Hurricanes
What’s next for the Arizona Coyotes, Chicago Blackhawks, and Carolina Hurricanes now that they’ve been eliminated from the playoffs? Read on for the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.
ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski wondered if the Arizona Coyotes will re-sign winger Taylor Hall, whose efforts to land a lucrative long-term contract could be affected by the flat salary cap for next season. Team ownership met with the pending UFA before the postseason began, but the club only has $1.51 million in cap space for next season.
Wyshynski wondered if the Nashville Predators might be interested as they need a shakeup following another disappointing postseason. He also noted the Coyotes need to bolster their anemic offense.
AZCOYOTESINSIDER.COM (subscription required): Craig Morgan suggests the Coyotes flawed, tapped-out roster could need another rebuild, pointing out they were overmatched in skill and scoring in the playoffs. They lack a true No.1 center, scoring punch, and physicality at forward and on the blueline.
Efforts to acquire young talent will be hampered by a lack of a first- and third-round pick in this year’s draft. Morgan doesn’t expect pending UFAs Brad Richardson and Carl Soderberg will return and speculates players with one year on their contracts, such as Derek Stepan, Antti Raanta, and Alex Goligoski could be shopped.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Difficult decisions await new general manager Steve Sullivan. They must attempt to convince Hall to re-sign, but even if he won’t get as much as he would’ve before COVID-19 flattened the salary cap, the Coyotes must shed salary to keep him.
Hall will likely test the market if the Coyotes opt to rebuild again. However, I don’t see him landing with the Predators unless they can dump some salary. They’ve got over $72 million committed to 17 players.
ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan reports the Chicago Blackhawks could face another off-season salary cap crunch with veteran starting goalie Corey Crawford an unrestricted free agent and RFAs Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Strome due for raises. She also said there’s some buzz around the league that this could be it for general manager Stan Bowman and head coach Jeremy Colliton.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Ben Pope believes the goalie situation remains murky, the defense has some talent but little cohesion, and their bottom-six forwards were sub-par.
CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Phil Thompson believes the Blackhawks will be hard-pressed to go anywhere without Crawford. They have no one in their system capable of taking over as their starting goalie.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Mark Lazerus and Scott Powers wondered what the future holds for Brent Seabrook in the wake of two hip surgeries and shoulder surgery earlier this year. He has an unmovable contract worth $6.875 million annually for the next four seasons. Trying to trade him would mean including a key young player they cannot afford to give up. Andrew Shaw also faces an uncertain future as concussion injuries mount for the 29-year-old forward.
Lazerus and Powers expect Olli Maatta and Zack Smith to be bought out, freeing up a combined $5.5 million for next season. They also wondered about Alex Nylander’s place in the lineup.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Blackhawks have over $74 million tied up in 19 players next season. If Seabrook and Shaw both start next season on long-term injury reserve, it would give them over $10.7 million in cap flexibility, enough to re-sign Crawford, Kubalik, and Strome and still leave a little wiggle room for other moves.
Seabrook, however, remains determined to return, as could Shaw if he feels he can continue his playing career. That could lead to buyouts for Maatta and Smith.
Crawford seems willing to finish his playing career in Chicago. The 35-year-old netminder could ink a one-year, bonus-laden deal with a low base salary ($2.5 – $3 million) to provide the Hawks with a bit of breathing space. Kubalik and Strome will get raises but could be signed to affordable short-term deals with promises of bigger rewards ahead.
Upsetting the Edmonton Oilers in the qualifying round and the emergence of young players like Kubalik, Strome, Alex DeBrincat, Kirby Dach, and Adam Boqvist could give Bowman and Colliton a reprieve. Nevertheless, the front-office shakeups earlier this year suggest they’re on notice.
ESPN.COM: Emily Kaplan speculates the Carolina Hurricanes could part ways with one or two of their pending UFA defensemen like Sami Vatanen, Joel Edmundson, or Trevor van Riemsdyk. She also wonders if Justin Williams has played his final NHL game and expects the budget-conscious Hurricanes to stick with their affordable goalie tandem of Petr Mrazek and James Reimer for one more season. Both are signed through 2020-21.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Luke DeCock also wondered if the 38-year-old Williams has come to the end of his playing career. He feels the Hurricanes lack an intimidating presence on their blueline. He thinks they’re built to make the playoffs but the Boston Bruins have shown them in successive postseasons what it takes to become a Stanley Cup contender.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: According to Cap Friendly, the Hurricanes have over $72 million invested in 16 players, with RFAs Warren Foegele and Haydn Fleury also due for new contracts.
Those two will be affordable short-term signings, as could Edmundson if they want to retain some snarl on defense, but they won’t have enough to go shopping for an established starting goalie or to bring in some physical leadership. They could make it work for Williams if he wants to come back but I think this was his last hurrah.
NHLPA executive board approves tentative CBA, three games per day are planned for the playoff tournament, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
LATEST CBA AND RETURN-TO-PLAY NEWS
NHLPA: announced its executive board (which includes the 31 player representatives) approved the tentative extension to the collective bargaining agreement. It moves today to a ratification vote by the full PA membership. The results will be announced on Friday, July, 10.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The CBA extension is packaged with the return-to-play plan that requires the approval of the players and the NHL board of governors. A simple majority by the PA membership is needed to approve the CBA extension. Despite recent reports suggesting some players weren’t happy with the process of negotiations, this package is expected to be approved.
No word yet when the board of governors will vote. That will require a two-thirds majority but it is also expected to sail through.
TSN: Bob McKenzie reports the return-to-play plan will see three games a day in both Edmonton and Toronto with local start times at noon, 4 pm and 8 pm. Given the two-hour time difference between those cities, it means six games spread over 15 hours per day, perhaps longer if games go into overtime.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Talk about hockey overdose! My wife is telling me to enjoy the rest of this month because she knows she won’t see much of me in August and September. That’s assuming COVID-19 doesn’t derail the planned tournament.
The seeding games involving the top-four clubs in each conference during the qualifying round won’t go into unlimited overtime to decide a winner. They’ll instead follow the regular season rules of a brief overtime period followed by a shootout if necessary.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The 16 teams involved in the qualifying round will be under playoff overtime rules.
McKenzie also reports the league has the power to deem players unfit to play if they think there’s a higher risk of that player becoming extremely ill if they contract COVID-19. He cites Montreal Canadiens’ center Max Domi and New York Rangers winger Kaapo Kakko as examples. Both are type 1 diabetics with celiac disease. To the best of McKenzie’s knowledge, Domi and Kakko intend to play, but doctors will have to sign off on that first.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Carolina Hurricanes winger Justin Williams has concerns over the coronavirus, but he’s still keen to contend for the Stanley Cup. “I didn’t come back to play 20 games,” said Williams during a video media call. “I came back for a chance to win the Stanley Cup.”
Williams also stressed the need for the players to take responsibility to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19.
“You need to tighten up the bubble of people you’re hanging out with,” Williams said. “You need make your inner circle is pretty darn small because what you do affects everybody else.
“That’s pretty much the basis of what a team is anyway. You’re only as strong as your weakest link, but at this point your weakest link can take down your whole team.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s probably going to be the approach for all the teams throughout Phase 3. Despite the increase in detection, disinfection, and social-distancing protocols during the phase, the players will still be at risk because they’re still living at home, traveling to and from their team arenas and training facilities, and still in contact with the general public.
PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW: Seth Rorabaugh provides further details about the league’s protocols for Phases 3 and 4.
Some of the noteworthy Phase 3 rules include the independent media being allowed at team facilities but prohibited from direct contact with the players, the players being discouraged from socializing with one another outside team facilities, and tighter restrictions on commonly-used items and food.
In Phase 4, everyone must use league-provided and approved transportation with the secure zone. There are detailed guidelines on the use of masks and face coverings, and a limited number of media allowed access to the games, with interviews conducted remotely. Speaking of the media…
CBC: Broadcasters and print journalists still have questions over how they’re going to cover the playoff tournament in the two host cities. Rob Corte, VP of Sportsnet and NHL Production, said those details have yet to be finalized. Frank Seravalli, president of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, said the situation remains in flux.
It’s believed the broadcasts will be handled like the Olympics, with only cameramen, technicians, and production staff allowed inside the bubble while commentators call the games elsewhere from a live feed.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The media won’t have the usual access during these two phases that they enjoy in normal situations. It will be challenging to provide the usual in-depth coverage. The teams might prefer the absence of media intrusion, especially during and immediately following the games.
ESPN.COM: Rene Fasel, president of the International Ice Hockey Federation, doesn’t expect any hurdles in negotiations with the league regarding its intention to return to the Winter Olympics. Issues such as health insurance, travel costs, and marketing rights must be worked out before NHL players can participate.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The IIHF desperately wanted the NHL to take part in the 2018 Winter Games, even offering to pick up the tab for travel, insurance, and so on.
IN OTHER NEWS…
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: The Blackhawks released a statement indicating they intend to keep their name and logo but are committed to raising the bar even higher in their efforts to increase awareness of Native American culture. The statement comes amid discussions by the NFL’s Washington Redskins and MLB’s Cleveland Indians about changing their names.
TSN: The NHLPA will be in court today attempting to dismiss a lawsuit by a former employee alleging the cover-up of more than $100K from union funds by one of its executives between 2008 and 2019.
A look at several veterans who could face retirement in today’s NHL rumor mill.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: Steven Ellis lists Dallas Stars winger Corey Perry and Minnesota Wild center Mikko Koivu among six pending unrestricted free agents that may have played their final NHL games if the league cancels the remainder of this season and the playoffs. Nashville Predators defenseman Dan Hamhuis, Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard, Pittsburgh Penguins winger Patrick Marleau, and Carolina Hurricanes winger Justin Williams round out his list.
Perry’s low production (21 points) makes it hard to imagine another team signing him after this season. Injuries have hampered Koivu, who’s slipped down the Wild’s depth chart. He’s also shown no interest in playing elsewhere. Injuries have also taken a toll on Hamhuis’ play.
Howard’s struggles in recent years leads Ellis to suggest a club would be desperate to take a chance on the veteran netminder. Marleau didn’t manage much offense with the Penguins after being traded to Pittsburgh last month. Williams put up decent numbers following his return from a half-season hiatus, but his two-way play was rusty and his ice time reduced from last season.
NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien recently looked at which NHL players may have played their final games if the league doesn’t return to action this season.
He also notes Koivu’s Wild-or-nothing position could make things tricky for the veteran center. He also believes the Stars’ one-year gamble on Perry hasn’t worked out. However, Williams could still be an affordable option if he decides to return next season. For teams with flexibility, a player like Marleau, Toronto’s Jason Spezza or Washington’s Ilya Kovalchuk might be worthwhile signings.
Turning to defensemen, O’Brien suggests injuries could force the end of the careers of Chicago’s Brent Seabrook, Dallas’ Roman Polak, Detroit’s Jonathan Ericsson, and Trevor Daley. He also hopes St. Louis Blues rearguard Jay Bouwmeester hangs up his skates following his health scare last month. He feels Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara is a “play as long as you want” option, while Hamhuis and Ottawa’s Ron Hainsey could remain good veteran options.
Among the goaltenders, Anaheim’s Ryan Miller could get nudged out the door. O’Brien wondered if Henrik Lundqvist would accept a backup role if the New York Rangers buy him out. He speculates Howard might accept less money and a reduced role to remain in the NHL. Ottawa’s Craig Anderson and Edmonton’s Mike Smith are aging and struggled in recent seasons.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the NHL cancels this season, it will rob those on Ellis’ and O’Brien’s lists the opportunity for a last hurrah.
I think Perry, Koivu, Howard, Hamhuis, Miller, Anderson, Polak, Ericsson, and Daley have probably played their final NHL games. Bouwmeester’s cardiac incident last month will probably bring his playing days to an end.
Lundqvist’s situation will be interesting if he and the Rangers part company. He could move on to a mentor role with another club or call it a career. At this point, it could go either way.
Chara will return with the Bruins next season on another one-year, bonus-laden deal. I can see Marleau doing the same with the Sharks, though that’ll depend upon their cap space. Williams could return with the Hurricanes, but they’ll probably want a full-season commitment this time around.
Seabrook could be placed on long-term injury reserve for next season if he needs more time to recover from his surgeries. Smith’s had his inconsistencies, but he’s played well enough to remain in Edmonton in a backup role for another season.
Spezza could stick with the Leafs for another season on a cheap one-year deal. Speculation out of Montreal claims Kovalchuk is all-but-certain to return to the Canadiens on a bonus-filled one-year deal.
The latest on the Islanders, several stars who may have played their final NHL games, and questions about conditional draft picks in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.
ISLANDERS WOULD MATCH OFFER SHEET FOR BARZAL
SPORTSNET: In a recent Q&A with New York Islanders fans, general manager Lou Lamoriello said it wasn’t his intention to let contract talks with Mathew Barzal reach the point where the 22-year-old center received an offer sheet from a rival club. If Barzal did sign one, however, Lamoriello said he’d match it. He remains confident in getting Barzal and fellow restricted free agents Ryan Pulock and Devon Toews re-signed.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Isles have over $71 million invested in 18 players. Assuming the salary cap remains at $81.5 million, Lamoriello will be hard-pressed to squeeze new contracts for Barzal, Pulock, and Toews within that $10 million of cap space available to him.
Matching an expensive offer sheet would gobble up almost all of that cap room. Lamoriello would get some cap wiggle room as he’s allowed to exceed the cap by 10 percent during the off-season, but he must shed salary before the start of the season to become cap compliant.
I doubt Lamoriello’s worried about a rival GM signing Barzal to an offer sheet. Most NHL clubs will feel the financial squeeze from this pandemic, leaving few with enough cap room to take a run at poaching the young Isles center.
SEVERAL STARS WHO MAY HAVE PLAYED THEIR FINAL NHL GAMES
THE ATHLETIC: New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, Anaheim Ducks goalie Ryan Miller, and Minnesota Wild captain Mikko Koivu are among those on James Mirtle’s list of 15 NHL players who may have played their final NHL games if this season is canceled.
Others include Carolina Hurricanes winger Justin Williams, St. Louis Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook, and Anaheim Ducks winger David Backes.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think Lundqvist may have played his last game with the Rangers, but I can see him playing with another NHL club if he waives his no-movement clause or is bought out of his current contract. Miller turns 40 in July and I suspect the Ducks will replace him with a younger option. If he’s unwilling to leave Calfornia, he’s likely done. Koivu has already hinted at retirement.
Williams spent half this season mulling retirement before returning to the Hurricanes. He could be done after this. Bouwmeester’s recent cardiac incident has likely ended his playing career. Seabrook’s double hip surgeries place his playing career in jeopardy. Ditto Backes’ concussion history.
WHAT TO DO WITH CONDITIONAL DRAFT PICKS FROM RECENT TRADES?
TSN: Frank Seravalli recently reported there are many questions about how the NHL deals with the minutiae related to contracts and trades if the schedule is reduced or canceled. What happens with conditional draft picks involved in recent trades is among those issues.
In last summer’s deal that saw the Edmonton Oilers ship Milan Lucic to the Calgary Flames for James Neal, the Flames get a conditional third-round pick if Neal tallies 21 goals and Lucic under 10 this season.
“What does the NHL do moving forward here? Do they decide to prorate it? In which case Lucic would remain under 10 and Neal gets to about 23? Or do they decide to leave it as is and that’s just one of the questions at stake with regards to other bonuses in contracts and compensation? Things like expansion draft considerations and also other picks that changed hands for deals at the deadline. Can we see things like compensatory picks and such.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This issue will have to be sorted out once a final decision is reached regarding the remainder of this season and the playoffs. For now, your guess is as good as mine.
Patrick Kane reaches 1,000 points, Justin Williams tallies the game-winner in his return to the Hurricanes, the latest on Gerard Gallant, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane collected an assist for his 1,000th career point in a 5-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets. Alex Nylander, Erik Gustafsson, and Connor Murphy led the way with two points apiece while Robin Lehner made 36 saves. Jets forward Adam Lowry left the game in the first period with an injured arm. The surging Blackhawks are tied with the Jets (54), sitting just three points out of a Western Conference wild-card berth.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks and Jets are moving in opposite directions approaching the All-Star break. The Hawks have won five in a row and seven of their last 10, while the slumping Jets dropped two in a row and six of their last 10.
Justin Williams scored the deciding goal during a shootout in his first game of the season as the Carolina Hurricanes edged the New York Islanders 2-1. Andrei Svechnikov also scored for the Canes while Anders Lee countered for the Isles. The Hurricanes snap a three-game losing skid and hold a one-point lead (59) over the Philadelphia Flyers for the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot.
The Pittsburgh Penguins rallied from a 3-0 deficit to nip the Boston Bruins 4-3. Sidney Crosby picked up two assists while Bryan Rust tallied the winning goal.
Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Matiss Kivlenieks picked up a win in his NHL debut backstopping his club to a 2-1 over the New York Rangers. Oliver Bjorkstrand tallied both Jackets goals.
JOURNAL-PIONEER: Former Vegas Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant said he was surprised and disappointed by his firing last week. Gallant has returned to his hometown of Summerside, PEI, and is hoping to quickly return to coaching. He said if the right opportunity came up for himself and long-time assistant coach Mike Kelly, he’d definitely consider it. Kelly was also relieved of his duties by the Golden Knights.
Gallant was slated to coach the Pacific Division in the upcoming NHL All-Star Game. “I talked to the NHL about it and they sort of left it up to me, but I didn’t really feel comfortable (going),” said Gallant. “I just said I’d sooner pass.” Arizona Coyotes bench boss Rick Tocchet will replace Gallant.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given his credentials, the 2018 Jack Adams Award winner won’t be unemployed for long. I expect he’ll be back behind an NHL bench before the end of 2020.
NJ.COM: Devils goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood suffered a concussion and lost four teeth when struck in the mask by a shot during Tuesday’s game against the New York Rangers. He was symptom-free by Friday and briefly played in Saturday’s loss to Columbus.
TSN: The Edmonton Oilers assigned defenseman Matt Benning to their AHL affiliate in Bakersfield on a conditioning stint.