NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 2, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 2, 2020

Edmonton and Toronto set to become hub cities, the latest return-to-play and CBA extension news, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

EDMONTON, TORONTO TO BECOME HUB CITIES FOR NHL TOURNAMENT

TSN: Bob McKenzie reported Edmonton and Toronto are set to become the two hub cities for the NHL’s return-to-play tournament barring any last-minute complications. Frank Seravalli reports the 12 Eastern Conference clubs would report to Toronto and the 12 Western Conference clubs would head to Edmonton.

SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston reports Phase 3 (training camp) would begin on July 13, with teams traveling to the hub cities as soon as July 25 for Phase 4.

The NHL and NHLPA are reportedly closing in on a return-to-play plan and CBA extension (Image via NHL.com).

THE ATHLETIC’s Michael Russo reports Las Vegas fell out of the running as a hub city because of recent reports of a rise of positive COVID-19 tests among hotel and casino employees. That defeated the purpose of an NHL player/staff bubble.

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Ed Graney reports infection rates are still rising in Nevada, with that state seeing the highest rate of COVID-19 transmission in the United States.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Vegas was considered a lock to be a hub city until earlier this week when logic finally prevailed. Canada is trending in the right direction as active COVID-19 cases steadily decline.

The league’s return-to-play plan, which includes daily testing, received approval from the Canadian government, the governments of Alberta and Ontario, and the municipal governments of Edmonton and Toronto.

LATEST RETURN-TO-PLAY AND CBA EXTENSION NEWS

TSN: Bob McKenzie also reported the NHL and NHL Players’ Association appear to be drawing closer to an agreement on a return-to-play plan and an extension to the collective bargaining agreement. However, he warns nothing is settled until both sides ratify a tentative deal. The NHLPA membership could vote on Friday or Saturday.

It’s McKenzie’s understanding that non-NHL players signed to NHL contracts in recent weeks (Montreal’s Alexander Romanov, Minnesota’s Kirill Kaprizov, and the New York Islanders’ Ilya Sorokin) won’t be eligible to play in the 24-team playoff tournament.

Frank Seravalli reports the league and PA agreed to an interim extension on all expiring player contracts pending completion of the CBA extension and agreement on Phases 3 and 4 of the return-to-play plan. He also indicates part of the agreement would allow any player to opt-out of return-to-play.

The deals would require two-thirds majority approval from the NHL Board of Governors, but a simple majority from the NHLPA membership. Seravalli indicates it would be a three- or four-year extension to the current CBA. The players are also expected to receive small lifestyle benefits in this deal, such as increases in medical subsidies in retirement and player health insurance, and increase rental/mortgage reimbursement following trade or reassignment.

SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston reports the players’ pay would be delinked from league revenue for the next two years with a 20 percent escrow cap and a fixed salary cap of $81.5 million before eventually returning to a system based on the current model. The players’ would also defer 10 percent of their salaries for next season to a later date.

Johnston also reports there were negotiations on changing the rules on salary structure, with limits on signing bonuses and restrictions on salary variance from year to year. The league is also willing to participate in the 2022 and 2026 Winter Olympics, pending an agreement with the International Olympic Committee on insurance, travel, and other issues.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Michael Russo speculates the IOC’s position on those issues may be softening if the league and the PA made that agreement on Olympic participation. He also cited a player agent saying his clients still don’t have a clear understanding of the economic impact of playing this season versus not playing. They also have concerns over the possible health risks associated with playing this summer.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: We could learn more details on both plans over the next two days. As McKenzie points out, nothing is set in stone yet. The players’ concerns are legitimate and could potentially derail this agreement if not sufficiently addressed. 

I’m curious to see what the major CBA changes could be once the deal is ratified.  No surprise the league wants to close the loophole on paying the bulk of a player’s salary in signing bonuses. I also expected they would attempt to narrow the salary variance, currently at 50 percent.

Olympic participation was considered among the main sticking points in CBA talks prior to the pandemic interrupting the regular season. That’s a significant concession from the league to the players, but I’m interested in what it will cost the players down the road. 

The poison pill, as always, could be escrow. As Seravalli recently noted, the players could end up paying back escrow shortfalls from the pandemic for years if league revenues fail to substantially rebound over the next two or three seasons.

IN OTHER NEWS…

VANCOUVER SUN: Canucks winger Jake Virtanen is catching flak for failing to practice proper social distancing during a recent visit to a Vancouver nightclub. Several teammates took to Twitter condemning what they consider his reckless behavior, especially with the league set to implement the next phase of its’ return-to-play plan.

The Canucks say they’ve spoken with Virtanen, who hasn’t taken part in Phase 2 voluntary small-group training with the club. He will be tested before rejoining the team.

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: The Anaheim Ducks signed an affiliate agreement with the ECHL’s Tulsa Oilers.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 1, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 1, 2020

Some players express reluctance about return-to-play plan, hub cities could be in Canada, negotiations continue toward new CBA, and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

LATEST RETURN-TO-PLAY NEWS

SPORTSNET: Mike Johnston reports Frederik Andersen admitted he’s not fully confident yet about the resumption of the NHL season. The Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender said he and his fellow players haven’t received enough information on the return-to-play plan as the league and the NHL Players’ Association continue to hash things out. Andersen said he still wants to play and remains hopeful of seeing something the players can vote on soon.

Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen (Photo via NHL Images).

Meanwhile, Johnston’s colleague Eric Engels reported five anonymous players voiced their unhappiness and frustration with being kept in the dark about the return-to-play negotiations.

One of them estimated up to 75 percent of the NHLPA membership didn’t want to play this summer, citing health and injury concerns. Another considered the PA calls with players a joke, claiming they’re only focused on the financial side. Despite those issues, one of them believes the players will likely vote to approve whatever is presented to them, suggesting the playoff bonus money will be higher than ever if they play.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Andersen isn’t the only player to go on the record claiming they still don’t know the details of the return-to-play plan. Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price recently indicated he wasn’t prepared to vote for the deal until more details had been sorted out, though he returned to Montreal earlier this week to participate in Phase 2 practice sessions. Several others also said the same.

The Athletic also recently published a report citing several anonymous players and agents expressing unease over playing in a hub city environment, with one agent suggesting up to 40 percent of the players were on the fence. The PA leadership could have a difficult job selling the merits of the plan to a membership expressing growing concern over the details. 

Nevertheless, the players still control the fate of this season. If they vote for it despite their concerns they’ll have to accept the consequences.

TSN: Bob McKenzie reports it appears the NHL won’t reveal the two hub cities for the playoff tournament until the return-to-play plan and the CBA extension are agreed to pending player approval. He also thinks there’s a good chance both hubs could be in Edmonton and Toronto as Las Vegas seems to be falling out of the running. Chicago is also considered in the mix while Los Angeles is now out.

McKenzie also expected critical negotiations between the league and the PA to continue through last night. If all goes well, a vote by the players could take place by the end of this week.

**UPDATE** McKenzie reports the hub cities will be Edmonton and Toronto barring any last-minute complications. 

ESCROW A STICKING POINT IN CBA TALKS

TSN/NEW YORK POST/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Frank Seravalli, Larry Brooks, and Ken Campbell report the players could end up paying back their share of lost revenue to the owners for many years if a flat salary cap and a cap on escrow payments over the next two or three seasons becomes part of the CBA extension.

Seravalli points out the players could end up owing $325 million entering 2020-21 because of this season’s reduced revenue. If next season’s revenue is half of the projected $5 billion the league was anticipating for this season, an additional $600-$700 billion could be added to what the players already owe. It would take the following years under a flat cap (assuming revenue returns to normal) for the players to pay that back through escrow sometime during 2023-24.

Unrestricted and restricted free agents during that period could feel the effects, especially those coming off entry-level contracts. Brooks believes it will strangle contending clubs that historically spend toward the cap, forcing contract buyouts (though not amnesty buyouts as sources told Brooks), more arbitration hearings, and flooding the free-agent market.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As always with the NHL CBA, the devil is in the details and we don’t know what those are yet.  Nevertheless, the escrow issue could prove the determining factor in the players’ vote on the return-to-play plan.

If a CBA extension creates those aforementioned issues, it would affect how teams have built and maintained their rosters, resulting in a considerable amount of player movement. It could also set the table for another lengthy labor war down the road when the extension expires in 2026.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports participation in the Winter Olympics is part of the proposed CBA extension. The players would participate in at least the 2022 Beijing Games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That would be a major concession from the league. If I were a player, however, I’d be suspicious about what I might have to give up in return.

**UPDATE*** TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports a long night of negotiations appears to have resulted in agreements on most issues regarding return-to-play and CBA extension. A couple of issues could be finalized today. However, nothing is official until both sides ratify a tentative agreement 

IN OTHER NEWS…

TSN: The players with signing bonuses in their contracts paid out on July 1 are expected to receive them as planned, though some might be pushed to next week. That’s an expenditure of over $300 million.

ARIZONA SPORTS: Coyotes winger Phil Kessel admitted he’d been nursing injuries for most of this season. That could account for his decline in production, though he didn’t use that as an excuse. Kessel added he’s looking forward to a bounce-back performance.

THE SCORE: San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane believes the NHL doesn’t do enough to market its minority players.

LE JOURNAL DE MONTREAL: The Carolina Hurricanes have parted ways with Rick Dudley, who was their VP of hockey operations.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s sparked speculation he could be headed to the Buffalo Sabres, who gutted their front-office staff last month.










One Hundred Years Ago, Three Future NHLers Led Canada To Olympic Glory

One Hundred Years Ago, Three Future NHLers Led Canada To Olympic Glory