NHL News & Notes to 05 Aug 2019

Some news & notes from around the league. Training camps are scheduled to start mid Sept.

League

  • The league is apparently very happy that the City of Calgary finally approved a plan to develop a new arena for the Flames. The deal agreed to is actually between the City of Calgary, Calgary Sports & Entertainment Corp (CSEC -the owners of the Flames) and Calgary Exhibition and Stampede Ltd (the group that runs the annual Calgary Stampede). NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was in Calgary numerous times in the past trying to get the City of Calgary to discuss the need for Calgary to have a new arena for the Flames but Calgary’s mayor was not onside on any possible deal involving city funds. The more recent negotiations have been occurring for about a year and were kept private but, this time, the city and the Flames used Ernst & Young consultants that worked with all parties to get the financial details agreeable for all sides. Doesn’t seem as though the league was involved much at all. Under terms of the new deal, the City owns the new arena and the Flames will have a 35 year lease on the building. The city and CSEC will split the $550 M building construction cost 50/50. The team is responsible for operating the building, including upkeep / repairs, while the Flames have agreed to not relocate for a minimum of 35 years. The new building will seat 19,000 fans. As a final step, Calgary city council voted on the deal and it was approved with 11 votes for and 4 against. Construction of the new building is expected to start in 2021 with it being game ready by the 2024-25 NHL season.
  • The Arizona Coyotes introduced their new owner, Alex Murelo, to the media this week. Murelo is 55 years old and was born to Cuban parents who fled their country for a better life in the USA. Alex was born in Brooklyn, NY and started investing in real estate in his 20’s. He apparently likes to take struggling businesses, turn them around and is now worth a reported $2 B US. He owns casino’s, restaurants and real estate in the Southwest USA. He speaks fluent Spanish and spoke during parts his Coyotes introductory press conference in Spanish. Murelo is the first and only Hispanic NHL owner in league history and fans of the league are hoping he can draw the Hispanic demographic to the Coyotes and NHL (some estimates say Arizona is comprised of 40% Hispanic citizens). Previous Coyotes owner Anthony Barroway retains a 5% ownership position and the Coyotes Alternate Governor.
  • I’ve not heard much on CBA negotiations. The league can opt out of the current CBA on September 1, 2019 (effective September 1, 2020) while the players can do the same on September 19, 2019. Some of the major topics that are usually in the discussions is hockey related revenue (HRR) which is currently 50/50 -players get 50% of revenue and owners get 50%. I’d be very surprised if this split changes. The max contract length, currently 8 years for a UFA that signs with the same team or 7 years for a UFA that goes to a different team, could also be on the table for discussion. One of the other key issue is escrow and not holding back 10-12% of player salaries. The players position is basically find another way other than touching players pay. Some other topics could include the idea of signing bonuses where players are paid up to 90% of their annual cap number as a bonus, usually paid on July 1. Toronto leads the league in paying signing bonus while other, less cash laden teams, can’t pay out millions of dollars of salary on July 1. The fixed cap, currently $81.5 M, is suppose to create league parity among teams but bonuses skew things. Teams such as Ottawa struggle to have their player combined salaries reach the cap floor, $60.2 M, and they take on a retired player contracts to bump up their combined player contracts total. Some say what the Leafs did recently acquiring retired player David Clarkson contract to exploit a loophole in the CBA could be addressed in the CBA discussions. This whole issue of the  CBA negotiations and re-opener clause in September is going to start to become news as the new 2019-20 season nears. Both the NHLPA and NHL seem to agree that labor problems hurt the game so hopefully both sides can work through their differences.

Team Management

  • The Minnesota Wild fired their GM Paul Fenton on Tuesday. Fenton was hired by the Wild in May of 2018 from the Nashville Predators organization where he was AGM to GM David Poile. Wild owner Craig Leipold basically said it was on him as, after Fenton’s fourteen months in the GM role, it was clear to Leipold that Fenton was not a good fit with the culture of the Wild organization. Leipold said there was not one thing that led to the decision but more a way for doing things that was not working well. Some of the names getting interviewed to replace Fenton include former Flyers GM Ron Hextall, former Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli, Montreal Canadiens AGM Scott Mellanby and Penguins AGM Bill Guerin. Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau has now survived two GM firings in his three seasons as head coach. Bourdreau, 64, enters the 2019-20 season in the final year of his contract. Owner Craig Leipold said new Wild Senior Advisor Mike Modano will be involved in all parts of the new GM hire. The three key people that will do the hire is Modano, owner Leipold and Wild President & Alternate Governor Matt Majka. All signs seem to point to a hire being done fairly soon.
  • The Oilers added Brian Wiseman as an assistant coach on head coach Dave Tippett’s staff. Wiseman, 48, spent the last seven seasons as an assistant coach for the University of Michigan Wolverines and had worked in the Dallas Stars organization as a video analyst in the past (where Dave Tippett first met him). Wiseman had a successful career in the IHL & AHL. In the 1998-99 season, he was the IHL leading scorer & MVP and led his team, the Houston Aeros, to the Turner Cup. He was also a team captain with the Aeros. Heard where Tippett said he wanted someone he was familiar with so there was less time required getting to know each other, etc. Tip said the whole organization sees the upcoming season as very important. Sounds like Wiseman will be the Oilers coach acting as the “eye in the sky” – watching games from the pressbox. Oilers assistant coach Glen Gulutzan is responsible for the forwards and Jim Playfair the defense.
  • Former Bruins/Flames player Marc Savard is joining the St. Louis Blues as an assistant coach on head coach Craig Berube’s staff. Berube was a teammate of Savard’s in the NHL and values his offensive understanding of the game and the organization hopes he can pass his knowledge onto the Blues players. Savard recorded 706 points in 807 NHL games in his career.
  • Former NHL player Alex Tanguay is leaving the NHL Network to take a position as an assistant coach with the AHL Iowa Wild (farm team of the Minnesota Wild) under head coach Tim Army.
  • Boston Bruins President Cam Neely says he expects the organization and their head coach Bruce Cassidy to soon reach an agreement on a contract extension. Cassidy enters the 2019-20 with just one year remaining on his contract. In three seasons so far under Cassidy, the Bruins have reached the 100 point mark twice.
  • Recently retired Penguins forward Matt Cullen has moved into a player development position with the team. GM Jim Rutherford said Cullen’s valuable knowledge of the game plus his knowledge of the Penguins organization made the decision to hire him an easy one. Cullen won three Stanley Cups in his 21 year NHL playing career.
  • Another player who just recently retired, Chicago Blackhawks forward Chris Kunitz, has also accepted as Player Development Adviser position with the ‘Hawks organization (in their Hockey Ops Dept). Kunitz will also advise the ‘Hawks coaching staff and well as work with the organization’s AHL prospects in Rockford. Kunitz won four Cups as a player, three with the Penguins and one with the Anaheim Ducks.
  • Former Islanders forward Stephen Gionta has joined the Tampa Bay Lightning organization as a pro scout. Gionta, 35, was a UFA but did not get any contract offers. He played with the Islanders AHL affiliate in Bridgeport most of last season.

Scuttlebutt

  • Oilers 21 yo forward Jesse Puljujarvi (4th overall 2016) said recently he will not be returning to North America to play hockey until the Oilers trade him. Puljujarvi is spending the off-season back home in Finland. Heard Oilers GM Ken Holland interviewed and he said he’s been trying to trade the player and will soon make an extra push to get something done before training camp. The Oilers have added former Canucks forward Markus Granlund, James Neal, and goaltender Mike Smith while moving out Lucic, Ty Rattie and Tobias Reider. Holland said recently he’s expects Neal to play in the Oilers top 6 forward group.
  • Lightning GM Julien BriseBois said recently he expects to reach a contract agreement with 23 yo RFA Brayden Point before training camp. Point had a career high 92 points on 41 goals in the recent season. Some experts are saying their is a bit of a log jam with the RFA’s as these young stars are waiting for the market to set – including the Marner contract that doesn’t seem close to a conclusion. From reviewing some of BriseBois comments, it does seem as though the Point contract will be a shorter term deal as he said that’s the way these star 22/23 year old RFA contracts seem to be trending. Some people expect the salary cap to jump from the current $81.5 M when the league signs a new USA TV deal (the current deal expires after the next two seasons).
  • Flames GM Brad Treliving said he expects to sign RFA forward Matthew Tkachuk before the start of training camp. The Flames have $7.75 M in cap space available and just recently bought out defenseman Michael Stone to create cap room. Experts are saying it will take about $8 M /season to get Tkachuk’s name on a new deal. The player recorded 77 points in 80 games on 34 goals in the 2018-19 regular season.
  • The Ottawa Senators are working towards getting 22 yo RFA forward Colin While signed to a new contract. Sens GM Dorian said recently the goal is to get White signed by the start of training camp on September 12. Since being drafted 21st overall in 2015, White has recorded 47 points, 16 goals, in 94 career NHL games.
  • There been some talk that the Senators have started negotiations with defenseman Thomas Chabot on a long term deal. Chabot is one season from being a 23 yo RFA but he’s a key player for the Senators. Chabot recorded 55 points in 70 games in the 2018-19 regular season.
  • Tampa Bay back-up goaltender Louis Domingue is being shopped to teams. The Lightning signed Curtis McElhinney to a two year contract this summer at $1.3 M /season to back-up starter Andrei Vasilevskiy which made Domingue, last years back-up in Tampa, expendable. Domingue, 27, has just the 2019-20 season left on his contract and then will be UFA. Domingue went 21-5 with a .908 SV% and a 2.88 GAA in 2018-19.
  • The agent for former Canucks defenseman Ben Hutton said the other day Hutton will sign somewhere before the start of training camp adding there have been offers but so far none the player wanted to agree to. Hutton had 20 points in 69 games with the Canucks in 2018-19. Hutton, 26, became a UFA after the Canucks did not make him an RFA qualifying offer.

Unsigned RFA’s

  • Experts are saying the market is still being set for the 22/23 star RFA group. Signings could be delayed to the start of training camp in mid Sept. The key names that are still unsigned include:
    • Mitch Marner (TOR)
    • Brayden Point (TB)
    • Mikko Rantanen (AVS)
    • Matthew Tkachuk (CGY)
    • Kyle Connor (WPG)
    • Patrik Laine (WPG)
    • Brock Boeser (VAN)
    • Charlie McAvoy (BOS)
    • Zach Werenski (CBJ)
    • Ivan Provorov (PHI)
    • Travis Konecny (PHI)
    • Kevin Fiala (MIN)

Hockey Canada

  • The World Junior Summer Showcase recently wrapped up in Plymouth, Michigan. Teams in the four day tournament included Canada, USA, Sweden and Finland. This is just a warm up for the 2020 World Junior Tournament. Team Canada’s head coach is Dale Hunter with assistants Mitch Love (HC of the WHL Saskatoon Blades) and Andre Tourigny (HC of the OHL Ottawa 67’s). The projected 1st overall draft selection in 2020, Alexis Lafreniere, is expected to lead the Canadians in the 2020 World Junior Tournament (under 20 yo’s) that gets started December 26, 2019 in the Czech Republic. Some of other key players on the World Junior team are expected to be:
    • Liam Foudy (18th overall 2018 CBJ)
    • Joe Veleno (30th overall 2018 DET)
    • Barrett Hayton (5th overall 2018 ARI)
    • Ty Dellandrea (13th overall 2018 DAL)
    • Kirby Dach (3rd overall 2019 CHI)
    • Defenseman
      • Bo Byram (4th overall 2019 COL)
      • Noah Dobson (12th overall 2018 NYI)
      • Jacob Bernard-Docker (26th overall 2018 OTT)
      • Ty Smith (17th overall 2018 NJD)
      • Jared McIsaac (2nd round 2018 DET)
    • Goalies
      • Olivier Rodrigue (2nd round 2019 EDM)
      • Colten Ellis (3rd round 2019 STL)
  • Some of these players could make the NHL before the World Junior tournament starts.
  • The 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup will take place in Breclav, Czech Republic and Piestany, Slovakia from August 5th to 10th, 2019. These are under 18 year old players. Team Canada’s roster includes 22 players; 9 from the WHL, 8 from the OHL and 5 from the QMJHL.

Transactions

  • The Tampa Bay Lightning signed Vezina trophy winner (2019) Andrei Vasilevskiy to a 8 year contract at $9.5 M /season. The new deal starts in the 2020-21 season.
  • New Jersey acquired Vegas forward Nikita Gusev, 27, and signed him to a two year deal that will pay him $5 M in the first season and $4 M in the second season. Both the Devils and Columbus were teams that expressed the most interest in acquiring the player from Vegas. Vegas thought they could sign Gusev for about $2 M / season and it doesn’t seem as though they ever were close in terms of reaching an agreement. There is a bit of hype around Gusev as he was a star in the KHL. He had 82 points on 17 goals in 62 KHL games in 2018-19. Due to his age, Gusev is ineligible for the Calder trophy for the league’s top rookie.
  • The Devils reached an agreement with defenseman Will Butcher, 3 years at $3.73 M/season. Butcher is 24 years old and had 30 points in 78 games in the 2018-19 regular season.
  • Vegas signed (UFA) defenseman Deryk Engelland to a one year deal for with a base of (league min) $700,000 plus performance bonuses that could make the contract worth as much as $1.5 M.
  • Nashville agreed to terms with forward Colton Sissons on the 7 year deal for $20 M. The two sides agreed a day before their arbitration hearing was scheduled. Sissons recorded career highs in goals (15) and points (30) in the 2018-19 season. GM David Poile said Sissons can play on the PP or PK plus has grown into a leader on the team.
  • The Winnipeg Jets and forward Andrew Copp reached an agreement on a 2 year deal for $2.28 M avoiding their scheduled arbitration hearing. Copp recorded 11 goals and 25 points in the 2018-19 season.
  • Buffalo signed their back-up goaltender, Linus Ullmark, to a one year, $1.325 M contract. The two sides reached an agreement one day after Ullmark had his salary arbitration hearing. The Sabres also signed defenseman Jake McCabe to a 2 year deal with a cap hit of $2.85 M.
  • The Avalanche signed defenseman Sam Girard to a seven year, $35 M contract. In the recent regular season, Girard, 21, recorded 4 goals and 27 assists in 82 games while averaging 19:53 minutes of ice time. Girard was originally drafted by Nashville, 2nd round/47th overall, in 2016 and was of the Duchene trade.
  • The Flames and goaltender David Rittich reached a 2 year contract agreement before their arbitration hearing. It’s two years at $2.75 M. It’s the same cap number as the Flames new alternate goalie Cam Talbot will make. Fans are expecting a season long competition between the two goalies for the number one position. Seems GM Treliving got good value to sign two good goaltenders for a combined total of $5.5 M.
  • The Flames also reached a two year contract agreement, $2.55 M /season, with forward Sam Bennett. Bennett, a former 4th overall draft pick of the Flames back in 2014, had 27 points in 71 games in the 2018-19 season. He’s not panned out like a forth overall draft pick but has turned into a character bottom 6 forward. He says his goal is still to be a top 6 forward at the NHL level. He’s 23 years old with four full NHL season’s of experience.

Leafs

  • MLSE is reportedly investing millions of dollars upgrading and improving Scotiabank Arena both inside and the areas close to the building. MSLE is not disclosing how much the reno’s are costing but the overall goal is to make the MSLE team’s and fan experience world class. Seems with the Raptors championship MSLE got a taste of how exciting winning can be for a city and organization.
  • Last seasons back-up goaltender, Garret Sparks, was dealt to Vegas for a 4th round draft pick in 2020 plus retired player David Clarkson’s contract. Apparently adding Clarkson’s contract, $5.2 M for one more season, has to do with LTIR (long term injury reserve) and saving cap dollars. It’s a bit of a loophole in the CBA that seems to confuse fans (why trade for the contract of Clarkson who is retired?). There is some part in the CBA to do with cap accrual that I haven’t got totally understood. Experts said with this Clarkson move, seems to be an indication the Leafs are preparing for the chance Marner doesn’t sign by game one of the regular season on October 2.
  • The Leafs also recently signed the following players:
    • Pontus Aberg (1 yr 700k)
    • Kenny Agostino (2 yr $737.5k)
    • Tyler Gaudet (1 yr 2-way $700k)
    • Kalle Kossila (2 yr 2-way $700k)
    • Nick Shore (1 yr $750k)
    • Garrett Wilson (1 yr $725k)
    • Kevin Gravel (1 yr $700k)
  • Aberg recorded 25 points in 59 NHL games between Anaheim & Minnesota in the 2018-19 season so he could be a possible part time Leafs forward but the rest of the signings look to be AHL players.
  • At the recent World Junior Summer Shawcase tournament in Plymouth, Michigan, Leafs second rounder Nick Robertson reportedly exceeded expectations. Leafs GM Kyle Dubas and head coach Mike Babcock both attended the tournament and Dubas was quoted as saying they were very happy with the player adding he’s very focused and determined. Robertson represented Team USA. Apparently there were enough players at the event for two USA teams and after the first two days, the Americans cut their roster down to one team and Robertson made the top 6 group forwards on final team.
  • Team Sweden’s head coach at the World Juniors Summer Showcase, Tomas Monten, said he hopes Leafs first rounder Rasmus Sandin is available for the 2020 World Juniors on December 26, 2019. Does not seem likely Sandin, 19, will be playing in the NHL in the 2019-20 season as consensus seems to be both he and 20 year old Swede Timothy Liljegren need one more year in the AHL.
  • The team signed former Flyers goaltender Michal Neuvirth to a training camp professional try out (PTO). They also signed former Wild/Flyers forward Matt Read to a training camp PTO. Read spent last season with the Wild’s AHL team in Iowa and played 12 games with the Wild. He has played in 449 NHL games, mostly with the Flyers. I don’t expect he’ll make the Leafs.
  • Not sure what the Leafs are planning for their back-up goaltender position. Names in consideration for the position include:
    • Michael Hutchison
    • Michal Neuvirth
    • Kasimir Kaskisuo
  • The team needs a decent back-up as Andersen can get worn down when he plays too much. Of these three goaltenders, Neuvirth seems to have an edge. The Leafs don’t have a lot of cap room to spend.
  • The team’s goalie of the future is clearly Ian Scott (4th rounder from 2017) who won the Canadian Hockey League (WHL, OHL & QMJHL) goaltender of the year in 2019. He’ll play with the Marlies in 2019-20.
  • With the addition of defenseman Jordan Schmaltz from St. Louis for Andreas Borgman, the team now has the follow right shot defenseman:
    • Tyson Barrie
    • Cody Ceci
    • Schmaltz
    • Justin Holl
    • Timothy Liljegren
  • Schmaltz, 25, was drafted in the first round, 25th overall in 2012, but has just 42 games (zero goals and 5 assists) of NHL experience. I expect he’ll need time in the AHL before being given a look with the Leafs. His younger brother is Nick Schmaltz of the Arizona Coyotes.
  • I’ve heard nothing on Jake Gardiner and can just assume the offers so far are not what he was expecting. The back problem he struggled with last season has really affected his market value. Some people are suggesting he’ll sign a one or two year deal to re-establish his value but it’s not clear which teams may have interest. Anaheim, Colorado, Arizona were some of the teams interested in Shattenkirk after he was bought out so I assume there would be interest in Gardiner from some these teams. Some people still link Gardiner to the Leafs but they can’t afford him if they reach and an agreement with Marner.

Buyouts

  • The Flames bought out the final year of defenseman Michael Stone’s contract which is $3.5 M. The buyout gets the team $2.33 M of cap space that they need to get RFA forward Matthew Tkachuk signed. Michael Stone is Mark Stone’s brother and he struggled with injuries (blood clots) all of last season. He recently turned 29 so still has some hockey left it would seem. He cleared through waivers so may have to look to Europe or sign a training camp PTO with an NHL team.
  • The Rangers bought out the final 2 years of defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk’s contract. In 119 Rangers games over two season’s, Shattenkirk recorded 7 goals and 44 assists for 51 points with a -29 plus/minus. He was due to make $6.65 M in each of the remaining two years so he now gets two thirds of that over four seasons.
  • Shattenkirk signed a one year, $1.75 M, contract with Tampa Bay on Monday. The deal include a “no trade” clause. Other teams that were reportedly interested in signing him include the Leafs, Coyotes, Anaheim, Colorado and Winnipeg. Shatttenkirk was not happy being bought out and says he’ll be a motivated player in the new, 2019-20 season.

Odds & Ends

  • Ottawa Senators Chief Marketing Officer, Aimee Deziel, has reportedly left the organization after about one year in the role. Dezial’s responsibilities included communicating the organization’s plans to the media plus reaching out and connecting with fans. It’s not clear why she left but it’s just another executive that has been unable to make much progress in the Senators organization.
  • Seattle GM Ron Francis said the other day expect a Seattle team name to be announced in the first part of 2020. Team colors will be announced around the same time. I’ve seen a lot of red associated with the Seattle team.
  • Oilers assistant captain Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is going into his ninth NHL season, all with Edmonton, and over that time has had 7 different head coaches and 5 different GM’s.
  • Former Leafs forward Dominic Moore has a yearly summer charity ping pong tournament that was recently, in it’s 8th consecutive year running, held in Toronto called Smashfest that recently went over the $1 M mark of cash raised to fund concussion and cancer research. Twenty NHL players showed up to play in this year’s event including Freddy Andersen and Mark Scheifele. Moore lost his wife to a rare form of liver cancer in 2013. A million dollars raised is an amazing milestone for something that was informally started by a player who took action towards helping others.
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