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added 8:18pm, Playoff bracket below.
from Chris Johnston of Sportsnet,
The NHL is back in business. And a Stanley Cup tournament unlike any other is on the horizon.
Call it all systems go on the league’s summer restart following Friday’s ratification of protocols governing the return-to-play plan and an extension to the collective bargaining agreement running through September 2026.
That paves the way for training camps to open Monday in 24 cities — more than four months after the season was paused because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This promises to be an ambitious undertaking.
TORONTO (July 10, 2020) - The National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) membership has ratified the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the National Hockey League (NHL) and the resumption of the 2019-20 season. With the NHL also having ratified the CBA today, the agreement comes into effect immediately.
Combined release is below.
from Frank Seravalli of TSN,
Friday is Referendum Day in the National Hockey League.
It’s the day ballot boxes close on the ratification process for the NHL Players’ Association and NHL Board of Governors on an all-encompassing new collective bargaining agreement and return-to-play plan.
The NHLPA’s membership-wide vote closes in the union’s online portal at 6 p.m. ET, while the BOG is expected to convene on a 4 p.m. ET conference call. A simple majority is required to pass in both constituencies.
TSN has spelled out the details pending in the new CBA and the return-to-play plan.
While we wait, here are five lingering questions to ponder in the return of the Friday Five:
1. Will playoff records be broken?
The NHL’s memorandum of understanding revealed that qualifying round statistics will be included in playoff statistics for 2019-20.
There was no easy answer. Even though they are technically not playoff games, the individual stats had to count somewhere – and the regular season didn’t make a whole lot of sense, considering seven teams aren’t participating and not all 24 teams are playing the same number of games with the format. That left the option to count them as a separate career stat line, have the round vanish from record, or roll them into the playoff stats.
from Randy Miller of NJ.com,
So when can this rebuilding end and lead into perennial playoff berths, and then possibly runs at a fourth Stanley Cup?
“It’s such a difficult question,” Blitzer (team partner) answered. “Here’s the reality: We think that the core of our team is obviously very exciting for a very long period of time. At the same time, there’s going to be some very different dynamics here in the coming season and future seasons obviously from what’s going on from the global pandemic standpoint.”
Translation: The Devils could be one of the teams that benefits from the cap staying at $81.5 million next season instead of increasing to the $84-million/$88 million range. This coronavirus-induced development figures to be really bad news for cap-strapped powerhouse clubs like the Tampa Bay Lighting and St. Louis Blues, but it has the Devils sitting pretty with about $26.2 million to add to next season’s cap, according to Cap Friendly.
Will the Devils go shopping for premium free agents and/or deal high draft picks for lineup upgrades to try speeding up their climb in the Eastern Conference standings? Possibly, but Blitzer suggested the Devils will start adding big pieces once the young ones take a few more giant leaps forward in their developing.
“The reality is we’ve got that great core,” Blitzer said. “We have pieces coming in. We have moves obviously that we would intend to make over the summer, meaning in addition to what we have today. And I’d like to think that we will be a very competitive team on the ice next year as we continue to grow and build.
TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie joins Gino Reda to update the ratification process of the Return to Play as well as the CBA extension, discuss his biggest area of concern when it comes to starting and finishing the Return to Play, what the bubbles could look like in Toronto and Edmonton, and more.
Watch at TSN.
from Justin Bourne of Sportsnet,
Imagine being told you’re not allowed to have sugar anymore, for some indefinite period. At first you’d miss certain treats. Some food would taste more bland than you’d prefer, but you’d get used to it. In time it would become normal, even if you preferred it didn’t.
To some extent that’s been all of us with hockey. The deprivation hasn’t been straight-up “You can’t have food at all” bad — just more like something we regularly enjoyed was taken away. We noticed it a lot initially, and we wondered what we could even consume in its absence. But we eventually settled on halfway-decent substitutes and found a way to move on.
Now consider August of 2020, when all of us are now going to be asked to snort Fun-Dips through Pixie Stix from noon ’til night, day upon day. The NHL is serving cookie dough for lunch.
Have you seen the planned schedule for the NHL’s return to play? We’ve been dying for even just a single sweet taste of hockey — now we’re about to be shoved in the chocolate river at Willy Wonka’s Factory like Augustus Gloop.
from the New Jersey Devils,
Executive Vice President/General Manager Tom Fitzgerald:
"We are proud and excited to have Lindy Ruff join our organization as Head Coach. He is one of the most successful and respected coaches in the NHL, not only today, but in League history. His personality, experience, knowledge, work-ethic and focus will provide a calm presence in our locker room. He is the right coach at the right time for our organization. Lindy has a proven track record of getting the absolute best out of his players across the board- stars, role players and everyone in between. His teaching ability, and communication skills will be well-suited for our team, especially our young, developing players. Throughout his career, his teams have been greater than the sum of their parts. I look forward to working together with Lindy as the organization moves forward."
Head Coach Lindy Ruff:
"I am excited to get back in the lead chair and guide the future of this team. This is a fantastic opportunity to lead a group of great young talent and strong leadership to the next level." said Ruff. "Tom and I will sit down together and build a plan for the coaching staff and I will start to get to work on familiarizing myself with the players and staff. I look forward to bringing this core together, developing our players and putting us on a trajectory that can lead to sustained success in a timely manner. It's an exciting time to be a part of the Devils' organization, and I have the desire and fire to get us on the road towards the Stanley Cup Playoffs and beyond."
from Michael Traikos at the Toronto Sun,
Chicago has 18 players signed through 2020-21 and $7.35 million in available cap space to fill out its 23-man roster. Some of that money has to go to re-upping rookie Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Strome, plus the Blackhawks don’t have a goalie signed.
Arizona was hoping to re-sign Taylor Hall in the summer. But with $7 million in the kitty and seven roster spots that need filling, it won’t be a reality unless they can find someone willing to take either Phil Kessel ($6.8 million) or Derik Stepan ($6.5 million) off their hands.
Tampa Bay is also in trouble. When are they not? The team has only 15 players under contract and about $5 million leftover to re-up Selke Trophy-candidate Anthony Cirelli and defenceman Mikhail Sergachev, meaning Yanni Gourde ($5.1 million), Alex Killorn ($5 million) or Tyler Johnson ($4.45 million) could be available.
And then there’s Toronto.
The Leafs, who have spent the second most on salaries of any team in the NHL (the Coyotes are No. 1), have 16 players signed through 2020-21 and only $4.59 million in projected cap space.
from Randy Miller of NJ.com,
Devils players campaigned for status quo while management took its time deciding what to do about its interim general manager and head coach.
After almost four months of debating, the Devils are going for a big-name head coach by hiring Rangers assistant coach Lindy Ruff over Alain Nasreddine while opting to keep Tom Fitzgerald as GM, Kevin Weekes of the NHL Network reported Wednesday.
via Elliotte Friedman tweets,
Stanley Cup Final: Sept. 20-Oct. 2, at latest
Tentative date of draft: Oct. 6
Tentative 2020-21 camps open: Nov. 17, with (tentative ) season starting Dec. 1
Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press answers a question about goaltender Yaroslav Askarov being picked by Detroit in the first round...
Goaltenders rarely go that early. When the Florida Panthers chose Spencer Knight at No. 13 in 2019, that was the highest one had been picked in nearly a decade (the Dallas Stars took Jack Campbell at 11th in 2010). No goaltender has been picked in the top 10 since the Montreal Canadiens took Carey Price at No. 5 in 2005.
While Askarov is tempting, there are too many high-end skaters available to Yzerman to pass up. The Wings lost out on expected top pick Alexis Lafrenière when they were bumped back to fourth, and forwards Tim Stützle and Quinton Byfield likely will be the next players chosen.
But that leaves Jamie Drysdale, Cole Perfetti, Marco Rossi, Lucas Raymond and Alexander Holtz as possibilities, all of whom are intriguing.
Bob McKenzie joins Gino Reda with the latest on the Return to Play schedule and why the league is hoping to play three games a day in each Hub city of Toronto and Edmonton. He also touches on a clause in the new agreement that could allow the league to prevent 'high risk players' from playing.
from Jim Morris at CBC,
Rob Corte, vice president of Sportsnet and NHL Production, said many of the tournament's details – especially those related to the media – still haven't been finalized.
"Part of the challenge is, there's been so many different ideas and potential ways to do this," Corte said. "We've been having so many discussions, and when you think you're moving in a certain direction, then about 10 more questions come up that actually disqualify everything you have been thinking before.
"That's probably been the frustrating part."
Print journalists are also waiting to learn how they will go about their jobs.
"We have been told there has been no determination made yet in terms of media access and what that may or may not look like," Frank Seravalli, president of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, said in an email. "The situation remains in flux."
via the YouTube page of the NHL,
Mike Smith falls victim to an improbable bounce, Tuukka Rask loses an edge at an inopportune time, Bobby Ryan scores with an opponents stick while Shane Doan fakes out Frederik Andersen with a broken stick.
from Chris Johnston of Sportsnet,
A strange sensation may have washed over you early Monday evening.
Call it the promise of labour peace in our time.
Unless you are middle-aged, or took a keen interest in labour negotiations before grade school, this isn’t something you’ve experienced courtesy of the NHL. Before this announcement of a memorandum of understanding to extend the collective bargaining agreement through the 2025-26 season, if ratified, you have known the 2012-13 lockout … and the 2004-05 lockout that wiped out the entire season … and the 1994-95 lockout … and the 1992 strike.
That dispute-filled past provides context every bit as important to this agreement as our uncertain present, which underpins the new deal. The transition rules and a four-year extension to the CBA are built around sharing the economic pain brought on by the coronavirus pandemic until more prosperous days return.
Let it be said that this is what leadership looks like in difficult times.
from Ken Campbell of The Hockey News,
As the NHL inches closer to starting the playoffs, there will be a lot made of the fact that players can opt out of playing out this season for any reason. A player can tell his employer that playing this season will get in the way of his golf game and he’ll be able to skip the playoffs with impunity. This will be seen as a triumph for the players. You have to wonder why the NHL and NHL Players’ Association even bothered to take the time to negotiate this aspect of the agreement.
Here’s a bold prediction, a hot take, if you will. Of the 744 players – 31 for each of the 24 teams taking part – who will be eligible to play in the playoffs starting in August, I don’t believe a single one will opt out of playing. Not one. No number of positive cases of COVID, which is essentially at 35 and counting, no amount of risk and the possibility of not making anything more beyond playoff bonus money will keep these guys off the ice.
The players agreed to hold back their last paychecks from this season as part of their contribution to offset the owners’ losses and reduce the amount of escrow and players never get paid during the playoffs. That will reduce the amount they owe by about $140 million. Players whose teams lose in the first-round play-in series will receive $20,000 each and those whose teams win the Stanley Cup will make an extra $240,000. Neither of those is a insignificant amount of money, but for most of the stars of the NHL, it basically represents money that gets lost in their couches. If the Toronto Maple Leafs manage to win 19 games and capture the Stanley Cup, Mitch Marner, John Tavares and Auston Matthews will receive approximately 1.5 percent of what their signing bonuses and salaries were supposed to be this season.
via Sportsnet's YouTube page,
Sportsnet NHL Insider Elliotte Friedman joins David Amber to break down the key points of the NHL & NHLPA’s CBA agreement. Find out who came out a winner, who won’t like the new deal, and when Elliotte plans on shaving his beard.
from Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sun,
The next logical question for the NHL after COVID-19 testing and securing the bubble environment for 12 teams in each hub, will be keeping its main stages, Scotiabank Arena and Rogers Place, from becoming mush.
Commissioner Gary Bettman got out in front of that months ago, insisting ice-making technology has advanced to the point where high temperatures wouldn’t be a problem and the experts say there will be another huge advantage for arena staff — the COVID crowd curtain.
“There aren’t going to be fans in the building,” said Bob Hunter, former general manager of SBA/Air Canada Centre and now CEO of Toronto Wolfpack rugby. “That’s just as important as what the weather is outside. You get 18,000 people in there and they generate a lot of heat. By the second and third periods, it’s a challenge to keep the ice hard and fast.
“When I worked there, we were able to get the humidity down. We spent $5.3 million on a de-humidifier many years ago and I know they’ve made improvements since. Just look at Las Vegas hosting a Stanley Cup final in June a couple of years ago.”
NEW YORK/TORONTO (July 6, 2020) – The National Hockey League (NHL) and National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) have reached a tentative agreement on a Return to Play Plan and Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that adds an additional four years to the term of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement and includes transition rules and a new critical dates calendar. As part of the tentative agreement, the following dates have been established: July 13 – start of formal training camps; July 26 – Clubs travel to hub cities; August 1 – start of Qualifying Round. The tentative agreement is now subject to approval by the NHL’s Board of Governors, as well as the NHLPA’s Executive Board followed by the full NHLPA membership. The respective review and approval processes will take place over the next few days and there will be no further comment until those processes are completed.
from Michael Traikos of the National Post,
The rules are extreme — if not excessive.
Handshakes and high-fives are prohibited. The same goes for fist bumps. During games, you can’t re-use towels. After games, you can’t use the spa, sauna or steam room to soak those sore muscles. Want to take the elevator to your hotel room? Make sure to use your knuckle or elbow — not your finger — to push the buttons. And remember that talking is strictly off limits once the doors close.
The 47-page return-to-play document, which covers everything from daily tests and disinfecting dressing rooms to preparing team meals and the proper way of behaving in the hotel, still has to be agreed upon by the NHLPA and the Board of Governors. And with a failure-to-comply penalty of a lost draft choice, it might sound a tad draconian.
But according to an infectious disease physician, the strict guidelines is what separates the NHL from the NBA and MLB in being able to safely crown a champion sometime this year.
“I’ll be honest with you — I’m impressed. I think they’ve thought long and hard about this,” said Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, who is based out of Trillium Health Partners in Mississauga, Ont. “This plan could work. It is certainly a possibility. I think the chance of the NBA or MLB (returning) right now is very, very unlikely. But I think this is a good idea.”
from Mike Chambers of the Denver Post,
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare has put his two young children to bed almost every night for nearly four months since the NHL paused its season March 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Avalanche center now faces the possibility of not being in the same room with his family for a minimum of five weeks if the Avs reach the Western Conference finals in the proposed 24-team playoffs.
The NHL is still working on an official Phase 4 return-to-play announcement to coincide with a new collective bargaining agreement with the NHL Players Association, but according to a TSN report published late Sunday night, the league will conduct its 24-team playoffs in two “bubble” cities — Edmonton and Toronto. It will also not allow advancing teams to see their families until the conference finals....
“It’s a difficult situation. As the parent of two, it’s going to be really mentally difficult to not see your family for a while. I have mixed feelings about it,” Bellemare said Monday in a phone interview. “But I’m ready to return to play. We have a great team. I’m ready to win the Cup. I’m ready to make some sacrifices to win that Cup.”...
“It’s a different situation right now, but normally when you come to pre-camp, you’re already in town and you’re practicing on the ice in different groups. This is similar but I feel like the intensity is a little bit higher just because everybody realizes what’s at skate,” he said. “So everybody is trying to get back to feeling good on the ice but also thinking about getting that edge quick because it’s going to come fast.”
from Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press,
Bertuzzi has hovered near 50 points two years in a row. That will help his cause in the offseason, as he’s a restricted free agent. He is coming off a two-year, $2.8 million contract ($1.4 million salary cap hit) and is likely to be signed to a four- or five-year contract in the $4.5 million annually range.
Read: Red Wings' 2017 draft review: 11 picks, but only 2 projected for rebuild
Bertuzzi, 6-foot-1 and 199 pounds, isn’t a fluid skater, but makes up for it with grit and savvy. He’s effective in front of the net, and at digging pucks out of corners. He has developed excellent chemistry with Larkin and Mantha.
Bertuzzi projects in the 25-goal, 55-point range for next season (based on an 82-game season, which the NHL has said there will be in 2020-21 even if the pandemic delays the start until January). If general manager Steve Yzerman makes improvements to the team — such as adding a puck-moving defenseman and shoring up goaltending — Bertuzzi could flirt with the 30-goal mark.
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