News around the NHL and locally Vegas Golden Knights news has been grinding down to a halt as we all await to see the election results and if the world ends by Wednesday. Welcome to the first National Hockey Now version of Off the Record, which is a national column appearing on all National Hockey Now sites from San Jose to Boston and all points in between. We will focus on behind-the-scenes league chatter on the NHL free agents, trade gossip, and anything else insiders are willing to share.
Of course, the league-wide stalemate’s main reason is a flattened salary cap and the uncertainty surrounding the 2021 NHL regular season. Last week, one insider shared his belief that pensive owners will begin spending when fans are cleared to return. However, while big-name NHL free agents are still looking for work and NHL trade talk has slowed down, there’s still plenty of chatter, and that’s what you’ll find here in another edition of NHN Off The Record!
Could the Champs Chase Chara?
Could the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning put a knife into the Boston Bruins’ heart and add Zdeno Chara to an already stacked left side of their blue line? An NHL source has told Boston Hockey Now that current league chatter says Boston and their captain since the 2006-07 season, have been unable to find common ground on a new contract.
More specifically, the sides can’t agree on Chara’s would-be role next season. Boston and Chara have a mutual understanding that Chara will continue to explore opportunities like other NHL free agents. There has been some recent chatter amongst NHL sources that one of the teams that could jump into the fray is none other than the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“I know it sounds crazy because of the cap problems they have in Tampa, but if they can move someone out, I’m hearing they will reach out to Chara if they haven’t already,” a second NHL source said recently.
The Lightning currently has $2.8 million in cap space per Puckpedia.com. They still need to sign key restricted free agent forward Anthony Cirelli, and RFA defensemen Erik Cernak and Mikhail Sergachev. Counting Sergachev, the Lightning currently have four left-shot defensemen on their blue line, so there would be a logjam there if they added another in Chara. However, it’s maybe the worst kept secret on the trade chatter wire that Lightning General Manager Julien BriseBois has been trying to move defenseman Braydon Coburn and the final year of his two-year contract that carries a $1.7 million.
“Chara’s not going to cost much, and he can just fall into his role there and have a better chance at winning the Stanley Cup than he would in Boston,” that same source above pointed out. “If the Bruins keep dilly-dallying around here, they’re going to lose their captain, and I’m telling you, Tampa will be in on him if they can move some cap space.”
Can the Arizona Coyotes Get on the Right Track?
The Tampa Bay Lightning isn’t the only team looking to shed salary via trade. Counting the Leafs, nine teams currently have zero cap space. Surprisingly, one of those teams is the Arizona Coyotes. They already failed to facilitate a trade that would’ve sent captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson to the Vancouver Canucks or the Bruins and are mired in the swamp of the Mitchell Miller debacle.
New Coyotes GM Billy Armstrong would love nothing more than to create some positive news to distract from the Mitchell Miller mess (he had nothing to do with), and word amongst some in the league is that he may be looking to his old boss in St. Louis for help.
The St. Louis Blues are another team with zero cap space, and GM Doug Armstrong still needs to sign restricted free agent Vince Dunn. Given their cap issues, the Armstrong duo would have to get creative, but it’s worth watching.
Would the Columbus Blue Jackets or Nashville Coyotes, two teams who cleared major cap space to make a big splash in the NHL free agents pond, but have thus far failed. Would either be interested in absorbing the two seasons at $8 million per left on Phil Kessel’s contract? They’re obviously both targeting UFA winger Mike Hoffman but if that didn’t happen, would one try to revive Kessel?
We will have to check how good the hot dogs are in Columbus and Nashville.
Why Haven’t the Pittsburgh Penguins Hired Dale Tallon?
Pittsburgh Hockey Now recently reported that former Florida Panthers and Chicago Blackhawks General Manager Dale Tallon could be joining Jim Rutherford’s Hockey Operations staff once Tallon was cleared of racial allegations stemming from the NHL bubble in Toronto. Tallon was cleared last week, so what’s the holdup? Tallon would be a breath of fresh air in what some around the NHL are saying has become a rather dysfunctional Penguins front office.
The worst that could happen if Rutherford brought in Tallon is that he could bring some fresh, objective eyes for Rutherford and head coach Mike Sullivan. However, an off the record chat turned up the belief that other teams have called Tallon, too.
Just speculating, but the Buffalo Sabres currently have a nearly vacant front office and a need for more hockey people.
Boston Bruins D Carlo Says PA Eyeing 82 Games
In an exclusive interview with Boston Hockey Now, Boston defenseman Brandon Carlo told yours truly and Joe Haggerty that the NHLPA is still eyeing an 82-game 2021 NHL regular season and that January 1. With all due respect to Carlo, the PA, and the NHL, there is no way that the NHL will get an 82-game season unless they start in the next month. Don’t forget that the league’s broadcast partner, in the States, NBC, has the Summer Olympics from Tokyo next summer. They will want the Stanley Cup Playoffs to be over at least a few days before the July 23 Opening Ceremonies should the Olympics actually occur.
The real reason both the NHL and NHLPA are still publicly pushing for 82 games is that the NHL is already not so quietly looking into ways to pro-rate salaries should there be a shortened season. There is nowhere in the collective bargaining agreement they signed with the players last July that allows the league to prorate the salaries, so there’s a solid chance this could lead to some unwanted labor strife, a postponement, or even more. Neither side wants that and realizes that 82 games are likely the only way to avoid a labor stoppage on top of the pandemic issues.
Golden Knights Training Camp Day 2 In The Books
Yesterday was a very exciting day as the Vegas Golden Knights took to the ice for the first time in training camp. Day Two wasn’t nearly as exciting, but necessary as things moved forward. Here are a few key takeaways from today’s action.
As of now, Nick Holden remains on what I’ll pencil in as the 7/8 pair with Dylan Coghlan. As I said yesterday don’t read too far into things because the Golden Knights are going to need eight solid D to make this season work. For the time being, it looks like Zach Whitecloud and Nicolas Hague are going to get a chance to show what they can do as a unit. Alex Pietrangelo remained with Brayden McNabb and Shea Theodore with Alec Martinez.
Today was more of a jumble of lines as some guys get a look playing up. Among them was Tomas Jurco who took the place of Max Pacioretty with Chandler Stephenson and Mark Stone. Jurco is a guy I love for the VGK because this season because he’s a vet who can slide into the lineup on a moment’s notice and play a variety of roles. Definitely a taxi squad guy who makes you feel better about your depth.
Also, Stephenson is still centering this line. I know many of you wonder if Cody Glass is going to get his shot at the 2C but not yet. Stephenson did look good today, generating a scoring chance off a stretch pass up the middle and showing some speed. He’s skating with confidence early in camp, and I would not be surprised to see him exactly where he is now come opening night.
Finally, it was nice to see Jonathan Marchessault score for the second straight day. If he warms those goal-scoring hands up early, it could be a tremendous campaign for him.
Keep your browser pointed here for more camp coverage!
Tom’s Daily: Handicapping the West Division; Stepan to Sens
Tom’s Daily: Looking at the West Division; Vegas Golden Knights prospect Brandon Kruseand his unusual senior season; Stepan sent to the Sens; VGK fans have a new streaming option this season.
The West Division should be a fun, competitive division this year. At least in the top half. Here’s NHL.com’s look at how things might shake out. (NHL.com)
Brandon Kruse is working his way through an unusual senior season at Bowling Green. The Golden Knights prospect is projeting better than a point-per-game so far on the ice. (NHL.com)
Derek Stepan was shipped to the Ottawa Senators from the Arizona Coyotes, giving the Sens more center depth and eating up a chunk of that free cap space they had. (Sportsnet)
Ilya Kovalchuk won’t be playing in the NHL this year. Or next year. (NHL.com)
Michael Del Zotto signs a pro tryout contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Expect a lot of fringe NHL guys who don’t have deals to be competing for jobs this year. (Sportsnet)
Five questions facing the Florida Panthers heading into training camp. This team could be really good. It could also not. (FloridaHockeyNow)
According to Larry Brooks from the New York Post, the Pittsburgh Penguins are the only major league sports team to receive a paycheck protection loan totaling $4.82M. (New York Post)
Longtime NHL player and executive Dave Poulin is writing for the Toronto Star. Here’s his debut piece. (Toronto Star)
Tom’s Daily: New VGK Schedule; Pacioretty, Lehner Busts?; NHL Breaking News
Tom’s Daily: Breaking NHL news! Plus the Vegas Golden Knights have a schedule and we break it down for you; Bolts find cap relief but it’s not good; more
Vegas Golden Knights
Just in case you missed it, the NHL schedule dropped yesterday and we broke it down for you here. (VHN)
Here’s the team/league release on the schedule as well. (NHL.com)
Breaking News: It looks like the NHL has permission to move forward in Canadian cities. That’s a major sigh of relief. (Sportsnet)
Whew! Gritty has been cleared to return to NHL games this season. (The Hill)
Nikita Kucherov is going to miss the regular season due to hip surgery. While the Lightning certainly don’t want to be without one of the best players in today’s game, it certainly helps their situation with his $9.5M cap hit moved to LTIR. (Tampa Bay Times)
Ryan Miller is back with the Anaheim Ducks on a one-year deal and I love it. I hope Miller, one of the nicest guys in the game, gets to his milestone of 400 wins. It won’t happen this season unless something goes crazy sideways, but he needs 13 more to do it. (ESPN)
The Arizona State University men’s hockey team decided to start the season with a monster 36-day road trip. My personal longest road trip was 18 days and that was a nightmare. I can’t imagine double that. As it turns out, the team wanted it this way. (ESPN)
Are you all fans of fantasy hockey content? I can post more of that type of stuff if you are, let me know in the comments. For now, I’m putting this in here because of Max Pacioretty’s featured status as a fantasy “bust” for this season. Oh, and add Robin Lehner too. Not sure I agree, but here you go. (CBS)