What will it take to bring the NHLPA back at the table to renegotiate the new collective bargaining agreement they signed with the owners back in July? How can the two sides salvage the 2020-21 NHL and the Vegas Golden Knights season? And what names are again stirring on the NHL trade block?
NHL trade chatter is starting to pick up a bit, and more names than Tampa Bay Lightning forward Tyler Johnson are resurfacing in trade rumors. Could the methodical rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines push the NHL into hub cities? Will the league allow a “COVID Taxi Squad” and will Patrik Laine start the season with the Winnipeg Jets?
That and more in the latest “Off The Record“
1. NHL Player: “They’re Going To Have To Give Interest Back.”
According to an NHL player who requested he remain off the record, there is a growing sentiment amongst NHL players that while they believe they shouldn’t have to renegotiate the CBA they signed just five months ago, they will eventually do so to salvage the 2020-21 NHL season. However, there is also momentum for NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr to insist that the owners pay interest on what will now amount to a 26% deferral by the players on their salaries this season.
Off the record: “The thing is, we’re in a no-win here, right?” the anonymous player told Off The Record. “So, we either become the bad guys if we push this to the limit and risk losing the season, or we give in and allow the owners to take from us again. This sucks, but we all want to play. They need to give back, though, and interest in the deferrals is a way to do that. They’re going to have to give interest back, I think.”
Note: An NHL management source said he was 50/50 on whether the owners would agree to give interest back on the deferrals.
2. Tyler Johnson Chatter Picking Up
According to a rival GM, there was a bit more NHL trade chatter over the past few days than there had been recently, and Tampa Bay Lightning forward Tyler Johnson’s name is coming up. With more talk about an NHL season, teams are revisiting their current cap situation, and as colleague Joe Haggerty noted recently, there is no team more up against it than the defending Stanley Cup Champions.
Almost immediately after they hoisted the Cup, Tampa Bay unsuccessfully tried to move Johnson. They eventually waived the player, who was a key part of their build-up.
Word in GM circles is that Tampa Bay GM Julien BriseBois would like to resolve what’s become an uncomfortable situation for all involved ASAP.
Off the Record: “Julien respects the heck out of Tyler. He knows the longer this drags out, the more uncomfortable it will get–not just against the cap but in the dressing room,” said another GM. “I’m sure Steve (Yzerman) has reached out already because he knows the body of work.”
3. Cities Still Trying To Become Hub Cities
All parties, including the league, would prefer that NHL teams use their home arenas for the upcoming season. Of course, all are at the mercy of a raging second wave of COVID in North America that doesn’t seem like it will slow down until well into next year. Even though presumptive U.S. President Joe Biden stated that he doesn’t want to impose a federal lockdown, Biden may have no choice if the case and death rates continue to skyrocket.
The fear of additional lockdowns is why the NHL is still in touch with potential hub cities. Should the NHL decide the only way to adhere to national and local restrictions in the USA and Canada is to play in hubs again, mayors and arenas are letting it known they’re at the ready.
Off the Record: “I can tell you that Edmonton benefited economically, and they’d want to be a hub city again,” an NHL source told Off the Record. “Calgary knows from Edmonton. If (Calgary) were able to make it, it would help them if they could pull it off. In the USA, I’d keep an eye on the usual suspects but also cities that are trying to get an NHL team. Maybe a Houston or a Kansas City. Maybe in Canada, Quebec City? But cases are crazy everywhere, so who knows?”
4. Teams Pushing For Taxi Squads
According to a Boston Bruins team source, the Bruins notified their AHL affiliate, the Providence Bruins, that there’s a solid chance they will be keeping an increased number of borderline NHL/AHL players for a “COVID Taxi Squad.”
The majority of NHL GM’s would prefer the NHL allow teams to expand rosters past the current 23-man limit. This way, should a COVID outbreak occur, an NHL team will never take the ice looking like the Denver Broncos. The main issue obviously would be would those extra players count against the already flattened salary cap? With close to half the league in serious cap trouble and other teams feeling the COVID pinch, this will be a hot topic to follow if and when talks on an NHL Return start up again.
Off the record: “You look at what’s going on with the NFL right now. …the Ravens and 49ers this past week and you need to know you’re covered roster wise, or we’re going to lose games and fall behind,” an NHL management source told BHN Monday.
5. Is Patrik Laine on the NHL Trade Block or Not?
After the Winnipeg Jets couldn’t find a dance partner for Patrik Laine at the draft, or when free agency began, the rumors surrounding the Finnish sniper have quieted. That doesn’t guarantee Laine will begin a 2020-21 NHL season with the Jets, however. The NHL trade market will really heat up if and when the NHL and NHLPA can decide on a season and playoff format that makes sense. The Jets still have zero cap space and know they need to qualify him at $7.5 million for 2021-22. Like many NHL teams, Winnipeg is already factoring in the Seattle Kraken expansion draft, also.
Off the Record: “I seriously think he could get moved,” said one NHL source. “A lot depends on if they think he can reconnect with Stastny, and that’s worth the gamble of potentially having to walk away from him next offseason or sacrifice another key piece. They know he’s a game-breaker but is it ever going to work again there?”