NHL awards preview for 2020-21 NHL season

Posted 18 hours ago | By Adam Gretz

With the 2020-21 NHL season getting underway it is time to preview some of the top contenders for some of the league’s major awards, including the MVP, Vezina, Norris, and Jack Adams.1 of 25

Hart Trophy (MVP): Nathan MacKinnonColorado Avalanche

Hart Trophy (MVP): Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

He has been close, finishing as the runner-up on two different occasions and sixth one other time, but has yet to actually win the MVP award. Could this be the year it happens? The Avalanche are going to be contenders and MacKinnon is a leading candidate to finish as the top scorer in the league, something that always puts a player at the top of the MVP discussion. 

Hart Trophy (MVP) Connor McDavidEdmonton Oilers

Hart Trophy (MVP) Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

As long as he stays healthy McDavid is going to be a contender for the scoring title and the MVP. He has finished in the top-five of the MVP race in each of the past four years and in the top-two of the scoring race in each of those years. He already has one MVP award and is looking to join an exclusive club of players to win it again. Only 18 players have won it more than one time, and only two active players (Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin). The Oilers could be good enough to put him back in that discussion. 

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NHL, NHLPA reach tentative agreement on 56-game season

Originally posted on Pro Hockey Rumors | By Zach Leach | Last updated 12/18/20

A resolution may finally be within reach for the league and its players on a format for the 2020-21 season. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports this evening that the NHL and NHLPA have reached a tentative agreement on the terms of season, which would include a 56-game regular season schedule.

Of course, no agreement between the sides can be finalized until it is approved by each independently first. On that note, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that the NHLPA and its player reps are expected to meet tonight while the NHL Board of Governors will meet this weekend.

Among the details trickling in are as follows:

  • The league will start on January 13 as hoped, per TVA’s Renaud Lavoie. Lavoie adds that the agreed-upon plan does include an all-Canadian division, as expected, though concerns exist about the logistics of cross-province travel.
  • TSN’s Frank Seravalli echoes that January 13 start date, though he opines that all dates could be subject to change. That includes training camp start dates as well, which he expects to be December 30 for the seven 2019-20 non-playoff teams and January 3 for all others.
  • Seravalli also reports that rosters are expected to remain at 23 players, but that each team may carry a taxi squad of four to six players who will travel and practice with the team, but will be paid their AHL salaries and will not count against the salary cap.
  • Seravalli adds that all players will be given the right to opt out of the season for personal or familial health concerns and that teams will have the decision of whether or not to toll the contract.
  • Friedman notes that salaries will not be pro-rated despite the shortened season. He also confirms that thre will be no preseason exhibition games.
  • Colorado Hockey Now’s Adrian Dater reports that the tentative plan is for every team to play out of their home building this season, at least at the outset, rather than playing in hub cities as some had speculated.
  • With the league expected to be broken down into four realigned divisions without any conference alignment, Friedman reports that each division will produce four playoff teams and the postseason will be inter-division until four division winners become the semifinalists for the 2021 Stanley Cup.

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ECHL announces training camp, season schedule

Originally posted on Pro Hockey Rumors | By Gavin Lee | Last updated 11/10/20

For NHL teams looking to get their prospects back on the ice in a competitive situation, the ECHL may soon be an option. The minor league announced Tuesday that training camps will open on Nov. 27 for all the teams that are starting their season on Dec. 11. The ECHL has split their league into two groups, with 13 teams beginning on Dec. 11 and the rest waiting until Jan. 15. The training camps for the latter group will open on Jan. 1.

The teams that will begin things later this month are Allen Americans, Florida Everblades, Greenville Swamp Rabbits, Indy Fuel, Jacksonville Icemen, Kansas City Mavericks, Orlando Solar Bears, Rapid City Rush, South Carolina Stingrays, Tulsa Oilers, Utah Grizzlies, Wheeling Nailers and Wichita Thunder. They will play a 72-game season.

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Report: NHL will play at least 48 regular-season games during 2020-21 season

By Erin Walsh | Last updated 11/2/20

The NHL is targeting a January start for the 2020-21 season. While we don’t know many details about the upcoming season, ESPN’s Emily Kaplan and Greg Wyshynski provided an update about the length of the upcoming campaign. 

Kaplan and Wyshynski report that the league will play at least 48 regular-season games next season and nothing less. Awarding the Stanley Cup ahead of the July Tokyo Olympics makes sense, but not necessary, according to deputy commissioner Bill Daly. 

“I think there is some flexibility if we were to choose that route. There’s a lot left to be played out on the Olympics front too,” Daly said. “We have models that extend past the Olympic time period. Those are alternatives that are on the table. I can’t tell you they’re the ones that are necessarily going to be pursued, but I think there’s some flexibility there.”

The NHL previously utilized a 48-game schedule for the 2012-13 shortened lockout campaign, but teams typically play 82 games during the regular season. 

Daly and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman still haven’t announced plans for fans to attend games, but that is their goal. According to Wyshynski, the league wants fans in the stands for the playoffs if state restrictions allow it. 

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Blackhawks won’t re-sign two-time Stanley Cup-winning goalie Corey Crawford

Originally posted on Pro Hockey Rumors | By Gavin Lee | Last updated 10/8/20

It’s the end of an era in Chicago. Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman announced that the team will not re-sign Corey Crawford. Bowman explained it was an emotional decision and suggested that Crawford should be recognized with the great Chicago goaltenders like Glenn Hall and Tony Esposito after winning two Stanley Cups with the organization. Crawford will become an unrestricted free agent Friday. While Bowman confirmed Malcolm Subban was not given a qualifying offer (along with Slater KoekkoekDrake Caggiula and others), the team is hoping to re-sign him to a different contract.

Crawford, 35, will leave the Blackhawks after 497 games in the Chicago crease and one of the most consistent goaltenders of his generation. He posted a 260-162-53 record over his decade-plus with the team, recording a .918 regular-season save percentage in the process. His postseason performances were even better, with two magical runs to the Stanley Cup championship in 2013 and 2015. He was a Vezina candidate on three different occasions, took home the Jennings twice and was named to the All-Rookie Team in 2011. There is little that Crawford hasn’t accomplished during his time in Chicago.

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Blue Jackets, Canadiens swap restricted free agents Josh Anderson, Max Domi

Originally posted on Pro Hockey Rumors | By Gavin Lee | Last updated 10/6/20

The Columbus Blue Jackets and Montreal Canadiens have found some common ground, swapping restricted free agent forwards Josh Anderson and Max Domi. The Blue Jackets will also receive a 2020 third-round selection in the trade. Both players are represented by agent Darren Ferris and will need new contracts for 2020-21.

Both Anderson and Domi have had huge success in the past for their respective teams but needed a change of scenery after some recent struggles.

In Anderson’s case, the relationship with the Blue Jackets has been strained for some time, going back to a contract negotiation in 2017 that saw him miss all of training camp. That was followed by two successful seasons, but the 26-year-old forward managed to score just a single goal in 26 games in 2019-20 while struggling with injury.

The Canadiens are obviously betting that Anderson can rebound and get back to the player who scored 27 goals in 2018-19 and looked like one of the best power forwards in the entire league. A fourth-round pick in 2012, Anderson brings size (6-3, 220 pounds) and goal scoring to a Montreal team that lacked both this past season. He’s also coming off a contract that carried a cap hit of just $1.85M and requires just a $2.1M qualifying offer (though is arbitration-eligible).

For Domi, this trade comes just a year after he scored 72 points for the Canadiens, the franchise’s third-highest total in the cap era. That incredible year was followed by a frustrating 44-point season in 2019-20, however, which saw Domi dropped to the fourth line at times. He just never seemed to find his true footing in the Montreal lineup.

He also, quite importantly, is coming off a contract that carried a $3.15M cap hit and will require a $2.9M qualifying offer. Domi is expected to be looking for a substantial raise on that number, something that the Canadiens may not have felt comfortable with as they start to transition to other young centers.

Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi are the future in Montreal, meaning Domi either would have had to play in the bottom six or move to the wing. That isn’t the case in Columbus, where he can slide in as the team’s second-line center behind Pierre-Luc Dubois.

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Rangers select Alexis Lafreniere first overall in 2020 NHL Draft

Originally posted on Pro Hockey Rumors | By Gavin Lee | Last updated 10/6/20

The New York Rangers have added another franchise talent. After selecting Kaapo Kakko with the second pick in 2019, the Rangers lucked into another lottery win this year and the right to select any draft-eligible player they want. Though names like Quinton Byfield or Tim Stuetzle may have been tempting in any other year, the team had no choice but to select the consensus top prospect Alexis Lafreniere.

There is almost nothing that Lafreniere can’t do on an ice rink. Growing up just outside of Montreal, it didn’t take long for prospect watchers to recognize that he may be one of the next great talents to come out of the province of Quebec.

When it came time for the 2017 QMJHL Entry Draft, there was little doubt who would be off the board first. The Rimouski Oceanic, the same junior program that had produced Sidney Crosby more than ten years earlier, selected Lafreniere ahead of Samuel Poulin and Jakob Pelletier, both players who ended up going in the first round of the 2019 NHL draft. Lafreniere was different though, and it wouldn’t take him long to show it.

Because of his late birthday—October 11th—Lafreniere would actually make his debut for Rimouski at age-15. He recorded 11 shots on goal over his first three games but would come away with just a single assist and four penalty minutes. It wasn’t until October 1st, ten days before his 16th birthday, when he would score his first two QMJHL goals. In the games that followed, he would add 40 to that total and lead the Rimouski in both goals and points despite being several years younger than his teammates. A CHL Rookie of the Year award awaited him following the 2017-18 season, along with plenty of other individual accolades.

They wouldn’t end there.

In each of the next two seasons, Lafreniere would not only lead his team in scoring, but dominate the competition on a nightly basis. In 113 regular season games he scored 217 points, winning CHL Player of the Year in each season despite leaving his team both years to compete in the World Juniors for Canada, the youngest player since Connor McDavid to make that prestigious roster.

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Lightning’s Alex Killorn suspended for Game 3 after boarding violation

By Zac Wassink | Last updated 9/10/20

The NHL confirmed on Thursday that Tampa Bay Lightning forward Alex Killorn is suspended for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final versus the New York Islanders on Friday.

Roughly six minutes into Wednesday’s Game 2, Killorn delivered what the league referred to as a defenseless hit on New York forward Brock Nelson:

Killorn was issued a major penalty and game misconduct for the hit. It was the first of two controversial moments involving Nelson, who cleared concussion protocol and was permitted to remain in the game amid protests made by fans on Twitter:

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Lightning captain Steven Stamkos to miss entire Eastern Conference Final

Originally posted on Pro Hockey Rumors By Holger Stolzenberg | Last updated 9/6/20

There seems to be plenty of questions surrounding Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, who has yet to make his playoff debut after undergoing core muscle surgery in early March and now has been listed as “unfit to play” with a lower-body injury. Now it looks like that if he will play in the playoffs it will have to be in the Stanley Cup Final.

The Lightning and head coach Jon Cooper announced that Stamkos will miss the entire Eastern Conference Final due to his undisclosed injuries, adding that he will update that status if anything changes. There was plenty of hope that Stamkos might be ready to return to the team and supplement the offensive powerhouse Lightning against the stingy defense of the Islanders. However, that won’t happen here, and the Bolts will have to win the series without him if they have any hopes of him returning for the playoffs.

If or when he returns, however, The Athletic’s Joe Smith believes that Stamkos will likely begin on the Lightning’s second line with Alex Killorn and Anthony Cirelli as they likely won’t want to break up the impressive play of the first-round combo of Brayden PointOndrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov.

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Panthers hire Bill Zito as new general manager, replaces Dale Tallon

By Erin Walsh | Last updated 9/2/20

The Florida Panthers finally have found their next general manager. 

Florida announced Wednesday that they’ve hired former Columbus Blue Jackets associate general manager Bill Zito as their next GM. 

“I’m humbled and honored to accept the position of General Manager of the Florida Panthers,” said Zito. “My family and I want to thank Matt Caldwell and the Viola Family for their confidence in me for this opportunity with the Panthers. I believe in this organization and I am incredibly proud to be a part of it. Our team has great potential and I look forward to start working together in building something special in South Florida. I can’t wait to get to work.”

Zito, 55, has served as an executive for the Blue Jackets since 2013. He initially was an assistant general manager and then eventually took over the role of GM to the club’s AHL affiliate Cleveland Monsters. This past season, he was elevated to associate GM and senior vice president of hockey operations. 

Replacing Dale Tallon, Zito will reunite with goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and potentially help him settle in goal after a disastrous first season in Florida. 

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