Ilya Kovalchuk, Alex Frolov receive offers from KHL

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kovalchukkhl.jpgWhen it comes to Russian hockey players – from superstars to middling talent – the KHL will be a great negotiating tool for the foreseeable future. Sure, there are players from other countries who might elect to go there, too (as you could see with goalies Ray Emery – briefly – and Robert Esche). But for the most part, though, the close-to-home nature of the Kontinental Hockey League will beckon for Russians (and Czechs/Slovaks too).

So it should come as no surprise that star forward Ilya Kovalchuk – along with solid, if inconsistent performer Alex Frolov – were offered contracts with the rebel league. TSN reports that Kovalchuk may prefer to stay in the NHL, though, and won’t consider jumping ship to the KHL until he can weigh other offers once the free agency bidding war begins on July 1.

Sovsports, a Russian sports website, is reporting that SKA St Petersburg made an offer to Kovalchuk that would see the sniper make $30 million over a three-year span.

That’s big coin, even for an explosive star with such name recognition like Kovalchuk. While explaining his pessimism in keeping Frolov, Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi also reveal why even an NHL team might not be able to provide such a lucrative offer for Kovalchuk. (Brandon also touched on the scarce chances the Kings have of re-signing the mercurial forward.)

“The other thing we’re confronting here, don’t forget, is the KHL, and they’re offering an awful lot of money, tax-free,” Lombardi told the radio station. “It’s almost like the WHA days, where the difference in dollars is huge.”

“I talked to him at the end of the year, and I said to myself, ‘This is no different than when Bobby Hull left.’ I’m sure he wanted to stay in the NHL, but when the money is that much different, you can’t blame him.”

Lombardi makes a good point, although the Hull parallels probably work just a touch better when speaking about Kovalchuk rather than Frolov.

To me, Kovalchuk’s decision will come down to whether or not he values playing in the most competitive league in the world. If he wants money alone (and really, it could very well be a significant difference), then the KHL is his best best. He can also make nice money in the NHL, though, and do so while testing himself at the highest level.

Along with Patrick Marleau and Evgeni Nabokov, Kovalchuk’s decision will be one of the biggest of the summer. Expect more analysis, speculation and information on that as the month goes along.

NHL schedule for 2020 Stanley Cup Final

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The Stanley Cup Playoffs continue on Saturday, Sept. 19 in the hub city of Edmonton. Now that we are through the conference finals, the full 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final schedule has been announced.  

The top four teams during the regular season in both conferences played a three-game round robin for seeding in the First Round. The eight winners of the best-of-5 Qualifying Round advanced to the First Round.  

Rogers Place in Edmonton will host 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final.  

Here is the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final schedule.

2020 STANLEY CUP FINAL (Rogers Place – Edmonton)

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars

Game 1: Saturday, Sept. 19, 7:30 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
Game 2: Monday, Sept. 21, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Game 3: Wednesday, Sept. 23, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Game 4: Friday, Sept. 25, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
*Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC

*if necessary

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

CONFERENCE FINAL RESULTS

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
Lightning beat Islanders (4-2)

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
Stars beat Golden Knights (4-1)

***

SECOND ROUND RESULTS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Lightning beat Bruins (4-1)
Islanders beat Flyers (4-3)

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Golden Knights beat Canucks (4-3)
Stars beat Avalanche (4-3)

***

NHL QUALIFYING ROUND / ROUND-ROBIN RESULTS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Philadelphia Flyers (3-0-0, 6 points)
Tampa Bay Lightning (2-1-0, 4 points)
Washington Capitals (1-1-1, 3 points)
Boston Bruins (0-3-0, 0 points)

Canadiens beat Penguins (3-1)
Hurricanes beat Rangers (3-0)
Islanders beat Panthers (3-1)
Blue Jackets beat Maple Leafs (3-2)

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Vegas Golden Knights (3-0-0, 6 points)
Colorado Avalanche (2-1-0, 4 points)
Dallas Stars (1-2-0, 2 points)
St. Louis Blues (0-2-1, 1 point)

Blackhawks beat Oilers (3-1)
Coyotes beat Predators (3-1)
Canucks beat Wild (3-1)
Flames beat Jets (3-1)

***

FIRST ROUND RESULTS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Flyers beat Canadiens (4-2)
Lightning beat Blue Jackets (4-1)
Islanders beat Capitals (4-1)
Bruins beat Hurricanes (4-1)

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Golden Knights beat Blackhawks (4-1)
Avalanche beat Coyotes (4-1)
Stars beat Flames (4-2)
Canucks beat Blues (4-2)

Stanley Cup on display for Stars-Lightning Game 1 of final

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EDMONTON, Alberta — Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final got under way between the Dallas Stars and the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night with the trophy stationed rinkside inside the NHL bubble.

For all the usual tradition of the Cup only getting to the arena when a team has the chance to win it, playing without fans allowed the league to put it front and center for the players to literally see what they’re playing for.

Dallas last won it in 1999 and Tampa Bay in 2004. The Stars’ core is in the final for the first time and several Lightning players and coach Jon Cooper are back after losing in 2015. It’s the first time these teams have faced off in the final.

These teams are banged up but have most of their players on the ice. The Lightning are missing Steven Stamkos, but the injured captain could return later on. Winger Radek Faksa and defenseman Stephen Johns remained out for the Stars.

This is the first final in NHL history to feature two Russian starting goaltenders, with Dallas’ Anton Khudobin vs. Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy. Cooper against Rick Bowness is also the first time a coach has faced a former assistant in the final.

Lightning-Stars stream: 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final

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NBC’s coverage of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs continues with Saturday’s Stanley Cup Final matchup between the Lightning and Stars. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC. Watch the Lightning-Stars stream on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Lightning have been one of the most successful teams in the NHL in recent years, but have been unable to win the ultimate prize. Over the past six seasons, Tampa has made at least the Conference Final in four of them, with this being their second Stanley Cup Final appearance in that span. On each previous occasion, the Bolts lost to the eventual champions.

Given the manner in which Tampa has lost in prior years, this 2020 squad has been clearing hurdles at every stage. In the First Round, the Lightning avenged last year’s sweep by beating Columbus in five games. In the Second Round, they got past the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Bruins. And in the Conference Final, after multiple years of failing to close out East Final opponents, the Lightning outlasted the Islanders with a gritty series win.

Rick Bowness was named interim head coach on Dec. 10 after Dallas relieved Jim Montgomery of his duties for “unprofessional conduct.” Bowness, 65, was drafted by the Atlanta Flames in 1975 and has played or coached in the NHL almost every year since – including a stint working for Jon Cooper in Tampa. Bowness is the oldest head coach in the NHL, and has never been part of a Cup-winning team.

According to the NHL Coaches Association, this is the first Cup Final in history where the head coach on one team had previously served as the assistant of the other.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

WHAT: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars
WHERE: Rogers Place – Edmonton
WHEN: Saturday, September 19, 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBC
ON THE CALL: Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk, Brian Boucher
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Lightning-Stars stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars

Game 1: Saturday, Sept. 19, 7:30 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
Game 2: Monday, Sept. 21, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Game 3: Wednesday, Sept. 23, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Game 4: Friday, Sept. 25, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
*Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC

*if necessary

Bettman: Next NHL season could start in December or January

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EDMONTON, Alberta — NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman raised the possibility of next season beginning after the tentatively planned Dec. 1 start date, even while the plan remains for each team to play 82 games and the league hold a full playoffs.

Much like its plan to resume this season, the league hopes to adapt to the pandemic circumstances in the U.S., Canada and worldwide and is open to adjusting on the fly as the situation evolves. Acknowledging there are factors like the U.S.-Canada border and local jurisdictions out of his control that could affect travel and attendance, Bettman indicated Saturday he wouldn’t be surprised if the season begins later in December or in January but would like to avoid playing deep into next summer.

”If there’s an option to consider, believe me, we’re considering it,” Bettman said during his annual pre- Stanley Cup Final news conference. ”It’s conceivable that we start without fans, that we move to socially distant fans at some point and by some point in time maybe our buildings are open.”

There’s no way to know yet what a 2020-21 NHL season will look like, and the league is watching what’s going on in European hockey and the other North American professional sports leagues and college athletics to see what’s possible.

”Our goal is to get back to as great a sense of normalcy as possible under whatever circumstances are presented,” Bettman said.

One of the circumstances at play is the closure of the U.S.-Canada border to nonessential travel, which has more of an effect on the NHL than other pro sports leagues because it has seven teams in Canada and 24 in the U.S. until Seattle becomes the 32nd franchise in 2021.

Canada did not allow Major League Baseball’s Blue Jays to play in Toronto this season because of cross-border travel by them and other teams. The Canadian government approved the NHL holding its playoffs in quarantined bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton but has not allowed family members who aren’t Canadian citizens join, as had been planned by the league and players.

”That application remains pending,” deputy commissioner Bill Daly said. ”I think at this point, I don’t have a high level of expectation that it will be approved. But it has not formally been denied at this point, either.”

The league is less than two weeks away from pulling off a successful return, after the season was halted March 12. More than 30,000 tests inside the bubbles turned up zero positive coronavirus test results.

Before the Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning open the final, Bettman acknowledged he’s not taking a victory lap yet.

”Handing the Cup over to the captain of the winning team will probably be the first time since March 12 I’ll breathe a sigh of relief, and maybe I’ll get a full night sleep,” Bettman said.

Unlikely, because then the worrying about next season starts. Bettman said the league has ”started informally thinking” about next season and conceded there will be a financial hit because attendance makes up at least 50% of revenue.

He’s not worried about any franchises not making it through this and said Seattle joining the league won’t be pushed back.

”While we know it’ll be less (money), we know there’s a substantial revenue impact, I’m comfortable that our franchises will be strong enough to weather this,” Bettman said. ”Our franchises will get through this and will come out stronger on the other side.”

Those franchises will be better off when they can have some fans in their buildings, and Daly said everything will be done in the name of safety and in conjunction with national and local health authorities.

”We’re going to see what the circumstances are like and do the best we can,” he said. ”We certainly want to maximize efforts to create circumstances where fans can attend our games and we can wait a certain amount of time to try to accommodate that. But at the end of the day, we also want to play a season, so we’re going to see what circumstance are like and make decisions when we need to make decisions.