The Montreal Canadiens are playing well tonight (currently up 4-0 against the Detroit Red Wings), but the bottom line is that the big picture has been ugly. Losing team captain Brian Gionta added another injury to the insults, but he spoke to the media for the first time since what seemed to be season-ending bicep surgery today.
The most interesting thing he said was that the surgery might not end his 2011-12 campaign after all, although that could just be blind optimism:
Would it really be worth it for him to come back if Montreal remains trapped in the Eastern Conference cellar? Maybe not, but you get the feeling that Gionta is having trouble watching his team struggle from the sidelines.
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 (DAL leads 1-0)
Game 1: Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap) 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
The 2020 NHL awards will be handed out to the top players, coaches, and general managers around the league during the postseason.
In normal times the 2020 NHL awards would be given out during a big to-do in Las Vegas at the end of June. But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the winners will be announced in two parts. Last week NHL awards such as the Masterton, Jack Adams, Selke, and GM of the Year, among others, were revealed during the NBC Sports pre-game shows before each of the Conference Finals games.
The bigger 2019-20 NHL awards such as the Hart, Calder, Norris, Vezina, and Lindsay will be handed out Monday night at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN (livestream) before the start of Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final.
The Pro Hockey Talk staff made our own votes for a collective ballot. Each place was given a numerical value with 5 points for first, 4 points for second, 3 points for third, 2 points for fourth, and 1 point for a fifth-place vote.
Votes were submitted by PHT writers Sean Leahy, James O’Brien, and Adam Gretz, as well as Michael Finewax, Rotoworld Senior Hockey Writer/Editor, and Jake Abrahams, NBCSports.com Managing Editor of NHL content. All ballots were submitted before the start of the NHL Return to Play.
LEAHY: He was an expensive free agent signing, but proved to be an impactful one, finishing fourth overall in the scoring race with 95 points. The Bread Man had the most 5-on-5 points (71) and assists (46), and was a plus-40 in even strength goal differential when he was on the ice.
O’BRIEN: Carlson’s 10-point edge (75 to 65) over Josi will be tough to ignore, especially for more traditionally-minded voters. But Josi has blossomed as a player who’s better in all areas of the ice, including his own end — but also in transition, where he’s crucial at lugging the puck for the Predators. I don’t know how long Josi will be worth the $9M cap hit he’ll begin registering in 2020-21, but he was more like an $11M defenseman this season.
O’BRIEN: This was a special season for rookie defensemen — already saying something a year after Rasmus Dahlin debuted — as Hughes faced competition from the likes of Adam Fox, not just the brilliant Cale Makar. But, while it won’t count toward the Calder, we saw that Hughes is special not just because of his offensive ability, but by being one of the best all-around defensemen right out of the gate. It really feels like these playoffs are a “passing of the torch” to great young defensemen (see also: Miro Heiskanen) and Hughes enjoyed a rookie year for the ages.
LEAHY: Hellebuyck’s .929 5-on-5 save percentage was fifth-best in the NHL and his six shutouts were tops in the league. How valuable was he for Winnipeg? He helped the Jets win 31 of their 37 games during the regular season and he faced 37-or-more shots in 13 games, posting a .948 save percentage over that span.
GRETZ: O’Reilly has become one of the NHL’s best all-around players and a cornerstone piece of what has become one of the best defensive teams in hockey. He plays big minutes against other team’s top players and not only shuts them down (no forward with a minimum of 500 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time this season was on the ice for fewer shot attempts against per 60 minutes), but he also plays a tough, physical game without taking penalties. It is an incredible — and very unique — combination.
ABRAHAMS: When Johns returned to the Stars’ lineup in January following a 22-month absence, we knew he had been dealing with post-traumatic headaches, but there weren’t really any other details surrounding his time away from the game. Then, when this story from The Athletic was published in June, we learned that he had not only battled chronic pain, but also anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. Johns persevered through those significant physical and mental health issues to resume his promising NHL career, and through making his story public, he hopes others dealing with emotional trauma or mental health will be encouraged to seek help.
JIM GREGORY GM of the YEAR (Presented to recognize the work of the NHL’s top general manager.)
1. Joe Sakic, Avalanche (23 pts.) 2. Kelly McCrimmon, Golden Knights (7 pts.) Jeff Gorton, Rangers (7 pts.) 3. Lou Lamoriello, Islanders (5 pts.) 4. Don Sweeney, Bruins (4 pts.) Julien BriseBois, Lightning (4 pts.)
Don Waddell, Hurricanes (4 pts.) Jarmo Kekalainen, Blue Jackets (4 pts.) 5.Chuck Fletcher, Flyers (3 pts.)
ABRAHAMS: Sakic led the Avs to the second-best regular record in the West, despite significant injuries to a number of the team’s top players (an issue that arose once again in the playoffs). Though he inherited franchise cornerstones Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog, he has assembled pretty much every other aspect of the roster. From drafting and developing Mikko Rantanen and Cale Makar, to acquiring key pieces via trade such as Nazem Kadri, Samuel Girard, and Ryan Graves, to finding value in free agency with Joonas Donskoi and Pavel Francouz, Sakic has constructed a true Cup contender. Colorado also ranks among the league leaders in terms of available cap space, so they should be well equipped – at least, relative to other top teams – to sustain their championship window.
JACK ADAMS AWARD (Awarded to the NHL head coach “adjudged to have contributed the most to his team’s success.”)
1. John Tortorella, Blue Jackets (21 pts.) 2. Alain Vigneault, Flyers (16 pts.) 3.Bruce Cassidy, Bruins (11 pts.) 4. Jared Bednar, Avalanche (5 pts.) 5. Mike Sullivan, Penguins, (4 pts.) 6. Dave Tippett, Oilers (3 pts.)
FINEWAX: When the 2018-19 season ended, the Blue Jackets were left for the dead as they were on the verge of losing Panarin, Bobrovsky, Duchene and Dzingel. They lost all four and were considered a bottom-three team by many, but Tortorella put together his usual great system and had them on the verge of the playoffs the whole season. They beat Toronto in the play-in series and gave the Islanders all they could handle in a tough five-game series. But his work in the regular season was outstanding as the Blue Jackets had no business making the playoffs with their roster after losing so many stars.
LADY BYNG TROPHY: (Awarded to NHL “player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability”)
1. Jaccob Slavin, Hurricanes (14 pts.) 2. Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche (12 pts.) 3. Ryan O’Reilly, Blues (11 pts.) Ryan Suter, Wild (11 pts.) 4. Zach Werenski, Blue Jackets (8 pts.) 5. Miro Heiskanen, Stars (7 pts.) 6.Aleksander Barkov, Panthers (5 pts.) 7.Teuvo Teravainen, Hurricanes (4 pts.) 8.Brayden Point, Lightning (3 pts.) 9.Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs (2 pts.)
GRETZ: Slavin might be one of the cleanest players the league has seen in years. In almost 1,600 minutes of ice-time during the regular season, in a top-pairing role against the most skilled players in the world on a nightly basis, Slavin committed just five minor penalties for the entire season. Two of those minor penalties were delay of game puck over the glass calls. His other three penalties were a trip (the only stick infraction), a hold, and an interference. No high-sticking, no roughing, no hits to the head, no slashing. Just a clean, solid, by-the-book player that is one of the best players in the league at his position.
Back on Friday, TSN’s Darren Dreger reported that the St. Louis Blues told Alex Pietrangelo to “pursue unrestricted free agency” after contract talks broke down. In an interview with The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford, Pietrangelo confirmed that report.
The Blues star defenseman told Rutherford (sub required) that he hasn’t totally ruled out having a “change of heart” and returning to St. Louis. But it doesn’t really sound like the player and team see eye-to-eye on contract negotiations.
“We just think right now, with where things are at, that maybe it’s best for both sides to see what’s going on in free agency, what the team can explore, what I can explore and if there are better fits for each side,” Pietrangelo said, via Rutherford.
“ … We’re two weeks away. Not saying anything can’t change, but as of right now, that’s kind of our plan, and we’ll see where things go.”
What to know about Pietrangelo as Blues departure, free agency likely
Rutherford points to rumblings that Pietrangelo and the Blues didn’t just struggle with raw contract numbers, such as signing bonuses and cap hits. Apparently there likely were stumbling blocks, such as the topic of no-trade/no-movement clauses, term, and ways to protect against a buyout.
So, it’s likely worth considering that Pietrangelo would prefer term and a big number. Being that he’s been massively underpaid at $6.5M per year since 2013-14, it’s understandable that Pietrangelo wants to strike it rich.
And, even with massive pandemic-related financial uncertainty, Pietrangelo could get what he wants, or close to it. Defensemen like Pietrangelo simply do not hit free agency very often in the NHL’s salary cap era.
We have his most likely contract at 8 years x $8.43MM fwiw (60% likelihood of the 8 year term as well, which is very high). He's the kind of defenseman that GMs *payyy*.
By just about every measure, Pietrangelo is an excellent defenseman. While he may struggle to maintain his 2019-20 scoring pace (career-high 16 goals, 52 points overall in 70 games), Pietrangelo can really benefit an offense. And he’s generally quite competent defensively, to boot.
But Pietrangelo is also 30.
If it’s term-or-bust, then some contenders might feel a little trigger shy. Or, frankly, they should.
Basically, signing Pietrangelo to big term and money could be very high-risk, high-reward. It wouldn’t be surprising to find out that multiple NHL teams would be willing to roll the dice, even during these shaky financial times.
If Pietrangelo leaves Blues for free agency, which NHL teams might pounce?
This isn’t a comprehensive list, yet let’s consider teams under two broader categories.
Potential Pietrangelo suitors with a lot of cap space and chances to contend
Colorado Avalanche: As of this writing, Cap Friendly places the Avs’ cap space at more than $22.3M. While Andre Burakovsky and Ryan Graves rank among those who should eat up a healthy portion of that surplus, Colorado sits in a position to exploit an unstable market. This is close to the ideal situation if Pietrangelo prizes Stanley Cup contention.
But finding the right term could be the sticking point, and the Avalanche might make more sense as a fallback plan if Pietrangelo can’t thread the needle between contending and getting the biggest, longest deal possible.
At least, the Avalanche should really push for huge money, but short term. With Cale Makar‘s rookie deal set to expire in 2020-21, and other concerns (only three more seasons of stealing Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog due for a raise after next season), Colorado needs to be smart here.
Calgary Flames: Maybe Calgary takes a wild swing with some concerns about their window closing?
Winnipeg Jets:Connor Hellebuyck obscured serious issues on defense last season, yet you wonder how often he can pull a rabbit of a hat. Pietrangelo could patch up (some of) the crater left behind by defensive departures.
Lots of cap space, maybe not the best hockey fit from Pietrangelo’s perspective
Buffalo Sabres: Following that shrewd Eric Staal trade, maybe the Sabres can improve their defense by adding Alex Pietrangelo? Kevyn Adams boasts an estimated $34.46M in cap space, and only a few players to worry about re-signing. Granted, like with Makar and Heiskanen, the Sabres need to pencil in money for Rasmus Dahlin‘s second contract.
Yes, Buffalo has been burned badly by big free agent bets over the years. Still, with an angsty fan base and room to give Pietrangelo the blockbuster deal he craves, they could be an outside-the-box fit.
Florida Panthers: Hey, you’re dug in with Sergei Bobrovsky, why not try to protect that investment by giving him some defensive support? Sure, it could also mean about $20M spent on aging free agents but … uh … *trails off*
New Jersey Devils: What if this team isn’t quite as bad as it looked last season? That may be a stretch, but New Jersey has a ton of cap space.
Montreal Canadiens: When in doubt, assume Marc Bergevin has something weird and wild up his (challenged-by-muscles) sleeves.
A cap-strapped team gets creative?
OK, this is honestly meant to be a catch-all for the dreamers out there. Could the Toronto Maple Leafs really jump through hoops and sign Pietrangelo in free agency? It’s tough to imagine that if Pietrangelo steadfastly demands a long-term, big-money deal.
Now, if those deals aren’t out there? Maybe Pietrangelo accepts a short-term fix to have fun and chase a Stanley Cup. Then, ideally, he’d get that mega contract when things (hopefully) settle down.
(Take the money and run, Pietro.)
Any other teams or scenarios stick out as possible destinations for Pietrangelo in free agency? Could the Blues pull off a stunner and bring their captain back? Do tell.
EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — Gary Bettman will take his first sigh of relief in months when he presents the Stanley Cup.
”Maybe I’ll get a full night sleep,” the NHL Commissioner said.
Maybe one, and then the work begins on next season. Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly had more questions of their own than answers next season, though it’s always been questionable if it will start on Dec. 1 as tentatively planned.
Bettman on Saturday raised the possibility of a start sometime later in December or even January, though 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 than scheduled 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 opened the final, Bettman acknowledged he’s not taking a victory lap yet. He’s still focused on getting through this series even as preparations begin for next season.
Bettman said the league has ”started informally thinking” about it 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.