PHT Morning Skate: Malkin’s ‘weird’ season; trade deadline chatter

Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• A look at Evgeni Malkin’s ‘weird’ season. [Pensburgh]

• Whether Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky stay or go, Cam Atkinson is confident the Columbus Blue Jackets have what it takes to contend. [NHL.com]

• Why the Ottawa Senators should actually be buyers at the NHL trade deadline. [TSN]

• The New York Rangers could be in the final days of having Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes on the roster. [New York Post]

• Hayes should be someone the Winnipeg Jets ought to target. [Winnipeg Free Press]

• If the Tampa Bay Lightning aren’t going to go big at the trade deadline, they might as well just stay quiet. [Raw Charge]

• How will the contributions of the San Jose Sharks’ depth affect GM Doug Wilson’s trade deadline plans? [NBC Bay Area]

• Why Wayne Simmonds doesn’t fit as an ideal trade target for the Dallas Stars. [Defending Big D]

• Examining whether the Philadelphia Flyers should trade Shayne Gostisbehere. [Broad Street Hockey]

• Would Gustav Nyquist be a good fit for the Washington Capitals? [NBC Washington]

• A look at future options in goal for the Florida Panthers. [Panther Parkway]

Shea Weber has settled in nicely with the Montreal Canadiens. [Sportsnet]

• How Elias Pettersson took over Vancouver in his rookie season. [ESPN]

Anthony Bitetto taking advantage of his opportunity with the Minnesota Wild. [Pioneer Press]

• The Colorado Avalanche are in need of a reset. [Mile High Sticking]

• Meanwhile, overtimes have been a huge problem for the Avs this season. [Denver Post]

• Despite adding responsibility, Will Butcher has been handling it well for the New Jersey Devils. [All About the Jersey]

• Finally, NHLers hand out some advice on this Valentine’s Day:

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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    PHT Morning Skate: Safety inside the NHL bubbles; impact of no home ice

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    Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from the NHL and around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit for the PHT Morning Skate? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

    • In case you missed it: The NHL and NHLPA have reached a tentative four-year CBA extension. Now we wait for the agreement to be ratified by the NHL’s Board of Governors, the NHLPA’s Executive Board, and then the full union membership. [PHT]

    • On safety inside the NHL’s bubbles. [National Post]

    • Examining how the loss of home-ice advantage will impact teams for the 2020 playoffs. [TSN]

    • The four-plus months off will do wonders for Elias Pettersson. [Canucks Army]

    • There are still some questions about the Canucks’ depth at center. [PiTB]

    • Why the Gold Plan would be an ideal solution to replace the NHL draft lottery. [HockeyViz]

    • They didn’t win the No. 1 overall pick, but later draft rounds could be where the Red Wings build a future core. [Detroit News]

    • If the salary cap ceiling does not increase over the next few seasons, that will cause plenty of issues for the Blackhawks. [Second City Hockey]

    • How new Sabres GM Kevyn Adams had future success lined up during his time at Miami University. [Buffalo Hockey Beat]

    • Arizona State University forward Dominic Garcia opens up about the racist abuse he’s faced. [NHL.com]

    • Taking a look at the most patriotic logos in American hockey. [Hockey by Design]

    • Finally, here’s a look at Robin Lehner‘s sweet new Golden Knights pads:

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    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

    NHL, NHLPA agree to four-year CBA extension, Return to Play MOU

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    We’re another step closer to hockey resuming after the NHL and NHLPA reached a tentative agreement on a Return to Play Plan and a Memorandum of Understanding regarding the Collecting Bargaining Agreement.

    The deal adds four years to the current CBA and updates the league’s off-season critical dates calendar. A four-year extension means the new CBA would expire Sept. 15, 2026. The current agreement was scheduled to expire Sept. 15, 2022.

    The next step is the approval process, which means the NHL’s Board of Governors, the NHLPA’s Executive Board, and then the full union membership need to sign off on it.

    [MORE: NHL, NHLPA agree on protocols to resume season]

    Once all approvals are in order, training camps for the 24-team tournament will begin Monday, July 13 in their home cities. On July 26 teams will then travel to their respective hub cities — likely Toronto or Edmonton — and the Qualifying Round will begin on August 1.

    While the hub cities have yet to be officially announced, it’s expected that Edmonton will host the Western Conference and Toronto will serve as the main site for the Eastern Conference. Rogers Place (Edmonton) will likely be the site of the conference finals and 2020 Stanley Cup Final.

    WEST
    • Blues
    • Avalanche
    • Golden Knights
    • Stars

    QUALIFYING ROUND
    No. 5 Oilers vs. No. 12 Blackhawks
    No. 6 Predators vs. No. 11 Coyotes
    No. 7 Canucks vs. No. 10 Wild
    No. 8 Flames vs. No. 9 Jets

    EAST
    • Capitals
    • Flyers
    • Bruins
    • Lightning

    QUALIFYING ROUND
    No. 5 Penguins vs. No. 12 Canadiens
    No. 6 Hurricanes vs. No. 11 Rangers
    No. 7 Islanders vs. No. 10 Panthers
    No. 8 Maple Leafs vs. No. 9 Blue Jackets

    The Qualifying Round series will be best-of-five, while the top four teams in each conference will play three games with points percentage used as a tiebreaker to determine seeds Nos. 1-4 in the East and West. All series beginning with the First Round will be best-of-seven and teams will be re-seeded.

    MORE:
    A look at the Eastern Conference matchups
    Final standings for 2019-20 NHL season, NHL draft lottery results
    A look at the Western Conference matchups

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    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

    NHL Power Rankings: Fun ways the free agent frenzy could go

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    With at least some of the NHL future getting less muddy, it sure looks like the next “Free Agent Frenzy” will take place on or around Nov. 1. Unfortunately, an expected flat $81.5M salary cap could make the NHL “Free Agent Frenzy” more of a flurry.

    But managing a flat salary cap — likely by shedding players they didn’t want to expel — is a job for overwhelmed GMs, particularly of big-market teams. For the rest of us, we can fill some time by daydreaming about different NHL free agent scenarios. (Some more realistic than others.)

    Back in April, Adam Gretz ranked the top 20 (possible) NHL Free Agents. Being that Sean Leahy recently looked at the best destinations for assumed top 2020 NHL Draft pick Alexis Lafreniere, how about we combine those ideas?

    In other words, what are the best destinations for some of the NHL’s top free agents? Actually, scratch that. Let’s go with the most fun NHL free agent situations. They occasionally might even make sense!

    1. Avalanche go on one-year NHL Free Agent Frenzy with Alex Pietrangelo and Taylor Hall

    (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

    NHL fans have watched too many “super teams” form in the NBA. In some of those cases, said NBA stars flexed their leverage by agreeing to shorter deals. LeBron James left Cleveland after getting a hometown ring. Kawhi Leonard can eat apples elsewhere if the whole Clippers thing doesn’t work out.

    In the case of this hypothetical scenario with the Avalanche, it would be more of an “everybody wins” scenario — except maybe Colorado’s competition. Consider these factors:

    • Pietrangelo would just block promising young defensemen like Bowen Byram working into the mix with Cale Makar if Pietrangelo signed a long-term deal. But if it was short? He buys Colorado time and can maybe hand down some life lessons to those kiddos.
    • Taylor Hall has suffered enough. Let’s get him on a good team, which Colorado … at least has a good chance of being for the foreseeable future. Right? Possibly?
    • Let’s be honest, with all of the financial turmoil going on, Pietrangelo and Hall might not enjoy much of a market. Truly, Pietrangelo might be better off taking a one-year deal to stay in St. Louis. But that’s not as fun (unless you’re a Blues fan).
    • The Avalanche figure to have a lot of money to burn, but I’m not sure that it would be wise to risk Hall and Pietrangelo hitting the aging curve. This scenario basically buys everyone some time for longer-term solutions, while taking a big swing at a 2020-21 Stanley Cup.

    Now, some will point to that time the Avalanche brought in Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne, and that was kind of a disaster.

    To which I retort: we’d get to talk about that time the Avalanche brought in Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne. Was it as much of a disaster as we thought? (Sounds like quality content either way.)

    2. Buffy to Buffalo

    Just imagine the bad puns and headlines that could come from Dustin Byfuglien reviving his career with the Buffalo Sabres.

    As much as anything else, the Sabres and their fans need some joy. Adding a much-needed defenseman who’s as flat-out as unusual as Byfuglien would be pretty fun, if you ask me.

    Could it be another disaster? Sure, but in that scenario, at least cruel people would have fun? I think it’s worth the risk. (<— Person not signing any of these checks.)

    3. Hurricanes and Robin Lehner, an NHL Free Agency story of “Finally”

    Despite putting up fantastic numbers for two seasons, Robin Lehner can’t seem to get the sort of stability he wants. Despite putting together deep and talented teams, the Hurricanes are always a few netminding meltdowns from throwing all of that shrewd team-building away.

    Frankly, I was a little surprised the Hurricanes shrugged their shoulders at Lehner last summer. Sure, they’re analytics-leaning with Eric Tulsky calling a lot of shots (although I wonder if Don Waddell “went camping” by acquiring Brady Skjei and his not-particularly-fancy-stats?). But Lehner seemed like a buy-low candidate, particularly in signing a low-risk, one-year deal with the Blackhawks during the 2020 offseason.

    Maybe it’s finally time for Carolina to take the plunge?

    OK, so the smarter move might be to continue going shorter term. Perhaps Corey Crawford would take a shorter deal than what Lehner is clearly seeking. Jacob Markstrom might be the craftier addition, if the Canucks let him walk.

    Lehner and the Hurricanes would rank as the more interesting story, though.

    4. Can Braden Holtby halt the sinking of the Sharks?

    (Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

    Speaking of interesting narratives that might not be as wise as they look on paper, Holtby to the Sharks would be fascinating.

    Martin Jones and Aaron Dell have been disastrous for the Sharks lately. Of course, there’s a chicken-and-the-egg argument, though, as the Sharks defense often hangs its goalies out to dry.

    In Holtby, you have a Stanley Cup winner whose overall body of work is highly impressive. For a Sharks team tormented by playoff letdowns, Holtby’s postseason resume shines especially bright (Stanley Cup win, .928 save percentage over 89 career playoff games).

    Yet, on the other hand, things have been bumpy for Holtby for some time. His game had already been slipping, but it really dipped badly in 2019-20 with a disturbing .897 save percentage. Holtby probably will demand a hefty contract thanks to his prior work, too.

    So … there are a lot of red flags here. That said, the Sharks are pretty desperate. At minimum, it would be interesting to see if that gamble would pay off for San Jose.

    Assorted fun NHL free agent scenarios of varying realism

    • As interesting as it would be for Joe Thornton to ship back up to Boston, I keep going back to Thornton with the Winnipeg Jets for some reason. The Jets would actually be a sensible landing spot for someone like Torey Krug, but Thornton chasing a Stanley Cup with the Jets just feels right.
    • The Maple Leafs are going to experience an agonizing cap squeeze. If Kevin Shattenkirk took another one-year, low-dollar deal, maybe Toronto would come calling? He’s the sort of double-edged sword defenseman who could help the Maple Leafs more than hurt them. But oh, how that hockey-crazed media and fan base will overreact to those mistakes …
    • The Blackhawks seem pretty deep in a “just try to outscore their problems” phase. Is there a better defenseman for that pursuit than Tyson Barrie? I mean, probably, but that could make for a white-knuckle ride.
    • Let’s get Evgenii Dadonov to a California team. With any luck, Dad would attend a Padres game.

    MORE POWER RANKINGS:

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    NHL announces nine additional COVID-19 positive cases

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    The National Hockey League says 35 total players have tested positive for the coronavirus over roughly the past month.

    The league says 23 of 396 players checked for COVID-19 at team facilities have tested positive since voluntary workouts began June 8, a 5% rate. In that same period of time, it is aware of 12 additional positive test results.

    The NHL and NHL Players’ Association on Sunday night agreed on protocols to start training camps and resume the season. That includes daily testing once games get under way for players, coaches and staff.

    Resuming is contingent on each side approving an extension of the collective bargaining agreement and the return to play agreement.