Good news, bad news for NHL early in 2020-21

When the 2020-21 NHL faced off back in January, fans knew they’d be in for over 100 days of consecutive hockey games even though the season was reduced to a 56-game intra-division schedule. Hockey isn’t the only sport in action during the Covid-19 pandemic though as the NBA and NFL have been playing and European soccer games are being broadcast to North America on a regular basis, not to mention boxing and the UFC.

With all the competition for TV viewers it’s a bit surprising to many experts that fans have been tuning into NHL contests in record numbers in North America in both French and English. When the league dropped the puck on January 13th, the NBCSN (NBC Sports Network) in America kicked off with a bang by broadcasting a triple header.

The first game featured the Philadelphia Flyers vs the Pittsburgh Penguins at 5:30 p.m. ET and it averaged 972,000 viewers, making it the most-watched regular-season encounter in the history of the network. The second contest saw the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning raise their banner to the roof before taking on the Chicago Blackhawks with the Colorado Avalanche hosting the St. Louis Blues in the night’s finale.

The three midweek games combined for an average of 774,000 viewers to make it NBCSN’s most-watched multi-game opening evening. Meanwhile, up in Canada on opening night, the Montreal Canadiens visited the Toronto Maple Leafs with the broadcast averaging 2.1 million viewers on the Sportsnet platform. This made it the network’s most-watched regular-season NHL game and another 919,000 viewers tuned in to the TVA Sports network in the province of Quebec.

After the Leafs edged the Canadiens in overtime, the Edmonton Oilers took on the Vancouver Canucks out west and pulled in an average of 1.1 million viewers for Sportsnet. The two back-to-back games have been the most-watched doubleheader in regular-season history for the network. Of course, in today’s technologically-advanced era, this includes viewers on television sets, mobile phones and whatever other media devices are capable of picking up hockey broadcasts these days.

Since the province of Quebec was living under an 8 pm curfew it should have been expected that viewership numbers would rise for TVA though. But in total, viewers for the league’s opening night bonanza reached just over 11.4 million, which was a 52 per cent increase from the previous season and the highest number since the 2014-15 campaign faced off.

When the first Saturday night of the season rolled around and Hockey Night in Canada made its debut, an average of 2.8 million viewers in Canada tuned into CBC, TVA and Sportsnet combined to check out the Maple Leafs clash with the Ottawa Senators and the Canadiens take on the Oilers for a 13 per cent increase over last year’s average viewership.

When the free-to-air NBC network broadcast the Penguins vs the Washington Capitals at 12 noon ET on the first Sunday of the season, the contest averaged over 1.7 million viewers in America alone. This represents a 42 per cent increase over the networks’ first broadcast last season and was the most-watched indoor NHL regular-season game on NBC in the past three years. In total, the first 11 games shown in America on the NBC platform this season pulled in an average 526,000 fans for an increase of 14 per cent over last season.

Regional network games have also seen an increase in viewers for fans of the Vegas Golden Knights, Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers and St. Louis Blues. That’s good news for the NHL, but the bad news is that the current pandemic has resulted in the postponement of several games so far. This hasn’t affected most fans luckily, since the majority of teams are playing games in empty arenas. However, a few clubs are allowing a limited number of spectators into the stands.

As of February, 7th, close to 100 NHL players have had to miss at least one game due to a positive Covid-19 test or contact tracing. When several players from the same team have had to sit out it has led to the postponement of games including those of the Minnesota Wild, New Jersey Devils, Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, and St. Louis Blues among others. In fact, over 20 games had to be rescheduled in the first month of the season.

So perhaps that’s the luck of the NHL in a nutshell. The league is off to a flying start where TV viewership is concerned, but it’s had to postpone games on a regular basis which means those fans will have to tune into something else when their favourite team is sitting out.

Pierre-Luc Dubois for Patrik Laine trade rocks early NHL season

Even though the NHL is playing a reduced 56-game schedule for 2020-21 due to Covid-19, the pandemic hasn’t affected the league when it comes to blockbuster trades. The first major deal of the campaign saw centre Pierre-Luc Dubois and a third-round draft pick in 2022 leave the Columbus Blue Jackets and head to the Winnipeg Jets for forwards Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic.

Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen told the media he had been working on the trade for several days and the timing was right to pull the trigger, especially after the 22-year-old Dubois was recently benched during a game against Tampa Bay and has registered just one goal in five games this season.

Dubois made no secret that he wanted out of Columbus, but it still didn’t stop the restricted free agent from signing a new two-year contract in the offseason for a total of $10 million. Blue Jackets’ head coach John Tortorella had confirmed to the press that Dubois did indeed want to leave even though he led the club in scoring last season with 18 goals and 31 assists for 49 points in 70 games while averaging 17:56 minutes of ice time a night.

Dubois was drafted third overall by Columbus in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft while Laine was taken one spot before him by Winnipeg. Dubois left Columbus with 66 goals, 93 assists and 159 points in 239 contests with another eight goals and 11 helpers for 19 points in 26 playoff outings. Meanwhile, the 22-year-old Laine racked up 140 goals and 110 assists for 250 points in 306 games for Winnipeg with eight goals goals and assists for 16 points in 24 playoff encounters. He’s also a power-play specialist with 52 of his regular-season goals coming with the man advantage.

Last season, Laine posted 28 goals and 35 assists for 63 points in 68 games. His goals total was the lowest in his four-season career but his .93 points-per-game total was his highest. Laine, who will be a restricted free agent at the end of the campaign, hasn’t had much of a chance to pad his numbers this season though. He played in Winnipeg’s season-opener and has been out of action since due to an upper-body injury. However, he lit it up in that game with two goals and an assist. He’s currently in the second and final year of  his contract which sees him paid $6.75 million a year.

Columbus GM Kekalainen also stated that he would have traded up at the 2016 Draft if he had the chance at the time as the team would have certainly taken Laine if possible. As for Roslovic, the other player Columbus acquired in the trade, he was an unsigned restricted free agent and quickly inked a two-year deal with the Blue Jackets for a total of $3.8 million. The 23-year-old will be heading home as he’s a native of Columbus who tallied 12 goals and 17 assists for 29 points in 71 games with Winnipeg last season.

Roslovic was chosen 25th overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft and had 26 goals and 41 assists for 67 points in 180 regular-season career games with five assists in his 20 playoff appearances. All three players involved expressed their excitement with the trade but it’s unclear when they’ll be able to suit up for their new teams due to corona-virus quarantine issues, visa issues and Laine’s injury.

This is the first NHL trade to include two players who were chosen in the top-five of the same NHL Draft since January, 1996. At that time, the Ottawa Senators dealt blue liner Bryan Berard, who was drafted first overall in1995, along with forward Martin Straka and goaltender Don Beaupre to the New York Islanders for rearguard Wade Redden, who was drafted second overall, and goalie Damian Rhodes.

Rule changes for 2020-21 NHL season

With the NHL scheduled to drop the puck on the 2020-21 season on Jan. 13Th, fans should be aware of several rule changes for the campaign. The 56-game season will also see temporary realignment with an all-Canadian division in place. However, with the Covid-19 pandemic still raging, several teams have had to postpone on-ice training camp activities and the Dallas Stars season-opening game has been pushed back.

The biggest rule change concerns the league’s offside rule. Starting this week, a player’s skate doesn’t have to be touching the ice at the blue line to onside. The league’s wording for rule 83.1, which deals with offside now states: “A player is considered to be onside when either of his skates are in contact with the blue line, or on his own side of the line, at the instant the puck completely crosses the leading edge of the blue line.”

One of the main reasons for the rule change is to cut down on coach’s challenges after goals have been scored. Last season, a total of 14 goals were disallowed after challenges due to the play being ruled offside. The new rule is aimed at creating more offense while making it easier for linesmen to detect if a player is onside or offside.

Team Rosters
Each team will still have a 23-player roster and will have to adhere to the league’s salary cap of $81.5 million. However, clubs will be allowed to carry up to six additional players on what is known as a “taxi squad.” this season. These players will be able to travel and practice with their teams when necessary. If a taxi squad player is on a two-way contract, he will be paid his minor league salary but will receive his NHL salary if activated to the team’s roster.

The purpose of taxi squads is to make it easier for teams to call up players who are needed during the pandemic as they’ll already be with the squad and quarantine won’t be required. Players from the taxi squad who are needed for that night’s game must be called up before 5 pm. With the American Hockey League (AHL) campaign not being scheduled to start until Feb. 5th this allows teams to keep top prospects on the taxi squad for the first few weeks of the NHL season.


Emergency backup goaltenders will be required for each club, which means every team is required to carry three goalies during the season. In general, this means two on the active roster and at least one on the taxi squad. Either way, each team must have three goaltenders ready to play at all of the club’s road games.

Player Contracts

Player contracts won’t be adjusted or pro-rated for a 56-game season, but 10 per cent of their pay will be deferred this season while 20 per cent will be held in escrow to help cover the league’s lack of revenue. However, player’s performance bonuses will be pro-rated for a 56-game season. For instance, if a player was due to receive an $82,000 bonus for scoring 20 goals in an 82-game schedule, the target would now be 14 goals with the bonus being reduced to $56,000.

As for the 10-game rule regarding rookies, which saw their entry-level contract kick in after playing 10 NHL games in the season. This will now be adjusted to seven games played. In addition, all player contracts which were set to expire on June 30th, 2021, will now be extended to July 27th, 2021.

Covid-19 Protocols
All coaches will be required to wear masks behind the bench this season to help reduce the spread of Covid-19. Also, players are only permitted to travel from their hotel to the hockey rink with no trips to local restaurants, bars and stores being allowed. Each player will have their own hotel room and will have meals served there. All team practices will be closed to the public and must take place at an NHL-sanctioned venue.

In addition, teams have been asked to conduct virtual team meetings where possible and to practice safe physical distancing at all times. This also means team owners won’t be able to have direct contact with players, general managers and coaches, meaning no face-to-face meetings. Players have been asked to travel on their own to home games and practices and to not socialize with each other outside of the arena unless wearing a face mask and practising social distancing.

All players and staff will be tested daily for the first month of the new season and the process will then be reevaluated.

League Revenue

Since the NHL will be losing a lot of revenue in 2020-21, teams will be allowed to wear ads on player helmets this season. Fans won’t be allowed to attend games at the beginning of the season. However, it’s possible a limited number could attend games in home contests by the Dallas Stars, Arizona Coyotes, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning.

The league has also sold naming rights for each of its four divisions this season. Therefore, the NHL will consist of the Scotia NHL North Division, the Honda NHL West Division, the Discover NHL Central Division and the MassMutual NHL East Division.

NHL announces 2020/21 season to officially face off on Jan. 13th

The NHL officially announced that the league will face off for the 2020/21 season on January 13th with each of the 31 clubs playing a condensed schedule of 56 games which ends on May 8th. The league and NHL Players’ Association came to an agreement and made the announcement on Dec. 20th and said the schedule and safety protocols will soon be released.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman stated that there are plenty of challenges ahead and the league will continue to prioritize the safety and health of all participants during the current Covid-19 pandemic. Training camps will begin on Jan. 3rd with no preseason contests being scheduled. However the seven clubs which didn’t participate in the 24-team 2019/20 postseason this summer will be allowed to open training camps on Dec. 31st.

The 31 teams will be realigned into four divisions with the top four teams in each division making the playoffs. Each division will then hold best-of-seven playoff series with the first-place team playing the fourth and the second-place team meeting the third-place side to determine a division winner. The four division winners will then play off in two semifinal series for the Stanley Cup with the teams being seeded on points and the first playing the fourth with the second playing the third. The postseason is expected to wrap up in mid-July with the 2021/22 NHL season then returning to normal by beginning in October as usual.

With the American-Canadian border still supposedly closed and quarantine rules still in place, the seven Canadian teams will make up one division with the American-based teams making up the other three. This allows all teams to play the regular season in their own country. In addition, teams will only play other squads within their own division to reduce travel. The clubs in the East, West and Central Divisions will play each other eight times with the Canadian squads in the North Division playing each other nine or 10 times each.

Each team is expected to play its home games in their own arena with no fans in attendance. This could eventually change though depending on regional rules and regulations regarding fans. In addition, if local rules prohibit teams from playing in their own home rinks, they may have to play games at a neutral site. For example, if the Vancouver Canucks don’t receive permission to play in British Columbia, the club may need to play it’s home contests elsewhere.

The East Division will consist of the Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals with the Central Division being made up of the Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators and Tampa Bay Lightning.

The West Division will feature the Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues and Vegas Golden Knights while the North Division will see the Canadian teams the Montreal Canadiens, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets playing each other. This is the first time the NHL has featured an Canada division since the 1937/38 campaign.

NHL franchises drop in value in 2020

Like most professional sports league around the world, the NHL took it on the chin financially in 2020 due to the global Covid-19 pandemic. However, some of the league’s 31 clubs absorbed more of a financial loss than others. The teams that ended the year in better were those with strong local broadcasting radio and television deals.

Since fans weren’t allowed in arenas once the league placed its schedule on hold in mid-March it meant teams had to do without critical cash revenue from ticket, sponsorship, parking and concession sales. Of course, the same thing was true during the summer months when the postseason took place inside of bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton.

This meant the Tampa Bay Lightning weren’t able to cash in on their long playoff run which resulted in the franchise’s second Stanley Cup championship. In comparison, the previous two cup winners, the Washington Capitals and St. Louis Blues raked in approximately $20 million each in their postseason runs.

The NHL ended up playing 85 per cent of its scheduled 82-game regular season with fans in attendance in 2019/20 and it looks like just 56 contests will be played by each squad in 2020/21. However, the question of spectators being allowed in arenas is still up in the air.. at least for the start of the campaign, which the NHL hopes will face off in mid-January.

The financial fallout of the pandemic-plagued 2019/20 season has resulted in the average NHL franchise losing two per cent of its value compared to the previous year. The average club value, which was recently announced by Forbes magazine, has declined to $653 million. This represents the first drop in value for the average club since 2001.

Revenue for the league totalled $4.4 billion for 2019/20 which was a 14 per cent decrease from 2018/19 while operating income fell 68 per cent to just $250 million. Twenty-five per cent of the NHL’s revenue last season came from just five teams, which happen to be the five most valuable in the league.

According to Forbes, the New York Rangers top this list with a value of $1.65 billion followed by the Toronto Maple Leafs at $1.5 billion, the Montreal Canadiens at $1.34 billion, the Chicago Blackhawks at $1.085 billion and the Boston Bruins at an even $1 billion. All of these clubs enjoy profitable local broadcasting deals which in part helps make up for the league’s less-than-impressive national broadcasting contract.

The NHL’s national deals with Canadian and American broadcasters saw each club earn $20 million last season while NFL clubs were each paid $260 million per team due to the NFL’s national broadcasting deals. The Montreal Canadiens local broadcasting contracts were worth over $50 million last year with Toronto making fore than $40 million and the New York Rangers approximately $35 million.

In total, it’s estimated the league missed out over $200 million in postseason revenue by playing in bubble arenas without fans this summer and fall. In addition, the collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and the players’ association sees the revenue split evenly at 50 per cent. However, the league planned on 2019/20 revenue to reach approximately $5.4 billion and didn’t hold enough back in escrow from players’ salaries to guarantee a 50 per cent split. This resulted in the players receiving more than 50 per cent of the revenue.

Forbes reported that nine of 31 NHL teams lost at least $10 million in operating income in 2019/20 which was an increase over the five teams that lost double-digit figures the previous season. The New York Islanders reportedly lost the most at $37.9 million even though the franchise’s value remained the same at $520 million. Hopefully things will pick up for the club though in 2021/22 when it moves to a new home arena.

The average team debt in 2020 is listed at $144 million compared to $127 million in 2019 and those losses are expected to continue in 2020/21.

The following is Forbes’ list of the NHL’s franchises, their 2020 value and operating income or loss in U.S. dollars:

  1. New York Rangers: $1.65 billion-Operating Income: $87 million
  2. Toronto Maple Leafs: $1.5 billion-Operating Income: $56.3 million
  3. Montreal Canadiens: $1.34 billion-Operating Income: $86.5 million
  4. Chicago Blackhawks: $1.085 billion-Operating Income: $45.3 million
  5. Boston Bruins: $1 billion-Operating Income: $26.8 million
  6. Los Angeles Kings: $825 million-Operating Income: $45.3 million
  7. Philadelphia Flyers: $800 million-Operating Income: $7.9 million
  8. Detroit Red Wings: $775 million-Operating Income: $31.2 million
  9. Washington Capitals: $750 million-Operating Income: $7.7 million
  10. Vancouver Canucks: $725 million-Operating Income: $2.9 million
  11. Pittsburgh Penguins: $650 million-Operating Income: $14 million
  12. Dallas Stars: $575 million-Operating Income: $4.5 million
  13. Vegas Golden Knights: $570 million-Operating Income: $13.9 million
  14. Edmonton Oilers: $550 million-Operating Income: $16.9 million
  15. New Jersey Devils: $530 million-Operating Income: $4.1 million
  16. New York Islanders: $520 million-Operating Income: -$37.9 million
  17. San Jose Sharks: $515 million-Operating Income: –$14.7 million
  18. St Louis Blues: $510 million-Operating Income: –$8.2 million
  19. Minnesota Wild: $500 million-Operating Income: –$6.2 million
  20. Calgary Flames: $480 million-Operating Income: $400,000
  21. Tampa Bay Lightning: $470 million-Operating Income: –$8.3 million
  22. Colorado Avalanche: $465 million-Operating Income: –$10 million
  23. Anaheim Ducks: $460 million-Operating Income: –$9.1 million
  24. Carolina Hurricanes: $440 million-Operating Income:–$15 million
  25. Nashville Predators: $435 million-Operating Income: –$13.4 million
  26. Ottawa Senators: $430 million-Operating Income: –$2.9 million
  27. Winnipeg Jets: $405 million-Operating Income: –$7.6 million
  28. Buffalo Sabres: $385 million-Operating Income:–$10.9 million
  29. Columbus Blue Jackets: $310 million-Operating Income: –$10.3 million
  30. Florida Panthers: $295 million-Operating Income: –$28.9 million
  31. Arizona Coyotes: $285 million-Operating Income: –$17 million



2020/21 NHL season pushed back again

While the NBA is set to tip off its 2020/21 season just before Christmas, the NHL still doesn’t have a starting date set in stone. League commissioner Gary Bettman had hoped to see the 31 teams back on the ice for the new campaign by January 1st but that isn’t going to happen. Bettman recently announced that things are progressing but a mid-January date is now more realistic.

He also stated that players’ health is the most important thing and with North America suffering through a second wave of Covid-19 cases, the league is willing to take it’s time before deciding on an official starting date. When and if the season does get underway, fans should expect a condensed schedule of 52 or 56 games. This will enable the NHL to wrap up the Stanley Cup Finals before the start of the 20201 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.

The league and NHL Players’ Association (NHLPA) have met recently and will soon have to agree to a starting date since clubs will need to hold preseason training camps and get in an exhibition game or two. In addition, the seven teams which didn’t take part in the 2019/20 postseason may be given permission to hold an earlier and longer training camp. With a mid-January start to the season, training camps would be required to start very early in the month.

Some clubs, such as the Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins, Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings,   have considered playing their home games on outdoor rinks in 2020/21. In the case of Anaheim and Los Angeles, both teams could share the Dignity Health Sports Park which is a 27,000-seat stadium used by the Los Angeles Galaxy of MLS soccer. The venue is owned by the Anshutz Entertainment Group, which also owns the Kings and is located just 15 miles away from the club’s home rink, the Staples Center.

This is an option which could be further explored down the road if fans or more fans are allowed in outdoor venues compared to indoor locations. Of course, the NHLPA would have to agree to it as well as local governments. The Bruins could possibly play at Fenway Park, the home of MLB’s Boston Red Sox while the Penguins could consider using Heinz Field where the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers play or PNC Park, where MLB’s Pittsburgh Pirates play.

However, as other professional sports have shown, it could be possible for a limited number of fans to attend NHL games. Several MLB baseball, MLS soccer and NFL football stadiums have allowed a certain number of spectators to view games along with boxing cards. However, government rules and regulations regarding public gatherings varies from state to state and in some cases, city to city.

On the bright side, Bettman believes the upcoming Covid-19 vaccines will mean fans should be able to return to arenas in full force for the 2021/22 season when the Seattle Kraken will join the NHL as an expansion franchise. The commissioner said the league wants to return to normal in 2021/22 with the season facing off in early October as usual.

Before this season begins though, the NHL and NHLPA need to sort out a few issues including salary deferral and escrow as well as temporarily realigning the divisions to suit the current Covid-19 travel and quarantine restrictions. This means it’s highly likely that an all-Canadian division will be created since the US-Canadian border is supposedly closed to non-essential travel.

Things could change once again though with Christmas and New Year’s approaching since these holidays could result in another spike of Covid-19 cases. However, many nations will soon begin vaccination programs and this could help combat the virus.

Florida Panthers hope to end playoff losing drought in 2020/21

It’s been close to a quarter of a century since the Florida Panthers have won an NHL playoff series and it’s a drought the club is anxious to put a halt in 2020/21. The franchise has made several on and off-ice moves during the current offseason to address the streak of futility but only time will tell how successful they were.

To start with, longtime general manager Dale Tallon was released on September 2nd and replaced with Bill Zito who formerly worked with the Columbus Blue Jackets. The club then made NHL history by hiring 39-year-old Brett Peterson as the league’s first African-American assistant general manager and also named former Ulf Samuelsson as an assistant coach.

The 56-year-old Samuelsson of Sweden has 15 years of coaching experience in the AHL, NHL and in his homeland and won Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins as a player in 1990/91 and 1991/92. He also holds the record for most NHL penalty minutes by a Swedish-born player with 2,453.

As well as hiring Peterson and Samuelsson, new GM Zito has brought in several players in hopes of changing the team’s attitude and vibe for the upcoming season. The biggest move was acquiring two-time Stanley Cup-winning forward Patric Hornqvist from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for rearguard Mike Matheson and forward Colton Sceviour.

Hornqvist helped the Penguins win the Cup in 2015/16 and 2016/17 and has racked up 238 goals and 242 assists for 480 points in his NHL career so far in 770 regular-season contests with Pittsburgh and the Nashville Predators. He’s also added 25 goals and 21 helpers for 46 points in 90 playoff outings. In addition, the Panthers signed forward Alexander Wennberg to a one-year deal worth $2.25 million after his contract was bought out by Columbus.

Unrestricted forward Carter Verhaeghe was signed for two years at $2 million after winning the Stanley Cup with Tampa this year and rugged defenceman Radko Gudas inked a three-year deal worth $7.5 million after leaving the Washington Capitals. Zito also signed Vinnie Hinostroza for a year at $1 million after being let go by the Arizona Coyotes.

However, the Panthers also lost quite a bit of offence in the offseason as the club didn’t re-sign Mike Hoffman and fellow free-agent forward Evgenii Dadonov jumped ship and signed with the Ottawa Senators for three years for $15 million. Hoffman led Florida with 29 goals in 69 outings last season while Dadonov chipped in with 25 goals and 22 assists for 47 points in 69 games.

Hornqvist will be depended on to replace some of the void left by Hoffman and Dadanov’s departures and the team will also need big seasons from Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov who posted 78 and 62 points respectively last season. Zito told the media he is looking for his players to compete on a nightly basis and wants them to approach their jobs in a professional and business-like manner. Most of all, he claimed he wants players on the squad that hate to lose and are hard to play against.

Most Panthers’ fans believed the club had turned the corner last year when three-time Stanley Cup-winner Joel Quenneville took over as head coach and unrestricted free agent goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky was signed to a seven-year deal from Columbus. Things didn’t really improve too much though as the team went 35-26-8 for a points percentage of .565 during the regular season. They managed to make the postseason but were ousted in five games by the New York Islanders in the best-of-five qualifying round.

Bobrovsky struggled in net during his first campaign with the Panthers by posting a 23-19-6 record with a 90.0 save percentage and a goals-against average of 3.23 in 50 games. This is one of the reasons Zito brought in the physical Gudas to help strengthen the blue line. Gudas posted just 15 points in 63 games in 2019/20 but dished out 124 hits to rank 12th among rearguards in the league.

Quenneville believes the club is on the right track by bringing in hard-working, competitive players and feels the roster is filled with players who will stand up for one another. He added that he thinks they’ll help produce a winning environment but admitted the expectations will be raised as well next season.

In the meantime, Florida fans will continue to hope that the next time the team wins a playoff set it will be a good omen since the last time they took won a series they also won the Stanley Cup.

Active offseason gives Montreal Canadiens’ fans plenty of hope

With Marc Bergevin being one of the busiest general managers during the NHL offseason, the Montreal Canadiens and their fans are anxious to get a look at their new additions. The Habs signed unrestricted free agent centre Tyler Toffoli to a four-year deal worth $17 million and acquired goaltender Jake Allen, defenceman Joel Edmundson and forward Josh Anderson via trades. In addition, 20-year-old blue liner Alexander Romanov inked an entry-level earlier in the year and has a good shot at making the lineup.

The 28-year-old Toffoli was originally drafted by the Los Angeles Kings with the 47th overall pick in 2010 and helped the club win the Stanley Cup four years later. He was traded to Vancouver in February and posted 24 goals and 20 assists in 68 games last season with another four points in seven postseason outings in Vancouver. In total, Toffoli has racked up 145 goals and 155 helpers for 300 points in 525 regular-season contests with 11 goals and 25 points in 54 playoff games.

Toffoli has proven to be a dependable player at both ends of the rink as he led the NHL in plus/minus in 2015/16 with a plus-35 and led the league with five shorthanded goals in 2014/15. He’s also useful on the power-play as he’s notched 32 goals and 56 points with the man advantage so far during his career and has 27 game-winning goals.

The 26-year-old Anderson was acquired from Columbus in a trade for fellow forward Max Domi and a third-round draft pick and then signed a seven-year deal for $38.5 million. It may be seen as a bit of a gamble for the Canadiens since Anderson was limited to 26 regular-season games in 2019/20 due to injury and posted just one goal and three assists with a minus-8 rating. The 6-foot-3-inch 220 lb winger has tallied 65 goals and 115 points in 267 career games with eight points in 21 playoff games.

With Toffoli and Anderson up front, head coach Claude Julien has three solid lines to roll out. Youngsters Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi have plenty of potential as they continue to improve with each passing game and each of them scored four goals in this year’s playoffs to lead the squad. The centres have already exceeded many fans’ expectations before reaching the age of 21 and Suzuki often played on the team’s top line in the playoffs between Brendan and Tomas Tatar.

Of course, the club also has another excellent prospect up front in Phillip Danault. Suzuki contributed 13 goals and 41 points in 71 contests in 2019/20 while Kotkaniemi added six goals and eight points in 36 outings and Danault was second in team scoring with 13 goals and 47 points in 71 games with a team-high plus-18 rating. Suzuki also co-led the team in the playoffs with seven points in 10 games along with Jonathan Drouin.

On the blue line, the 27-year-old Edmundson was picked up in a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes for just a fifth-round draft pick and promptly signed to a four-year, $14 million contract. The 6-foot-4-inch native of Brandon, Manitoba was originally drafted 46th overall by the St. Louis Blues in 2011 and helped them win the Stanley Cup in 2018/19. He’s notched 20 goals and 72 points in 337 regular-season games with a plus-25 rating with six goals and 15 points in 53 playoff outings with a plus-10 rating.

An other key newcomer from St. Louis was 29-year-old goaltender Jake Allen as next year’s pending free agent was acquired for a seventh-round draft pick in 2020 and 2022. Allen was then given a two-year contract extension by Bergevin for $5.75 million to back up Carey Price in the crease. Allen was drafted 34th overall by the Blues in 2008 and also helped them win the Stanley Cup in 2018/19.

He brings plenty of experience with a career regular-season record of 148-94-26 in 289 games with a goals-against average of 2.50 and a 91.3 save percentage. Allen is 11-12 in 29 playoff games with a 92.4 save percentage and a 2.06 goals-against average. He also managed to be named to the NHL’s All-Rookie Team twice as he made the squad in 2012/13 after playing just 15 regular-season games and again in 2014/15.

But while the newcomers and youngsters will be depended upon to lead Montreal to the playoffs and beyond in 2020/21, key veterans Carey Price and Shea Weber also need to keep up their fine play. Both players are signed until 2026 with Price going 27-25-6 in net last season with a 2.79 goals-against average and a 90.9 save percentage while Weber posted 15 goals and 36 points in 65 games.

This is a make or break season for Montreal though as Price and Weber are nearing the ends of their careers. The Habs performed well in this year’s postseason, but fans and management won’t be satisfied next year if they can’t progress to the second round.

Tyson Barrie aims to bounce back on Edmonton’s blue line

Most NHL defencemen would have been happy scoring 39 points in 70 games in the 2019/20 campaign but Tyson Barrie is one of the exceptions. Barrie posted five goals and 34 assists with the Toronto Maple Leafs last season but took a lot of heat in the city and also admitted it was an off-year for him. The 29-year-old native of Victoria, British Columbia scored .56 points-per game in Toronto which was slightly less than his career average of .62 points-per-game.

Barrie was originally drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the third round in 2009 with the 64th-overall pick. He quickly became the club’s top offensive blue liner by racking up 75 goals and 307 points in 484 regular-season games with 14 points in 21 playoff outings. However, Barrie was traded to Toronto on July 1, 2019 along with forward Adam Kerfoot and a sixth-round draft pick for centre Nazem Kadri, rearguard Calle Rosen and a third-round draft pick.

Barrie finished fifth in scoring for the Leafs last season and easily led the blue line in points. But for some reason he was criticized by numerous Leafs’ fans much in the way Hall of Fame defender Larry Murphy was years before. Barrie then made the right move by leaving the city he wasn’t appreciated in and signing with the Edmonton Oilers as an unrestricted free agent this summer as the team was in need of a skilled, puck-moving defenceman.

Barrie enjoyed some high-scoring seasons in Colorado by breaking the 50-point barrier three times and also posting 49 points on one occasion as well as breaking double digits in goals five times. In addition, he anchored one of the league’s best power-plays which featured high-scoring stars Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon. He’s now going to be depended upon to do the same in Edmonton with the likes of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

One of the knocks against the 5-foot-10-inch, 190 lb Barrie is his defensive play as he owns a minus-66 rating in his 554-game career so far. However, he was acquired by both Toronto and Edmonton for his elite offensive skills, which are among the best in the league. Barrie struggled at first in Toronto under head coach Mike Babcock and was relegated to the team’s second power-play unit. Once Babcock was fired though with Sheldon Keefe taking over behind the bench, Barrie’s production and overall play improved significantly.

He was also shuffled around the lineup quite a bit in Toronto and found himself with several different blue line partners, especially after fellow defenceman Morgan Rielly was injured. Once the playoffs resumed after the NHL paused in March due to Covid-19, Barrie struggled like the rest of his teammates and went without a point in five games against Columbus during the play-in round. The writing may have been on the wall for Barrie before the league resumed action, but the Leafs’ failure to make the playoffs basically sealed his fate.

With Edmonton general manager Ken Holland seeking offensive help from the blue line due to the long-term injury of Oscar Klefbom, he inked Barrie to a one-year deal worth $3.75 million in October. Barrie could very well be partnered with Darnell Nurse on the Oilers’ blue line to start the upcoming season but he’ll need to quickly prove himself with the squad since he’s signed for just one season. Barrie is betting on himself to rebound from a somewhat sub-par campaign in Toronto and so is Holland.

If Barrie regains the confidence he displayed while playing with Colorado he could very well be offered a longer contract when his deal runs out. There’s no reason to believe he won’t succeed with the Oilers by helping out McDavid and Draisaitl and he should be highly-motivated to prove his value. Another 50-point season should be attainable for Barrie if the NHL decides to play an 82-game schedule and his talent could help Edmonton win a series or two in the playoffs.

Dallas to be a couple of Stars short when NHL season faces off

The Dallas Stars won’t exactly be living up to the team’s nickname when the 2020-21 NHL season faces off as two of their star players will be on the sidelines. The club expects to be without number one goaltender Ben Bishop and top-scoring forward  Tyler Seguin when play resumes due to each player’s recent surgery. According to the Stars, both Bishop and Seguin will need approximately five months to recover.

The 33-year-old Bishop, who missed most of the squad’s playoff run this summer due to a torn meniscus, went under the knife on his right knee on October 21st. Meanwhile, Seguin, recently underwent surgery to have his hip and a torn labrum taken care of. Bishop played just three playoff games last season and visibly struggled when in net. He posted a goals-against average of 5.43 with a record of 1-2 and 84.4 save percentage in his three outings.

This was well below par when compared to his regular-season performance in which he went 21-16-4 in 44 contests with a save percentage of 92.0, a 2.50 goals-against average and a pair of shutouts. The Stars have good depth in net though as Anton Khudobin took over in the crease for Bishop in the playoffs. He helped the team reach its first Stanley Cup Final since the 1999/2000 season with a mark of 14-10, a 91.7 save percentage, a 2.69 goals-against average and one shutout in 25 appearances. However, the Stars fell just short by losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games.

The 28-year-old Seguin notched 13 points in 26 playoff outings this season when the centre contributed two goals and 11 assists. This was also off the pace compared to the regular campaign in which he chipped in with 17 goals and 33 helpers for 50 points in 69 games to lead the team. Although he wasn’t 100 per cent healthy, Seguin missed just one playoff encounter this year, but hasn’t missed a regular-season contest since 2015/16.

Jim Nill, general manager of the Stars, told the media that Seguin’s original date for surgery was delayed due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. He also stated that the team had several other injured players but all are expected to be back on the ice when the season gets underway. Goaltender Khudobin also underwent surgery in October to repair a nerve problem in his right arm while forwards Jamie Benn and Blake Comeau had shoulder problems and Roope Hintz had a fractured ankle.

Seguin was acquired by Dallas in July, 2013 in a deal with the Boston Bruins and has scored 223 goals and 291 assists for 514 points in 538 regular-season games for the club with seven goals and 20 assists in 46 playoff games. He won a Stanley Cup with Boston in 2010-11 as a rookie and has been one of the NHL’s most consistent scorers since entering the league.

Bishop has played the past three seasons with the Stars after being acquired in May, 2017 from the Los Angeles Kings. The two-time NHL All-Star led the league in save percentage at 93.4 with Dallas in 2018/19. He’s played 143 regular-season games with the club with a 74-48-11 record along with a 92.3 save percentage, 2.33 goals-against average and 14 shutouts. Bishop has also appeared in 16 playoff contests with an 8-8 record, a 92.0 save percentage and a 2.67 goals-against average.