News around the NHL and locally Florida Panthers news has been grinding down to a halt as we all await to see the election results and if the world ends by Wednesday. Welcome to the first National Hockey Now version of Off the Record, which is a national column appearing on all National Hockey Now sites from San Jose to Boston and all points in between. We will focus on behind-the-scenes league chatter on the NHL free agents, trade gossip, and anything else insiders are willing to share.
Of course, the league-wide stalemate’s main reason is a flattened salary cap and the uncertainty surrounding the 2021 NHL regular season. Last week, one insider shared his belief that pensive owners will begin spending when fans are cleared to return. However, while big-name NHL free agents are still looking for work and NHL trade talk has slowed down, there’s still plenty of chatter, and that’s what you’ll find here in another edition of NHN Off The Record!
Could the Champs Chase Chara?
Could the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning put a knife into the Boston Bruins’ heart and add Zdeno Chara to an already stacked left side of their blue line? An NHL source has told Boston Hockey Now that current league chatter says Boston and their captain since the 2006-07 season, have been unable to find common ground on a new contract.
More specifically, the sides can’t agree on Chara’s would-be role next season. Boston and Chara have a mutual understanding that Chara will continue to explore opportunities like other NHL free agents. There has been some recent chatter amongst NHL sources that one of the teams that could jump into the fray is none other than the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“I know it sounds crazy because of the cap problems they have in Tampa, but if they can move someone out, I’m hearing they will reach out to Chara if they haven’t already,” a second NHL source said recently.
The Lightning currently has $2.8 million in cap space per Puckpedia.com. They still need to sign key restricted free agent forward Anthony Cirelli, and RFA defensemen Erik Cernak and Mikhail Sergachev. Counting Sergachev, the Lightning currently have four left-shot defensemen on their blue line, so there would be a logjam there if they added another in Chara. However, it’s maybe the worst kept secret on the trade chatter wire that Lightning General Manager Julien BriseBois has been trying to move defenseman Braydon Coburn and the final year of his two-year contract that carries a $1.7 million.
“Chara’s not going to cost much, and he can just fall into his role there and have a better chance at winning the Stanley Cup than he would in Boston,” that same source above pointed out. “If the Bruins keep dilly-dallying around here, they’re going to lose their captain, and I’m telling you, Tampa will be in on him if they can move some cap space.”
Can the Arizona Coyotes Get on the Right Track?
The Tampa Bay Lightning isn’t the only team looking to shed salary via trade. Counting the Leafs, nine teams currently have zero cap space. Surprisingly, one of those teams is the Arizona Coyotes. They already failed to facilitate a trade that would’ve sent captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson to the Vancouver Canucks or the Bruins and are mired in the swamp of the Mitchell Miller debacle.
New Coyotes GM Billy Armstrong would love nothing more than to create some positive news to distract from the Mitchell Miller mess (he had nothing to do with), and word amongst some in the league is that he may be looking to his old boss in St. Louis for help.
The St. Louis Blues are another team with zero cap space, and GM Doug Armstrong still needs to sign restricted free agent Vince Dunn. Given their cap issues, the Armstrong duo would have to get creative, but it’s worth watching.
Would the Columbus Blue Jackets or Nashville Coyotes, two teams who cleared major cap space to make a big splash in the NHL free agents pond, but have thus far failed. Would either be interested in absorbing the two seasons at $8 million per left on Phil Kessel’s contract? They’re obviously both targeting UFA winger Mike Hoffman but if that didn’t happen, would one try to revive Kessel?
We will have to check how good the hot dogs are in Columbus and Nashville.
Why Haven’t the Pittsburgh Penguins Hired Dale Tallon?
Pittsburgh Hockey Now recently reported that former Florida Panthers and Chicago Blackhawks General Manager Dale Tallon could be joining Jim Rutherford’s Hockey Operations staff once Tallon was cleared of racial allegations stemming from the NHL bubble in Toronto. Tallon was cleared last week, so what’s the holdup? Tallon would be a breath of fresh air in what some around the NHL are saying has become a rather dysfunctional Penguins front office.
The worst that could happen if Rutherford brought in Tallon is that he could bring some fresh, objective eyes for Rutherford and head coach Mike Sullivan. However, an off the record chat turned up the belief that other teams have called the former Florida Panthers GM, too.
Just speculating, but the Buffalo Sabres currently have a nearly vacant front office and a need for more hockey people. Dale Tallon is definitely a hockey person and a pretty good judge of talent.
Boston Bruins D Carlo Says PA Eyeing 82 Games
In an exclusive interview with Boston Hockey Now, Boston defenseman Brandon Carlo told yours truly and Joe Haggerty that the NHLPA is still eyeing an 82-game 2021 NHL regular season and that January 1. With all due respect to Carlo, the PA, and the NHL, there is no way that the NHL will get an 82-game season unless they start in the next month. Don’t forget that the league’s broadcast partner, in the States, NBC, has the Summer Olympics from Tokyo next summer. They will want the Stanley Cup Playoffs to be over at least a few days before the July 23 Opening Ceremonies should the Olympics actually occur.
The real reason both the NHL and NHLPA are still publicly pushing for 82 games is that the NHL is already not so quietly looking into ways to pro-rate salaries should there be a shortened season. There is nowhere in the collective bargaining agreement they signed with the players last July that allows the league to prorate the salaries, so there’s a solid chance this could lead to some unwanted labor strife, a postponement, or even more. Neither side wants that and realizes that 82 games are likely the only way to avoid a labor stoppage on top of the pandemic issues.