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Lightning Round: NHL moving forward on plans to start the season

It appears a large hurdle, the finances, may have been cleared.

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Tampa Bay Lightning v New Jersey Devils Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images

Late Monday night, word began to trickle out that actual progress was being made to get the Tampa Bay Lightning’s defense of the Stanley Cup (known in other cities as the 2021 NHL season) underway. TSN’s Darren Dreger reported via Twitter that there would be no financial changes to the Memorandum of Understanding that the NHL and NHLPA agreed to back in the summer. The players balked earlier this fall when the league floated the idea of making changes to the MOU in order to make the financial aspect more viable to the owners. Instead, according to Dreger, things will proceed as originally planned with 10% deferred salaries and 20% escrow.

As of right now this is just one hurdle, albeit a major one, the league and the player’s union had to clear in order to get things on schedule for a mid-January start of the season. The Board of Governors and the NHLPA Executive Board still have to sign off on the deal, and the owners aren’t likely to be happy that they weren’t able to get any additional concessions from the players.

Even if everyone agrees to move on with the agreement from the summer, there are still several more obstacles in their way in order to get the season going. Pierre LeBrun reports that both sides are looking at a 56-game schedule that starts around January 13th (A 10% deferral and 20% escrow = players getting 70% of their contracts. A 56 game season is roughly 70% of a regular season. Hmmm.) In order for that to happen a lot of details have to be ironed out.

Things like realignment, travel protocols, the schedule, and playoff formats are still question marks. If they are going to start training camps on January 1st (or sooner for teams that didn’t make the playoff tournament last season) then the time frame is rapidly shrinking to figure out how to get players back from Europe, or across the US/Canada border in time to quarantine or pass any health protocols local governments have in place.

Teams located in areas that are tightly locked down (such as California) may have to figure out alternative places to conduct their training camps and possibly even their early season games (things aren’t likely to improve much over the next thirty days regarding COVID-19). There is most likely going to be some sort of modified-bubble aspect to the season so the league and the teams are going to have to figure out the logistics of that as well.

So there is still a lot of negotiation left to do between the two parties, but this report, if it’s true, is actual tangible progress in the attempt to have a NHL season take place. That’s a good sign and a couple of more meetings are likely to iron out the small details like when the trade deadline will be or if teams will have expanded rosters.

Hopefully more details leak out as the week progresses, because there really isn’t much wiggle room to hit the dates that LeBrun mentions. If there isn’t a more concrete plan in place by Friday I wouldn’t expect the season to start until February 1st (which has always seemed like a much more realistic date).

Hockey News:

Alex Barre-Boulet was took home the number 10 spot in our Top 25 Under 25 Countdown. [Raw Charge]

This is where his future gets a little murky with the organization. For him to be at his most productive Barre-Boulet should be on a line with other talented offensive players. His best game is not as a fourth-line forward playing 10 minutes of dump-and-forecheck hockey. Unfortunately, the Lightning don’t have a lot of holes to fill in the top six right now.

The Lightning did manage to fill a spot on their bench on Monday. They announced that Rob Zettler would be joining the team as an assistant coach, filling the vacancy left when Todd Richards departed for the Nashville Predators. Zettler was an assistant coach for Jon Cooper’s staff in Syracuse, and took over the head coaching duties for the Crunch when Coach Cooper was promoted. Most recently Zettler was an assistant coach for the San Jose Sharks. [Tampa Bay Lightning]

“Rob brings extensive coaching experience to the Lightning organization and is very familiar with a lot of our players and coaches,” [GM Julien] BriseBois said. “We believe our players will benefit from Rob’s wealth of experience, both as a long-time NHL defenseman and as a veteran coach in the NHL.”

Speaking of Nashville. Adam Gretz of NBCSports thinks that the Predators should do the unthinkable and offer sheet Anthony Cirelli. They have the need for a top line center, the cap space to offer him an enticing deal, and the draft picks to satisfy the conditions. Tennessee also enjoys the benefit of having no state income tax. Could young Mr. Cirelli be enticed into signing with the Preds and gumming up the Lightning’s plans? [NBC Sports]

After re-signing Mikhail Sergachev a couple of weeks ago the Lightning already find themselves nearly $2 million over the salary cap, still have four roster spots to fill, and still have another RFA to re-sign (defenseman Erik Cernak). To this point they have been unable to shed salary to create space to fill those spots.

An offer sheet in the $4.5 to $5.5 million range would put a ton of pressure on them.

One of the more infamous offer sheets in league history involved Phil Esposito. He chatted with Joe Smith of The Athletic about the founding of the Lightning, which happened 30 years ago last Sunday. [The Athletic]

I’ll never forget. When [NHL President John] Ziegler announced [Tampa receiving the expansion team], (my partner Mel Lowell) put his hand on the floor and said, “Oh my God Phil.” One of the Japanese investors was behind me. He said, “What do we do now?”

I said, “Now, you pay.”

It’s been a good year for Pat Maroon. First he becomes Mr. Back-to-Back by winning his second Stanley Cup in a row, then he got married, and now he’ll be honored with the Hometown Hero Award at the Jack Buck Awards banquet in Missouri. [St. Louis Post Dispatch]

At the end of September, he won his second Stanley Cup — this time as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning. That put him just four championship rings behind quarterback Tom Brady.

“That’s the goal,” Maroon told the Post-Dispatch. “You want to win as many championships as you can before they kick you out of the league, right?”

Could Julien BriseBois and Jon Cooper team up to bring Canada a gold medal in the next Olympics? It might not be a bad idea for Team Canada and would add to Coach Cooper’s trophy shelf. [The Hockey Writers]

The main reason a BriseBois-led Team Canada should hand the reigns to Jon Cooper would be to allow him to continue his legacy as one of the greatest coaches of his era. Cooper has won at every level he has coached — winning championships in the North American Hockey League (NAHL), United States Hockey League (USHL), and American Hockey League (AHL) — before winning a Stanley Cup with the Lightning this past season.

There are only two PSA 10 Wayne Gretzky O-Pee-Chee rookie cards currently in existence. What does that mean? In layperson terms - only two of the hundreds, if not thousands, of his cards from the 1979-80 set that have been sent in for grading have been deemed in perfect, mint condition. It also means those cards are worth a lot of money - as in a million dollars. [The Toronto Star]

“A lot of us will have a Gretzky rookie card in their house and think you’ve got a $1 million card. Odds are you don’t,” said Stephen Laroche, a Belleville-based card collectible author and historian. “