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Kyle Dubas says he’s finished with the Maple Leafs roster moves – Pension Plan Puppets

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On the weekend, Kyle Dubas signed Joe Thornton and then met the media to say that he’s mostly done messing around with the roster. He’s not planning to sign anyone or trade away anyone just for cap space. An obvious caveat on that first part is that some more AHL players will be signed, and some of them might be on NHL contracts. But, we should expect the NHL roster to be chosen from the existing players on the team right now.

An even more obvious caveat on the entire concept is that training camp is months away and anything can happen.

Everyone Starts on the Team

A lot of things will happen before the next NHL season begins, but that does not mean everything will change. When NHL training camps begin, everyone on an NHL contract is on the NHL roster.

The only certain exception to that so far for the Leafs is Mikhail Abramov, who has already been loaned to junior since his season there has begun. It’s possible that Egor Korshkov’s loan to the KHL is for the full season, but Mikko Lehtonen’s is definitely not. Filip Hallander will also be available to the Maple Leafs at training camp, and they can keep him on the NHL roster if they want. If not, he can be returned to the SHL, but the deal made by Pittsburgh with Luleå says he can’t be loaned to the AHL instead.

Training camp is going to decide who is on the NHL roster for the season and who is not just like always. And as Dubas said very pointedly, no one on the Leafs had had the kind of success that says they can claim a given roster spot. He was speaking specifically about the defence, but it applies to some of the forwards as well.

The Salary Cap Has Been Uncrunched (Mostly)

With the moves that have been made, and an expectation that neither Travis Dermott or Ilya Mikheyev will be signed to very large deals, it is possible to make a variety of versions of a 21- or 22-man roster out of the players currently under contract without doing anything too outlandish — like moving anyone more highly paid than Pierre Engvall to the AHL.

One note to those using CapFriendly: their pages currently list projected or estimated regular-season roster. No one they are showing as in the AHL (like Engvall) are actually in the minors. No one is in the minors right now, see point one: Everyone starts on the NHL roster. Also, following on from that the “cap space” is a projection, teams are in offseason cap space now, which is calculated differently, and of which the Leafs have almost $4 million.

Waivers, Waivers, Waivers

No one understands waivers. I know this, you know this, and imaginary roster construction almost always fails at a waivers hurdle. Waivers are not a garbage disposal! Players are not put on waivers to be gotten rid of. Many players require waivers to be loaned to the AHL, and the overwhelming majority of players who are waived, clear. Every year, we think seven guys will be lost. And it doesn’t happen. You want to know why?

Because in order for some other team to want to claim a player off of waivers, they have to be planning to keep them in the NHL. So they have to have an NHL contract space and roster spot open for players the Leafs think of as surplus. This is why extra backup goalies and depth forwards sometimes get claimed, but in very small numbers.

The Leafs do have some players who potentially won’t clear, who they will obviously be sending through waivers to the AHL. Denis Malgin has extensive NHL experience and hasn’t been waived in some time. Aaron Dell is also in this class. Kenny Agostino is more of an AHLer you can call up, but you never know, someone might grab him.

None of that — not even Dell’s risk of waiver loss — should upset you. Losing Dmytro Timashov on waivers wasn’t a loss. Waiver exemption is usually not the primary reason roster choices get made, but it can factor in.

The following players are potential NHL-rostered Maple Leafs and are waiver exempt enough to be sent down on day one of the NHL season to make a cap-compliant 23-man or less Active Roster:

  • Nick Robertson
  • Pierre Engvall
  • Alexander Barabanov
  • Egor Korshkov
  • Joey Anderson
  • Mikko Lehtonen
  • Rasmus Sandin
  • Timothy Liljegren

There are many other regular AHL players also in this category. But to use the obvious example, Mikko Lehtonen is not going to be cut from the team to make the numbers work out, Rasmus Sandin is.

Papering Down and Banking Space

The term “papering down” refers to a paper-only transaction where a waiver-exempt player is sent to the AHL and then recalled again within a short period of time. This happens for three main reasons.

When a team needs to place a player on LTIR, it’s beneficial to have an Active Roster that comes as close to the salary cap upper limit as possible. Moving a few players around to achieve that is common.

When a team wishes to make players eligible for AHL playoffs they have to be on the AHL roster on the trade deadline day.

During the season, when a team operating without LTIR usage has a homestand or off days, they can paper down some players to get to the minimum roster size and then end up banking more cap space for use at the trade deadline. We should expect the Leafs to do this whenever possible, and Dubas mentioned this in his presser.

To accomplish that trick, you need to have waiver exempt players who don’t lose that exemption by playing in the NHL. Joey Anderson has more than a season of NHL games played before he loses his exemption. Pierre Engvall has 15. It isn’t fear of waivers at play here, it’s time. Papering someone down doesn’t work so well if you have to wait a day for them to clear. So for this reason, if Anderson makes the NHL roster, that’s a useful side benefit.

The bigger the cap hit of the player you can paper off the team, the better. Lehtonen and Barabanov are good choices with their max-ELC salaries of $925,000. Sometimes teams are reluctant to use higher-status players for this purpose. It’s like they think it looks bad or something, but I’m not sure the Leafs will care about that. Nick Robertson cannot be used in this way since he cannot play in the AHL.

Players who are not on an NHL Active Roster cannot practice with the NHL team, and while the Leafs and Marlies practice on connected icepads, they have been reasonably scrupulous about this in the past. You cannot just plunk your extra goalie in an NHL practice, for example. You have to call him up and have his salary count against the cap for that day.

What if There is No AHL?

That’s a very good question, one the new CBA Memo of Understanding does not address. There is an adjustment to waiver rules that makes an AHL season that starts before the NHL more plausible to arrange, but the opposite case isn’t spelled out.

This is just one of many things that the NHL and the NHLPA will have to sort out before play begins. But one thing that is not up to them is the rule that prevents Nick Robertson from playing in the AHL. That agreement is between the NHL and the Canadian Hockey League, and the CHL has no incentive to change it unless they believe it will be impossible to play any WHL, OHL and QMJHL seasons, and that seems so implausible as to not be considered.

The AHL, meanwhile, has not released a tentative start date publicly, but a host of NHL teams, including the Leafs, started signing AHL players all within days of each other, so it’s safe to say they believe an AHL season of some description will take place. Expect some clarity on those tentative plans soon, but there is one person you can assume has the inside scoop: Kyle Dubas.

How will things be handled if there’s a substantial time gap between the NHL season start and the AHL? No one knows that. So assuming one thing or another is correct is not how a good team manages the roster.

The Crowded Leafs

Ilya Mikheyev is expected to go through his arbitration hearing on Wednesday, and then by the end of this week, his salary will be known. With him on the roster, the Leafs have 14 regular NHL forwards plus newcomers Barabanov and Robertson, making 16 plausible choices.

With Travis Dermott signed, there are seven defenders who are expected to be in the NHL without counting Rasmus Sandin, so it seems like he’s got to be cut.

Dubas discussed the defence in some detail at the link above, and Mark Masters reminds us that Dubas previously said they expect Dermott to play the right side.

That makes this the general depth chart:

Morgan Rielly – TJ Brodie
Jake Muzzin – Justin Holl
Mikko Lehtonen – Zach Bogosian/Travis Dermott

The situation seems to be a fight to surpass Bogosian for Dermott and Holl, with a big question in my mind about Lehtonen and where he will really play. Many people believe he is a top-four defender, sight unseen. We will see. But if he can best Holl and Bogosian and Dermott while playing on his offside, that makes the question of how to sort out these seven defenders a little different to how it looks right now.

My take is this: The Maple Leafs would either need to regularly play 11F and 7D or else they’d have the best press-boxed defender in the NHL every night. They likely need Bogosian on the ice for PK duties most of the time, so I don’t expect him to sit out a lot.

It’s good to have depth and injuries happen, but that’s not an easy call to say who you cut off that roster each night.

The forward roster is something like this:

Zach Hyman – Auston Matthews – Mitch Marner
William Nylander – John Tavares – Ilya Mikheyev
Jimmy Vesey – Alex Kerfoot – Wayne Simmonds
Nick Robertson – Joe Thornton – Jason Spezza
Travis Boyd

And a clever person should be able to add that up to 22 players, and if you keep the RFA signings reasonable, it fits under the cap. Do you want to put Pierre Engvall on this team? Go ahead, add him, send Robertson to the OHL, and the result is nearly the same total cap hit. That’s not a bad concept roster with the understanding that Robertson might get cut once there’s an OHL season underway. There is no reason to expect there won’t be an OHL season at some point. The WHL has a very good and sensible play to begin in January.

Move players around however you like them here, since it’s not clear who the sixth forward in the top-six will be or who will play on the third line. None of that is really the point.

Barabanov is the dark horse here on the forward side of the equation. If he makes a case for making the NHL roster — and I can’t see him playing in the AHL, so it’s NHL or gone — then he will force the team to move Robertson off, and to not play Engvall at all until there’s an injury. That also fits cap-wise.

One again, we’ve proven the Maple Leafs can add and subtract, but this feels too packed a roster to me, even if it’s possible to do it, even if there’s many advantages to it. There’s lost opportunities to convert players who aren’t getting in very many games or who have been cut to the AHL into some kind of return. There’s lost opportunities to play younger players like Malgin and Anderson. What is the point of Engvall in the AHL? But if they make the case for themselves that they should never be moved to the minors in camp, they likely won’t be, and other decisions will get made.

We can’t guess the winners and losers of this competition now, but it is really nice to finally see a tough decision on the depth.

I don’t believe this whole roster of players will see the start of the season, and it’s fairly unlikely they’ll all see the end of it. I think some one or two players will be moved later when the trade market heats up and the returns return to normal. It won’t be necessary to make cap space, but not every single player is going to feel like a fit for the team once they hit the ice.

Remember when the 4C was a sure bet in August because there were no other choices, and the idea of competition to get in the top four of the defence was laughable? Yeah, this is hard to complain about. I have faith that people will, though.

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NHL players will likely have to pay for lost revenues, commissioner Bettman warns – CBC.ca

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NHL commissioner Gary Bettman warned players Wednesday they are likely going to have to pay one way or another to make up for the league’s projected lost revenue whenever the 2020-21 season gets underway.

Speaking on a Sports Business Journal panel, Bettman stressed the NHL is not attempting to reopen the collective bargaining agreement some five months after it was extended. Instead, he said, the fiscal realities amid the pandemic mean the 50-50 revenue-sharing split between owners and players will be affected for at least the near future.

And that means players will have to bear the brunt of any shortfall to owners.

The question then becomes, Bettman said, whether it’s in their best interest to pay the money back in the short-term — by deferring a higher percentage of their salaries as the NHL has raised in discussions — or face the potential of having the salary cap stay flat over the remainder of the six-year deal.

“If we have to pay out lots of cash, two-thirds of which is going to come back to us, that may cause some stress,” Bettman said. “And by the same token, if the players owe us more money than anybody imagined, the salary cap could well be flat or close to flat for the next five or six years, and players into the future will be repaying what we’re owed.”

When it comes to a flat cap, which would have the potential of restricting future pay increases for players, Bettman said: “[Players] have to ask themselves, ‘Does this make sense?'”

The NHL’s new CBA currently calls for players to defer 10 per cent of their salary for the upcoming season and it puts a cap on how much money will be kept in escrow over the length of the deal.

Without calling it a formal proposal, the league has raised the possibility of having players increase salary deferrals to 20 per cent or 26 per cent and increasing the escrow caps, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither side is publicly announcing details of negotiations.

The National Hockey League Players’ Association did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Players, agents unhappy with state of talks

Players and several agents have privately grumbled at the developments, and accused the league of attempting to renege on the deal reached in July that led to the resumption of play and the completion of last season.

Bettman refuted the criticism, calling it “unfortunate” and “inaccurate,” and said the agreement at the time was based on collective assumptions that are no longer applicable. The NHL now has to factor in a shortfall in gate revenue because fans aren’t expected to be allowed to attend games, at least initially.

Another issue is the likelihood of a one-time realignment due to cross-border travel restrictions, which will likely result in Canada’s seven teams competing in one division. U.S.-based teams might be required to play in hub cities, as opposed to their own arenas.

WATCH | I was in net for… The Easter Epic:

In episode 6 of our new series, Rob Pizzo speaks to former Washington Capitals goalie Bob Mason about the longest Game 7 in NHL history, and the Pat LaFontaine goal that finally ended it.  5:39

The league is also expected to play a shortened season, which could feature as few as 48 games, such as what happened in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign.

In an email to The Associated Press, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said “as of right now,” the NHL is still targeting Jan. 1 to start the season, before adding: “That is obviously subject to change.”

It’s becoming increasingly unlikely the NHL will meet that target date. Players have not yet been asked to travel to their home cities. When they do, they will be potentially required to spend up to two weeks in self-quarantine before teams can even be allowed to open training camp.

Another issue are local health regulations. The NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, for example, relocated to Arizona this week after Santa Clara County banned contact sports teams from holding games and practices for at least the next three weeks.

The San Jose Sharks are based in the same county.

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Calgary selected to host Brier, Scotties, other major bonspiels in hub-style format – CBC.ca

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Calgary is about to become a curling mecca.

Weeks after CBC Sports first reported the Alberta city had been selected to host a number of important bonspiels, Curling Canada made it official on Tuesday that the Scotties, the Brier, the men’s world championship and mixed doubles national championship will all be hosted at Canada Olympic Park.

There is no timeline at this point for when the events will take place.

There are also two Grand Slam of Curling events being planned for the Calgary curling bubble as well.

Curling Canada officials said they continue to have dialogue with all levels of government and health officials to come up with the safest protocol, using many of the lessons learned from the NHL and NBA bubbles.

WATCH | CBC Sports’ Devin Heroux, Colleen Jones discuss Calgary curling hub:

Devin Heroux is joined by six-time Scotties medallist Colleen Jones to discuss the announcement of the Calgary curling bubble. 5:34

Six-time Scotties winner Colleen Jones says with COVID-19 cases in Calgary rising, there are still concerns about how the event will happen.

“For a lot of people this is great news,” Jones said. “The other side of the coin, though, is with COVID cases rising across the country there’s a lot of trepidation about how the provincial championships will go. 

“Provincial associations are all meeting right now as we speak. There’s surveys going out asking curlers how this should look.”

In an email to CBC Sports, the Department of Canadian Heritage said it has received a request from Curling Canada to hold an international event in Canada — that would be the men’s world curling championship.

“An authorization will only be granted if plans offer robust protocols to mitigate the risk of importation and spread of COVID-19 in Canada,” the email said.

“An authorization would be conditional on ongoing support from provincial and local public health authorities and the provincial government, as well as a risk mitigation measures plan, developed and implemented by Curling Canada and assessed by the Public Health Agency of Canada.”

The curling extravaganza will most likely begin with the crown jewel of women’s curling, the Scotties. All of the events will be played without fans at The Markin MacPhail Centre at WinSport’s Canada Olympic Park.

Colleen Jones, seen in action at the 2013 Scotties, says with COVID-19 cases rising across the country there’s some trepidation about how provincial championships will unfold. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

While there are still many details to work through regarding player and coach safety, Alberta’s Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women, Leela Sharon Aheer, said it’s a positive thing for the province.

“This series of championship curling events is a fantastic opportunity for Alberta to once again show the world that our ability to host major hub city sporting events is second to none,” she said.

“We look forward to delivering an exciting and memorable curling experience for all players, participants and fans.”

The Scotties was originally going to be held in Thunder Bay, Ont., but the pandemic quashed those plans. Pre-event tickets had been sold out. However, Thunder Bay has been awarded the 2022 Scotties.

The Brier was going to be played in Kelowna but is now also set to take place in the Calgary bubble. It marks the first time the Scotties and the Brier are being played in the same city in the same season.

‘I trust Curling Canada’

Defending Brier champion Brad Gushue is thrilled Curling Canada found a way to safely get curlers back to the pebbled ice.

“Every player I’ve talked to has wanted this to happen and [is] excited it’s going to happen,” Gushue said. “I’ve heard some players are a little hesitant but they are few and far between.

“I trust Curling Canada enough to do this in a safe manner. Our team is on board.”

Gushue says his team has had a number of conversations about what life in the Calgary bubble might look like, including potentially being away from family for nearly two months.

“That’s a hard one to swallow. To be honest though, it’s something we’ve discussed at length with our families,” Gushue said.

“There might be some teams that don’t do it. It’s hard not to do when you love the sport and you want to compete.”

Gushue is hoping to defend his Brier title and earn a spot back to the men’s world championship, having not been able to wear the maple leaf at last year’s championship in Scotland because of the pandemic.

WATCH | Gushue disappointed by cancellation of curling world championship:

In an Instagram Live with our curling aficionado Devin Heroux, Brier 2020 champion Brad Gushue said he was ‘disappointed but not surprised’ about the cancellation of the curling world championships. 1:34

“Missing a world championship is not the end of the world but when you’re a competitive curler it tears at you a little bit,” he said.

“It weighed on me. There were moments throughout the summer when people would bring up the worlds and I thought this just sucks that I’m not going to get there.”

Gushue is also planning on playing in the mixed doubles national championship and two Grand Slam events that will also be housed in the Calgary bubble.

Preparing for lack of fans

The grind of six to seven consecutive weeks of curling is something Gushue is already preparing for, including not having any fans inside the arena to motivate him.

“I feed off the crowd,” he said. “To not have them around is going to be a challenge for me. I’m working with our sports psychologist on how to handle that. I don’t know how it’s going to affect me.”

Gushue says his Newfoundland and Labrador team have only played in two competitions this season — by far the least amount of time they’ve been on the ice during a season in their careers.

And they haven’t even been a complete team.

Brad Gushue, left, seen discussing a shot with Geoff Walker in 2018, says coronavirus restrictions in different provinces can make the logistics of practice difficult. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Geoff Walker is in Alberta with his wife, Laura, and their newborn baby. Walker opted to stay in the province as he didn’t want to leave and quarantine for two weeks before being able to play with Team Gushue.

“I still haven’t seen Geoff in person since the night we won the Brier,” Gushue said. “How do we get together to practise and play?”

Provincial restrictions make playdowns a puzzle

That’s a common question many of the top curling teams in the country are asking these days as most of the foursomes have at least one player living out of the province — restrictions in each jurisdiction of the country differ, making it increasingly challenging for curlers to get together on the ice.

That brings up the issue of provincial playdowns.

With many provinces imposing strict rules around gatherings, curling associations are trying to formulate plans that would allow them to safely and fairly select provincial and territorial representatives to attend both national championships.

The announcement of this Calgary curling bubble comes a year out from the Roar of the Rings Olympic qualifiers scheduled for Saskatoon next November into December.

This is a crucial quadrennial for Canadian curling after both the men’s and women’s teams failed to reach the podium for the first time at the 2018 Olympics.

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Tampa Bay just the latest stop on Nick Nurse's worldwide coaching journey – CBC.ca

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When Nick Nurse coached Derby of the British Basketball League back in the early 1990s, the team could only afford to book the Moorways Centre practice hall two nights a week.

Nurse and his team would arrive for a 7 p.m. start just as the badminton players on the floor before them were taking their last swings and removing the nets.

Nurse is used to adjusting to different set-ups, making a dozen career stops in the U.S. and abroad before finally settling into his first NBA job in Toronto.

On Monday, Nurse and the Raptors moved into their temporary home away from home in Tampa, Fla., another push pin on Nurse’s basketball travel map.

“Just another stop along the coaching journey for me. Just another place to live, another city, another thing going on,” Nurse said on a Zoom call on Wednesday.

WATCH | Nurse’s expectations remain high despite relocation:

The Raptors are playing their home games in Florida after the federal government denied the team’s request to play in Toronto. Head coach Nick Nurse says he’d prefer to be back in Canada but won’t make any excuses and expects the team to play at a high-level. 1:52

Due to Canada’s travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Raptors are playing their “home” games at Amalie Arena, normally home to the NHL’s Lightning, and are setting up a practice facility in a downtown hotel.

Nurse conjured memories of Derby when asked about the worst place he’s ever practised.

“There’s been some other good doozies in there,” he laughed. “I always say just get me to a practice floor and to the games and we’ll be happy.”

Emphasizing the positive

It’s key, Nurse said, that the players and staff fully buy in to their temporary Tampa home, rather than dwell on the fact they’re not playing out of Scotiabank Arena.

“You guys know I’m not shy about telling you guys how much I love being in Toronto, it’s our city and it’s our team and our organization — there’s a lot of unsettling feelings about having to leave, to be honest. It’s not easy, right?” Nurse said.

“I can only say this: I know I’d rather be in Toronto, but I’m not. And now I’m going to make the best of it here . . . we’re going to do our best to focus in on just becoming the best basketball team we can become. And we do that by starting with accepting, here’s where we are. Put a smile on our face, get out on the right side of the bed, positive attitude and go to work.”

The uncommon cloud hanging over this season is the threat of the global pandemic, which has wreaked havoc with pro leagues, particularly the NFL. NBA teams are currently limited to individual sessions with one coach and one player per basket. Players and coaches are being tested daily, and teams can begin holding group workouts on Sunday, just five days before the pre-season tips off.

The league’s health and safety protocols mandate it could take as long as 12 days for a player to return to action after a positive test. While there were no positive tests in the NBA’s “bubble” at Walt Disney World near Orlando, there was also no travel involved, and movement was limited.

‘Things are gonna happen’

It’s “critically important” that players follow the rules, Nurse said.

“The responsibility falls on each of us individually, to make sure we’re following all the protocols. I hope that everybody has their own health and safety and the health and safety of their family first and foremost as they’re moving around their day,” he said. “It does place an extra layer of importance or priority that’s different than a normal season, but we’re certainly not in a normal season or in normal times, so we’re all going to have to be very vigilant on this aspect.”

Two unnamed Golden State Warriors players recently tested positive for COVID-19. Raptors guard Norman Powell said, with the difficulty controlling players’ environments, there’s bound to be more.

WATCH | Raptors GM Webster embracing team’s temporary home:

Bobby Webster discusses how the Raptors chose Tampa as their temporary home. 2:03

The NFL has been ravaged by COVID-19, with dozens of players testing positive, forcing schedule adjustments

“I think those things are gonna happen throughout the season. You’ve just got to handle them as they come just like football players got some positive tests,” Powell said. “You’ve got to have protocols and regulations in order to stop the spread and make sure those players are safe and are quarantined and can get over those symptoms and be back healthy and get back to playing as fast as possible.”

Florida has been a coronavirus hotbed for months, and Tuesday surpassed one million cases.

The Raptors open their three-game preseason schedule with two games in Charlotte, Dec. 12 and 14. They face Miami in their first “home” game on Dec. 18. The season tips off Dec. 22.

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