Breaking the wand?

by Lowetide
Photo by Rob Ferguson

The NHL and NHLPA haven’t been talking over the last few days and that may mean a delayed start, fewer games and (ultimately) a lost season. If we’re honest, a season without hockey, while difficult, isn’t the worst result possible. When people are badly ill and dying, things like sports become less important by plenty.

I’m reminded of an old cartoon that ran during the first Gulf war (summer 1990). It showed a workman carrying a tsn sign with the brand at the time (“real life, real drama, real television, TSN”) sheepishly off the set. That’s kind of where we are right now, reality stomping over every page of the online newspaper. Be safe, that’s all that matters. Hockey will hockey when the millionaires and billionaires can figure out the money. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we’re staring at some tough times and difficult decisions. Perspective is required.


I’m proud to be writing for The Athletic, and pleased to be part of a great team with Daniel Nugent-Bowman and Jonathan Willis. Here is our recent work.


A season missed would allow the league to start in October (likely) and give fans a chance to develop some confidence about going out and spending time in public areas. That will be an adjustment.

An October beginning would allow many people to (hopefully) recover financially and to buy tickets (I can’t imagine what the NHL ticket offices are going through currently).

I also think we could see a change in “financial scale” for the NHL. The league has enjoyed incredible growth during the cap era and that has benefited both owners and players greatly.

The financial cuts could mean teams being sold. An owner carrying large debt would have a tough time with lower ticket prices, television revenues and other streams.

This isn’t to say it will happen, or that it’s all bad.

The worst outcome for the NHL: This pandemic, combined with a lockout, sets free the paying public and breaks the wand that has bonded Canadians to the NHL for over 100 years.

I expect we’ll see the NHL in 2021. I don’t believe the stalemate will last a long time. I also believe there are more important things for each of us at this time. There’s a time to reap and a time to sow, a time to heal, a time to laugh and a time to weep.

There is a time to every purpose under heaven. Perhaps events are forcing us, all of us, even those of us who prefer to dwell in the fantasy section of life, to take stock and to apply all of our powers to make sure our families flourish for another day.

A smart man once told me it isn’t what happens to you, it’s what you do about it.


A busy show gets rolling at 10 this morning, TSN 1260. Bruce McCurdy from the Cult of Hockey at the Edmonton Journal will talk about the Oilers fourth line and an epic battle that will arrive when training camp opens. Joe Osborne from OddsShark will pop in to discuss a busy NFL weekend, NBA and the NHL season to come. 10-1260 text, @Lowetide on twitter. Talk soon!


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Of note, Kemp’s ELC contains a European Assignment Clause which I believe means, if assigned to the AHL, he could trigger the clause to force a loan to Europe. I would think he would have to have a European deal in order to trigger it.

I could definitely be off on how this clause operates.

Also, his AAV is $767K and no performance bonuses.


Yeah that sounds like it… Pretty odd given Holland’s obvious interest in placing players there, a number for the full season.

Maybe this protects him from being called back if/when he does go to Europe (wants to commit to a team and see it through?). Or maybe it could keep him out of the ECHL? It seems strange that he’d be averse to AHL games generally.

Whatever the case I guess it means he’s interested in heading to Europe to play!

Harpers Hair

He and his agent likely took a look at the RD depth chart and determined he would likely not get much of a shot in the AHL and decided playing in Europe for a while would be a better path.

The ECHL is not very attractive for many reasons.


Yeah protecting against ending up in the ECHL would make sense. I don’t guess any of us have a good sense where Kemp would slot on the Oilers minor league depth chart but ECHL seems possible. The Condors don’t have so many RD but should have 4 or 5 or 6 guys with significant pro experience in Europe or the AHL.


Well, then, he could have just signed in Europe, not with the Oilers.

As of now, he’s probably 2RD on the Condors.

An ECHL assigmnet would be to get him playing in 2020, he would be recalled for NHL camp and then assigned to Bakersfied.

As expected, your opinion on what is motivating the prospect d-men seems far off base.


He’s already on record talking with Matty saying he’s enthused about the prospect of playing with such a skilled defence in BAK, so I doubt he’s averse to playing in the AHL.

My guess is he’s just covering the potential of no AHL season in writing, so he’s not left without a chair if the music stops.

Last edited 1 month ago by BornInAGretzkyJersey

Agreed it’s unlikely he’d have any issue with the AHL.

Buy why would he need that contract clause to protect against an AHL cancellation? The majority of the Oilers minor league are playing in Europe. Surely Holland would support Kemp playing wherever he can, now and if the AHL never gets off the ground.

That’s why it struck me as notable – Holland has been all about getting the Oilers prospects playing in Europe. Why would Kemp need a contract clause to force his hand?

The only things I can think of are that he doesn’t want to end up in the ECHL. Or that if he goes to Europe he wants to make sure he stays the year there, for whatever reasons.

Scungilli Slushy

Phil Danault is having a Cogliano moment.

We’ll see if Nuge can get paid being a similar complimentary forward, not big (Danault is closer to average),not fast as smaller lighter players need to be to be top end, but a solid two way guy, in a capped league.

Scungilli Slushy

Nested comments are truly a pain in the ass to me.

I like to come here to take some mental space (don’t say it) and comment on my favourite pastime, and having to constantly scroll up and down and sideways to see the comments sucks.

Scungilli Slushy

“Gary and Don don’t have to talk. Playing or not playing is all on the players. There is a fixed pot of money, and Gary has given them the flexiblility how to take it over the length of the CBA. Gary has told Don how much negative cash flow the weakest owners can withstand in order to play. If the players can’t figure out how to share the sacrifice with the owners in year one and with future players over the rest of the CBA, then they are selfish fools.
Clearly Gary would prefer to play, but with empty buildings, from the owners perspective it is probably 60-40 to 75-25…it is not a slam dunk that the owners need to play.
If current NHL players want to give up a year’s paycheque in a short career and perhaps fail to qualify for a pension, Gary is likely more than willing to call that bluff, because the benefits of playing vs not playing is less one-sided for the owners.”


When you want to share in the profits, without having made any investment in a business, that’s how it goes.

Yes, certainly the players are the product. But they mostly are revolving pieces of the thing and now get paid extremely well. The worst player in the league gets more than many of the brightest and best people doing things that affect the world could ever hope to earn.

It’s big pants or skirts time for the players. Money is the key denominator, and the money trees are extinct. Having an attitude about any changes in a previous deal in this climate is highly immature in a money sense.

It is a business of the highest order. Enormous amounts of money flowing.

Getting their money means, without any financial interest, they get half. Yes they put their bodies on the line, but how many folks here can say the same, with a pittance of a bottom end NHL player?

Reality business check time for the players. They got their chunk of the action, and now it’s accept the reality of that decision.

I say this as a small business owner, not as rentier capitalist or some non face super rich type.


One of the big changes in the new CBA is closing of the Boeser Meier backloading of last years contract to get huge QO
The new contracts QO is AAV of the previous contract
The negotiations week before FA is gone
and recapture penalty can’t be higher than the contract itself


Holloway’s quarantine period ends on Sunday – I presume that means he will be available for the game against UoA on Sunday night? I sure hope so. I believe the games this weekend are on TSN.

It would be very exciting to watch him play and I’ll be super interested to see where he’s slotted in the lineup and how he’s used.

Well, there goes that – Team Canada in quarantine for 14 days – games this weekend are off.

Not criticizing any decision for Holloway but damn I wish he would have just stayed at Wisconsin at this point.


I wonder if Holloway could head back to Wisconsin – given he was in the small cohort with Newhook and one other, he likely didn’t have close contact with those that tested positive and may not be subject to the Alberta Health 14-day quarantine order.

Of course, if he did head back it would be “for good” and close the book on his World Junior experience.


Gary and Don don’t have to talk. Playing or not playing is all on the players. There is a fixed pot of money, and Gary has given them the flexiblility how to take it over the length of the CBA. Gary has told Don how much negative cash flow the weakest owners can withstand in order to play. If the players can’t figure out how to share the sacrifice with the owners in year one and with future players over the rest of the CBA, then they are selfish fools.

Clearly Gary would prefer to play, but with empty buildings, from the owners perspective it is probably 60-40 to 75-25…it is not a slam dunk that the owners need to play.

If current NHL players want to give up a year’s paycheque in a short career and perhaps fail to qualify for a pension, Gary is likely more than willing to call that bluff, because the benefits of playing vs not playing is less one-sided for the owners.


Pretty much this. The players just have to get to a point where they understand the ramifications of the current situation. This isn’t like a normal strike/lockout.

Everybody is going to lose something.


I truly don’t think the players, as a whole, understand that “taking more now” means they just have to give back more later (and continue in the high escrow/flat cap era for longer).

Of course, Mike Smith and Caleb Jones, for example have differing interests – Jones should want to take less now as his percentage is baed on $850K – in 4 years, it will be based on much more.

Smith won’t be giving any back in 4 years (but will be collecting his deferred salary).


I have a feeling there will be more traction in negotiations after the US Thanksgiving weekend.

Last edited 1 month ago by BornInAGretzkyJersey

If they do not play a year of each players contract should vest with no compensation.


I think that is what happens except for the signing bonuses. But the signing bonuses will come out of the 50% share of the players over the length of the CBA.


i just want to comment on how hockey is non essential, doesnt matter compared to health, etc. i would like to argue it’s sort of like sending in Bob Hope to entertain the troops during the war. This is a brutal time for many, even those with a good job are bored, lonely and isolated. we need something to look forward to, something to get excited about. With my kids’ sports cancelled/postponed, travel impossible, and the people in our house less exciting to see everyday, pro sports is more than just a welcome distraction. For 10’s of millions of people pro sports is a wonderful escape, something to keep our hopes up as we get through yet another dark and dreary Canadian winter. I would argue with the lack of alternatives, i need the nhl more this winter than any other winter so far in my 50 year life. and i suspect millions of Canadians would agree with me as the lockdowns are really just getting started. i hope the public health officers see this as a mental health break/builder of hope, not just as some low level form of entertainment or business.

Victoria Oil

The key phrase was “…the people in our house less exciting to see everyday…”. 🙂

buck yoakam

very good point lad!…yes it might be different as far as live fans and crowd but we desperately need some distraction (other than netflix or similar)…the marketing folks should be earning their keep this season


Holloway’s quarantine period ends on Sunday – I presume that means he will be available for the game against UoA on Sunday night? I sure hope so. I believe the games this weekend are on TSN.

It would be very exciting to watch him play and I’ll be super interested to see where he’s slotted in the lineup and how he’s used.

Victoria Oil

Sergachev at 3 x $4.8 mln is another excellent contract for the Bolts. Who knew that low taxes, warm weather and a winning team could entice players?


At some point in CBA negotiations it would behoove the league to factor in local tax jurisdictions. I know a number of states already extract income taxes for road games, but if 50% of the season is played in a no-tax jurisdiction (home games) it’s a clear advantage for a few teams over the rest.


From what I understand, dealing with this wasn’t really even on the table during the summer negotiations. Of course we just have an MOU and they still need to bust out the wording of the actual CBA but changing this would not be a minor detail and would be subject of material negotiation.

6 plus years until its dealt with.

Harpers Hair

Likely sets the market for high end defensemen coming off ELCs.

i imagine there are a few GMs very happy about this contract.


He’s a good player and he puts up some points, but after 3 full years in the league he remains a sheltered 3rd pairing defensman at evens.

34 points and +15 on a strong team. He finally got to 20 minutes a game this season, and got to 1 minute a game on the PK.

In the last year of his ELC Darnell Nurse scored 26 points and was +15 on a much worse team. Actually played difficult competition and killed penalties too, but I didn’t hear you calling him a high end defenseman.

There’s nothing wrong with the deal but I’m not so sure it’s huge value.


$2.4M in year 1.

$7.2M in year 3.

Unless he regresses and busts out, he’s earned himself a BIG third contract with the $7.2M QO.


The new QO are based on the AAV and not the last years salary as in the past.

Last edited 1 month ago by leadfarmer

Good point, I forgot about that – thank you.

I believe, now that you jogged my memory, its 120% of the AAV (if lower than the last year’s number) – so, apx $6M I believe.


That was proposal but ended up being the AAV


Actually, I was right. Just checked the MOU and its Section 68 – 120% of AAV.


Lindewall with an assist as Modo crushed Vasby 7-2. Lavoie, after a bit of a slump, had one of the two goals for Vasby.

Lavoie’s goal: A snipe on a partial breakaway:

13 minutes of ice for Lindewall is a good number – just heartened he’s in the Allsvenskan at his age.


Willie Lagesson showing no rust from his few weeks off. First game with his new team and the dish-master gets a couple apples in a 4-2 win.

Oh ya, he played over 23 minutes – almost 4 minutes more than any other player on the team….


Hey everyone! I’ve been super busy lately, so just dropping by.

Is it it just me or is everyone else getting used to the single threaded comments? I am actually starting to like it since it keeps topics organized. We’ll see how it goes when hockey comes back.

Brogan Rafferty's Uncle Steve

If you are ready to quit messing around with the whole doctoring business, you have demonstrated a natural talent for blog renovations.


Seems Ok to me… also wondering about this Pizzorama poster. every 4th post is his!


I would still prefer the alternative but acknowledge that its simply not an option (losing the quote would be a poor result).

I do the “copy and paste” in to a new comment, hit the quote button and reply quite often if I really don’t want my comment lost among the day’s earlier posts.

I find myself doing certain type of searches to try and ensure I haven’t missed other buried posts (searching my name, searching time periods, etc.) – its annoying but I’ve adapted.

Overall, the changes have been massively positive and you and the team did a great job and us freeloaders owe a debt of gratitude.


The one additional change that would be very beneficial is for the list of “recent posts” at the bottom left to be expanded to greater than 5 (or at least the choice to have more than 5). Its a very helpful list to try and ensure one doesn’t miss posts after being away for a period of time.

Is expanded the quantity on the list possible?


If you are in position to do so, please consider donating some food, money or time to your local food bank this winter.


Phil Kemp was on ON just now and told Bob that he grew up watching a lot of Dan Girardi, and wants to play like Rob Scuderi — whom he called a defenseman who can control the game while not being noticed.

Last edited 1 month ago by BornInAGretzkyJersey

100%, in the overall scheme of things, in the midst of a global pandemic with people dying and other losing their livelihood as they know it and with all the uncertainty going forward, the NHL and hockey is all but inconsequential. It really doesn’t matter.

Of course, this is a sports blog and we are going to talk about hockey and what the 2021 season could, would and should look like.

Its very interesting that the two sides haven’t talked since last Thursday given, before that, they had been in almost daily contact.

I don’t anticipate this will lead to a cancelled season entirely. We know certain owners don’t want to operate under the current deal but, if the NHLPA digs in and refuses to budge, I believe Bettman will be able to get the owners on side with operating under current parameters. Vesting the last year of the NBC deal will be huge and, at the end of the day, while the owners operate at a bigger loss this year, they establish a bigger debt receivable from the players. The loss the owners take will be paid back by the players via the 50/50 model – the players will just have a bigger debt and will be paying it back for longer.


I still think the league may have to step up and guarantee loans for some of the franchises in order to pull that group on side. Not sure what the players will need in order to get them to budge.


We could see contraction which would be better than loans for financially strapped teams. Given that economic times are not going to get substantially better and in reality take three or more years to get back to where we were prior to COVID-19. The league has been subsidizing a number of teams for a number of years. A contracted league would be a better product and revenues would be split between fewer teams. The teams that were struggling to get fans and were being subsidized need to be jettisoned for the overall financial health of the league.


Possible but I think Gary would regard that as the worst possible outcome undoing much of his legacy.


Want the players to budge give the alternative as contraction. Florida and Arizona have trouble drawing fans and are a drag on the league.


I thought one of the reasons for keeping Arizona (and perhaps Florida) was for the purpose of the U.S. TV contract, which is one of the biggest considerations for league financials for the next two to five years. Not arguing with you. We have all thought contraction would help the Oilers, but not so much these days. I imagine that moving franchises would take precedence over contraction.


All ideas are welcome and your point valid. My thought is what may happen as financial decisions have to be made. I would think that owners who are right on the verge of bankruptcy aren’t going to be magnanimous to the teams they have been supporting for a number of years. The correct answer is lean and mean when the objective is survival.


For a 7th rounder, how high (low?) is the bar to represent a successful draft pick? Signing an ELC? Playing one NHL game? 100?

Say what you will about ChiaPete, but that guy could draft defensemen.

Hat tip to Bruce, great interview on the Lowdown today and an even better article at CoH with an excellent summary of the Kemp signing. Worth the read, including this summary of Kemp’s up arrows since being drafted:

A seventh-round draft pick in 2017, Kemp is a graduate of the redoubtable United States National Team Development Program, playing full two seasons with the program and serving as captain of first the U-17, then U-18 club. He won a gold medal at the IIHF U-18 championships in 2017, and silver at the U-20 (World Junior) in 2019. Meanwhile, he lived up to his reputation as a steady defender at Yale, gradually ascending to the captaincy for the season-that-never-was.



Say what you will about ChiaPete, but that guy could draft defensemen.

Could he? Over his entire tenure with the Bruins I see Dougie Hamilton and Matt Benning as the defencemen who have carved out a career. Maybe Matt Grzelcyk.
He definitely hit on 2015. I’ll give him that.


I always assume that if a guy is taken after the 3rd round at the latest chances are the GM has never seen the guy play even once. All credit goes to the scouts.


Jones in round 4 – exceeded expectations already

Bear in round 5 – exceeded expectations already

Marino in round 6 – exceeded expectations already

Berglund in round 3 – he’s signed and has a shot and an NHL career

Niemelainen in round 3 – he’s signed – probably a distant bell

Kemp in round 7 – even if he never plays an NHL game, he hit on the pick

Samorukov in round 3 – book has yet to be written but this looks like a plus pick

Bouchard at 10th overall – one can argue Dobson or Ty Smith but I would take Bouchard at this point – he’s simply excelled at every level since drafted

The only clear miss was Carins in round 3.


Warranting an ELC means he has more than covered the bet on his draft position.


This is true. Him being worthy of a contract then providing competition for others in the organization — should he not pan out — is a benefit.


I know these things are reviewed by medical professionals but it is amazing how often career ending injuries suddenly rescue certain teams from money problems.

Harpers Hair

And, just like that, the Islanders have the cap space to sign Barzal.

It’s like Lou Lamourello was running the team or something 🙂


Yup. How long does he wait before hiring Boychuk to his front office?

Harpers Hair

Does he have to wait until the insurance is paid out?


Yup, they’ll get an LTIR cap cushion but, damn, having a $6M contract on the books and LTIR for two years will be a tough pill to swallow trying to improve the team – in particular if their plan is off-season LTIR which is likely will be unless Barzal comes to camp with contract protection.


I was good friends with Johnny growing up, but haven’t been in touch in years. I hope the injury doesn’t have an impact on his quality of life, some things are more important than hockey.


He retired. No need for ltir


Aghh, I see that now.

Wow, he gave up over $5M left on his contract for that and to help the Isles – good on him.


Are you sure.

Quite importantly, Boychuk does not appear to be giving up the remaining money on his contract, but will be moved to long-term injured reserve if the Islanders need extra cap space.

Harpers Hair

You have to know LL will find a way around that and his buddy Gary will help him.

(see Kovalchuk for reference)


Wouldn’t surprise either of us.


No, I’m not sure. Different reports from everywhere. Some reporting he outright retired, others saying he just won’t be playing again. Going to be interesting to see how it plays out.


Pour one out for Diego Maradona.


The Hand of God has returned to its original owner…

RIP Diego.


RIP. Best player of all time IMO.


The players will cave. They have a lot more to lose than the owners next season.
Even with deferred compensation getting paid full time for a partial season is a great deal for them.


Agreed. The downside is that a lot of good will between the league and the PA that has built up over the last while will be lost.


I agree. The longer we go with no possibility of fans in the stands, the more owners are likely to want to pull the plug on the season altogether. They’d be better off (at least not lose as much) with no season.


Gary is earning his hugely inflated salary these days for sure. I would think he is getting it from both sides as well as the rights holders and the sponsors.


They’d be better off “directly” as, no matter what, they will be operating at a loss this season if they play, however:

– at the end of the day the operating loss just increases that amount of the “debt” owed to them by the players – it will eventually be paid

– indirect losses as taking a year off will indeed lead to a withering of the “casual fanbase”, etc.

– delay of the influx of capital from the new US TV deal as the current deal with NBC will roll over and not expire.


The reality is to take the balance of the 20/21 season off could actually be more beneficial than squeezing in a bastardized shortened season, shortened off season and possibly negatively affecting the 21/22 season. A spring three on three tournament within each division culminating in a final four tournament would keep interest in hockey up while allowing for a reset to an October start for the 21/22 season. Add into this the excitement of an expansion draft or contraction draft and you would have a very exciting package for the sports starved media and hockey fans. It would provide for considerable revenue with less cost and more safety for the players COVID wise.The game formats could be changed to better fit the TV market which should make for better adverting revenue as well.

Decidedly Skeptical Fan

You are severely underestimating Donald Fehr.


That is excellent news. Holland grinding away to becoming my favourite GM since Slats.

Harpers Hair

Odd timing.
Does this not mean Kemp is no longer eligible to play in the NCAA?


the Ivy League has cancelled their entire season and he’s a senior.

this is fantastic news and something I had been anticipating.

Harpers Hair

That makes sense. I wonder if the Oilers can find him a place to play?


Wonder if it’s worth him joining the Thunder in the ECHL until the AHL gets rolling?

Harpers Hair

The most likely outcome.


Good thought. Wichita stars in the 2nd week of December. AHL not until February (and that isn’t certain – although I do think it will happen).


I’m not sure if he’s “employable in Europe” at this point in time – their seasons are well under way and its not like he’s a “blue-chip” prospect or anything.

I expect he’ll be assigned to the AHL on the assumption it does start up in early February as planned.

Victoria Oil

I saw Kemp live at Yale a couple years ago. My thought at the time was that he was very responsible defensively, but I couldn’t see enough offense to see him getting more than a cup of coffee at the NHL. But, what do I know? I didn’t think John Marino had much upside either. Hope I’m wrong.


Covid caught another in its grip. RIP Fred Sasakamoose left us at age 86. Chief Thunderstick is at the heavenly rink. Prayers to the family.


Presumed Covid

Scungilli Slushy

Good point. We don’t get the actual details, ever, with older people who are at risk of dying from age or anything. Not that Covid may have been it.