NHL Rumors: Devils, Panthers, Maple Leafs, Key NHL Dates, More

In today’s NHL rumors rundown, the New Jersey Devils have officially made their coaching and GM announcement changes. The Florida Panthers are losing Chris Pronger and the Toronto Maple Leafs are one of five teams listed by the Hockey news as franchises that will be heavily affected by a flat salary cap. What’s their plan?

Finally, the NHL has official dates set for every major happening in hockey, all the way up to the start of the 2020-21 season.

Devils Make New GM and Coach Changes Official

They tweeted on Thursday afternoon, “The New Jersey Devils have signed Lindy Ruff to be the 19th head coach in franchise history. Welcome to Jersey, Lindy!” They also confirmed that Tom Fitzgerald has been named Executive Vice President/General Manager of the club.

Kevin Weekes had tweeted out that the Devils were expected to make the announcements soon and with the Devils officially confirming those announcements today, the team can continue to move in the direction Fitzgerald had envisioned.

Managing partners Josh Harris and David Blitzer released the following statement about Fitzgerald’s promotion:

Having gone through the process of interviewing various candidates, including Tom, and reviewing his work in the interim, we feel that he is the best fit for the New Jersey Devils moving forward. Our decision was solidified by his ability to stabilize the organization, get solid returns at the trade deadline, make impressive plans for player development and hire a new coach in Lindy Ruff. 

Considering it was Fitzgerald who was behind the hiring of Ruff, the new permanent GM had this to say about his decision to hire the former Sabres and Stars coach:

We are proud and excited to have Lindy Ruff join our organization as Head Coach. He is one of the most successful and respected coaches in the NHL, not only today, but in League history. His personality, experience, knowledge, work-ethic and focus will provide a calm presence in our locker room. He is the right coach at the right time for our organization. Lindy has a proven track record of getting the absolute best out of his players across the board- stars, role players and everyone in between. His teaching ability, and communication skills will be well-suited for our team, especially our young, developing players. Throughout his career, his teams have been greater than the sum of their parts. I look forward to working together with Lindy as the organization moves forward.

Related: The Worst Free Agent Signings in NHL History

Pronger Leaves the Panthers

The Florida Panthers PR department tweeted that former NHL Hall of Fame defenseman and executive Chris Pronger has left the Florida Panthers organization. His plan is to pursue other interests and focus on his family’s travel business.

GM Dale Tallon said of the news:

“We want to thank Chris for his invaluable contributions to the Florida Panthers organization. Since joining our hockey operations staff in 2017, Chris approached his role with great passion and provided our team with a fresh and unique perspective. A true professional, champion and proud family man, we wish Chris, Lauren and the Pronger family the very best in their new business endeavor, Well Inspired Travels.”

Maple Leafs Plan for Flat Salary Cap

The Toronto Maple Leafs were one of five teams listed by Matt Larkin of The Hockey News as teams that will struggle to deal with the flat salary cap. The Tampa Bay Lightning, St. Louis Blues, Chicago Blackhawks, and Arizona Coyotes were the others.

Tyson Barrie Toronto Maple Leafs
Tyson Barrie, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Larkins notes that after Tyson Barrie leaves via free agency, the team still won’t have enough space to bring in one or two impactful right-shot defensemen. GM Kyle Dubas will have to shop a mid-tier forward like Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, or Alexander Kerfoot to solve the blue line issues.

He says Dubas may also try to acquire more LTIR contracts with David Clarkson and Nathan Horton coming off the books in the off-season.

Related: Who’s Never Picked #1 in the Draft

Key Dates for the NHL’s Return to Play and Afterward

TSN’s Frank Seravalli laid out all of the key dates for the NHL moving forward, both as it pertains to the return to play and the draft and free agency that will follow the playoffs. The dates are as follows:

  • July 10 – Beginning of training camp
  • July 24 – Travel to hub cities
  • July 25 – Beginning of exhibition games
  • July 31 – Beginning of qualifying round
  • Aug. 9 – Beginning of Stanley Cup Playoffs
  • Aug. 23 – Beginning of Second Round
  • Sep. 6 – Beginning of Conference Finals
  • Sep. 20 – Beginning of Stanley Cup Final
  • Oct. 2 – Last possible day of Stanley Cup Final
  • Oct. 6 – 2020 NHL Entry Draft
  • Oct. 9 – Opening of free agency
  • Nov. 17 – Beginning of training camp for 2020-21 season
  • Dec. 1 – Beginning of 2020-21 regular season

Dates, of course, are subject to change based on hurdles and logistical issues that may pop up. Realistically, training camps have already been pushed back to July 13.

Seravalli also notes that no decision has been made on how Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers are supposed to solve the conditions in Milan Lucic / James Neal. Seravalli says the NHL plans to develop process for clubs to make arguments and be heard fairly. That includes cases put forth by teams being heard by an arbitrator.

Catch up on all the latest NHL Rumors