An Off-Season Like No Others

Well folks, it seems more and more like greed will win over common sense and the safety of families and athletes. In spite of having COVID-19 cases breaking into pro sports’ teams facilities right, left and centre, the NHL and NHLPA seem determined to make a go at finishing this past season. That they will go forward with the ridiculous idea of having a 24 teams tournament, including eight more teams than regular playoffs in a desperate attempt at gaining revenues by including hockey hotbeds like Montreal, Chicago, New York (Rangers) and Minnesota.

So far, one player has opted out of playing when the Calgary Flames announced that defenseman Travis Hamonic has informed them that he won’t play due to family concerns. At least one player is putting his family ahead of greed and he’s taking plenty of abuse from fans on Twitter and everywhere else… for doing the right thing. But enough about the rant of why the NHL should not proceed, we’ve talked about this enough on this blog.

Since many hockey fans’ interest won’t be there for this tournament/playoffs, let’s focus more on a couple of other news released by the NHL:

The NHL and the NHLPA reaching an agreement is the biggest news of all as it will be the first time since Gary Bettman was named Commissioner that they reach an agreement without going through a lockout. I guess it took a pandemic and a season being in jeopardy to get that done. Further, the players will be allowed to participate in the Olympic Games at the 2022 Beijing Games and the 2026 Milano Cortina Games, pending agreements being reached with the International Ice Hockey Federation and International Olympic Committee.

Salary cap freeze

A very important news for many teams is that the NHL announced that the salary cap will remain the same for next season, whenever that is.

COVID-19 obviously came unexpectedly and NHL teams look several years in advance in their planning, particularly when it comes to the salary cap. It’s easy to imagine that in their projections, they were all expecting the cap to go up. The numbers that were thrown around prior to the Coronavirus forcing the league to stop the season were in the neighbourhood of $84 million to $88.2 million. We can clearly see how the cap staying put at $81.5M becomes problematic for many teams, although some will feel the squeeze more than others. This will not only affect the free agency market but also the contract negotiations with their own free agents, even forcing some teams to complete trades in order to remain compliant.

Here are a few teams that will have to tip-toe gingerly into next season:

$79,990,000$1,510,00016Marian Hossa $5.275MTaylor Hall (UFA)
Carl Söderberg (UFA)
$79,452,499$2,047,50120N/AAlex Pietrangelo (UFA)
Vince Dunn (RFA)
$76,908,533$4,591,46716N/ACody Ceci (UFA)
Tyson Barrie (UFA)
Kyle Clifford (UFA)
$76,166,666$5,333,33415N/AKevin Shattenkirk (UFA)
Zach Bogosian (UFA)
Mikhail Sergachev (RFA)
Anthony Cirelli (RFA)
$75,679,999$5,820,00116Ryan Kesler $6.875MN/A
$75,125,000$6,375,00016N/ARobin Lehner (UFA)
$75,097,500$6,402,50022N/APierre-Luc Dubois (RFA)
$74,146,795$7,353,20518N/ACorey Crawford (UFA)
Dominik Kubalik (RFA)
Because we’re Habs’ fans
$63,142,142$18,357,85816N/AMax Domi (RFA)
Victor Mete (RFA)

Small window of opportunity

We knew that by insisting on finishing the 2019-20 season, it would affect not only everything that normally takes place in summer, but also next season. The NHL has announced its schedule of events and as anticipated, two seasons will be wrecked by greed instead of one:

July 13Training camps open
July 26Teams travel to hub cities
July 28-30Exhibition games
August 1Stanley Cup Qualifiers begin
* August 10Phase 2 of the NHL Draft Lottery
August 11Round 1 of the NHL Playoffs begins
* August 25Round 2 begins
* September 8Conference Finals begin
* Later of Sept.25 or beginning of Stanley Cup FinalFirst Buyout Period begins
* September 22Stanley Cup Finals begin
* October 4Last possible day of Finals
* Later of Oct. 8 or Stanley Cup Finals + 6 daysFirst Buyout Period ends
* October 9-102020 NHL Draft
* Later of Oct. 9 or Stanley Cup Finals + 7 daysRFA/UFA Signing Period begins
* November 172020-21 Training Camps begin
* December 12020-21 regular season begins
* Tentative dates, subject to change

Forget the 2019-20 related schedule, it’s not that important for many hockey fans and it’s not the purpose of this article. Let’s rather place our focus on the “off-season” events. As you can see, those will be ‘microwave’ events instead of ‘slow cooker’ process and if you know anything about cooking, ‘microwaving’ often creates rubbery results as opposed to the tenderness of slow, methodic, flavourful cooking. So the end results are this:

  • August 10th is the latest the Qualifiers’ games will be done so the eight teams eliminated with go into Phase 2 of the Draft Lottery. That’s when we’ll know if the Habs will be able to select Alexis Lafrenière or if they are set to pick ninth overall (unless they trade it).
  • The Buyout period will be as soon as the Finals are over, or September 25th, whichever one is the latest. Basically, teams don’t know how many days they will have to decide who to buy out or not, but it will be a minimum of six days by the sound of it. This shouldn’t be a huge factor as they likely know which contract(s) they want to buy out.
  • It looks like October 9-10 is when the NHL Draft will take place, unless they move it ahead if the playoffs are over earlier. How exactly they will proceed remains to be seen. We know that the Draft was supposed to take place in Montreal this summer. All is up in the air now.
  • As if Draft day wasn’t busy enough for teams and GMs, the Free Agents’ signing period could fall right in at the start or in the middle of it. It will start either seven days after the Stanley Cup is won, or by October 9th at the latest. Can you imagine the mess when GMs are focussed on the Draft and are trying to convince UFAs to sign? Crazy!
  • Players will then have about a month before training camp for the 2020-21 season begins. It is unclear at this time if they will be allowed to hold development and rookie camps.

What will be interesting to see is that in any negotiations, the element of time is often a key negotiating factor. Teams give UFA players deadlines and vice-versa, and the more time elapse, the more the pressure builds on either sides. This won’t be a factor this summer (or fall) as the time is preset. Further, it doesn’t look like teams will have the week to talk to pending UFAs prior to Free Agency opening.

As you see by the asterisks, most of those dates are fluid so don’t make plans around those events. They could have chosen to not let greed get in the way would have allowed for set dates for everything. But halas, common sense rarely prevails when it comes to money. Enjoy your summer folks. There will be a lot of hockey in the next year or so. Go Habs Go!

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