The NHL released a memo Friday evening to all 31 teams stating its position on holding the NHL Entry Draft in June, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. While nothing is set in stone, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly wrote that broadcast networks are on board with the plan that is rumored to set a June 5 draft date, giving the league a month to prepare.
One major issue would be the draft lottery. Considering the remainder of the regular season hasn’t been played out or cancelled, the NHL is suggesting using points percentage as the means to determine the order of the draft. The memo also outlined that the lottery format would be adjusted for this season only. There would be only one winner of the lottery with teams only being allowed to move up a maximum of four spots.
Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston notes that would mean that the Detroit Red Wings, who have the best chance to win the lottery, would receive nothing lower than the second-overall pick, while the Ottawa Senators would pick no lower than the third and fourth overall picks (they currently have San Jose’s lottery pick as well via the Erik Karlsson trade in 2018).
That could cause some ire from general managers who are all hoping to get their hands on QMJHL winger Alexis Lafreniere with the No. 1 overall pick. Despite having a greater advantage, Friedman notes that Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman stated on a Fox News Detroit Facebook Live chat on Thursday that he’s opposed to the idea.
My thought is: Why would you do that? Why would you need to do that?” Yzerman said. “There’s a lot of things that are affected, obviously. The draft position hasn’t been established; we don’t know who’s in the playoffs, who’s out of the playoffs, in some cases … But at this time, my own opinion is, I haven’t heard a good reason why we should do it prior to the end of the season, if we do conclude the season over the course of the summer.”
The league is also suggesting that teams would get seven days to deal with conditional trades that might involve draft picks in order that both teams reach a fair agreement. Many have sited the James Neal – Milan Lucic trade, which had Calgary receiving a conditional pick based on Neal scoring 21 goals and at least 10 more than Lucic. Teams would have a chance to renegotiate those deals so both teams are happy with the outcome.
However, the league is making it clear in the memo that they want to move on with the draft despite the uncertainty of the rest of the 2019-20 season. If the league is persuaded against using this format by teams, then the league would have to push it back much later with the best-case scenario being that the Stanley Cup awarded at some point in September with the 2020-21 season beginning in December and the draft being hastily dropped in between.
The fact of the matter is that whenever we hold the 2020 Draft — in early June or ‘shoehorned’ into a short window in October or November — (it) is not going to be a typical NHL Draft,” said Daly. “It is not going to look the same; it is not going to feel the same; and it is not going to be the same. While we may know more about next year’s landscape in terms of CBA, Salary Cap, Escrow, etc., in November than we will in June, we are still not going to know everything, and there is still going to be a multitude of questions that have no answers. So, any comparison of the 2020 NHL Draft to a typical year’s Draft is not — and cannot be — an ‘apples to apples’ comparison.”
Of course teams have to consent to this proposal, but the NHL is making it clear that this is the direction they would like to go, especially with the league’s financial security at stake. The NFL had a successful draft recently that gave a lot of attention to the league (including a 37 percent increase in viewership on the first night). With the NHL on suspension for more than a month, the league could use some of that attention headed its way until the league feels it can resume the NHL season later in the summer, at the earliest.