Topics in this edition of the PHR Mailbag include financial sustainability during the pandemic, what Ottawa might do with their multitude of draft picks, potential upsets in during the NHL’s return, and the top offensive threat beyond the potential top two picks in the draft. If your question doesn’t appear here, look back at last weekend’s mailbag.
Gbear: How long can the NHL realistically stay financially viable in all of its markets if fans cannot attend games in person even heading into the 20/21 season and thus not able to provide NHL teams with gate revenues?
I think we’re a while away from teams starting to show significant financial cracks. While the NHL has shown a willingness to get back to playing now without fans, there’s a big difference between biting the bullet to finish the season and award the Stanley Cup and starting up 2020-21 without fans. I don’t sense there’s a willingness from a lot of owners to try to get next season going in front of empty buildings. That’s not viable for even the teams with the best financial backing.
If there aren’t any games for a while, the payroll costs are naturally going to be significantly reduced. As part of the new CBA Memorandum of Understanding, teams will be required to pay 8.1% (15/186ths) of a players’ salary by the end of October if there aren’t any games scheduled before November 15th and it appears we’re heading in that direction. But until there are games to play, that’s it for player payroll which is by far the steepest cost.
This situation is far from sustainable and is hardly ideal which is why this postseason is going to be a one-off, not a sign of things to come. Once it finishes, I wouldn’t expect NHL play to resume until at least some fans are allowed in the building. With that will come some revenues to offset the payroll expenses and teams should be able to scrape by until then. They have early access to this season’s escrow to help bridge the two gaps in the meantime. It won’t be pretty for a while but the viability of franchises shouldn’t be in jeopardy for a little while yet.
MoneyBallJustWorks: Do you see the Sens making any draft day trades with their draft capital? I know many are hoping for 3&5 to be packaged for #1 which I don’t see but could they move the Islanders pick (assuming it ends up being this year’s) for a roster player? With the cap crunch, that or one of their many 2nd’s could land them a decent roster piece.
When it comes to their top couple of picks, I don’t see Ottawa doing anything with those. They didn’t get the lucky draw in the lottery but two top-five picks is still quite good. They’re going to land two core pieces to their promising crop of youngsters and with them focusing on the long-term picture, doing anything to try to shortcut that isn’t a great idea.
The Sens are in a position where they can leverage their cap room to add other assets but with 13 picks in the draft, they can also part with some to add younger players that fit better with their core. I wouldn’t entirely rule out the Islanders pick being moved in the right trade like I would their other two firsts but I suspect GM Pierre Dorion would like to hold onto that as well.
However, they have four second-round picks and it’s hard to see them using them all. Perhaps they package two to move up to the back of the first round and land someone that’s high on their list but sliding. It’s possible that they trade out with one although it’s worth noting they already have three second-rounders next year which lessens that likelihood a bit.
But even more likely would be using one of those as part of a deal to land a player. While the speculative focus of cap casualties is on the higher-priced players now, there are likely to be others moved for what seems like below-market value because of a potential cap crunch down the road, because they can’t move out a high-priced player, or even expansion planning a year from now. Second-round picks seem like a good currency for those moving in that situation and four of them gives the Sens plenty of ammunition if they want to try to make that type of move.
acarneglia: What teams should be on upset watch?
In terms of the Qualifying Round matchups, there aren’t many that would be truly considered as upsets if the underdog won. Nonetheless, I think Nashville is vulnerable in the West in their matchup against Arizona. The Coyotes are a strong team defensively and the Predators’ offense has been hit or miss this season. Arizona also has the edge in goal and with the benefit of rest and the abbreviated training camp, Taylor Hall may be able to produce closer to expectations; with him, Phil Kessel, and Clayton Keller, they have enough firepower to do some damage.
Out East, I’ve talked about the Rangers being a threat before which would make Carolina vulnerable. Having covered that a few times recently, let’s look at the 7-10 matchup between the Islanders and Panthers. On paper, Florida should have been a lot better than they were this season and Sergei Bobrovsky showed a year ago that he’s capable of stepping up and playing well in a series. If he can do that here, New York could be in some trouble, even if their defensive structure can keep Florida’s attack largely at bay.
In terms of top-four seeds that will be playing round-robin games to determine their positioning for the postseason, Dallas could be a team that is ripe for an upset depending on the matchup. Their offense is talented on paper but struggled mightily during the regular season. Their goaltending was good enough to keep the Stars at the top end of the conference during the year but in a short series, continued sluggish performances from their top scorers could be problematic in a hurry.
Pieters: For our dynasty league I have the misfortune of having the 4th pick. One through three are expected to be Lafreniere, Askarov (goalies are gold) and Byfield. Scoring cats for skaters are Goals (G), Assists (A), Points (P), Plus/Minus (+/-), Penalty Minutes (PIM), Powerplay Points (PPP), Shots on Goal (SOG), Hits (HIT). Trying to figure out which of the following would be best at 4th, Marco Rossi, Lucas Raymond, Tim Stutzle, or Alexander Holtz? All of the top prospects from previous drafts were picked up. The only one that might be worth considering is Victor Soderstrom.
First, let’s rule Soderstrom out of consideration. While he showed a bit more offensive upside with Brynas this season, he’s not going to be a big point producer in the NHL and hits alone won’t be enough to offset that.
Rossi may very well wind up with the most points out of the four draft-eligibles you listed but there are some drawbacks to consider. He’s not the most physical of players and he’s a pure playmaker which will keep his shot total a little lower. Raymond may not have quite the upside in terms of overall points that Rossi might but he’s a more gifted shooter although again, he’s on the smaller size which limits the hit potential. Holtz is a little bigger but the overall upside isn’t as high as those two so I’d take him out of the mix.
That leaves Stutzle. Like Rossi, he’s more of a playmaker for now but he has the frame to put on enough extra strength to make his shot more of a weapon and he has shown no hesitance shooting in the DEL. I also think he’s more likely to be deployed in all top offensive situations unlike someone like Byfield who may be most valuable as an all-around player which isn’t as important in most fantasy leagues. I’d go with Stutzle in this situation as he is going to get to the NHL quickly and should pad plenty of stat categories when he gets there.