With the 2020 postseason proceeding ahead of schedule, there has been reporting and considerable speculation that the league would move up the dates of the delayed 2020 NHL Entry Draft and the beginning of the new league year and opening of free agency. The NHL has followed through on that speculation, officially announcing today the new dates for these events. The Draft will take place on October 6-7, and the new league year will commence on October 9.
The first round of the NHL Draft will begin at 7pm ET on Tuesday, October 6, a departure from its usual Friday night slot. Similarly, the second day of the draft, comprising rounds 2-7, will take place on Wednesday, October 7 rather than it’s typical Saturday placement. Otherwise, the structure of the draft stays the same. One key difference though is that all draft operations will take place virtually.
As for the start of free agency, the July 1 unofficial holiday will instead take place on Friday, October 9. Other than a delay of more than three months, the opening of free agency will not be much different; at 12pm ET, the signing window will open and free agents will be free to speak with teams and sign contracts. What may be very different however is the pace at which players will sign. While there is usually a massive rush of contracts when free agency opens, there are factors working against a fast-paced market. First, the NHL’s new CBA has eliminated the free agent contact period, meaning teams and available players cannot formally communicate until after free agency officially opens. Second, the flat salary cap will force the majority of NHL teams to be very careful with their roster operations this off-season, potentially prioritizing re-signing their own restricted free agents before throwing money at unrestricted free agents. This combination could produce an abnormally slow start to free agency, but October 9 will be an intriguing day league-wide nonetheless.