It’s not clear at all when the next NHL season will begin, with more speculation today that a February start may be necessary at this point. Top agent Allan Walsh of Octagon Hockey tweeted today that a January 1 start is “not viable at this point,” despite what some may say about it still being the target for the league. With that in mind, some players have delayed their travel plans to return to their NHL cities according to Andy Strickland of Fox Sports Midwest. In Europe, Radko Gudas of the Florida Panthers has been in communication with a Czech team and could potentially play for them while he waits for the NHL to sort things out.
Gudas told iSport that if he does play it would be for HC Sparta Praha, though nothing is finalized yet.
The 30-year-old defenseman is an interesting test case to keep an eye on, given how outspoken he was earlier this year on the league’s attempt to restart the 2019-20 season. Gudas was clear when he said in May that he didn’t believe the NHL should try to complete the season, worrying about players’ mental health in the proposed bubble. While he was eventually pleasantly surprised with the situation, his forthcoming nature is one that could indicate how players feel about returning to North America.
In fact, that is an issue rarely brought up very often in the current hockey climate. What happens if players under contract don’t want to come back at all, even if the league decides on a start date soon? Not only will they be required to quarantine upon arrival, but there could be many who opt out entirely given the coronavirus situation in the U.S. and Canada. Several players did not feel comfortable entering the bubble, though they were not forced to give any reasoning for their decision to sit out the postseason. What about a season played without the strict protocols that were present in Edmonton and Toronto?
While these things are all worked out, Gudas appears to want to play some games in a league he hasn’t suited up for in nearly a decade. If he does, he’ll be joining former NHL players like Vladimir Sobotka, Milan Jurcina, Michal Neuvirth, and Michal Repik with Sparta. He’ll be expected to return of course, after signing a three-year, $7.5MM contract with the Panthers this offseason.