Even with over 99% percent of players and 100% of staff being vaccinated against the Coronavirus, the NHL has still been faced with constant issues battling COVID-19 this season. While only two teams have had games postponed due to COVID outbreaks, 19 different teams have had to enter heightened COVID protocols at some this season. As a result, the league is contemplating stricter protocols for all teams if the virus continues to be a problem. Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly tells TSN’s Chris Johnston that the NHL is currently working with league doctors to evaluate their COVID numbers and current protocols to see if changes can improve the state of the league’s battle with COVID. The NHL then plans to meet with the NHLPA soon to share their findings and to discuss options to better protect players and staff, as well as the league product. The COVID conversation will also impact the Olympic question, with understandable concerns from the league and players’ association about sending their stars to China given the ongoing spread of virus despite vaccination measures. The deadline for the NHL to pull out of the Winter Games in Beijing is January 10, so the upcoming meeting with the NHLPA could be a critical juncture for a decision.
- Despite the havoc that the Coronavirus has wreaked on the past two NHL seasons (and counting), team valuations have somehow not just held strong, but in fact increased. Forbes published their 2021 NHL team values today with the impressive headline that the New York Rangers have become the league’s first $2 billion team. The Original Six franchise in the biggest market in North America increased in value by 21% from 2020 without making and significant improvement in their on-ice product. It bodes well for another potential jump next year, with the Rangers currently holding the best record in the Metropolitan Division. Unsurprisingly, New York is followed by fellow Original Six members in the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Blackhawks, and Boston Bruins. Yet, it is not just the storied franchises who continue see growth in their value. On average, each team improved in value by 32% this year following a 2% dip the year before. The factors contributing to these soaring numbers are the league’s new media contract, their many new facilities, and of course the addition of their newest team, the Seattle Kraken. The recent sale of the Pittsburgh Penguins for $900 million also provided Forbes’ Mike Ozanian with a very up-to-date benchmark of actual real world value of a top franchise. While the optics of the past couple seasons – canceled games, limited attendance, temporary realignment – may portray a struggling league, the NHL has actually excelled in the face of adversity in their battle with COVID-19.
- One player who is likely more familiar with financial terms that he ever hoped is San Jose Sharks forward Evander Kane. The controversial star has had quite the year with bankruptcy proceedings, a league investigation into illegal gambling, a league suspension for COVID Protocol circumvention and more. Kane has seemingly been losing money at every turn. However, he is now off his suspension and – though reassigned to the AHL – ready to get back on the ice and earning his pay check. Well, maybe not so fast. Curtis Pashelka of the San Jose Mercury News writes that the organization is not yet ready to give Kane any game action, even with minor league Barracuda. Pashelka writes that concerns about his conditioning, having missed training camp and the first quarter of the season, have limited Kane in practice and will keep him from competiting again this weekend. Pashelka also mentions an undisclosed injury and quotes Kane as being on board with a slow approach to returning to play. However, the scribe also touches on what is likely the root cause of Kane’s inaction: trade value. It does not appear as if Kane is welcome back in the Sharks’ locker room, but with three years remaining on a hefty contract, he needs to play somewhere. The consistent scoring forward is an established asset: high-end ability on the ice, red flags off the ice. San Jose is working the phones to find a new fit for Kane and won’t gain any leverage by having play in AHL game. However, they could lose out if he is injured. As a result, Kane could be used sparingly until he is eventually dealt elsewhere.