Although the trade deadline has passed and the draft and free agency are still months away, it hasn’t stopped TSN’s best from breaking significant news. In the latest “Insider Trading” segment, the group had plenty to say about upcoming events and changes for the NHL. Though down the road quite a ways, Darren Dreger reports that there could soon be a more concrete plan for the proposed 2024 and 2028 World Cups of Hockey. The NHL, NHLPA, IIHF, and individual national federations are meeting in Paris this week to discuss how the NHL-operated international tournament could look. One major issue at hand is the possibility of a play-in tournament to determine the eight participants in each World Cup. There are many questions as to who might automatically qualify for the World Cup versus who might take part in the play-in, but Dreger at least notes that the play-ins would be held during the summer prior to the tournament, which could mean August 2023 would mark the start of the selection process.
Dreger does not believe that Canada and the United States would be taking part in play-ins (and does not make mention of Team North America, a novel and entertaining concept from the 2016 World Cup but one that appears to be dead all the same). Whether all European nations or just those lower on the IIHF rankings would participate in play-ins remains to be seen, as does the viability of a Russian entry given the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and resulting IIHF sanctions. The most recent IIHF rankings have Finland and Russia among the top four hockey countries in the world with Canada and the U.S., with Germany, Czechia, Sweden, and Switzerland rounding out the top eight. The question becomes how many of these nations should earn automatic bids to the World Cup and how many spots should otherwise stay open for play-in winners. Slovakia, Latvia, Norway, and Denmark would certainly like a fair shot at qualification, especially given that each has NHL representation, while it might also be entertaining to see an expanded play-in field featuring some less established hockey countries like France and Great Britain, both of whom are currently within the top 16 globally. Dreger does not note the possibility of a return of Team Europe, encompassing players from non-qualifying nations, but that concept is likely to go the way of Team North America. There is still plenty to figure out, but this week’s meetings in Paris could be a very productive step toward clarifying the return of the World Cup.
- Dreger adds that another NHL-sponsored event making its return is the NHL Draft Combine. After being cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the league will again host the pre-draft evaluation event this year, returning to Buffalo. The combine will be held from May 29 to June 4, giving teams plenty of time to assess results before the 2022 NHL Draft on July 7-8. As usual, the NHL playoffs will still be ongoing during the combine, but active teams can manage. More concerning though is that the CHL playoffs will also still be underway, which has not typically been the case. Due to COVID delays to the regular season schedule, the OHL and WHL will not kick off their postseasons until late April while the QMJHL will not get started until early May, making crossover with the combine a month later impossible to avoid. Dreger notes that the NHL wanted to hold an in-person combine at all costs in an effort to get the draft process back to normal, even if that meant some prospects could not participate. The CHL leagues will have to determine for themselves whether they will allow players to leave their teams or potentially pause postseason action during the combine. Scheduling flexibility is limited with the Memorial Cup dates already set for June 20-29. However, the junior leagues and teams have stock in the draft success of their players and know that those top prospects still playing and unable to attend the combine could be put them at a disadvantage.
- As the ripples of the Evgenii Dadonov saga continue to be felt far beyond Las Vegas and Anaheim, Pierre LeBrun reports that changes to how trade lists are documented appear likely. As the NHL GM’s prepare to meet this week, with the Dadonov fiasco still fresh in their minds, it is not only LTIR management that they will discuss. LeBrun notes that they will also recommend that the complete terms of trade protection be shared with the NHL Central Registry and the NHLPA. Currently, only teams and player agents know the full contents of trade and no-trade lists and are the only ones monitoring when and if those lists are submitted. Seeing how well that worked out in Dadonov’s case, having extra eyes on that process from both the team and player side only serves to benefit the entire process. Though there is concern about a higher likelihood of these lists becoming public, this is outweighed by the procedural positives of trade protection.