While hockey minds are hard at work trying to come up with a plan to fairly complete the 2019-20 NHL regular season and playoffs, if and when the league returns to action, those strategies cannot interfere with a full 2020-21 season. TSN’s Pierre Lebrun relays word from NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly that the league sees an 82-game season next year as imperative and will not entertain any options that call for a shortened 2020-21 season due to the interference with the 2019-20 campaign. With that said, LeBrun adds that the league will be flexible when it comes to start and end dates and schedule density next year, so long as each team plays 82 games. This could allow for the NHL to adopt an idea that has become popular amongst players during the break: a brief training camp and resumption of regular season play in July, an August and September postseason, an October off-season, and a return to action for a condensed 2020-21 season at some point in November. LeBrun notes that a cancellation of bye weeks and All-Star events next year could help to make a plan like this become reality. The NHL will look at all of their options, assuming there is a possibility that the current season can resume, to make next season run as normally as possible with 82 games being the critical criteria.
- Should the NHL not be able to complete the 2019-20 season as scheduled, TSN’s Frank Seravalli states that one of biggest things that the NHL will need to clarify is a policy on trade and contract conditions. Those conditions are made with the implication of an 82-game schedule, as well as a full postseason. If those things become an impossibility, is there a fair way to determine whether conditions were met or not? Seravalli uses last summer’s trade between Pacific Division rivals Edmonton and Calgary as an example. In the swap of Milan Lucic for James Neal, a unique condition was added that awards the Flames a 2020 third-round pick if a) Neal scores at least 21 goals and b) Lucic scores ten or more goals fewer than Neal. As it stands, Neal has 19 goals on the season, so the first condition would not be met if the season ended today. However, since the deal was made with the assumption of 82 games, a pro-rated result would see Neal with 23 goals and Lucic with nine, which would result in Calgary landing the pick. The problem, as Seravalli describes, with either strategy is that it does not accurately make up for missed games. With a number of conditional picks and bonus clauses in play, the NHL would face the tough task of how it decides to treat conditions if the regular season and possibly the playoffs as well cannot be completed. Seravalli even mentions compensatory draft picks as a possibility to offset effected trade conditions.
- One league event that is certain to occur, at some point and in some manner, is the 2020 NHL Draft. The draft is likely to remain in Montreal, but the June 26-27 dates look unlikely and the usual public audience and organized fanfare would be even more improbable if the event does go on as scheduled. In all likelihood, the draft will be postponed, but it will occur all the same. As such, NHL.com has released their updated March rankings of the top 31 players in the class. Although there hasn’t been much new film to study in recent weeks, with junior leagues paused, the college season cancelled, and most European leagues ending as well, the staff at NHL.com has made a notable changes since their last edition earlier this month. Finnish forward Anton Lundell has snuck into the top ten, supplanting Russian goaltender Yaroslav Askarov. Much like eventual Florida Panthers pick Spencer Knight last year, there was heavy top-ten talk about Askarov this season as well, but it has cooled somewhat of late as the depth of elite forward in the class could make it difficult to select a netminder so early.