One of the changes to the COVID protocols in the NHL for the upcoming season is the ability for teams to suspend players without pay who are “unable to participate in club activities” due to being unvaccinated. Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly confirmed to Postmedia’s Patrick Johnston that Section 50.10(c) of the CBA will apply in this scenario which means that teams who suspend an unvaccinated player under these protocols will receive corresponding cap relief for the day(s) the players are suspended for.
Among the scenarios where unvaccinated players could be suspended are government-imposed quarantine after crossing the border or the requirement of having the vaccine to be allowed to enter an arena which has popped up in a few states with NHL teams in recent weeks.
It has been suggested that the stricter protocols including the potential for suspension without pay have played a role in the high percentage of NHL players who have currently received the vaccine – a number that’s estimated to be at roughly 98%. With that in mind, the number of regular NHL players who aren’t vaccinated is quite low; Daly suggested to Ryan S. Clark, Mark Lazerus, and Joshua Kloke of The Athletic (subscription link) that they expect that 15 or fewer players fall under this category which means that they would be the only ones subject to this scenario.
It’s worth noting that while it could create an opportunity for teams to bank space during the season, it’d be an unwanted one as it would take a regular player out of the lineup and potentially force a recall from the AHL. Meanwhile, teams in LTIR would be able to bring a replacement up but wouldn’t be able to bank any cap space unless they were to dip under their respective Accruable Cap Space Limit as a result of the suspension. We’ll see over the coming months if this scenario winds up coming into play and whether it winds up having any sort of tangible salary cap impact for teams with an unvaccinated player.