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A June NHL draft could do more harm than good

The NHL is discussing holding a virtual Entry Draft next month, before the completion of the regular season or the playoffs. The idea has mixed reviews with general managers who are figuring out how to get their team ready to restart the season when or if that opportunity presents itself.

The NHL could use some good public relations to talk about instead of the constant talk of a paused season and suggestions of when their phase 2 of starting up the season will happen. Currently, all players are not allowed into their training facilities. Stage 2 would grant players to begin to skate and practice to prepare for a scheduled “mini-training camp”.

The NFL held their draft, virtually, last month with great success. The difference in the two scenarios is the timing. The NFL held its draft after the completion of the season. This is the sticking point for most of the clubs trying to look into their crystal balls on how the next season could look.

There are several disadvantages to holding a draft before the season ends.

  • A lottery draft would be done to determine the first overall selection. Without final standings, the league would have to come up with an order that is fair and unbiased. The first overall pick is huge for struggling teams like the Ottawa Senators and Detroit Red Wings.
  • A draft order, normally determined after the playoffs have concluded, would have to be orchestrated on a different breakdown. One that has yet to be announced.
  • The salary cap for next season, which was supposed to be approximately $85 million per team, now might be as low as $81.5 million or less due to the uncertainty of this season.
  • Trades would not be allowed. Why? If the NHL goes on with the June draft with the 2019-’20 season’s completion in doubt teams couldn’t make draft-day trades because the current roster would need to be intact should the league start up again.

Detroit Red Wings general manager said it best in a story published by Stephen Whyno of the Associated Press

”My thought is: Why would you do that? Why do you need to do that?” Red WingsGM Steve Yzerman said on Fox Sports Detroit. ”I haven’t heard a good reason why we should do it prior to the end of the season if we do conclude the season over the course of the summer.”

The draft offers general managers a way of building their team not just by selecting players, but by strengthening teams via trades and financial structure. These fundamental strategies would be lost if the league moves ahead with a June draft.

The NHL also has not announced if they would allow teams to offer compliance buyouts when this season is completed or canceled. Compliance buyouts, also known as amnesty buyouts, allow a team to buy out the contract of a player at two-thirds the amount due to over twice the remaining length of the contract and the cost doesn’t count against the salary cap.

It’s hard to prepare next season’s salary cap numbers with so many unanswered questions. Which leads to the biggest question many are asking. Why even consider having a draft in June? Certainly, there would be enough time when a decision on this season is officially made.

One answer to that question involves players drafted and where they play next season. If the league added to have the draft in September or October, players may not be able to join other NHL teams that select them if they are already obligated to pay for their current clubs before the draft took place.

That is a legal situation the NHL could figure out once a decision is made.

Commissioner Bill Daly has stated that a decision on the draft has yet to be made. General managers have requested a month’s notice before the draft. No decision on that request has been made as of yet.

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