NHL Rumor Mill – March 13, 2020
How could the pause on the NHL schedule affect next season’s salary cap? What measures could be taken to cope? Check out the latest in today’s rumor mill.
THE ATHLETIC: Regarding the effect upon the salary cap, Pierre LeBrun suggests the league and the NHL Players Association could agree to toss aside the CBA rules in this emergency and perhaps agree to an artificial number for next season. He cited a source saying they can do that as long as both sides agree it’s the best course of action. That would prevent the cap from falling by millions and putting teams into roster Armageddon. The PA will also want to avoid putting their players into a crazy escrow situation.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cynics will point to the contentious labor history between the NHL and NHLPA to cast doubt over potential cooperation on an artificial cap for next season. Given the lack of rancor in ongoing collective bargaining talks before the pausing of the schedule, I believe they’ll get something worked out. This is a unique situation, and neither side wants a scenario whereby some teams end up gutting their rosters to become cap compliant.
The template is already there. They agreed to an artificial number to avoid roster upheaval coming out of the 2012-13 lockout. I also expect they’ll work out an escrow calculation for next season that will be acceptable to the players.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks believes a revenue-enhancing plan could address the league’s salary-cap number for 2020-21 if this season is cancelled. He speculates the league and the PA could agree to keep the cap at $81.5 million if they believe there will be an immediate rebound in consumer spending and ticket-buying behavior. However, Brooks feels a flat cap could wreak havoc upon the league with half the teams using long-term injury exemptions to be cap compliant.
Brooks also speculates the league and the PA could adopt an amnesty buyout policy this summer that would not count against a team’s salary-cap payroll. It’s a tactic the league employed following the previous NHL lockout. Regarding the playoffs, he envisions scrapping the rest of the regular-season schedule in favor of an expanded playoff schedule with knockout rounds involving 20-24 teams to drive up fan interest and revenue.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: We can’t rule out amnesty buyouts as a means of providing a measure of cap relief. Following the 2012-13 lockout, each team was allowed two amnesty buyouts spread over two seasons.
As for the playoffs, the format will depend upon when the league can return to action. If it’s in late-April, they’ll probably just play out the remaining schedule and stage the playoffs so that they end by late June. If it moves into May, shorter options could be considered in addition to perhaps playing into July.
THE ATHLETIC: Examining key questions surrounding the Edmonton Oilers in the wake of the pause in the regular season, Daniel Nugent-Bowman and Jonathan Willis wonder what happens to traded draft picks with games-played conditions attached.
The most complicated is the 2020 third-rounder involved in last summer’s James Neal/Milan Lucic trade. “That pick flips to Calgary if Neal scores 21 goals and Lucic trails his goal count by 10 or more.” Neal currently has 19 goals.
They also wondered if this would affect when the Oilers could offer contracts to free agents such as Riley Sheahan and Mike Smith. Performance bonuses could also be affected, as well as the Oilers’ salary-cap plans for next season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those issues aren’t unique to the Oilers. Every club will seek direction depending on the final decision regarding the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs.
Speaking of the Oilers, Sportnet’s Elliotte Friedman earlier this week said he didn’t think management was talking contract extension yet with Smith. He dismissed rumblings claiming the two sides discussed a one-year deal. Friedman also believes they could wait until the end of the season to talk contract with Sheahan.