NHL Rumor Mill – March 14, 2020
The latest speculation on how the NHL’s schedule pause could affect the playoff schedule and the salary cap in today’s rumor roundup.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman examined some of the biggest questions facing the NHL after pausing its season over coronavirus concerns.
Noting how the NHL, NBA and Major League Soccer announced their temporary media guidelines this week at the same time, he believes they’re getting the same medical information and are in communication with each other. He suspects resumption of their respective seasons could also occur at the same time.
THE ATHLETIC: Scott Powers and Mark Lazerus report NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told the board of governors on Thursday that canceling the regular season would cost the league a whopping $1 billion. The hope is to return to work on April 15, stage a one-week mini-training camp, finish out the regular season followed by a possible shortened playoff schedule that ends in July, though that might not be possible.
Aaron Portzline reports there’s a belief the NHL season is over for clubs with no chance of reaching the playoffs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Friedman notes NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced the pause for his schedule was 30 days. I suspect the NHL and MLS will follow suit. Barring any improvement in containing and reducing the COVID-19 coronavirus, the earliest the NHL returns to action could be April 12, though that it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s later than that.
Unless the coronavirus is still raging through North America until June, I expect we’ll see some form of a shortened regular-season schedule, perhaps even just a “play-in” for the playoff bubble clubs, following by the first two rounds of the playoffs being best-of-five and the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final being best-of-seven.
Friedman reports the NHL could see a $1 billion hit to hockey-related revenue because of this schedule pause. That could result in the salary cap dropping below the current $81.5 million, potentially hurting teams and players. He feels that’s an incentive for the NHL and NHLPA to agree to an artificial cap number for next season.
THE ATHLETIC: Craig Custance points out the financial impact of this schedule pause will affect each team differently. The NHL is more reliant on gate-driven revenue than the other major professional leagues. The average NHL clubs earns $1.7 million per game, with higher-revenue clubs earning twice that. A popular NHL club like the Toronto Maple Leafs won’t feel the effects of this pause as much as a struggling franchise like the Arizona Coyotes.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Friedman reminded us the NHL and NHLPA agreed to an artificial salary-cap number for 2013-14 after a lockout cost half of the previous season. I daresay they’ll do the same to ensure next season’s cap at least remains at $81.5 million. There’s also talk of employing amnesty buyouts, but that probably won’t be necessary under an artificial cap that’s at or slightly above the current level.