Friday night, after teams received the NHL’s position paper on the possibility of a June draft, there were several reactions.
A couple were, “They’re really trying to convince us, aren’t they?”
Some wouldn’t change from an original opinion of, “This is terrible, and I don’t support it.”
But the biggest response was resignation: “It sure reads like, this is what we are doing… get used to it.”
That’s what it sounds like to me.
Full disclosure: Deputy commissioner Bill Daly, who authored the report, indicates the broadcast networks are on board with the plan. The memo also states the league needs a month to prepare. The rumour is June 5, meaning a decision early next week. That’s why the timing for this note makes sense.
During a Fox Sports Detroit Facebook Live chat on Thursday, Detroit GM Steve Yzerman voiced his opposition to the idea.
“My thought is: Why would you do that? Why would you need to do that?” Yzerman said. “There’s a lot of things that are affected, obviously. The draft position hasn’t been established; we don’t know who’s in the playoffs, who’s out of the playoffs, in some cases … But at this time, my own opinion is, 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.”
Many of his managing brethren share the same sentiment, albeit privately.
In response, the memo argues that, “Quite frankly, whatever we decide to do, there is no way, under these most unusual circumstances, for us to maintain the ‘status quo.’”
If the draft is not moved up, the best-case scenario would see the Stanley Cup awarded in early- to mid-September at the earliest. That would leave a short window for the lottery and the draft before moving on to all other necessary league business before the 2020–21 season begins, which we now know could be December.
Also mentioned is a worst-case scenario, where “we will be forced to make the difficult decision of cancelling the remainder of the 2019–20 season. In that case, and again in the absence of an early Draft, we would be faced with having to schedule a Draft Lottery and stage a Draft at some uncertain time prior to resuming play for the 2020–21 season. In this scenario, the same concerns that some Clubs have expressed about determining Lottery eligibility and overall Draft order, as well as the issue of having to resolve undetermined conditional provisions in trades, would still need to be addressed.”
Daly makes many of the arguments proponents have already discussed, including the success of the NFL draft and fans’ hunger for sports content.
To make it as fair as possible, the league has suggested:
• For conditional trades, the league would propose solutions. The teams would have seven days to either reform the deal on terms acceptable to both, or accept the NHL’s idea.
• Using each team’s points percentage to determine the Order of Selection. (That’s under the current playoff format, so 16 teams would be out of the lottery and 15 would be in.)
• Changing the lottery format this season only — picking just one winner, and limiting any move-up to a maximum of four spots.
I can see that being hotly contested. The NHL suggested this idea because of complaints the lottery winner could also win the Stanley Cup. While the league considers that a total longshot, it is prepared to concede the point and prevent the occurrence.
One of Sportsnet’s smarter Insiders, Chris Johnston, detailed potential outcomes. Detroit would pick no lower than second. Ottawa (with San Jose’s top selection), could do no worse than three and four. New Jersey, Buffalo, Montreal and Chicago couldn’t jump above two, three, four and five, respectively.
I wonder if some GMs will relent on their overall distaste for the idea in exchange for a shot at Alexis Lafreniere.
Obviously, another concern is a June draft would prevent teams from trading players they’ll need if the season resumes. Daly indicated the league’s research of the last five draft days showed that there were 106 trades conducted and 64 would have been similarly permissible had the draft been staged prior to the end of the season.
“While this is certainly a valid concern,” Daly continues, “the fact of the matter is that whenever we hold the 2020 Draft — in early June or ‘shoehorned’ into a short window in October or November — (it) is not going to be a typical NHL Draft. It is not going to look the same; it is not going to feel the same; and it is not going to be the same. While we may know more about next year’s landscape in terms of CBA, Salary Cap, Escrow, etc., in November than we will in June, we are still not going to know everything, and there is still going to be a multitude of questions that have no answers. So, any comparison of the 2020 NHL Draft to a typical year’s Draft is not — and cannot be — an ‘apples to apples’ comparison.”