BOCA RATON, Fla. – By now you’ve heard enough about goaltender interference reviews.
The NHL general managers wrapped up three days of meetings Wednesday with a tweak to the way those are administered — shifting the final decision from referees on the ice to the league’s hockey operations department.
They also decided to bring a retired referee into the Toronto video room to assist with reviews and have set the wheels in motion to do it as soon as possible. The new process will be in place by the playoffs, barring an unexpected snag.
While that was the headline item to come out of these GM meetings, there was plenty more going on behind the scenes. Here are five things we learned:
Vegas off the hook in possible Seattle draft
The GMs were informed that any potential future Seattle expansion draft will be conducted under the same conditions as Vegas, and there’s an interesting caveat: The Golden Knights aren’t likely to be part of the Seattle process at all, according to a source.
There’s no reason to expect them to be put in position to lose a player because they’re not going to be sharing in the $650-million fee the Oak View Group will be asked to pay if/when the NHL accepts its expansion application. That was part of the deal the league struck with Golden Knights owner Bill Foley when he was granted the 31st franchise.
As a result, the Original 30 will eventually receive $21.67-million apiece from Seattle after cashing $16.67-million cheques from Vegas. That helps soften the blow of losing another player through expansion.
While the NHL has not committed to a timeline on when Seattle might be ready to enter the league, it’s unlikely we’ll see the next expansion draft occur before June 2020.
Golden Knights GM George McPhee will be resting a little easier than his colleagues at that point in time, free of the decision about which seven forwards, three defencemen and goalie he wants to protect from the 32nd franchise.
Seattle would get same entry draft odds as Golden Knights
A Seattle expansion team would also be granted the same rules that were extended to Vegas for its first entry draft last year – getting identical odds in the lottery as the team finishing with the third-fewest points to determine Round 1 positioning, and then selecting third in each subsequent round.
In the meantime, the NHL is set to introduce new odds for next month’s draft lottery.
Pending NHLPA approval, GMs were told that the last-place finisher will now have an 18.5 per cent chance of landing the No. 1 pick – up from 18 per cent last year (when Vegas was introduced), but down from the 20 per cent chance the Toronto Maple Leafs enjoyed after finishing last in the 2015-16 season.
Nothing wrong with LTIR
Despite concerns raised by managers about how the long-term injured reserve provision was used by the Maple Leafs with Joffrey Lupul and Nikita Soshnikov, and Chicago with Marian Hossa, the NHL remains confident that the spirit of the collective bargaining agreement is being followed.
“We have the right to have an independent medical examination and we use that right liberally,” said deputy commissioner Bill Daly. “We’ve never had an issue confirming the condition.”
Lupul (back) and Hossa (skin condition) were each subjected to third-party medicals after failing physicals with their teams at the outset of training camp.
The Soshnikov case raised eyebrows in February because the Leafs were able to keep him on LTIR for three days after he completed an American Hockey League conditioning stint where he put up five points and registered 17 shots on goal in five games with the Marlies.
The implication at the time was that Soshnikov wasn’t healthy enough to be activated. The Leafs were also carrying the maximum 23 players and eventually eased their logjam by trading the Russian winger to St. Louis for a 2019 fourth-round pick on Feb. 15.
Daly indicated that the league maintains the right to an independent medical on players coming off an LTIR conditioning loan like Soshnikov. He also said that it typically orders multiple third-party medicals for players each year.
Even though the LTIR provision was discussed during these meetings, he expressed confidence that business is being conducted above board.
“We police these issues,” said Daly. “It’s not to call into anybody’s integrity or judgement, it’s to make sure the CBA’s integrity is maintained. All of the issues that were raised were looked into.”
Potential record cap increase could be coming
Any GM facing a cap crunch left the Boca Beach Club feeling a little better about his situation. The NHL is projecting that the upper limit of next year’s salary cap will fall between $78 million and $82 million.
That’s a nice jump from the $75 million in effect this season.
“There’s healthy revenue growth again this year,” Daly explained. “It’ll all come down to what we negotiate with the players’ association in terms of an inflator for next year.”
If it hits the top end of the current projection, the league would establish a new record – surpassing the $6.4-million bump between 07-08 and 08-09.
Not a bad time to be a marquee free agent (looking at you, John Tavares).
Goaltender interference talks end … for now
Even with the goaltender interference review changes recommended Wednesday, this is probably not the last we’ve heard on the topic. Expect it to be discussed when the GMs next convene at the Stanley Cup Final in June.
There’s a chance they’ll circle back and apply a two-minute delay of game penalty for incorrect challenges – just as they did last year for those involving offsides, a move that cut the number of reviews nearly in half.
After seeing 170 goaltender interference challenges through the first 1,100 games of this season, the league would like to find a way to reduce those, too.
“There are lots of times when the coach issues it when we’re really using it to correct a glaring error – not an argument over whether it could have been or might not have been,” said commissioner Gary Bettman. “The answer should be if it’s a completely blown call, that’s when it should be used. And if you’re issuing the challenge in circumstances where it isn’t clear-cut, you should expect you’re probably not going to get the determination that you want.”
While giving out a penalty might seem like a tricky thing to do after a subjective review call, there was some support for the idea here.
Should they ever decide to move forward, it’s bound to become its own hot-button issue.