NHL GMs hope proposed offside rule change ‘promotes offence’

NHL insiders Eric Francis and Elliotte Friedman join Kyle Bukauskas to discuss all the hot button topics from Day two of the GM Meetings, where they voted to change the offside rule, and where the NHL/CHL transfer rule is up for debate.

BOCA RATON, Fla. – The NHL GM meetings have always been about healthy debate, which made it the perfect venue for Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland to help the voters on hand decide who should be the Hart Trophy winner: Leon Draisaitl or Connor McDavid?

"Co-winners," was Holland’s diplomatic, yet completely unhelpful, response.

And so it went Tuesday at the swanky Boca Beach Club resort where nothing remotely close to being as sexy and topical as the emergency backup goalie protocol was discussed on Day 2 Tuesday.

The handful of issues bandied about include:

OFFSIDE

The GMs agreed they want a more liberal interpretation of the current offside rule, to allow a player to stay onside while his skate is in the air as opposed to being on the ice.

Had the league started implementing a more liberal approach to rule 83.1 and allowed players to stay onside with their skate in the air, it would have led to 14 more goals counting this year that were ruled offside.

Think football and the notion of simply breaking the plane, which is an imaginary line extending up from the blue line.

"We think it will make for more flow, easier for the linesmen to call, and hopefully it helps create just a touch more offence," said Holland.

"Is two inches in the air really going to make a big difference? There was concern someone could kick their skate up, but we don’t think that will be an issue."

League officials admitted it will still not be an exact science, as it’s hard to tell at times if a skate mid-air has broken that plane, but GMs like Calgary’s Brad Treliving believe it’s best for the game.

"It promotes offence," said Treliving. "Even when that play goes against you, I think it’s the right one for the game."

The new interpretation still has to be ratified by the competition committee.

Of note, none of this affects the tag-up rule, as a player’s skate must be on the ice when touching the blue line while racing back to re-enter the zone.

CHL TRANSFER AGREEMENT

This will be a biggie as debate continued over the possibility of giving NHL clubs the luxury of being able to send a top 19-year-old draft pick to the minors as opposed to their junior club.

The current agreement between the NHL and the Canadian Hockey League, which expires this year, mandates that a 19-year-old can only be demoted to junior if they’re not able to crack the NHL roster after a 10-game test.

The argument from some NHL executives is that 19-year-olds who were drafted in the first and second rounds, who aren’t ready for the NHL, yet too good for junior, should be able to be assigned to the American Hockey League in some cases.

However, there’s concern over the implications that could have on the junior ranks, which bristles at the notion of having more and more of its stars leaving the league earlier.

"I think everybody is really sensitive to not take a sledgehammer to the current agreement, which is up for renewal," said Treliving, whose employer also owns the Western Hockey League’s Hitmen.

"But is there a way to create a little more flexibility for those cases where the kid is best served to be able to play in the AHL? There’s not 100 of them, but it’s like any other rule, you wonder about unintended consequences. You don’t want to open it up."

Expect to hear plenty more on this debate moving forward.

NASHVILLE

Predators GM David Poile woke up to the news everyone else did: a tornado ripped through Nashville shortly after 2 a.m. Tuesday morning.

A reported 22 people have died from the series of twisters that ripped through Tennessee without much warning, causing extensive damage.

"This happened two or three miles from the (arena)," said Poile, confirming there was no damage to Bridgestone Arena.

"The downtown area and Broadway was not affected at all. Our kitchens are open for anybody affected by the tornado to have lunch in our building. The horn went off about five minutes beforehand and that’s the only warning people had and then it was right upon the city.

"I’ve been in Nashville for 22 years – it’s called the Volunteer State, and I didn’t know what that meant when I got there. It’s a state that the people really support each another, so I really think this will be a huge undertaking by the whole community to come out and get everything right."

The Predators will use the broadcast of their Tuesday night game in Minnesota to raise awareness and spearhead fundraising efforts.

The team returns for a home game Thursday.

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people around the hockey world, and then they tell listeners all about what they’ve heard and what they think about it.

PUCK MANAGEMENT

Starting in the playoffs, all NHL games will start using a new high-tech puck.

The integrity of the puck has been tested extensively to ensure that despite having sensors in it, it still weighs, feels and performs the same way the old pucks did.

Players will also wear tagging devices the size of lighters to track their every movement.

It’s all in the name of producing a basket full of real-time data for digital broadcast viewers this spring that will be rolled out as stats next season, such as puck speed, distance travelled by players and the puck, zone and ice time, as well as hits given and received.

CORONAVIRUS

The GMs have been given daily updates from the league on the virus that has disrupted play in Europe and continues to threaten future competitions.

"Obviously, Gary (Bettman) and the league are up on that – we put all our trust in the league to make sure they’re keeping everyone safe and I’m sure they will," said Blues GM Doug Armstrong.

"We’ve told our scouts, ‘Do what you’re comfortable doing. Whether you’re in North America and going over to scout these guys, or you’re in Europe. No one is going to pass judgment on it.’

"Player safety is paramount all the time – I think you just cross those bridges when you get to them."

Meetings wrap up Wednesday with Bettman addressing the media.

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