NHL News

NHL makes case for early June draft in memo

The NHL is aggressively making its case to skeptical teams that holding the 2020 Entry Draft before a restarted season is essential.

In a memo to teams on Friday, as first reported by Sportsnet, deputy commissioner Bill Daly detailed several factors in support of moving up the draft. The league has targeted June 5 for the draft, which was originally scheduled for June 26-27 in Montreal. Teams will now take part in a virtual draft, selecting players from remote locations.

“There are complications. There’s no perfect solution. We think there are benefits to having the draft in June, including the fact that it’s a necessary piece of league business that has to transpire at some point and time, and our clubs are as ready for it now as they would be at any other time — and probably better prepared than they would be in the fall,” Daly said in an CHED radio interview on Friday.

Daly said the league is concerned that if it’s able to complete the 2019-20 season this summer, holding the draft during a truncated offseason before the 2020-21 season starts — potentially in December — would be asking a lot. “We don’t want to have a situation where we’re shoe-horning a draft lottery or a draft into a very short window of time, which we may be faced with,” he said.

According to Sportsnet, the NHL proposed it would use points percentage to determine the 15 “non-playoff” teams in the draft lottery. In other words, rather than using total points in the standings, it would use the percentage of available points the teams captured in games played before the March 12 pause for the coronavirus pandemic. This alleviates concerns about teams having played an uneven number of games before the season was paused.

Since the NHL has yet to determine whether it will expand the Stanley Cup Playoffs this summer if the regular season can’t be completed, some general managers have been concerned the same team that wins the draft lottery could, in theory, also raise the Cup.

As previously reported, the NHL proposed a tweak to draft lottery rules for this season: Instead of holding lotteries for each of the top three picks, it would revert back to a previous lottery format and just select the first overall pick. In addition, teams that win the lottery can only move up a maximum of four sports. In other words, the Detroit Red Wings — who have the worst record in the NHL — would pick either first or second overall. Another concern from general managers was how conditional picks would be handled — picks whose ownership is determined by, for example, whether or not a team qualifies for the playoffs or advances in them. In the memo, the league has proposed acting like a de facto arbitrator for teams. They would have seven days before the draft to reform the conditions of the trade, or accept the NHL’s proposed remedy.

The NHL’s proposal was sent to teams ahead of a key Board of Governors call on Monday. It’s expected the league will make a decision about the draft’s schedule next week. The NHL has been keen on using an early June draft to spark enthusiasm about the league after months without hockey.

“We think it’s a great opportunity for fan engagement. Fans have been missing NHL hockey for a month and a half. It’ll be three months when we get to June,” said Daly.

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