This week, the NHL’s general managers descended on Boca Raton, Florida to discuss the state of the sport. Topics included expansion (and the draft surrounding it), increasing scoring, goalie equipment, video replay, the coaches’ challenge, and the salary cap.
For some time now, the league has been kicking around the idea of expanding the league by two teams, and placing them in Las Vegas and Quebec City. It is still unknown if the league will in fact make this move. Nevertheless, the excitement in both of these cities has been building in anticipation that the league will, in fact, award them a franchise. With this comes building these teams. One such avenue to do so is through an expansion draft, which comprises of the following:
- Every team has the option of protecting 3 defensemen, 7 forwards, and 1 goalie, or 8 skaters and +1 goalie. This will be determined before the draft takes place.
- The most a team can lose in the expansion draft is only one player if only one city is awarded a franchise, but can lose two if two cities are awarded a franchise.
- First and second year players who have been signed will be exempt from the draft, however; if a player is in his 3rd year of his entry-level contract, he is not exempt.
- Unsigned draft picks are also exempt for 2 years will also follow the rules of those who have been signed.
With that said, the GMs will know by this year’s draft in June if there will be expansion for the 2017-2018 season. If no decision is made, expansion will most likely not happen until 2018-2019 at the earliest.
While expansion could rev up the excitement level in the NHL, another component of the game was discussed: scoring. A quick glance at the league shows that the goals per game have tailed off significantly within the last 5 years. In 2010-2011, the goals per game were at 2.79, and has now dipped to 2.69 this season. (Even the lockout shortened season of 2012-2013 saw an average of 2.73 per game). In years past, it was thought that goaltenders had equipment that was too large and did not give enough room to skaters to shoot at the goalie.
After a presentation presented to the GMs in this meeting, by former Calgary Flames goaltender Kay Whitmore, a change is coming to goalie equipment that will satisfy all GMs, teams, skaters, and goaltenders alike. Said Blues GM Doug Armstrong about the equipment change, “Kay Whitmore said he’s getting great support from the players and the players’ association, which I think is a huge step moving forward.”
Based on what was presented, Whitmore believes the new equipment will be more modernized with chest protectors and pants more fitting to the goalie. This came from input from several goalies in the league, including Washington’s own Braden Holtby. Whitmore stated, “This (the change in goalie equipment) started last year after competition committee when we and the union agreed that things needed to be done with the pants and the upper body, and we’ve been working behind the scenes nonstop. You’ve seen the goalies involved, Cory (Schneider, Devan (Dubnyk), Braden (Holtby), these guys have spoken out after All-Star [weekend]. It’s a joint venture between us and them. The cooperation has been there and that is something that has been lacking. I’m not going to lie, there was a lot of skepticism in the room by the managers…. the question was asked today, ‘Well, what’s different this time around?’ Well, we are attacking it together. You are hearing from some of the best goalies in the game and they think this is what is right. They want a level playing field within their ranks. They want to look at the other end of the rink and feel that the guy down there looks appropriate for his size so that if a guy is 6-4, 250, he should look that big, and if you are 6-1, 170, there should be a difference between those kind of guys. That’s what we are going after. We have different measurements of guys.”
Equipment manufacturers should have this new type of equipment to the league’s goalies by the summer. As a result, goalies must comply, as there are current rules on the books regarding this matter. Current rules carry a two game suspension and a $25,000 fine for non-compliance of a first-time offender if they do not abide by the new goalie equipment guidelines.
Now that both the GMs and players are on board with this, the crackdown on illegal equipment will begin next season. Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin concurred, “If you cheat, you pay the price. If we all agree now, all 30 of us, and it happens in October, none of us should be crying about it. … If you live by the rules you should be fine.”
While both the GMs and the NHLPA seem to be in line with making said changes to goalie equipment to boost scoring, some other ideas were kicked around to increase scoring. These were:
- A minor penalty should be completely served for the full two minutes (This was introduced by Bergevin)
- Shorthanded teams should not be allowed to ice (Suggested by Chicago GM Stan Bowman)
- An offensive zone face off should occur when a power play is carrying over to the next period of play (This was proposed by David Poile of Nashville)
Even with some of these propositions, many are in agreement that the changes in goalie equipment will allow scoring to take its natural course and this issue may not need to be reviewed next year.
One hot topic at these meetings, however; was the coaches’ challenge. As many Capitals fans have observed this year, a few of these challenges haven’t been met with the greatest of results and some have been met with a favorable outcome. Capitals issues with the coaches’ challenge aside, it has been decided that not only will it stay, but no changes will be made regarding goalie interference.
However, off-sides calls will be enhanced with several cameras mounted in several different locations. Cameras will be mounted at the blue lines for the play-offs, and next season coverage will expand to having one on the glass boards, and one four feet lifted above the bench.
Lastly, next year’s salary cap may increase from $71.4 million to $74 if the NHLPA approves this. There is concern with players that are on long-term contracts may not agree with a 5 percent increase, as they would have to pay more in escrow, but those who are due to become free agents, they would welcome the extra increase, as they could get more money for their contracts.
As the players determine what to do with this possible salary cap increase, many teams have also different ideas. The larger market, bigger spending clubs would welcome the increase, so that they may be able to retain most, if not all key members of their teams. On the other hand, the smaller, more middle of the road market teams would like a lower cap to help them become more competitive, as they would be able to pick up players from the larger market teams that could not be retained due to salary restrictions.
In conclusion, many possible exciting changes will be coming to the sport that will help increase scoring, whether it’s with expanding the league’s teams, making goalie equipment more fitted for each individual goalie, or coming up with different ideas to increase goal scoring. Also, perhaps the enhancement on handling off-sides plays near the blue line could also either add to scoring lull that the NHL is facing or it could completely reverse it.
By Andi Sobolik