Things have started to pickup around the NHL in the last 10 days or so. Several reports point to positive news regarding the completion of the 2019-2020 season to be announced this week. Here’s a roundup of all the latest rumors and news bytes leading into the week ahead.
Pierre McGuire – Toronto Sun journalist Steve Simmons has reported that NBC Hockey Analyst Pierre McGuire has interviewed for the New Jersey Devils GM position. “Pierre McGuire denies it but word is he recently interviewed for the GM job that may or may not be open in New Jersey. “They have a GM,” said McGuire.”
Garry Bettman – Toronto sports journalist Steve Simmonds is also reporting that the league may be promoting the hiring of Peter Chiarelli. “For some reason, and we’re not sure why, commissioner Gary Bettman wants former Oilers and Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli back working in the NHL. He’d like to place him with the historically dysfunctional Arizona Coyotes.“
Finishing the 2019-2020 season – According to The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun, the Return to Play Committee is leaning towards a 24-team playoff format to wrap up the 2019-20 season. LeBrun reports that there is quite a bit of work still to be done if a 24-team playoff is to become a reality, but there has been significant progress made this weekend. Talks are expected to continue over the next couple of days with the potential that a plan will officially be presented this week. Once the Return to Play Committee does come to an agreement, it must pass through the NHL Executive Board and be approved.
It’s easy to bash the NHL’s plan for a 24-team playoff, but you have to realize the NHL is facing a $1.1 billion shortfall in revenues this season. More teams (especially when they’re Montreal and Chicago) means more revenues. Can’t fault the NHL for trying to be creative here.
— Ken Campbell (@THNKenCampbell) May 17, 2020
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman dismissed any notion that the league will not be able to resume 2019-2020 season and award the Stanley Cup at some point over the next several months. Appearing as a guest in a virtual town hall hosted by the San Jose Sharks for members of its business alliance, Bettman, responding to a question, said ending a season without crowning a champion is, “not something I’m even contemplating. I believe that if the right time comes, and the right circumstances, based on all of the options that we’re considering and our ability to execute them, we’ll get this season done,” Bettman said. “I don’t want to sound Pollyanna, but canceling is too easy a solution. That means you stop working hard to do all of the things that we’re doing, and I ultimately believe that there will be an opportunity.”
Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk told Fan 590 in Toronto on Sunday that he is “100 percent” confident that a 2020 Stanley Cup Champion will be crowned and that there would be a full 2020-21 NHL season, according to TSN’s Bruce Garrioch.
Calgary Flames General Manager Brad Treliving senses hockey fans may hear some good news at some point this week. In an interview with Sportsnet’s Eric Francis, Treliving stated he sensed gaining momentum with regards to what the potential restart will look like, and plans for the 2020 draft. “I think there’s momentum,” said the Calgary Flames GM Thursday. “No state secrets here, but I do sense some momentum that this week there could be at least a preliminary plan put in place for where we go.”
Capitals owner Ted Leonsis appeared on CNN Sunday night. He was also confident the 2019-2020 NHL season would be completed.
JUST NOW: Wizards and Capitals owner says he believes NBA and NHL will return and try to finish regular season before playoffs. pic.twitter.com/V3wBhev4B0
— Andy Slater (@AndySlater) May 18, 2020
Return to play – Pierre LeBrun is reporting that 15 cities showed interest in becoming hub cities for a four-site playoff plan. The NHL has already informed some of those cities that they have been eliminated, with eight or nine teams still in the mix. There are still some major cities still under consideration, including Las Vegas, Edmonton, Vancouver, Minnesota and Toronto. The Athletic’s Scott Burnside is reporting that the plan would be that 12 teams in each conference would go to the playoffs, which would be split into four groups of six. Each group of six teams would end up in that host city throughout the playoffs, although if an NHL team’s city is a hub city, then that team would not be allowed to play there, meaning the Maple Leafs would not be allowed to play in Toronto and the Golden Knights wouldn’t play in Vegas.
Sources indicate the Return To Play Committee has talked throughout the weekend, NHL-NHLPA making progress on a 24-team format. Sources also stressing there’s still work to be done, but clearly the weekend has produced some traction. More talks expected over next day or two.
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) May 17, 2020
2020 NHL Draft – According to a report from David Pagnotta of SiriusXM NHL Network Radio, the latest rumblings around the league would see the draft take place much later in the year than expected. Not only does it now sound like the NHL Entry Draft is going to be pushed back all the way to the month of September, but according to Pagnotta this latest development could also result in the NHL’s free agency period being pushed back several months as well. “Talk around the league suggests the NHL Draft will take place after the Stanley Cup is awarded, which would appear to be in early-to-mid September. Following a mid-to-end-of-September Draft would be free agency throughout October (the new off-season), and training camps would get going in November. There is also talk of starting the 2020-21 season without fans if an antibody or vaccine isn’t available, but that’s still premature at this point (though, still on everyone’s mind).
COVID-19 Testing – Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman is reporting that testing for the COVID-19 virus could be quite expensive. The cost of testing will be significant. I’m getting estimates at close to $100 per test. It shows how much these leagues want to play. You could make a real economic argument that it would be less expensive not to. Short-term pain for long-term gain…Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci reported Thursday that Major League Baseball reached a deal on COVID-19 testing. No league or player group wants to be greedy by having access to tests that the more vulnerable or the public can’t get to. So MLB reached an agreement with a Utah-based lab that would provide testing for the players and support staff, plus thousands more for the general public. Verducci wrote, “Under that plan, MLB would provide a net gain to public testing rather than drawing from existing resources.”
AMERICAN HOCKEY LEAGUE
2020-2021 AHL Season – Incoming AHL President Scott Howson was a guest on the 31 Thoughts podcast this week. He said an even more regionalized scheduled is possible for whatever happens in 2020–21. “Everybody’s going to their best efforts to make (our league) work next year,” he said. “We have a plan right now, and that’s to play from Oct. 9 to April 18. Our regular schedule: 76 games… 68 for the teams in the Pacific Division. However, we aren’t naive — we know that it may not be possible for us to play on Oct. 9.” So the league will model starting in November, December, January, etc., and how many teams are comfortable with each scenario. “Then you add in the additional factor of, is it sustainable for a team to play with 50 or 35 per cent capacity based on social distancing? So there’s a lot to think about.” Howson said the league will wait as late as the end of August before making a determination on October.
ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski is reporting that if games are played in front of no fans, it’s unlikely that all 31 teams would participate. While 19 of the 31 teams are owned by their parent NHL franchise, the other 12 are locally-owned. Those ones may not have the financial resources to run without their primary source of revenue. In the past, teams without AHL affiliates have partnered up with other teams to loan some prospects out and that would be a likely scenario for the 2020-21 campaign.
Vegas Golden Knights Affiliate – Blake Apgar of the Las Vegas Review-Journal relays information about the proposed arena in Henderson that would be the home of their AHL squad in the near future. The facility, which will be voted on this week, is slated to cost $80MM and be split between the city and the Golden Knights. If approved, the target opening would be for the 2022-23 season. (More here.)
By Jon Sorensen