As teams begin to transition to phase 2 of the NHL’s ‘return to play’ plan, one of the many sizable questions remaining is the allowable roster sizes for each team during phase 3 (training camps in July) and phase 4 (playoffs in August).
The NHL has suggested a maximum number of 28 skaters and as many goaltenders as a team may want to include. However, the proposal still needs to be approved by the NHLPA, and one can easily see the NHLPA wanting a higher number.
Regarding possible roster size for the 24 teams in Return to Play, while the NHL has suggested 28 skaters plus goalies, that still has to be negotiated with the NHLPA through the Phase 3/4 agreement to come. So roster size may or may not change again depending on NHLPA.
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) June 6, 2020
From a prospect and player’s perspective, the higher number the better. Most hockey leagues, other than the NHL, face a much more uncertain future as to when they will take to the ice again. Without lucrative television contracts to support the developmental leagues, playing games with no fans in the stands is much less likely. As a result, prospects could be looking at as much as a year of total time off the ice, depending how the pandemic unfolds.
Consider the additional uncertainty of the annual development camp and prospect tournament being held this summer, and you can see that joining the big club for structured workouts and practices would be a big benefit in their overall developmental trajectory.
Another factor that leans towards a higher roster number is the very nature and timing of this years playoffs. There are no other leagues playing, and thus, no conditioned players to call upon in an emergency. Considering the nature of this years playoffs, injuries could be higher, meaning teams will need sufficient reserves that are conditioned and ready to play.
Once the roster is set and teams enter the bubble in their hub cities, it’s very likely that no other players will be able to added at a later date, due to quarantine restrictions, and the fact that other players not initially invited inside the bubble won’t be in playing shape and conditioned to play.
However, the league has set a maximum number of team personal to enter the quarantined bubbles in their assigned hub city at 50. That includes players, coaches, trainers, management and support staff. Therefore, it’s assumed that each additional player added to the roster will take away from other non-players that might be needed inside the bubble. If the Capitals take 28 players and four goaltenders, that leaves just 18 spots for all other coaches and staff.
Additionally, the more players you add, the more players you will have to quarantine, test each day, and ultimately keep safe. Simply put, the higher number, the greater the risk of a player being infected with the virus.
The NHL and NHLPA will need to agree on a final roster size as soon as possible, so teams can notify players and players can begin preparations to enter the quarantine bubble. Phase 3 (Report to hub cities and enter the quarantine bubble) is currently slated to start at some point in mid July.
By Jon Sorensen