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GM’s Lining Up Against Early Draft, Bettman Doesn’t Need Vote

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2020 NHL Draft Pittsburgh Penguins

An interesting thing occurred before, during, and after the NHL conference call on Monday. It wasn’t readily apparent and the small details may have slipped by observers. Most knew the NHL would not conduct a vote on holding the 2020 NHL Draft in June, but many didn’t know such a vote isn’t needed.

That’s right. The NHL led by Commissioner Gary Bettman doesn’t need a vote to move the NHL Draft to the expected June 5 date.

And yet, it hasn’t happened yet, either.

Make no mistake, NHL general managers have publicly and privately expressed two opinions on the June draft. Either, they have acquiesced to the likelihood, such as the report by Boston Hockey Now, or GM’s are boldly opposing it.

As the source told BHN, “It’s going to happen.”

Chuck Fletcher in Philadelphia is against it. Steve Yzerman in Detriot, too.

Fletcher also opined to a national Sportsnet radio audience that holding the draft in June could hurt teams in draft order, too.

“The draft is often a great time to reset your roster,” Fletcher said. “You can often use draft picks to acquire players or trade players for draft picks. (A June draft) will make it difficult to reset the roster.”

“The other issue … if we aren’t able to finish the season, right now we’re going to pick 26th, but if we’re not able to finish the season, what benefit did we get,’ Fletcher asked rhetorically. “We’re not able to play any playoff games, playoff revenue, or gain any playoff experience. So why are we picking sixth last in every round? Shouldn’t there be a consideration for a different type of lottery? We did that in 2005.”

Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas has taken a submissive approach.

“We’ve just taken the mindset that, rather than get involved in the political part of it or the discussions or the angst about it, we’re just going to try to prepare as though it was going to happen,” he said via conference call on Monday.

Credit the NHL for at least attempting to persuade its clubs the 2020 NHL Draft in June is a good idea before scooping up the extra few dollars by actually doing it.

TSN reporter Pierre LeBrun said he counted only six clubs which would vote yes to the draft proposal and 15 which admitted they would vote ‘no”.

But circle back to Bettman. He doesn’t need any of the above opinions. Significant opposition is why the proposal hasn’t yet been enacted, but instead deputy commissioner Bill Daly sent a memo last Friday to argue the case.

In order to restart the NHL season, a few toes will be trampled. If you put 800 people in room, or a virtual room, consensus may be formed but there is bound to be disagreement, too. Several players have publicly expressed concern about being away from their families for months.

The second tier German soccer league is dealing with 10 positive COVID-19 tests as it quarantines players in preparation for restarting their season. No one is seriously ill, but the league’s preparations and policies are now under review.

The NHL fully understands it will need to straddle the line and there are cultural differences between Americans and Canadians with respect for authority and acquiescence.

A wrong step like 10 positive cases and the resulting media attention could be disastrous for the NHL if its members are already unhappy because they had a June draft crammed down their throats.

A decision was expected quickly after the conference call, but now broadcast reports indicate it could be decided next week.

The Pittsburgh Penguins would certainly not benefit from the proposal, though Penguins GM Jim Rutherford has thus far not publicly commented.

It is rather insane to hold a draft before the conclusion of a season. MLB’s draft, which doesn’t allow trades and thus teams don’t use to retool rosters, notwithstanding.

And so, we wait. At least one team which was against it has since buckled and accepted the probability. We’ll see if more teams cave, if Bettman does indeed force it upon teams, or if the opposition wins and sanity prevails.

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