The NHL sent a memo to teams on Friday, which argued for their proposal to hold the 2020 NHL Draft in June, before any conclusion to the 2019-20 season. The NHL has been making the case, but now they’re pushing hard despite significant disagreement from general managers. Rather than respect the people who are responsible for building teams, the league is increasing pressure to hold the NHL draft in June as a launch for the NHL return, presumably in July.
In short-sighted logic, the league told teams they want to hold the NHL draft in June while there is little competition for attention. A decision is expected this week.
If the NHL owned a gun, it would handle it like Plexico Burress in a New York City nightclub. Rushing an event as important as the draft to capitalize on our lack of entertainment options due to the coronavirus quarantines is to shortchange teams, handcuff GM’s, and harm organizations in exchange for an afternoon of attention.
Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney was diplomatic in his rejection of the idea. Other GM’s who spoke off the record to the PHN family were far more strident.
“Why would you do that? Why would you need to do that?” Detroit Red Wings Steve Yzerman said bluntly this week.
GM’s aren’t happy. No one wants the June draft, except league officials.
The people who are responsible for building teams and the overall direction of organizations are dead set against the idea. Can you blame them? The NHL draft is an invaluable tool not just to select the next crop of prospects but to shuffle players via trade and, perhaps more importantly, for 2020-21, shuffle salary.
However, a June draft means no trades. A month ago, fans rolled their eyes when Pierre McGuire told 93-7 the Fan Pittsburgh radio hosts Andrew Filipponi and Chris Mueller the salary cap could decrease by 25-40%.
Now, a cap reduction doesn’t seem so preposterous. A flat cap for several years would seem like a victory.
General managers will need to deal with that possibility, and the sooner, the better. They will also need to know what the cap will be before decisions are made. The 2020 NHL Draft is an essential opportunity to deal with those issues and more.
But a June NHL draft would be merely a cattle call for prospects. A few trades–picks this year for picks next year–may occur, but teams will otherwise be locked into the draft picks they currently have.
And what about the 15 trades which were made which have conditions based on the results of this season? The NHL says it is prepared to offer solutions or let teams rework those deals until both sides are happy.
Yikes. Who does that benefit?
And, because the draft would be held before the conclusion of the season, there is a possibility the eventual Stanley Cup winner would pick in the mid-first round, or better.
A June draft changes everything. Everything. Denying GMs a chance to deal players for picks is essential to constructing a team.
According to published reports, the league is working to alleviate some of the superficial issues caused by holding the NHL draft in June.
-For the 15 trades with affected conditions, the NHL will propose solutions. The teams would have seven days to rework the deal or accept the NHL’s fix.
-Use points percentage to determine the Order of Selection. Of course, the 16 playoff teams would be excluded from the lottery.
-Changing the lottery system with just one winner, and teams may move up a maximum of four spots.
Hypothetically, what if a team had a goalie surplus and dealt their first-round pick to address other important roster needs. That same team is open to trading a goalie to replenish that lost pick and other lost picks, but instead, cannot acquire a pick as part of any deal until 2021.
That set that team’s already depleted prospect pool back by one year, at least. Invisible consequences could also mean delaying trades for 2021 picks creates a logjam, in which some deals fall through as the calculus changes.
If that same team didn’t have a selection until the third round but hoped to add picks for players whom they can’t afford, now they are stuck until the third round. And there are fewer opportunities to trade those players.
How is that good for anyone?
That’s the harm of a June draft; it will be nearly impossible to deal with a yet unknown cap, a logjam of deals will leave some teams holding the bag, and there will be rippling roster consequences. All for a bit of extra attention and the pebbles of revenue?
The situation also crams a lot of moves into the 2021 NHL Draft, which also coincides with the Seattle Expansion Draft.
First, how engaged will fans be if the draft is simply teams selecting prospects via video chat?
Let’s be brutally honest. The NHL could be the only event for weeks, and American fans would have less interest in the 2020 NHL Draft than they would Korean Baseball games.
Trust me. I own a business that spends plenty of resources to cover the drafts for several US markets, but the draft annually generates less excitement than mini-pig races at the county fair.
For teams outside the top five picks, the NHL Draft is lucky to get 30 seconds on the local news. Corresponding revenues from increased attention would be a drop in the bucket compared to coming losses. Those increased revenues would never equal lost opportunities and, in some cases, the lost revenues because of those lost opportunities.
Quick, name three top prospects. OK, how about two?
How engaged will US fans be for a draft in which they’ve never heard of the participants? That’s not a knock on you or American fans. Sure, a few fans can name a handful of prospects but junior hockey gets no play in the US, thus fans aren’t exposed to the next wave of players like we are college football and basketball players ready for the professional jump. US fans have zero loyalty to the Windsor Spitfires or Baie-Comeau Drakkar, certainly not like they do Alabama, Ohio State, North Carolina or UCLA.
One NHL draft without sports competition wouldn’t change any of this.
In fact, a draft held with so much controversy and held under such ridiculous reasoning would only serve to reinforce the lowest perceptions of NHL management, which is already distrusted amongst fans. And I’m being kind.
More distrust isn’t good for long term revenues, either.
The NHL has not yet set this in stone, but let’s hope they shatter the tablets on which they’re etching. GM’s would certainly be happy.