NHL Offseason Update
By Joe Borek (@jjborek26)
According to the Scores Josh Wegman, there is some good news for hockey fans. Like the lockout-shortened season of 2012-13, the NHL will not use any less than 48 games to complete the 2021 regular season. 48 is, of course, a significant change from 82, but since there is familiarity with the schedule for many fans from the 12-13 season, it should not be a huge adjustment. Also, hockey fans just want hockey back. We had a very fun Stanley Cup run into the summer and then the beginning of October. Summer hockey, when your home and always able to watch, was a dream come true for fans everywhere. I think now, though, for many, including myself, it is very strange in November to be talking about a hockey offseason leading into next season.
The NHL, as expected, decided to forfeit the Winter Classic and All-Star Game for the 2021 season out of an abundance of caution and uncertainty with Covid 19. That was the right decision for the league to make, and they assured both locations will get the events again soon. Also, to make sure people stay reminded, remember the NHL cap will remain flat for the next two seasons. This next point will be covered in articles I do during the season; however, I feel it is essential to let people realize now. The fact that the cap is staying flat through the expansion draft is a massive benefit for the Seattle Kraken. After the 2021 season, teams will be in a tight cap spot again and have no choice but to leave some big names available to Seattle just as they were to Vegas. The cap remaining flat erased most of the work teams did learn from the Vegas expansion draft because now the choice will almost be made for them of having just to give up a big AAV player whether they want to or not.
Now onto the possible start of next season. As of now, it seems the NHL is still targeting at or around a January 1st start date. Elliott Friedman, while reporting on NHL Network, brought up a precious point, though. To come back around the start of the new year, camps would have to start sometime in December and pretty much run through the month. The issue with that is, as per the CBA, players are granted time off during the Christmas Holiday. So it would not seem ideal to have camps start in December, then go on a Christmas break, and then come back and immediately just start playing after only having a few weeks of full boar camp with a break at the end. Therefore, it would not be surprising if the league started camps in December, then had a Christmas break, then came back with another week and change of camp action to get ready for the season. This would likely push the start date back to somewhere around January 10-15 if a strategy is taken. This strategy could just make the most sense to avoid injuries or the perception of rushing back some. This would allow players, some of which, if allowed, already resumed training in facilities, to have a full camp with still a Christmas break included they are guaranteed to prep for the 2021 condensed season.
The NHL does need to keep in mind that in the summer of 2021, there could be some TV conflicts if they go past July 23rd. For those that do not know, July 23rd, 2021, is the start of the Summer Olympics. According to Josh Wegman, it would be ideal, not necessary, to finish the season before the Olympics. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly commented on the matter, saying, “I think there is some flexibility if we were to choose that route. There’s a lot left to be played out on the Olympics front too”. “We have models that extend past the Olympic time period. Those are alternatives that are on the table. I can’t tell you they’re the ones that are necessarily going to be pursued, but I think there’s some flexibility there.” So all that we know is the NHL is going to play at least 48 games, and it sounds they want to play more and seems they are leaning toward finishing before the Olympics. Either way, I am excited, and all fans around should be for continuing to hear updates on the upcoming NHL season. Whether it stars the beginning of January, the middle, or even the end, the season is only two months away at most, just around the corner. Get pumped!!!
Now onto some more promising news for fans all around. According to Josh Wegman of the Score and ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski, real fans fannies could be in the seats next season. An NHL source told Wyshynski, “I think the ultimate goal is to end up with fans in the arenas. I don’t think we’ll get to capacity. Still, I think we’ll have enough socially distanced fans,” Sources specifically told Wyshynski, the league for sure wants fans for the 2021 playoffs if local restrictions allow it. Of course, Hockey fans have up to 25% capacity in the World Series, and football has fans each week at stadiums. So now it is hockeys turn to figure out how to have socially distanced fans safely.
Well, what an offseason it has been and still is becoming. We Still have some big-name FA’s available like Mike Hoffman and Sami Vatanen, have players returning to train, the draft is complete, and the smell of hockey is in the air. We also have a very fun opening to our season this year via the 2020 World Junior Championships, which will take place from December 26th through January 5th right around when the NHL season is slated to start. So we get to see all the young emerging stars, some of which could make an impact soon, lead us into the bright lights of the 2021 NHL season. No matter how long next season is in a condensed format; all I know is I am all for it and cannot wait to get back to watching some NHL Hockey daily.
Hope you all are enjoying the offseason. Let us know in the comments what you think about the potential circumstances surrounding next season. Hockey is almost back!!!