The Associated Press
The NFL’s successful virtual draft and uncertainty surrounding the resumption of hockey this season have raised the possibility of an NHL draft held before the Stanley Cup Final.
After postponing its draft scheduled for June 26-27 in light of the coronavirus pandemic, the NHL is considering having it earlier in June with the season in an indefinite suspension. There are mixed feelings among executives about the idea, ranging from frustration to begrudging acceptance.
“We’re just going to try to prepare as though it’s going to happen,” Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas said. “It’s not going to be normal regardless of what it is, so we’re fine with whatever is decided.”
Unlike the NFL, which held its draft as usual in the middle of its off-season, the NHL would face several wrinkles going forward with a draft held before the season is complete: Teams would not be able to trade players, there would be a lack of clarity over next year’s salary cap and the draft order could be determined before all games are played.
“I have not talked to one GM who likes it, and I talk to almost all of them,” agent Allan Walsh said Thursday.
A week after the league sent a memo to teams outlining its proposal, Deputy NHL Commissioner Bill Daly on Friday said a decision has not made on the timing of the draft. GMs have asked for a month’s notice before holding a draft.
Daly said the NHL still hasn’t decided when to allow players to return to team training facilities for small group workouts, which would be the first step toward a return. Various scenarios, including resuming at three or four empty NHL arenas and pushing the start of next season back to December are being explored.
Los Angeles GM Rob Blake said the Kings are “quite comfortable with either scenario” of the draft happening in June or later.
“We’ll have to work with it, obviously,” Blake said. “The one thing we know for sure is nothing will be status quo, so whether it’s prior in June or later, you’re going to have to make the necessary adjustments.”