The NHL is considering holding their Entry Draft in June. It’s a decision that, while not final, is being dissected by many NHL scribes and writers who are quite opinionated on the subject.
Writers aren’t the only ones with something to say.
NHL executives, GM’s, and those that have a lot to gain or lose from a June draft are voicing their thoughts on the decision. For this writer, I see both sides, leaning more heavily towards holding off. Here’s why:
No doubt, the NHL, and everything connected to it, is missing out on revenue these days. No games means so much less money in the league’s pocket and for their television network partners who have paid a lot for the rights to air NHL action. Without question, there’s a pressure on the NHL to do something.
If the league can do something to stop the bleeding and ease the pain of their network partners, it goes a long way towards future deals and good will, proving the NHL is all for working with their partners.
The draft would be a money-maker, and likely this year more than most. With no hockey to watch, fans are craving for something they can sink their teeth into. The draft might be the next-closest thing to games.
The NHL wants fans to have something they can invest in. That’s fair. And, the spectacle of how a virtual draft would work would draw viewers.
The League Knows More Than It’s Letting On
The NHL continues not to rule out the season. Talk of ‘Phase 1’ and ‘Phase 2’ lends to the idea that they’re doing everything they can to get players back on the ice and in the safest way possible. But, what if the NHL knows that a resumption of the regular season is unlikely?
If Gary Bettman and those who are responsible for making the final call understand the regular season (even the playoffs) won’t be a go, many of the issues being raised by those against the idea of a June draft aren’t really issues. It’s bad business for the league to cancel the season now, even if it’s already been determined completing it is close to impossible.
NHL makes its case for a June draft: https://t.co/GAo6lEZmT4— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) May 2, 2020
Draft Position Hasn’t Been Set
“My thought is why would you do that, why would you need to do that?” said Detroit Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman. Yzerman clearly isn’t in favor of a June draft. His reasoning makes sense too.
“There’s lot of things that are affected, obviously. The draft position hasn’t been established, we don’t know who’s in the playoffs, or who’s out of the playoffs, in some cases,” Yzerman explained. There’s a good chance the NHL won’t know any of this by the time the draft were to take place.
In other words, there is a lot of unfinished business that gets done before any year’s draft. The NHL hasn’t done it yet. In just one example, picks and where they occur are tied to a team’s season-long performance. How can the NHL fairly determine those rankings in the draft if play resumes after the draft has come and gone?
How Do Teams Conduct Trades?
Another big part of any NHL Entry Draft are the transactions that happen around the picks. This is a weekend where teams like to wheel and deal, (or at least try to). That really can’t happen in June.
There will be teams that acquired players for a run in the post-season but had no intention of hanging onto them afterward. There will be teams that want more picks and are willing to trade valuable players for them. There will be teams that need to free up salary space, teams that have conditional picks, and teams that are thinking about NHL expansion. How, exactly, does the NHL work around all that?
The Aura of the NHL Draft
Not that it wouldn’t be cool to see how the NHL conducts a virtual draft, but part of what makes the draft so fun and emotional to follow is that all GM’s, scouts and executives are in one place talking deals and the start of new careers. It’s possible the league captures part of this spectacle with cameras in every war room, but it won’t be the same.
30-50 draft-eligible players have worked their entire young lives to be a part of this weekend, that all gets taken away because the league needed to put something on television.
Yzerman said, “My own opinion is, I haven’t heard a good reason why we should do it prior to the end of the season if we do conclude the season.” Keep in mind, he’s not thinking about money for the networks.
It doesn’t make him wrong.
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