The Big Questions: When will the NHL offseason happen?

The upcoming offseason is going to be fascinating for a handful of reasons. It’s going to be unique and it’s a pivotal moment for the Oilers and GM Ken Holland. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be going in-depth on the big questions and decisions that Holland the organization will be facing. 

This is a big one, obviously. We really don’t know when the offseason process will begin or exactly how long it will last. That creates some issues when it comes to trying to project how things will work this summer.

It seems like the league isn’t going to be making a decision on how to play out the remainder of the 2019/20 season anytime soon and it’s easy to understand why. There have been some rumours surrounding the draft lately as well, but when exactly that will be held is still undecided. We do know that the Draft will be virtual, and it will either be held in early June or whenever the season ends, maybe September.

If the league decides to do the draft in June, that is going to make life more difficult for Ken Holland. The 2020 NHL Draft would have been a good time for him to get an asset for Jesse Puljujarvi and maybe even move on from a bad contract. Holding the draft in June would likely mean that teams aren’t allowed to make trades that involve anything other than draft picks. That could complicate Hollands offseason plans.

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If the league comes back and plays throughout the summer and hands out the Stanley Cup in September, then things get a little trickier. That timeline would have the league potentially starting the 2020/21 season in November, leaving them just over a month to do the Draft and free agency. That would create a real crunch for organizations, especially when you consider how many teams are right up against the salary cap. 

Speaking of the salary cap, we really don’t know what it will be set at. The league is obviously going to lose a lot of revenue and while that might lead you to believe that the cap will drop substantially, I don’t think that’s going to be the case. Instead, the league and PA will have to agree on some sort of system to keep the ceiling somewhat close to the $81.5 million it was for this past season. I could even see a slight increase of $1 million just to give teams some added breathing room. I’m not nearly intelligent enough to figure out the logistics of how that would work, but I’ve heard that it’s very possible we see the ceiling ‘artificially increased’ for next season. Regardless, there will be a lot of General Managers pinching their pennies once the offseason rolls around.

The Oilers wouldn’t be the only team is some big-time cap trouble, which is both a good and bad thing. If a lot of teams are right up against the ceiling, whatever that happens to be, then it will drive down contract prices around the league. That could help them resign a player like Tyler Ennis.

At the same time, if very few teams around the league have the space to make significant moves, it makes it astronomically more difficult to move a player like Kris Russell, who has a cap hit of $4 million next season. The good part about Russell’s contract is that it actually carries a base salary of just $1.5 million. They could potentially move him to a team that has cap space and desperately needs to save ‘real dollars’. An organization like Florida, which was reportedly going to be cutting down payroll before the pandemic hit, would be an interesting fit. But I don’t think there are very many teams that would be prepared to add a veteran defenseman with a $4 million cap hit, regardless of what his actual salary is.

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We really don’t know much about the upcoming offseason which makes it very hard to predict and speculate on. For Ken Holland, all the variables will not only change how active he could be in the free-agent market, but also how he handles Ethan Bears next contract,  his goaltending situation, and possibly of buying out a veteran player.

Have a question that you want me to do a deep dive on? Leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter (@tyleryaremchuk)!