As the weeks go on, the start of next season continues to become a bigger and bigger story.
It was honestly a little surprising to see the NHL and the NHLPA work so together so well when they came up with the Return to Play plan over the summer. Seeing the two sides reach an agreement as quickly and cleanly as they did is not something we’re used to seeing when it comes to the NHL. On top of that, not only did they agree to return to play this summer, they also came together and agreed to terms on a six-year extension for the CBA. There was labour peace in the NHL and it felt good.
Well, it didn’t last very long. The two sides are once in a disagreement and I’ll be honest, the more time that goes on, the more nervous I’m getting about when next season will start.
Pierre LeBrun sent out a tweet yesterday saying that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr have not spoken since last Thursday. That’s not a good sign.
Hearing that NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman haven't spoken since last Thursday. Which speaks to how the players feel regarding the NHL's salary deferral/escrow asks. Still time to salvage this, however. I think next week is important.
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) November 25, 2020
Basically, the players aren’t happy that the owners are looking to change the deal that they made over the summer while the owners say that if they don’t change things and address issues now, it will result in fewer games and less money for everyone. TSN Insider Darren Dreger said that there’s still a lot of ground that needs to be covered and the fact that it’s the end of November and we’re still saying that leads me to believe a January 1st start to the season is very unlikely.
Right now, I would guess that the best-case scenario would be that they reach an agreement in time to have training camps start on January 1st and have the regular-season start around mid-January.
Whenever the season does begin, it’s becoming clear that the ‘All-Canadian Division’ is going to happen. Late last week, the Toronto Raptors were denied their request to play their home games in Canada by the Federal Government. If the NBA wasn’t given clearance for one team to play their home games in Canada while also travelling down to the States to play road games, then there’s no way the seven NHL franchises are going to be given the green light to do it.
The ‘All-Canadian Division’ is going to happen and while there was some talk a few weeks ago that Canadian teams might take trips down south to play teams in other divisions, Pierre LeBrun recently reported that will not be happening. LeBrun said that the seven Canadian teams will only play each other in the regular season and it’s expected that they will also only play each other for the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, meaning that four of the seven teams will qualify for the playoffs.
As a one year solution, I really like the idea of all the Canadian teams playing each other. I think it will be fun and build up some rivalries between all the teams and fanbases. At this point, I just really want the NHL to return as quickly as possible and I won’t complain about how the divisions or the schedule work.
Here are some other rumours from around the league.
- The Islanders announced yesterday that Johnny Boychuk’s career is over. The Edmonton product had a tremendous career that spanned well over a decade and included a Stanley Cup win with the Bruins in 2011. The news that his career is being cut short is sad, but, it’s worth pointing out that this will give the New York Islanders $6 million in cap relief. through LTIR. This certainly makes signing Matt Barzal much, much easier. Lou Lamoriello gets another big break.
- There’s been some chatter that the Bruins are still looking to make a move. After signing Jake DeBrusk, they still have around $3 million in cap space and they have been connected to free-agent winger Mike Hoffman. $3 million isn’t enough to sign Hoffman, but they could possibly make it work if they traded a forward first.
- Head Coach Bruce Cassidy recently said, “who knows if we make another move” when asked about his team’s blueline. That had some people wondering if they were still interested in adding an impact blueliner. I would say it’s unlikely considering who’s currently on the market. They also still haven’t signed Zdeno Chara, which I would imagine they plan to do.
- The Oilers signed Phil Kemp to a three-year entry-level contract yesterday, which brings them up to 45 contracts for the upcoming season. They have the space to add a few minor-leaguers before next season if they choose. As for Kemp, it’s a great story. The seventh-round has a chance to become an NHLer, which does not happen often.
- Still no real updates on either Ethan Bear or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. I would imagine that Bear remains the priority for the Oilers considering he needs a new deal before next season starts.