NHL general managers preparing for new economic realities brought on by COVID-19

NHL general managers preparing for new economic realities brought on by COVID-19

NHL general managers preparing for new economic realities brought on by COVID-19

TORONTO — NHL general managers left their annual March meetings in Florida filled with optimism.

The salary cap was projected to hit at least US$84 million in 2020-21 — a bump of $2.5 million from the current season — and had the potential to rise to $88.2 million if the NHL Players’ Association maxed out the escalator clause in the collective bargaining agreement.

The playoffs were just over the horizon. GMs were mapping out plans for free agency, the draft and beyond.

That, as the saying goes, was then. And the “now” looks a whole lot different than anyone could have imagined 6 1/2 months ago thanks to the devastating COVID-19 pandemic.

The NHL got the current season back up and running this summer in the hub cities of Toronto and Edmonton without fans after the schedule was suspended March 12, but with little revenue coming through the door, teams are facing harsh, new economic realities.

The cap is slated to remain at US$81.5 million for the foreseeable future, and it’s likely a number of franchises will look to go below that number in actual dollars spent.

So how does that impact the job of the NHL’s 31 GMs with the draft set for Oct. 6 and 7, and free agency slated to open two days later on Oct. 9?

“It’s unprecedented,” said Brad Treliving of the Calgary Flames. “It’s a significantly different world. There’ll be lots of activity, there’ll be lots of discussion. It’ll take some work, no question, but that’s the job in front of us is.”

Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas said the speed at which everything will transpire after the Stanley Cup is handed out at an empty Rogers Place in Edmonton will be fascinating.

“It’s really tough to project,” he said. ”The unknowns right now are at a level still far beyond hockey.”

Dubas made the first big move of the off-season — teams eliminated from the playoffs are allowed to trade with each other — when he shipped winger Kasperi Kapanen to the Pittsburgh Penguins as part of a package that saw Toronto grab a prospect, the No. 15 pick in the draft and, perhaps most importantly, some much-needed cap space.

“It’s uncharted territory for all of us,” said Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin, who secured the services of backup goalie Jake Allen in a trade with the St Louis Blues last month before acquiring defenceman Joel Edmundson from the Carolina Hurricanes over the weekend. ”With the cap being flat and without knowing when teams will be able to have fans in the stands, with revenues, it affects the salary cap.

“It’s not something that we’re making up. It’s just reality. Everybody’s going to have to take a hit.”

Big names set to potentially hit the market as unrestricted free agents include St. Louis defenceman Alex Pietrangelo and Arizona Coyotes winger Taylor Hall. They will be hot commodities, but it’s hard to project where term and dollar amounts will fall in such an uncertain period.

“There’s not going to be a lot of liquidity in the system,” Philadelphia Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher said. “It’s going to be interesting how free agents approach that, how teams approach that. You might see more hockey trades — dollar for dollar trades — where teams need to improve or need to upgrade in certain areas and you don’t have the ability maybe to go into the UFA market. You’ll have to be creative in finding solutions with other teams.

“It’s going to be very interesting.”

Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said he expects to see some restricted free agents across the league who would have normally been tagged with qualifying offers cut loose.

“There will be some interesting decisions and some interesting discussions — some decisions that some organizations are going to be faced with that they didn’t anticipate,” he said. “There are going to be some tough decisions, certainly in our organization, but in other organizations as well.”

Leafs defenceman Tyson Barrie appeared to be looking at a significant payday as a UFA at this time last year after being acquired from the Colorado Avalanche. But a difficult season coupled with the pandemic has him facing a very different future compared to 12 months ago.

He’s also keeping his situation in perspective.

“Whatever I thought was the case before has obviously changed, and it’s changed for a lot of people in a lot of worse ways than myself,” Barrie said. ”I’ve just got to be grateful and happy with the position that I’m in and that I get to play a game for a living.

“Moving forward it’ll be a little different than it probably would have looked, but that’s all right. Everyone’s got to adjust.”

While stars will get scooped up regardless of the economic conditions, Washington Capitals GM Brian MacLellan said it’s going to be difficult for teams at or near the cap to round out the bottom portion of their rosters.

“It’s going to be tight,” he said. “There’s going to be some tough decisions that have to be made.

“We’ll try and do our best to make the right ones.”

Ones no GM saw coming when they departed Florida.

-With files from Donna Spencer in Calgary

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 14, 2020.

___

Follow @JClipperton_CP on Twitter

Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

NHL

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Blank Unemployment Benefits form
Red Deer unemployment rate rises to 10.6 per cent

Red Deer’s unemployment rate rose slightly during the month of April. The… Continue reading

Starting Monday, golf courses across the province will be limited to their household or for those who live alone, their two close contacts. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Golf in Alberta limited to household or close contacts starting Monday

Golf courses will have new COVID-19 protocols to follow next week. Starting… Continue reading

People line up at a COVID-19 vaccination centre, Friday, April 23, 2021 in Deux-Montagnes, Que. Canada's two biggest provinces are continuing to ramp up COVID-19 vaccinations as they report lower hospitalization figures.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
COVID-19 rapid tests going to more businesses, Alberta truckers get shots in Montana

Ottawa is making more rapid COVID-19 tests available to small and medium… Continue reading

FILE - A firefighter wears a mask as he drives his truck. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward, File
Flames rip through Edmonton-area seniors complex, but no fatalities

ST. ALBERT, Alta. — Fire has destroyed part of a retirement complex… Continue reading

Alberta Health Services locked the Whistle Stop Cafe in Mirror on Wednesday morning after owner Christopher Scott refused to comply with health orders. (Photo by Paul Cowley/Advocate staff)
UPDATED: AHS shuts down Whistle Stop Cafe for defying health orders

Justice minister promises to get tough with those ignoring public health orders

jobs - T - 3-6-2020
Job search: 10 ways to make your LinkedIn profile stand out in 2021

In 2021 successful job hunting requires having a LinkedIn profile that’s current… Continue reading

Max Parrot of Canada competes in the men’s snowboard big air final at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018. Parrot has won the Comeback of the Year honour at the Laureus World Sports Awards. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canadian snowboarder Max Parrot wins Laureus World Sports Award for comeback

Parrot beat out former Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith

This Nov. 22, 2015 file photo shows Justin Bieber at the American Music Awards in Los Angeles. Bieber’s world tour is facing another setback as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on. The Stratford, Ont.-raised pop singer is pushing dozens of tour dates including stops in three Canadian cities.	THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File
Justin Bieber postpones Canadian summer tour dates until 2022

52-date world tour will now kick off Feb. 18, 2022

LtE bug
Letter: Security company can help with shelter

Why don’t we leave Safe Harbour temporary shelter where it is and… Continue reading

LtE bug
Letter: Good job on K-6 curriculum

Many are questioning the quality of the draft K-6 curriculum. It amazes… Continue reading

Treena Mielke
COVID becomes all too real when someone you love is ‘positive’

The third wave of the pandemic is hitting us hard. It is… Continue reading

Most Read