NHL expansion, salary cap, rules changes on Board of Governors’ docket

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 23: The famous neon Welcome to Las Vegas sign at the south entrance to town is viewed in front of the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino on December 23, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Las Vegas, the popular Southwest desert tourist getaway, appears to be making a slow economic recovery following a tough global recession. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 23: The famous neon Welcome to Las Vegas sign at the south entrance to town is viewed in front of the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino on December 23, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Las Vegas, the popular Southwest desert tourist getaway, appears to be making a slow economic recovery following a tough global recession. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

MONTEREY, Calif. – The NHL’s Board of Governors is scheduled to convene for their meeting in Pebble Beach with expansion on both the front and back burner. 

The NHL is reportedly not expected to decide whether to expand to Las Vegas and Quebec City – both markets that have submitted applications and gone through questioning and vetting by the NHL.

Instead what’s more likely is a discussion on where the process currently is and how to best move forward. Meetings will take place both Monday and Tuesday.

Per NHL.com:

"We are planning to report to the [Board of Governors] Executive Committee, and then to the Board, on the status of our review and evaluation of the expansion applications," (deputy commissioner Bill) Daly said. "There won't be any definitive actions taken on expansion." 

The NHL’s executive committee consists of Rocky Wirtz of the Chicago Blackhawks, Jeff Vinik of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Larry Tanenbaum of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Ed Snider of the Philadelphia Flyers, Jeremy Jacobs of the Boston Bruins, Murray Edwards of the Calgary Flames, Peter Karmanos Jr. of the Carolina Hurricanes, Craig Leipold of the Minnesota Wild, Henry Samueli of the Anaheim Ducks and Ted Leonsis of the Washington Capitals.

At the league’s Board of Governors meeting in New York City in late September, the NHL went from cavalier to cautious on expansion when commissioner Gary Bettman said there was no timetable for expansion. At the league awards in late June, the NHL said it would start the process of looking into expansion. Only groups from Vegas and Quebec City submitted applications.

There has been some movement in Seattle recently in regards to a SoDo area arena, which could house an NHL team, but the league has been steadfast that it will only move forward with the cities that have submitted applications.

While expansion is the big ticket item, there are several other questions the league could discuss during the Board of Governors.

Replacing John Collins

The former NHL COO left the league in late November for a new business venture with On Location Experiences. Collins was the NHL’s top idea guy and his mark was clear on the league’s media business and its lucrative outdoor game strategy. People with Collin’s creativity, savvy (he also brokered the NHL’s television deals with NBC and Rogers), and everyman touch are hard to find.

Rule changes/updates

The NHL will give an update on 3-on-3 overtime and how it has progressed in its first season. Fans love it, some players hate it – but overall the results have been favorable with more games ending before shootouts. There’s been such a buzz over 3-on-3 the NHL created an All-Star Game format around it.

Then there’s the issue of the coach’s challenge, which will be given a spotlight as well. While many are happy with the extra level of review on goalie interference and offside calls on plays that result in goals, the way those plays are reviewed has been criticized. Specifically, having on-ice officials review goalie interference calls rather than the NHL War Room.

The salary cap and Canadian dollar

NHL teams love to plan their rosters well in advance, and any knowledge of the salary cap projection at this stage of the season is key. The salary cap only went up from $69 million to $71.4 million for this season, largely based on a weak Canadian dollar. Teams like the Chicago Blackhawks found themselves in a salary cap crunch and had to jettison assets during the offseason.

Currently, the Loonie is trading at below 75 cents per one US dollar. Where does this leave the salary cap for next season? Some level of update is probably in order.

All things concussion

The Department of Player Safety recently took in a game in Los Angeles en route to the Board of Governors to discuss the state of the game safety-wise. The NHL put concussion spotters in the stands this year to help with the process of diagnosing head injuries with players. It was also after the last Board of Governors where Puck Daddy acquired an internal league memo saying the NHL had ‘no desire’ to settle a concussion lawsuit put forth by former players. This is always a hot button issue.

Executive compensation

Teams have been forced to compensate for hiring coaches and managers after they were fired by other teams, but still under contract. Buffalo Sabres coach told Puck Daddy in November that “this isn’t what we all wanted.” Many in the game have been upset with how this rule has played out, which means it could receive a closer look.

Lack of offense

According to Hockey Reference, NHL teams score 2.65 goals per-game, which equates to similar numbers similar to the dead puck era, in the late 90s and early 2000s. The NHL loves to tinker with rules to boost offensive numbers. What is the next evolution in trying to cure the league’s offensive woes?

NHL players on the international stage

When the NHL and NHLPA made the joint announcement for the World Cup of Hockey, there was a belief that this meant the NHL’s participation in the Olympics was finished. But NHL players voiced concerns about the possibility of not competing for their countries in the Olympics. Also, over the summer Beijing was awarded the 2022 Olympic Winter Games, which made the league start to consider a strategy in Asia – since Pyeongchang received the 2018 Games. How are World Cup plans proceeding and where does the league stand on other international competition?

The new All-Star strategy

The league’s decision to change the 2016 NHL All-Star Game to a 3-on-3 tournament created quite a stir amongst hockey fans. The NHL and its governors will likely closely monitor preparations for the game and questions and concerns about the format. There was also a report that Los Angeles is bidding for the 2017 All-Star Game, which could be addressed.

Labor issues

The NHL’s collective bargaining agreement with its players runs through the 2021-22 season. There’s no reason to believe any issues are on the horizon as both the league and its players have benefited from the NHL’s growth in business the last several years. That being said, it’s never too early to discuss labor strategy.

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