Sharks might have to wait longer for start of 2020-21 season originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
The Sharks haven't played an NHL game since March 11, and they might have to wait a little bit longer before they play another regular-season contest.
The NHL tentatively had been targeting Dec. 1 for the start of the 2020-21 season, but commissioner Gary Bettman indicated Saturday that the league could delay the start of the season to later in December or even January.
If the season doesn't start until early January, the Sharks would go almost nine months without playing a meaningful game.
The good news is that even if the NHL delays the start of next season, they don't plan to reduce the length of the campaign.
"I anticipate playing a full season next season, 82 games, full playoffs," Bettman told reporters during his annual press conference before the start of the Stanley Cup Final (H/T NHL.com). "How and when we do that is something that we don't all have enough information to make any decisions, and anything would just be sheer speculation.
"Our goal is to get back to as greatest sense of normalcy as possible under whatever circumstances are presented."
The league still has to figure out where the U.S. and Canada stand regarding the coronavirus pandemic. Can teams travel between the two countries? If they play games in home arenas, will it be safe for fans to attend?
As for the Sharks, this is a crucial offseason for general manager Doug Wilson and his front office.
San Jose entered the 2019-20 season with expectations of making a deep playoff run, but shockingly finished with the worst record in the Western Conference (29-36-5; 63 points).
Now, it's up to Wilson to figure out how to get the Sharks back on track and back into contention for the Stanley Cup. They are projected to have just over $14 million in salary cap space, but Joe Thornton, Melker Karlsson, Stefan Noesen and Aaron Dell are unrestricted free agents. Kevin Labanc and Antti Suomela are the notable restricted free agents.
The Sharks must decide who they want to retain, and who to move on from and replace.
For now, though, the Sharks can watch former captain Joe Pavelski and former center Barclay Goodrow go at it in the Stanley Cup Final. Once one of them raises the Cup, the Sharks can turn their attention to the offseason and get ready for the start of next season, whenever that might be.