NHL makes case to teams for early-June draft

Sean Leahy
NBC Sports

The NHL laid out to all 31 teams on Friday its case to hold the 2020 draft in early June.

In the memo, which Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported on, it notes that the league would need a month to prepare for the virtual draft, which could lead to a decision this week. The  Board of Governors will hold a Monday conference call to discuss.

The 2020 NHL Draft was originally scheduled to be held June 26-27 in Montreal, but those plans were postponed in late March.

“There are complications. There’s no perfect solution,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said on Edmonton’s 630 CHED radio. “We think there are benefits to having the draft in June, including the fact that it’s a necessary piece of league business that has to transpire at some point and time, and our clubs are as ready for it now as they would be at any other time — and probably better prepared than they would be in the fall.”

Part of the league’s pitch is that if the 2019-20 season is completed, it would leave a tight timeframe to get the off-season schedule (draft, free agency) done before the 2020-21 campaign would take place, which potentially could be in December.

“We don’t want to have a situation where we’re shoehorning a draft lottery or a draft into a very short window of time, which we may be faced with,” Daly said.

Three main areas

There are three key topics that the league focused on. First, points percentage as of the March 12 pause would determine the draft order. Second, the lottery would go back to the old system for this season only, meaning no lotteries for each of the top three selections — only one for the top pick with teams able to move up four places, at most. That would end up with the Red Wings, who have already clinched dead last, picking either No. 1 or No. 2 overall.

The third area, which will be tricky, is dealing with conditional draft picks. The league said it would propose solutions and the teams involved would have a week to come up with an acceptable alternative for both sides or take the NHL’s idea. For example, the Sharks acquired a 2021 third-round pick as part of the Brenden Dillon trade. If the Capitals win the Stanley Cup this season that third-rounder will move to this year’s draft. It would be up to Doug Wilson and Brian MacLellan to work out a suitable resolution.

It’s still unknown how the NHL will determine the playoff format for this unique season. Will it be the traditional eight from each conference or an expanded field? Imagine if a team wins the draft lottery and months later lifts the Cup?

What about trades? One of the highlights of draft weekend is Commissioner Bettman stepping to the podium and alerting the crowd, “We have a trade to announce!” after the chorus of boos.

Here’s what the league is thinking, via ESPN.com:

The memo also addresses a critical concern for teams: their ability to make trades during the draft. Typically, teams use the draft to begin “resetting” their rosters ahead of free agency and other offseason activities. That includes making trades that help alleviate salary-cap problems. By holding the draft before the season is completed, teams would be unable to trade players from their rosters due to trade-deadline and playoff-eligibility restrictions.

According to Daly, the NHL did an analysis of the past five seasons that indicated roughly one-half of the trades made at those drafts “would still have been permissible in the context of an ‘early Draft.'” The memo states that there were 106 draft-day trades conducted, and 64 of those deals still would have been able to happen had the draft been held before the completion of those seasons.

We’re coming up on two months without hockey and the league sees this as a marketing and financial opportunity.

“We think it’s a great opportunity for fan engagement. Fans have been missing NHL hockey for a month and a half. It’ll be three months when we get to June,” Daly said.

GM reaction

As for feedback? Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman said during a Fox Sports Detroit Facebook Live chat he’s no fan:

“My thought is why would you do that? Why would you need to do that?,” he said. “There’s a lot of things that are affected. Obviously, the draft position hasn’t been established. We don’t know who’s in the playoffs, who’s out of the playoffs in some cases. So there’s a lot of questions and ultimately, if [the draft] needs to be done prior to, we’ll figure it out but at this time my own opinion is I haven’t heard a good reason why we should do it prior to the end of the season, if we do conclude the season.”

Clarity is coming, but we still sit, wait and wonder when we’ll see the puck drop again.

MORE: Issues to resolve by keeping NHL draft in June

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

NHL makes case to teams for early-June draft originally appeared on NBCSports.com

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