The Nation Network Notebook is a regular feature that rounds up interesting news, stories, and rumours from around the NHL that don’t quite deserve their own article.
Wednesday morning’s NHL general manager meetings provided us with a wealth of interesting news about the landscape of the league moving forward. The league doesn’t have plans to make a spectacle of the Vegas expansion draft, the salary cap could rise next season, and the bye-week is being reconsidered, but without an Olympic break in mind.
So unless it changes, appears league won't make public each team's protected list in June.
— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) March 8, 2017
For those who have asked, here's an NHL spokesperson's statement on the public release of teams' protected lists for the expansion draft. pic.twitter.com/TiChf2lsDV
— Craig Morgan (@craigsmorgan) March 8, 2017
So this is really unfortunate. The NHL has an excellent opportunity here, but it appears that they’re completely willing to botch it, which isn’t particularly surprising given how the league has constantly failed miserably in generating hype around its product and its personalities.
Ever since it was announced that the Vegas Golden Knights would become an NHL team in 2017-18, hell, even back when it was just being speculated, the expansion draft has been something that’s grabbed the attention of fans. Like the Entry Draft, the trade deadline, or free agency frenzy, it’s something that every fan of every team cares about. This isn’t the case with the Stanley Cup playoffs, even, Let’s be honest, as you as interested in two random teams playing in the playoffs as you are about the major roster transactions of your own favourite team? I would guess most care more about the latter.
And with the trade deadline and free agency kind of losing its appeal and excitement due to the league’s salary cap, the expansion draft certainly could have been a very fascinating TV special, loaded with analysis, discussion, and even player interviews. Teams are going to make very strange choices that the fans won’t agree with, players who have bad contracts are going to be protected for sentimental reasons, and good, young players are likely going to be exposed as a result. There’s a lot of potential for very exciting television here, and it’s a damn shame the league isn’t interested in capitalizing on it.
In the past, the lists of players protected and left exposed were known. This gave fans the chance to banter over who their teams tried to jettison, who they valued, and created a fun opportunity to armchair GM.
It wasn't that long ago the NHL had an expansion draft for one team. The protected lists from the other 26 teams were known in advance pic.twitter.com/kR8smQ1GbU
— Mike Commito (@mikecommito) March 8, 2017
As of right now, it appears we won’t even know who was protected and who wasn’t. The league is planning on doing some toned-down TV announcement of who Vegas picks for their team around the time of the NHL Awards in June, but we won’t know who they had the opportunity to pick. That means we won’t be able to sit around and speculate what Vegas’ thought process was behind their picks until information leaks its way out over the summer.
Anyways, I feel like this has been beaten to death at this point, as virtually everybody shares my sentiments, and surely it’ll be a point of discussion for the next few months. Hopefully the league responds and comes to their senses.
A slight rise from this year's $73 million ceiling, but would make a huge difference for some teams pressed up to the top. https://t.co/ZZjcY0ZFlP
— NHLNumbers (@NHLnumbers) March 8, 2017
After that rant of negativity, here’s some good news! The league’s salary cap was expected to remain flat at $73 million again next season, but according to Bill Daly, it’ll likely be rising to $75.5 or $76 million. If this does happen, it’ll be the biggest jump of the cap ceiling since it went up $4.7 million back in 2013-14.
Now, $2.5 or $3 million doesn’t seem like a massive jump at first glance, but it could be a major difference maker for teams in cap hell. Of course, it isn’t going to remedy anybody overall situation. I mean, if you have a bunch of terrible contracts, you’re kind of stuck, and a few million here isn’t changing that, but it could make the difference between fitting a player in or not.
Like, for example, this could be the difference between the Washington Capitals fitting T.J. Oshie into their 2017-18 picture after they’ve sorted out extensions for restricted free agent Evgeny Kuznetsov. For a team like the Blue Jackets, with a roster pretty much solidified in long-term contracts, it’ll make adding a depth player to push them over the top much more doable, too. But, like, if you’re the Chicago Blackhawks or Los Angeles Kings, things are still going to be pretty damn tough. There are a lot of teams out there that could use a little bit of extra wiggle room, and while it won’t fix long-term issues, it’ll make life a little bit easier this summer.
It also certainly bodes well for impending free agents. Last summer, teams were more conservative than usual with their free agent spending with the cap remaining stagnant, but this summer, the extra bit of space could see teams loosen up on their free agency plans.
Gary Bettman on this year's bye week schedule: "It didn't work."
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) March 8, 2017
Bettman: "We're focused on a schedule that doesn't include the Olympics right now."
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) March 8, 2017
There are two things going on here. First of all, the league isn’t thrilled with the newly-implemented bye week, which saw teams randomly get a week off from game action during the season. Second, there’s nothing new with NHL players participating at The 2018 Winter Olympics, and the league, while they’re reconsidering how to make the by-week work, aren’t doing so with a two or three week Olympic break in mind, which, in my mind, is pretty telling of the likelihood of the NHL’s participation in the Games.
If the league doesn’t go to the Olympics next year (let’s be honest, they won’t be going), the NHL is going to revise the bye-week to have half of the teams be off one week (randomly, not conference specific), while the other half are off the following week. This will result in two pretty barren weeks of hockey, but it’ll eliminate the reality of some teams having played, like, five less games than other teams halfway through the season, which was the case this year. I’m not sure if it was really advantageous for teams over others to have their breaks at a given time, but it was certainly a cause of grievance for following the standings all season.