(Toronto) The NHL’s general managers left their annual meetings in March full of optimism.
The salary cap was expected to reach at least $ 84 million in 2020-21 – an increase of $ 2.5 million from the current season – and could reach $ 88.2 million if the NHL Players Association maximized the clause d. indexation provided for in the collective agreement.
The playoffs were on the horizon. GMs were making plans for the free agent market, the draft and what’s next.
It was before the pandemic. Six months later, everything is very different.
The NHL relaunched its season this summer in the bubble cities of Toronto and Edmonton without spectators after its schedule was suspended on March 12. But with little income at the counters, the teams face a new and difficult economic reality.
The cap is expected to remain at $ 81.5 million for the foreseeable future and it is likely that a number of teams will seek to drop below this figure in actual dollars spent.
So how does this influence the work of the 31 NHL general managers in preparation for the draft scheduled for October 6 and 7 and the free agent market which is expected to open two days later on October 9?
“It’s unprecedented,” admitted Brad Treliving of the Calgary Flames.
It’s a very different world. There will be a lot of movement, there will be a lot of discussion. We have a lot of work ahead of us.
Brad Treliving of the Calgary Flames.
Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas has said the speed at which everything turns out after the Stanley Cup is handed over at Rogers Place in Edmonton will be incredible.
“It’s really hard to imagine,” he says. The unknowns right now are at a level far beyond hockey. »
Unknown land, says Marc Bergevin
Dubas made the first big move of the offseason – teams eliminated from the playoffs are allowed to trade with each other – when he sent winger Kasperi Kapanen to the Pittsburgh Penguins as part of a transfer that allowed Toronto to get their hands on a hope on the 15e draft pick and, perhaps more importantly, the necessary space under the salary cap.
« This is unfamiliar territory for all of us, » admitted Marc Bergevin, general manager of the Montreal Canadiens, who secured the services of backup goaltender Jake Allen in a trade with the St. Louis Blues last month before moving on. acquire defenseman Joel Edmundson from the Carolina Hurricanes this weekend.
With the cap unchanged and without knowing when the teams will be able to have spectators in the stands and the income that comes with it, this affects the salary cap. It’s not something we make up. It is reality. Everyone will suffer the consequences.
St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo and Arizona Coyotes winger Taylor Hall are the most well-known names likely to end up in the unrestricted free agent market. They will be the players most in demand, but it is difficult to predict what will be the terms and amounts at stake in such an uncertain time.
“There won’t be a lot of cash in the system,” said Philadelphia Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher. It will be interesting to see how the free agents see it, how the teams approach it. You might see more transfers – dollar-for-dollar swaps – where teams need to improve or fill in some gaps in certain areas and you might not have the capacity to enter the free agent market without compensation. We will have to be creative to find solutions with other teams.
“It’s going to be very interesting. »
Less money available
Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff says he expects some compensated free agents across the league to pay the price.
“There will be interesting decisions and discussions – decisions that some organizations are going to face that they did not anticipate,” he explained. There are going to be tough decisions, certainly within our organization, but also in other organizations. »
Leafs defenseman Tyson Barrie appeared to be in a position to earn a significant salary as an unrestricted free agent around the same time last year after being acquired from the Colorado Avalanche. But a difficult season coupled with the pandemic have completely changed the situation compared to 12 months ago.
However, he puts his situation in perspective.
“Everything I envisioned before has obviously changed, and it has changed for a lot of people in a way worse than me,” said Barrie. I just have to be grateful and happy for the situation I am in and the fact that I can play sports for a living.
In the future, it will be a little different than it probably would have been, but that’s okay. Everyone has to adapt.
Maple Leafs defenseman Tyson Barrie
Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said it would be difficult for teams at or near the salary cap to complete their training.
“It’s going to be tight. There are going to be some tough decisions to be made. We will try to do our best to take the correct ones. »
No general manager saw this coming when they left Florida in March.
Journalist Donna Spencer in Calgary contributed to this article.