Hockey Insiders Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger, Pierre LeBrun and Senior Hockey Reporter Frank Seravalli have the latest on playoff possibilities if and when the NHL returns, the financial losses the league could be facing, the CHL drafts moving forward, and more.
Dreger: Pierre, there have been so many playoff scenarios tossed around, mostly by media. And I think there's a growing concern. Especially, among those teams on the cut line, when you look at the regular season standings, that might have some concerns.
LeBrun: You better believe it, Dregs. It should be noted that commissioner Gary Bettman himself did solicit teams when the season went on pause a week ago to come at him with ideas. It shouldn't be just the NHL thinking about these things or the players. And so teams have done that. But not surprisingly, the teams that are doing most of the pitching in terms of different formats and playoff ideas are the teams that are on the bubble. Think about the three teams in the east and four teams in the west, I don't have to name them, that have had discussions with Gary Bettman about what the world should look like if, I should say if, the NHL resumes at some point this year. I should say no one idea right now is the one that the league is mostly looking at. It's all over the place, but those discussions continue.
Dreger: The NHL head office is very busy. The Players' Association equally busy. Players flooding with calls wondering about the financial future of the National Hockey League. How bleak might it look? Especially if the season is wiped out. As we've reported, those two sides will come together in some capacity, be it a salary cap or escrow. But there is a growing concern that losses could mount upwards of $1 billion, certainly around $500 million. But at this point it's an educated guess. Frank, general managers across the National Hockey League are trying to stay busy. And one of the ways they're staying busy is in communication to potential college free agents.
Seravalli: They're certainly talking, Dregs. But those players have proven difficult to sign. I mean, the NCAA season ended a week ago with outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, and yet four of the top five players on our TSN.ca undrafted free agent list remain unsigned. Now, part of the reason for that is the directive from the NHL is as the season is on pause, you can't sign any free agent to a contract for the 2019-20 season. And that's held up some players who were interested in that carrot. Take a guy like Arizona State's Brinson Pasichnuk who narrowed down his list from 20 teams to two. But he's in no rush to really sign because they're hoping at this point that that restriction may be alleviated if the NHL does decide that they want to come back for this season. You've got other teams that have hopped into the mix because they don't know what the future holds. And in addition to that, you've had other players who have had their season wiped away and their chance at a national title suddenly, potentially, being pulled back to square one.
Dreger: No question about that. Positioning for the draft is a very touchy subject as well. Will they cap it at teams when determining the position that NHL clubs will draft. We're going to find out.
McKenzie: As far as junior hockey in Canada is concerned, we know that the OHL, WHL and QMJHL this week officially cancelled the balance of their regular season. They've not made a determination on what will happen with playoffs yet. They don't need to make that decision, it's a day at a time. No one is optimistic on that front, but we'll wait and we'll see. But because the regular seasons are officially over, the three junior leagues can determine an order of selection for their respective drafts. and the WHL and QMJHL just used a simple points percentage at the time of the pause of their season. And that's how they'll determine the order of selection along with their respective draft lotteries. The OHL, though, decided to go with the first 61 games that everybody played for their final order of selection. By the way, the OHL draft is the first one out of the gate. Two weeks from Saturday, April 4. It'll be a scaled-down version. But, it will still be online as it has been for many years. So OHL general managers have at least something to keep them busy for the next two weeks leading up to that draft.