Will NHL players forego their final paycheques? Is there a preferred way to assemble the playoffs? Would a one-city format be an option for the NHL to finish the 2019-20 campaign? TSN Hockey Insiders Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger and Pierre LeBrun discuss this and more
James Duthie: Gentleman, last week we discussed that the players were discussing what to do with their final paycheques. Very close to a decision on that one, Dregs?
Darren Dreger: They're getting closer to a decision, there will be an executive board call among the NHLPA members on Wednesday. There's a number of things that they have to consider specific to escrow, do they hold on to withholding the funds at 14 per cent which is standard at this point, do they increased the escrow payment to upwards of 50 per cent, or do they withhold all of the funds from that final paycheques, a total of $140 million. That will be discussed on the executive board call, but there's no guarantee that a full decision will be made on Wednesday.
Duthie: From a league perspective I know Gary Bettman did an interview with NBCSN - anything relevant out of that one, Bob?
McKenzie: Bettman basically said that nothing has been ruled in and nothing has been ruled out, and it's still the league's preference to play regular season games and get in a playoff at some point and time when it's healthy and safe to do so. Most of the questions I get on social media are 'what happens if they can't play the regular season, how are they going to determine the final regular season order, is it points percentage, also affecting draft lottery odds, order of draft selection in the draft.' You check with the National Hockey League to see if there is a preferred way to go and they said right now at this point in time they're not seriously considering any of these things because they still want to wait it out and see if they can play regular season games and a playoff.
Duthie: What about venues, you have baseball talking about a biosphere situation in Arizona, and the NBA doing some sort of playoff tournament in Vegas. Has the NHL pondered, Pierre, doing one location like that if they can resume at some point?
Pierre LeBrun: Not one location, James, that's the one thing maybe the league feels is probably not going to happen for the NHL or lets just put it this way - it is very unlikely as it was told to me today. We mentioned last week that one of the scenarios was four cities for 16 teams, that's one format that they have discussed, they have also discussed two cites, as long as those two cities have two rinks per city that they could use, another scenario has eight cities. Which is to say they're in the early stages of this types of discussions there is no firm planning, they really have to keep waiting to see how the landscape will be in terms of if it's even safe or feasible to try and resume their season. But certainly that is the goal right now.
Duthie: In the meantime, the NHL is getting creative with some interview content.
Dreger: No question, creative and using big-name talent to back it up. The expectation is that at some point this week the NHL will unveil a virtual sit down interview involving Alex Ovechkin and Wayne Gretzky, sharing stories of their careers. Undoubtedly they will take about Ovechkin's chase and eyeballing some of the records that Gretzky currently holds and it's expected they will have a celebrity host as well. Meanwhile, the St. Louis Blues are holding a virtual reunion on Wednesday , a majority of the players, head coach Craig Berube, [GM] Doug Armstrong all participating and celebrating the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Duthie: Are teams that are removed from the playoff picture already starting end of season type business?
LeBrun: Some teams are having their end of season player calls, they're not all calling it that but the Anaheim Ducks are, they're having their player-exit meetings over the phone, and Anaheim knows that they might be involved in some regular season resumption of play but I think the feeling with the Ducks is that 85 per cent of the season is done and they can evaluate their players on their season. The San Jose Sharks are having what they're calling player update calls where they're getting them ready in case there is a resumption of the season but also going over the season. The Buffalo Sabres right now are in player evaluation meetings with the coaching staff and eventually that's going to develop into meetings with the players, the Devils are doing something similar. Montreal and Ottawa not so much right now, Montreal is waiting for the final word from the league before they decided to organize some sort of player exit meeting and Ottawa is not doing that right now because they're acting as if the season will resume as the NHL hopes.