Given that the NHL’s regular season has been suspended because of the global COVID-19 pandemic brought on by the novel coronavirus, the NHL is engaging in work that had been on hold. Specifically, on May 1 the NHL’s deputy commissioner Bill Daily sent an email proposing a June NHL Entry Draft that would occur before the 2019-20 season was completed.
The eight-page email was sent to the 31 owners and general managers late on Friday afternoon noting that the topic of an early draft would take up much of Monday’s bi-weekly meeting (May 4) with the board of governors held by commissioner Gary Bettman. Although the move signals some form of action, but it also raises a number of questions that need to be solved.
Issue #1: Could the Draft Lottery Also Win the Stanley Cup?
After Friday’s email, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman laid out aspects of the proposal in his column and offered some commentary about it. One of the hotly contested issues would be what happens to the draft lottery. Friedman noted that, although it’s a long shot, the current system offers a chance that the lottery winner might also win the Stanley Cup. One way the NHL proposes to eliminate that is through a format change just for this season, where there is only one lottery winner, and they would limit any move upwards in the draft to a maximum of four places.
Friedman then shared Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston’s list of potential outcomes: “Detroit would pick no lower than second. Ottawa (with San Jose’s top selection) could do no worse than three and four. New Jersey, Buffalo, Montreal and Chicago couldn’t jump above two, three, four and five, respectively.”
Issue #2: Resolution of Trade Conditions
The other issue that’s up in the air are trades that were made during the season with conditional picks attached that are dependent on how teams or players fared during the regular season or other player-based decisions. In this case, the NHL is providing a solution; however, it’s giving the teams involved a week to negotiate their own solution or to accept the NHL’s.
Related: Worst Toronto Maple Leafs Trades
In his memo, Daly specifically noted: “We have reviewed the terms of these trades — numbering roughly 15 in total — and we believe that, in most cases, the undetermined conditions can be resolved with relatively simple ‘fixes,’ which the league would be prepared to rule on. We would propose that we share our review and proposed “solutions” to each of the participating clubs in each of the implicated trades and then provide the teams with a period of up to seven days to either: (a) reform the trade on terms acceptable to both teams, or (b) accept the “solution” that has been proposed to them by the league,” (from “The Ottawa Senators could be big winners if the NHL has its way and holds draft in June,” Bruce Garrioch, The Ottawa Sun, 02/05/20).
Trade Implications for the Maple Leafs
Implication #1: The Patrick Marleau Trade
The Maple Leafs have two trades that fall into that category. The first one is the deal general manager Kyle Dubas made last June that sent Patrick Marleau to the Carolina Hurricanes, which has further implications on the Brady Skjei trade to the Hurricanes from the New York Rangers at the 2020 NHL trade deadline.
During the 2019 offseason, the team moved Marleau to the Hurricanes as a way to clear his $6.25 million contract (and corresponding salary-cap hit). The team also packaged a conditional first-round pick and a seventh-round pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft and received a 2020 sixth-round pick from the Hurricanes.
The condition is that, if the Maple Leafs’ record gave them a top-10 pick in the 2020 Draft, they would keep that pick and Carolina would receive their 2021 pick instead. However, when the NHL’s regular-season was suspended on March 12, the Maple Leafs had 81 points, which put them 12th in the NHL.
Given the condition of the trade and their place in the standings, the Maple Leafs would have the 20th spot and give that draft pick to the Hurricanes. If that remains, the Hurricanes will keep the Maple Leafs pick while the Rangers will receive the Hurricanes pick.
Implication #2: The Jack Campbell Trade
Friedman also notes that, despite not being mentioned in the memo, other trades that included conditional picks based on a player’s performance or re-signing with the club might also need to be addressed. The Maple Leafs made two such trades in February: the most important was the one that sent Trevor Moore to the Los Angeles Kings for goalie Jack Campbell and physical winger Kyle Clifford.
Related: Do You Know Your Maple Leafs Trivia?
That trade also included a conditional 2021 third-round pick that would be upgraded to a second-round pick if either Clifford re-signed with the Maple Leafs or if the team made the playoffs this season and Campbell won six regular-season games.
However, Campbell’s not likely to win six regular-season games because, when the regular season paused, his record was only 3-2-1. Even if the season continues, there’s only one set of back-to-back games left on the team’s schedule, so it would be unlikely that Campbell could start enough games of the 12 remaining games in the tight playoff race to make that condition problematic for the Maple Leafs.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
If the June draft happens as people suspect it will, it looks like Dubas and Kings general manager Rob Blake will be engaged in conversation very soon.
Given that Campbell isn’t likely to meet his condition, the two might simply choose to assign the condition to Clifford’s re-signing after the season. Or, they might simply agree on a third-round pick in 2021.
Whatever happens, talk of an early NHL Entry Draft has given Maple Leafs fans something to look forward to.
The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf