Flames defenseman Travis Hamonic has been the first player to opt out of the NHL’s Return to Play program.
“Earlier this evening Travis called me to inform us that he has decided to opt out of the NHL Return to Play Program,” said Flames general manager Brad Treliving. “Travis explained that due to family considerations, he has made the difficult decision not to participate in the Stanley Cup Qualifier and Playoffs.
“While we will miss Travis in our line-up, we understand and respect his decision. Our focus remains on preparation for training camp and our upcoming series in the NHL Qualifying Round.”
In a statement posted through his agent’s Twitter account, Hamonic cited a respiratory virus his young daughter battled last year and the recent birth of his son as the reasons why he will not be joining the Flames.
“My family has and always will come first,” he said. “Being my little kids’ dad every day is the most important job I have.”
The 29-year-old Hamonic, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent this off-season, played 50 games for Calgary this season. He recorded 12 points and was second the team in average ice time per game (21:12) behind Mark Giordano.
The Flames will face the Jets in a best-of-five Stanley Cup Qualifier series in the Edmonton hub
The NHL and NHLPA made the return official: hockey is back.
Remarkably, the NHL and NHLPA also extended the Collective Bargaining Agreement through at least 2025-26, ensuring almost unthinkable labor peace for fans. None of this means that COVID-19 won’t wreck the party, but the NHL and NHLPA cemented those return details on Friday.
The timetable for the NHL return won’t leave much room to breathe. Players can opt-out of a return-to-play plan for a variety of reasons, but must make such decisions by Monday, July 13 at 5 p.m. ET.
This comes shortly after the two sides announced a memorandum of understanding earlier this week. The NHL attempting a two-city, 24-team playoff plan is bold enough; extending the CBA through at least 2025-26 makes this an incredible achievement. For hockey fans who’ve grown accustomed to lockouts, lasting labor peace feels almost unthinkable.
NHL playoff hubs in Edmonton and Toronto; 2020 Stanley Cup Final in Edmonton
After many twists and turns, Edmonton and Toronto were named as the two hub cities. Each city will host 12 teams (limited to 52 personnel apiece). Edmonton will hold the 12 Western Conference teams, and is also the planned spot for the 2020 Stanley Cup Final. Meanwhile, the 12 Eastern Conference teams will play in Toronto.
With COVID-19 spikes in areas like Las Vegas and protocol stumbles in Vancouver, it’s been difficult to forecast which cities would serve as the two hubs. Now we know. Edmonton, in particular, has avoided the worst of COVID-19 outbreaks. Toronto’s dealt with more struggles (see: the outbreaks in Ontario in the map below), but brings some strengths for the NHL while not being hit as hard as many problem areas in the U.S.:
July 13: Training camps open (Phase 3) and 5 p.m. ET deadline for players to opt out July 26: Teams report to their hub city July 28-30: Exhibition games Aug 1: Stanley Cup Qualifiers begin (Phase 4) Aug 10: Phase 2 of NHL Draft Lottery to determine No. 1 overall pick Aug 11: First Round begins Aug 25: Second Round begins Sept. 8: Conference Finals begin Sept. 22: Stanley Cup Final begins Oct 4: Last possible date for Stanley Cup to be awarded Oct. 9-10: 2020 NHL Draft (must follow end of Cup Final and take place before free agency) Mid-Oct.: free agent period opens Nov. 17: Training camps open for 2020-21 season Dec. 1: 2020-21 NHL season begins
All of dates listed are, of course, tentative.
[Want even more details on critical dates for the NHL return? Click here.]
CBA extension keeps NHL salary cap flat for at least 2020-21
NHL, NHLPA hammer out a CBA extension, including flat salary cap and return to Olympics
Again, these agreements don’t just cover a playoff format where the 2020 Stanley Cup would be awarded. The CBA extension means lockout prevention through 2025-26, and possibly even 2026-27. That CBA extension sets the stage for the NHL’s return to the Olympics, pending an agreement with the IOC.
It’s possible that the two sides could extend the CBA for one additional season (through 2026-27).
The two sides agreed to a flat $81.5 million salary cap for 2020-21.
That $81.5 million mark could also stick for multiple seasons. It all hinges on whether or not revenue bounces back — and when.
Players hate escrow, so limiting its impact was key. There will be a 20-percent cap on escrow for 2020-21. From there, escrow will scale down until it drops to six percent.
The two sides agreed to bring NHL players back to Olympic competition — pending negotiations with the International Olympic Committee. If that goes through, NHL players would participate in 2022 Winter Olympics (in Beijing) and the 2026 Winter Olympics (in Milan).
Players will defer salary to account for the financial impact of COVID-19.
The CBA extension accounts for certain salary cap loopholes. In short, contracts won’t be as front-loaded, salary bonuses won’t be greatly changed, and no-trade clauses will be honored more faithfully.
So, again fans: rejoice, and hold your breath. Maybe cross your fingers, too — especially in hopes that this process happens as safely as possible. This is huge stuff, and PHT will cover the developments as they unfold.
From there, most signs point to a snail-like pace for the NHL salary cap ceiling, if it moves at all. Much like many other factors, that’s subject to change. If the NHL’s finances can bounce back quickly from the impact of COVID-19, then who knows?
But … most likely, a flat $81.5M NHL salary cap (and a slowly rising one) looks like bad news for both the league’s biggest spenders and free agents hoping to cash in.
The two sides took these measures to try to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. In trying to roll with those punches, certain sacrifices must be made. And that means that some big market teams will need to tighten their belts, rather than wielding the full power of fat wallets.
Let’s jump into some of the details
Flat $81.5M salary cap for 2020-21 NHL season; Limited movement after that
As a reminder, the 2019-20 salary cap ceiling sits at $81.5M. The NHL’s salary cap could remain flat at $81.5M for some time; it’s penciled in that way for at least 2020-21.
Here’s the breakdown:
Upper Limit = $81.5 Million
Midpoint = $70.9 Million
Lower Limit = $60.2 Million
So, for at least a while, the salary cap will not be tied directly to a 50-50 split in revenue. This is a change from how business operated (and the salary cap was calculated) for NHL teams.
This may only be temporary because the NHL and NHLPA agreed to a point where the salary cap could rise instead of being flat: $4.8 billion in revenue. (That was the projected revenue for 2019-20 before the COVID-19 interruption.)
Granted, there are some ins and outs that might allow minor tweaks, but that’s where things get really granular. If you want to dig deep on the new mechanics that might or might not keep the NHL salary cap flat, check out the full release. Make sure you have your glasses and contacts (and maybe smelling salts).
Flat NHL salary cap could present challenges for plenty of NHL teams, free agents
One would think this might also make it tougher for players to land big second contracts, but we’ll see. Plenty of signs point to a flat/barely climbing salary cap squeezing the NHL’s “middle class” even more than before.
At this point, fans of high-spending teams might beg for “amnesty buyouts.” Unfortunately for those teams, that won’t be a way to get out of salary cap jail.
If the NHL salary cap stays flat or barely moves for years, it could absolutely cause some carnage. Think of how well Seattle could leverage cap-challenged teams during the expansion draft, for example. (You might even pledge that there will be a climate for chaos.)
Salary bonuses, contract terms, and other financial details from NHL CBA extension
Consider the flat $81.5M NHL salary cap the biggest detail of the CBA extension. There are plenty of other elements to consider, including:
Players will defer 10 percent of their salaries to make up for pandemic-related financial losses.
No-trade and no-movement clauses will “travel” with the player, even if said player gets traded before the clause kicks in. TSN’s Frank Seravalli reminds us of P.K. Subban‘s situation. The Canadiens traded Subban right before his clause kicked in. From there, the Predators weren’t responsible for such a clause, and they eventually traded Subban to the Devils.
Salary bonuses will go untouched, which was a sticking point for owners. On the other hand, the NHL took measures to limit “front-loading” contracts.
Escrow – a huge sticking point for players, boring for the rest of us — will be limited. The cap for escrow is set at 20 percent for 2020-21, then the plan is to eventually drop it to six percent.
The CBA extension very marginally bumps up minimum NHL salaries. Some might say comically so.
The CBA extension tweaks cap recapture penalties. Via Michael Russo of the Athletic, there is “no longer a charge greater than the contract’s AAV in any year, but charge continues until the full overage is paid off.”
As discussed earlier, prospects like Kirill Kaprizov of the Wild won’t be able to participate in the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers or any part of 2019-20. There is the option, however, to sign them in a way that burns a year off of their entry-level contracts. Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reports that teams would get a small window to do so (Monday afternoon through Wednesday afternoon), but it’s unclear if they’d be allowed to participate in training camps if such contracts were signed.
Closing thoughts on the NHL having a flat salary cap for 2020-21
Overall, every bargain contract will be that much more crucial, and every mistake will hurt much more. Which teams do you think will weather these storms, and which ones are in big trouble?
Better make sure you have a good capologist or three, NHL teams.
The 2019-20 NHL season will resume in August and means that some important dates on the league calendar have been adjusted.
After league and NHLPA agreed to extend the contract expiration date for players set for free agency, the rest of the off-season schedule has fallen into line.
First things first. Training camps will open Monday, July 13. The Stanley Cup Qualifiers will begin August 1 in the hub cities of Edmonton and Toronto. The Stanley Cup will be awarded in late September/early October.
Alexis Lafreniere will know where he’s heading by mid-August, and it will be made official in early October.
NEW CRITICAL DATES CALENDAR July 13: Training camps open (Phase 3) and 5 p.m. ET deadline for players to opt out July 26: Teams report to their hub city July 28-30: Exhibition games Aug 1: Stanley Cup Qualifiers begin (Phase 4) Aug 10: Phase 2 of NHL Draft Lottery to determine No. 1 overall pick Aug 11: First Round begins Aug 25: Second Round begins Sept. 8: Conference Finals begin Sept. 22: Stanley Cup Final begins Oct 4: Last possible date for Stanley Cup to be awarded Oct. 9-10: 2020 NHL Draft (must follow end of Cup Final and take place before free agency) Mid-Oct.: free agent period opens Nov. 17: Training camps open for 2020-21 season Dec. 1: 2020-21 NHL season begins
All of dates listed are, of course, tentative.
As for the 2019-20 NHL Awards, the league will begin announcing finalists next week.
• Tuesday, July 14: Ted Lindsay Award • Wednesday, July 15: Jack Adams Award, Calder Trophy • Thursday, July 16: Lady Byng Trophy, Masterton Trophy • Friday, July 17: Willie O’Ree Award, Vezina Trophy • Monday, July 20: Norris Trophy, Selke Trophy • Tuesday, July 21: Hart Trophy
Plans are for the league to announce winners during the conference finals.
If there was a glimmer of hope that Pavel Datsyuk might return to the NHL for 2020-21, that is now gone. Datsyuk signed a one-year deal with Yekaterinburg Automobilist (or Ekaterinburg Avtomobilist) keeping the former Red Wings star in the KHL.
Considering that Datsyuk will turn 42 on July 20, we may have seen the last of him in the NHL.
For one thing, playing close to home appeals to the veteran forward. It’s also possible to wonder how many NHL teams would be interested in the 42-year-old. Datsyuk’s already four seasons removed from the NHL (spending three with St. Petersburg SKA, and this past with Automobilist).
After putting up some pretty strong offensive numbers from 2016-17 to 2018-19 with SKA, Datsyuk’s numbers dipped this past season. He scored five goals and 22 points in 43 KHL games, although he managed four points in as many playoff contests.
Then again, most hockey fans attest that scoring numbers only tell part of what made Datsyuk a “magic man.”
It’s difficult to find “fancy stats” for the KHL, so it’s difficult to tell if Datsyuk remains a two-way standout. (It certainly would be difficult for anyone — even Datsyuk — to approach his peak-level work at an advanced age.)
But, frankly, it would have been a delight to see Datsyuk put together an NHL farewell tour. Even a diminished Datsyuk. Consider how fun it was to see Ilya Kovalchuk score some big-time goals during his redemptive run with the Canadiens.
Datsyuk staying in KHL, not returning to NHL, is coherent part of a strange summer
It’s already been an odd summer of sorts for Datsyuk. M Live’s Ansar Khan points out that Datsyuk’s agent Dan Milstein shot down rumors about Datsyuk being … “holed up” at a monastery that had been seized by “Father Sergei,” a priest pushing a COVID-19 conspiracy?
It all seems strange, either way. But then again, so is 2020.
Datsyuk not returning to the NHL? That’s not nearly as odd — quite understandable, actually — but it’s still a bit of a bummer.
How about a fun exercise to fill your time? If he returned to the NHL, but not with the rebuilding Red Wings, where would he make sense? (Even parsing through hypotheticals doesn’t keep this from being a bummer, though.)