How NHL might return; what Yzerman said about draft

FILE - In this March 12, 2020, file photo, the Capital One Arena, home of the Washington Capitals NHL hockey club, sits empty in Washington. With no games being played, recent sports headlines have centered around hopes and dreams namely, the uncharted path leagues and teams must navigate to return to competition in the wake of the pandemic. (AP Photo/Nick Wass, File) (Nick Wass, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Gary Bettman is making it clear there are no dates set for when the NHL could resume play, but the league and NHLPA both are looking at starting “phase two" of their return from the pandemic in the second half of May.

That’s according to ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski:

“Phase 1 involved self-quarantine for players and hockey staff. Phase 2 involves players returning to NHL training facilities for ‘small group activities,’” Wyshynski writes.

How they return remains up for debate. Will they be allowed to work out and skate at facilities? Keep in mind, players won’t be able to return home to families during this pandemic if they leave to train for the completion of the season.

Completing this season

It looks like the league is shooting to finish this 2019-20 season -- there were 10 games left on most teams’ calendars when they hit pause in March. If they are able to finish the regular season and the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs over the summer, then we could expect a later start to next season.

The playoffs may have to be trimmed down in some fashion. Whether that means less games, a different kind of bracket, or what have you, is to be seen.

And let’s be clear: Fans might not be at these games. These games may be nothing more than live TV events, and it’s the TV contracts that appear to be pushing the league to honor the final 10 games and not simply end the season and move on to the playoffs.

Host cities

Where would games be held anyway? Some cities may still be under large crowd and gatherings bans.

“One of the things we’ve considered are centralized locations, bringing clubs in for regular season, playoff games or both, and limiting the number of those centralized locations, because that’s the purpose of it,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a TSN interview. “Another box on the checklist that you have to check is, is it supported by kind of the local health authorities? Is this something that the community welcomes and thinks would be a positive in recovering from what we’re going through now?”

What about the draft?

A decision on when the 2020 NHL Draft -- originally scheduled for June 26-27 -- would be held is expected this week. Clearly, if the draft is held any time earlier or even during return play, it will be different. Trades are a BIG part of the NHL draft, and with teams still fighting for the Stanley Cup with their current rosters, things will be a bit different with this year’s selections.

Moreover, there have been varying theories on how the draft lottery should be held, if at all, and what to do if it is not a thing this year. How will draft positions be set up if the regular season is not finished before the draft date?

The Red Wings have a huge interest in this, of course, because they were more-or-less guaranteed last place in the league and the best lottery odds for the 1st overall pick.

Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman said this last week in a conversation with FSD about holding a draft before the season is ended:

“My thought is: Why would you do that? Why would you need to do that? There’s a lot of things that are affected, obviously. The draft position hasn’t been established; we don’t know who’s in the playoffs, who’s out of the playoffs, in some cases ... But at this time, my own opinion is, I haven’t heard a good reason why we should do it prior to the end of the season if we do conclude the season over the course of the summer.”

Other GMs may disagree with him.

Hopefully we find out more this week.