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It seems like the NHL has been non-stop since the summer.
We have seen the Tampa Bay Lightning lift the Stanley Cup in the bubble, the NHL Draft has taken place remotely and most recently, free agency has happened. It was wall-to-wall coverage back in August when the NHL announced the Stanley Cup schedule, and now we are playing a waiting game for the new season.
As of now, the NHL has set a targeted start date of January 1, though that is not fixed at all and could be changed.
However, there are multiple issues that the league is facing right now, and the season could go a number of different ways. Here are just some of the issues that the NHL has to solve right now.
The US & Canada Border
This is a big issue, one that caused the MLB a problem when Toronto had to find somewhere to play in the US. However, in the NHL we have seven Canadian teams to consider, talk is they could go into their own division and the league will play in-division games only, so the Canadian teams wouldn’t need to leave Canada during the season.
A Shortened Schedule
If anything like divisional games only happens then the season will have to be shortened. If no or limited fans are allowed, owners would probably prefer a shortened season to cut costs. This is something that everyone needs to watch out for, especially those placing early wagers on who will win the Stanley Cup next season. There are betting offers for new customers out there to help with NHL wagering, if you want to place a bet now.
Every NHL team has an affiliate in the AHL where their prospects play. Teams want their prospects to play, but the AHL teams cannot play without fans for financial reasons. If we are to have an AHL season, it will likely need to be bankrolled by the NHL. This ties into a shortened season too, will the NHL want a full 82 games season if the teams also need to bankroll the NHL?
The Salary Cap
We are heading into a flat cap era for at least two years, probably three and that is going to be very interesting to watch. Many teams have given out contracts to players over the past year or two because they know the salary cap was rising, and they could absorb things better because of that.
Now that won’t happen, and those who are tight to the cap are going to have to try and be creative to get around it. One event coming up to help with that is the expansion draft next season when the Seattle Kraken join the league.
Teams will lose a player to the Kraken in that draft, could we see teams offering up better players than normal, just so they can dump their long-term high salary onto another team to give them some cap room? This is certainly a possibility, and gives Seattle another bargaining chip when they are negotiating deals.