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The NHL is in “no rush” to finalize draft plans

Bill Daly and Gary Bettman were forced to soften their stance on holding the draft in June

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2019 NHL Global Series Challenge Prague - Chicago Blackhawks v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images

When the NHL released a memo to their teams on May 1st, Gary Bettman and Bill Daly outlined their desire to fast-track the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. The press release mentioned “early June” as the goal and many prominent media members made an educated guess that June 5th was the desired date for the league to hold the draft.

That was until they held a conference call with the Board of Governors and realized just how much the teams disliked the idea of moving the draft up.

Now, after two weeks of uncertainty, Daly tells Pierre LeBrun that the league is in “no rush” to finalize draft plans - which means it is more likely than not that cooler heads will prevail and the draft will be held whenever the 2019-20 season is completed.

“So, it’s one of a number of things we’re working on,” said Daly. “And when I say working on, when we’re talking to the clubs we’re discussing it in more detail. We want to understand their concerns, we want to understand the pros and the cons. So there’s no rush on our end. Particularly with where we think the earliest we can play in, we have a window to fit the draft in if we wanted to go in that direction. And when we get to the end of that process, whenever that is, we’ll make a decision. But we’re not there yet. I do anticipate, obviously, at some point, whether it’s this week or next week, probably more likely next week, you’re going to have to make a decision. But nothing is imminent.”

The NHL has previously said that teams need a month of notice before the draft can be held. That means a draft in the first half of June is now out of the question and if the decision slips into late next week, there’s a strong possibility there is no draft in June at all. Which is the course of action that always made the most sense.

It’s understandable that the NHL had the desire to capitalize on an unprecedented time where the demand for sports is at an all-time high. The potential exists to grab a new eyes if the league holds the draft while all other leagues are shut down. While extra attention is a good thing, the potential growth in ratings wouldn’t be enough to outweigh the issues that would be caused by a “mid-season” draft. Forcing the draft into June would be a logistical nightmare for teams from both a scouting and roster management perspective. League general managers know this, so they’ve been pushing back against the idea.

Fast-tracking the draft was always a shortsighted plan - a few extra eyes that would cause a lot more issues down the road. LeBrun mentions that he thinks a June draft is a “toss up” at this point. With each day that passes, the idea becomes less and less likely. Reports suggest the league has decided to shift their energy towards figuring out a plan for the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. A much more pressing issue.

Things could change quickly. Commissioner Gary Bettman has a history of being stubborn, so he could force an early draft despite the protests of the teams. That said, as of now it’s looking as though we won’t see the draft until the fall, which is the only thing that makes sense.