Around The Rink | NHL Dispersal Draft By @PuckSage
NHL Dispersal Draft
If we’re to believe what the owners are saying, the question of a dispersal draft if the lockout stretches past half a season isn’t if it will happen but how many teams will be turned upon and torn to bits by the other sharks in the school. There must be a danger so massive as to be unavoidable if the season took place with the expired CBA’s rules that a lockout is better. Does this mean, ten or twelve teams would be broken financially by the current $3,000,000,000.00+ in revenue trickle with the current structure? Clearly it does. Only by not earning money from ticket revenue, advertising, and product sales can they have enough revenue to still exist next fall, obviously.
So just from watching the spending of various teams in the past few years we know some of the teams in trouble. The Islanders haven’t attracted a genuine bluechip free agent in long enough that the last one was probably part of their early franchise dynasty. The Coyotes are of course imperiled and that’s a horse that’s been beaten so many times, kids are using parts of it in craft projects as you read this. The New Jersey Devils are another team that has had issues with revenue of late. If we take Forbes word for it, the Carolina Hurricanes, St Louis Blues and even Nashville Predators are in deadly financial peril. There are certainly more who are’nt doing well.
So say when the smoke clears, there’s one consolidation of two teams, say the Islanders and Devils (which sadly would leave the new team still lacking a goalie of the future) merge, and the Canes, Blues and Preds all go under. The first question that has to be answered is how these cash poor teams will effect league revenue. Presumably if they are losing money and receiving revenue sharing (the Islanders are not because they are in such a large market), that means teams like the Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Bruins, and Montreal Canadiens keep more money. As long as the contraction doesn’t impact national advertising revenue by more than the amount of the amount of revenue shared to defunct teams, some owners will get fatter off the demise of their kith.
Calling this Economic Darwinism, and anointing the remaining herd of teams stronger isn’t much of a stretch. There would have to be a realignment after a four team contraction. Detroit might get their wish and land in the East (which would be bad for the league) , Columbus (assuming it is a survivor) would be stripped of two of the division rivals their fans have come to know and loathe, with its incumbent attendance impact. The current Southeast division would be down to just three teams in the southeast.
So with a dispersal draft among at least three completely defunct teams and the extra contracts of a presumed merger, how would the draft order be set? The Canes and Islanders were both out of the playoffs last year. A hypothetical Devils-Islanders merger means you have the question of where to set them in the draft order, one was a Stanley Cup finalist, the other, again, failed to escape the lottery.
How would the assets be ranked? If Nashville folds, the bidding war for Shea Weber would be unlike anything seen in NHL history. Teams like Detroit who have traditionally had strong defensemen on their roster would attack full force. Toronto who are desperate for anything that might stabilize their defense would be all in. Even teams like Boston and Los Angeles who already have franchise quality defenseman would go for broke, simply to keep Weber from landing in the hands of a division rival. Arguably when price, age and term are factored in, Alex Pietrangelo might end up being sold off for a higher price. But that’s not nearly as important to this question as which parts of teams would be split up and how. Roster players and those under contract make perfect sense to be draft eligible by other surviving teams, but what about recently drafted but unsigned players? The same question applies to RFA’s who’s contracts have expired or players signed to affiliated AHL and ECHL teams.
Perhaps most daunting is what to do with excess contracts once the contraction takes place. Teams adding one or two contracts to the 50 player limit won’t absorb the 150 or so displaced by contraction. Do teams get to buy out contracts with no cap impact as part of the contraction and draft? How would NHLPA tenure be affected? And what about players who are still on injured reserve at the time of the dispersal draft? Who sees their medical care and pay?
The number of questions generated by the lockout is simply enormous. We will be lucky to get definitive answers to even five percent of them. One question I think every fan and every player has a right to know is: which owners voted for the lockout?
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@PuckSage will likely spend this fall, winter and early spring watching more college and youth hockey than he ever has before. If you know of or play on a team in New England that deserves more coverage drop him a line, he might just show up.