On Monday night, the Carolina Hurricanes answered a common question from many fans: what happens if you can’t fit under the salary cap? With four players injured (all unrelated to COVID), including late scratch Vincent Trocheck, but none who they were willing to lose for 24 days by shifting to Long-Term Injured Reserve, the ’Canes found themselves in a conundrum. The team had fewer than 18 healthy skaters to ice a full lineup, but also had less cap space available than even a minimum salary contract whom they could recall. As a result, Carolina took the ice against the Columbus Blue Jackets – in front of rookie goalie Alex Nedeljkovic in the second game of a back-to-back no less – with just eleven forwards and six defensemen.
By playing this game short-handed, the Hurricanes have now established that they are in an “emergency” state. Following Monday’s match-up, the team will now be eligible for an emergency roster exception in accordance with the CBA. This will allow them to go over the salary cap moving forward, if need be, to recall a player making less than $1M AAV. This roster exception can be used until such time that they can get one of the four players healthy or opt to give themselves more flexibility by transferring one or more of the injured players to LTIR.
- In putting together the delayed and shortened 2020-21 season, one of the main objectives of the NHL was to make sure that the 2021-22 season would not be impacted in any way. They formulated the length and scheduling of the current campaign to ensure that next season started on time and ran normally. Well, that plan seems to be somewhat on track. Sportsnet’s Nick Alberga reports that the league is anticipating a start date of Wednesday, October 13 for the 2021-22 regular season. Opening day is typically the first Wednesday in October, but the current plan is to open on the second Wednesday, extending the off-season by one week. All things considered, this is still an ideal result however as the off-season will still be shorter than usual. The postseason is expected to extend into July and free agency is scheduled to open nearly a month late on July 28. One extra week will hopefully allow for off-season transactions to be given a fair amount of latitude, especially as teams deal with the repercussions of the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, and will not rush training camp and the preseason either.
- One of the highlights of the makeshift 2020-21 season structure has been the all-Canadian North Division. The realigned division is only a temporary fix, but the constant battling between Canada’s seven teams, which has been accompanied frequently by high-scoring affairs, has been not only by fans but also by the teams themselves. Players, coaches, executives, and owners of the Canadian clubs are all feeling the increased excitement surrounding their games, even without fans in the building. This begs the question: how can the NHL keep this up? An all-Canadian division does not seem feasible beyond this season, but The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun posits that scheduling could be better implemented to encourage rivalries, like those seen in the North Division this year. Rivalry is the key too; LeBrun notes that the North Division is not the strongest, nor does it contain any of the teams that he sees as the top candidates to win the Stanley Cup this year. Instead, there is simply an excitement about teams from Eastern and Western Canada getting to play each other far more frequently than in a standard campaign. Perhaps the residual effect of the current temporary divisions will be a focus on more regional match-ups moving forward. There will always be an emphasis in the NHL on divisional play as well as on every team facing every other team at least once each year. However, more Canadian clashes, Bible Belt battles, and Northeast fixtures could help to use those extra games in the schedule to maintain some of newfound emphasis on regional rivalries.