NHL sends memo to teams, makes pitch to hold virtual draft in early June before restart of season, per report
The NFL recently conducted its first-ever virtual draft, and the NHL may soon follow suit.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly issued a memo to teams on Friday, per ESPN, aggressively making the league's case to hold a fully-virtual June draft before the season restarts. Daly and the NHL are reportedly targeting a June 5 draft, three weeks before its originally scheduled June 26-27 date in Montreal. The league points out that if the season resumes and runs into the summer — normally the offseason — teams will have "a very short window of time" to prep between a draft lottery and the draft itself.
In addition, Daly and the NHL's broadcast partners, NBC and Sportsnet, hope to capitalize on sports fans' hunger for content. The NFL did exactly that with its draft, amassing massive TV viewership ratings as the only live sporting event on air. As for the NHL, the networks are "enthusiastically in favor of an early draft," Daly states in the memo.
"We think it's a great opportunity for fan engagement," Daly writes. "Fans have been missing NHL hockey for a month and a half. It'll be three months when we get to June."
A decision on the draft's schedule is expected for next week, as the league will likely discuss its options in a Monday board of governors call. Several concerns will have to be addressed before the league green-lights an early June date, however.
And the NHL is planning its responses. The league reportedly proposed using point percentages — the percentage of points amassed prior to the league's March 12 suspension — to determine the 15 lottery teams. Conditional picks would be distributed under the league's discretion. Regarding draft-day trades, Daly noted only half of those conducted over the past five seasons would be impermissible in an early-draft format.
"There are complications," Daly told CHED Radio on Friday. "There's no perfect solution. We think there are benefits to having the draft in June, including the fact that it's a necessary piece of league business that has to transpire at some point and time, and our clubs are as ready for it now as they would be at any other time — and probably better prepared than they would be in the fall."
The NHL is reportedly aiming for a return to play in late June, with facilities opening a month prior. Having a draft before the Stanley Cup Championship would be odd, but it may be a reality given the circumstances the league — and the entire world — are facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.