Just a few weeks ago it seemed that the 2020 NHL Draft was on the fast track to taking place in June as a way to fill the void left by the absence of games with the NHL regular season on pause. The draft was originally supposed to take place during a late June weekend in Montreal, but there was even talk of moving it up to early June after the NFL Draft went off so successfully in April.
It wasn’t going to be without complications, of course, as the NHL was going to need to figure out a draft order without a finalized regular season, and executing trades involving anything but draft picks would have been impossible prior to the league executing the Stanley Cup playoffs.
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An NHL Board of Governors meeting in early May slowed the momentum toward holding the draft ahead of the season resumption, but it remains up in the air as to when exactly the 2020 NHL Draft will take place.
Mark Recchi is a Hall-of-Fame hockey player and three-time Stanley Cup champ, somebody that’s worked in player development for the Pittsburgh Penguins and a current assistant coach with the Pens as well. Needless to say, Recchi has plenty of experience in all areas of NHL operations and thinks that holding the draft would be a difficult proposition given how much trade talk goes on around the time of the actual draft weekend.
Certainly there wouldn’t be anything much more awkward than trade rumors surrounding NHL players just as they’re readying for an unprecedented 24-team playoff format while playing hockey through a global pandemic.
“They’ve got to do what’s best. Personally, I thought it was going to be tough to have the draft in June. You could still make deals. But the unfortunate part would be if a deal was made while we’re still playing and then the deal gets out [into the public]. You can make a deal and say ‘Hey, we can stuff it in a drawer until we’re done here.’ But that always seems to find a way to get out,” said Recchi. “That’s never a good thing to happen. You’re in the middle of a playoff series and then the rumors come up that [a player] has been traded to wherever for a first-rounder coming up.
“Say with Pittsburgh they wanted to make a trade for a pick with a player that deal could be done, but I think it’s a pretty risky way to go. There is too much there that could happen to hurt players in the long run.”
Perhaps there’s a way to find a middle road, like the NHL prohibiting all trades at the draft aside from anything but draft picks. But the sentiment across the NHL was that there was very little team support for holding the draft in June, and it was instead something being pushed hardest by the league and league rights holders looking for quality content.
The NHL Draft still may happen as the perfect event television that could bridge the hockey content gap until the NHL playoffs presumably re-start during the month of July. But it’s not something that has the unbridled support of a hockey community used to sticking to the routines that have already been set in the NHL world.