The economic concerns caused by COVID-19 are myriad. State, local, and Federal governments are strapped for cash due to declining tax rolls, and individual businesses of all sizes are strained.
It’s always a good idea to remind yourself of the fact that the NHL, which is our hobby and a source of escapism, is a business. They’re strapped too, and the employees - the players - want to be taken care of for their work. Right now, the league and the Players’ Association are trying to work out the deals of the next CBA. Both sides assume that the current down-time while teams are waiting for camps to officially begin is the perfect time to prevent a work-stoppage. The escrow issue is getting most of the press right now - players like Artemi Panarin are concerned with an excessive escrow cut being used to prop up the owners at the expense of players. Health concerns are also a very real issue in the discussions for return to play that could spill over into contract terms.
I’m not saying this could turn into the MLB negotiations, but it isn’t a sure-fire smooth deal either.
Elliotte Friedman reported that part of the negotiations is the salary cap - teams will be locked into a $81.5 million cap over the next three seasons. This ensures that teams will be able to recoup potential virus-related operating costs without the pressure of spending a lot on players. Of course, players entering free agency after this post-season completes will be at a disadvantage due to the hamstrung pursestrings of teams. General managers as well will have their hands tied. Many expected that even if the cap was close to this year’s mark for next season, it would increase as revenues bounced back.
Now, it doesn’t look to be the case. The Blues were already going to have to go through gymnastics to keep Alex Pietrangelo past this year, up to and including utilizing an emergency buy-out of a large contract. Fans and pundits have rehashed potential scenarios over and over again. Buy out Steen? Trade Allen? Trade Bozak? Print money?
All of these would free up space (ok, not the last one) at least for next season, but there are seasons to come after the 2020-2021 campaign. How do you retain Pietrangelo past those? Jaden Schwartz is a UFA next season; so is Jordan Binnington. Should you risk losing both the franchise’s goalies in two seasons? If a Jake Allen trade happens to keep Petro, but Binnington walks, will the team feel comfortable giving the crease over to Ville Husso?
Do you lose Jaden Schwartz, who has been with the organization for a decade and is an obvious team lynchpin?
The season after next sees David Perron and Colton Parayko coming up as UFAs. What does Doug Armstrong do then?
The Blues’ window for another Stanley Cup may be just this post-season depending on what Armstrong decides. Is Alex Pietrangelo worth potentially losing Parayko, Perron, Schwartz, Binnington, Allen, Bozak, and Steen?
Blues fans might want to start preparing themselves for the worst, regardless of what choice Armstrong makes.