Fresh off of the news that defenseman Torey Krug has been placed on the Covid-19 protocol list (and following news that Brayden Schenn is returning to St. Louis for evaluation after getting injured during the first period of the Blues’ win over San Jose on Thursday night) comes word that fellow defenseman Niko Mikkola will join him on that list.
Mikkola becomes the six member of the Blues to have been placed on the list this season. Brandon Saad returned on Wednesday against the Kings, and Ryan O’Reilly is set to return tomorrow against the Anaheim Ducks. That means the current list consists of Krug, Mikkola, Ville Husso, and Kyle Clifford.
Three of those players are not regulars in the Blues’ line-up, but that doesn’t mean that the team doesn’t need to pay them while they’re out. Right now, so many players being on the list is creating a salary cap jam for the team that they’re having to deal with.
(Fixing this) After O'Reilly, next player back should be Husso on Wednesday. When he's back, Hofer goes down and that will create space to add someone. Until then, Blues are stuck at 20 players— Tom Timmermann (@tomtimm) November 6, 2021
Unfortunately, just like injury, when a player goes on the league’s Covid-19 protocol list, there is no cap relief because it’s assumed that a vaccinated player will be back within ten days regardless of his positive status. Risk of severe disease is lower after having the shot, but as the Blues (and a few other teams) are finding out, the close quarters of a hockey team are not helping prevent breakthrough infections.
Clearly the NHL, a team that has had to deal with a few mumps outbreaks of their own, as well as localized flu outbreaks over the years, still has not learned that a virus is not the same thing as an upper body injury. Unless your team just has tremendous bad luck, six guys are not going to go down with injury in quick succession. With communicable disease, even with vaccination, there’s still the possibility of team spread.
The Blues are temporarily being put into a cap logjam situation outside of their control thanks to the NHL’s inability to accommodate the very real environment that they find their players working in.