Last Friday, the NHL made it official. After a four month suspension in play due to the coronavirus pandemic, the league will return to hockey this month with games starting on August 1st. This includes the Nashville Predators, who will take on the Arizona Coyotes in the Qualifying Round of the playoffs immediately upon returning to action.

We’ve known for a while this would happen, but it wasn’t official until the NHLPA and NHL voted to accept the new updated CBA and return to play protocol. That finally happened on July 10th, clearing the way for a return.

But what exactly is in the new CBA? Here’s some highlights for you.

  • The league established a return to play protocol for the  2019-20 season, which includes awarding the 2020 Stanley Cup. The top 4 teams in the West and East will have “byes” and the next 12 teams on each side will face off in a “Qualifying Round” after which they will be reseeded to face the bye teams. The Preds are the 6 seed facing the 11 seed Coyotes.
  • Each team will be secured in a Phase 4 “bubble” during the playoffs. This means a lot of testing and virtually no movement in and out of the bubble.
  • The already existing CBA has been extended four years through 2026. It was set to expire in a couple years. In a strange way, the pandemic bought the league more time to avoid another lockout.
  • The team salary cap for next season will remain at $81.5 million. Also “free agency day” will be in early October, along with the NHL draft. These adjustments were necessary in order to make the 2020-21 season as normal as possible.
  • Speaking of the 2020-21 season, it is slated to begin on December 1st.
  • The “cap recapture” details have been modified significantly. Cap recapture is where, if a player retires before the end of his contract, the team that signed his contract would have to recapture some missing cap hit money from signing bonuses. In the Nashville Predators’ case for example, this means if Shea Weber were to retire early, the Preds would have some monstrous cap hits to recapture the signing bonuses. However, in the updated version of the CBA, the cap hits they take on cannot exceed his average annual cap hit.
  • NHL players are going back to the Olympics in 2022 and 2026. Gary Bettman’s standoff regarding the Olympics in 2018 was an embarrassment, so thankfully we won’t have to go through that again for the next 10 years.
  • Some other important details regarding escrow accumulation and minor league minimum salaries have been updated. If you want to take a look at the full details of the new CBA, you can check it out here.

Of all these updates to the CBA, it seems to me that the cap recapture amendment affects the Predators most significantly.

Preds safe from recapture hell

Since they matched the offer sheet for Shea Weber back in 2012, people have preached the coming apocalypse for the Nashville Predators as it relates to cap recapture, especially because of Weber’s notorious injury history. Then when he was traded to Montreal, giving Nashville even less influence on his career decisions, those people preached with even more vigor, saying that Nashville would eventually be on the hook for many millions in salary cap hits when Weber inevitably retired early due to injury.

While I think a lot of the worry was overwrought and fatalistic, the new update makes the point moot. The way it is written, if the Preds are responsible for recapturing salary cap from Shea Weber’s signing bonuses, they won’t be on the hook for more than $7.8 million per year. This is still a large chunk of money for someone not on your team. But the previous predictions of $11 million, $17 million, and even $24 million for a single year are no longer possible.

Note that they still have to account for the money, but now it’s spread out over time at $7.8 million per year.

While it would have been interesting to watch David Poile navigate around a $24 million road block for one season, it looks like he’s been saved from that nightmare.

Preds Quote of the Week

Still no quotes to share, which may be a trend in the coming days. As you might expect, media are not going to be allowed in the “bubble” so access to players and coaches is going to be extremely limited.

GIF Me That Good Stuff

We back.

Let’s Do That Hockey

We have hockey dates to report!

  • Sunday, August 2nd vs Arizona Coyotes (Game 1)
  • Tuesday, August 4th vs Arizona Coyotes (Game 2)
  • Wednesday, August 5th vs Arizona Coyotes (Game 3)
  • Friday, August 7th vs Arizona Coyotes (Game 4, if necessary)
  • Sunday, August 9th vs Arizona Coyotes (Game 5, if necessary)

Final Thought

It will certainly be great to have hockey back. We’ve all been anxiously awaiting the sport’s return since early March. Now we have a light at the end of the tunnel.

And the accelerated schedule will have the month of August chock full of hockey goodness.

But as with everything else in 2020, this could be only temporary.

I feel very confident that the NHL will play games in August. I also feel very confident that there will be an outbreak of COVID-19 at some point, causing yet another delay. Because of this, I am worried that this restart may be doomed from the beginning.

If you are hoping to see hockey next month, you are in luck. But if you are hoping to see a conclusion to the 2019-20 season by October, and to the Nashville Predators’ season, I’d say you are pushing it.

— Featured image via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports —