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In the end, the voices of some NHL general managers spoke louder than the words of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and his trusty deputy Bill Daly.
Yes, non-playoff teams like the Ottawa Senators will get their shot at the No. 1 overall pick with a virtual lottery on television on June 26, but the league has decided to put off the actual draft itself until later in the summer because the consensus among many of the GM’s was they’d rather wait until the final standings of the regular season have been determined.
During a call with the GM’s Tuesday afternoon, the league didn’t set a date for the draft itself, but told the 31 teams they’d give them three weeks notice before it’s held. At this point, it doesn’t appear it will be anytime before mid-August and could be as late as October if the league decides to wait until the playoffs are over with the 2020 Stanley Cup championship awarded.
Senators’ owner Eugene Melnyk and GM Pierre Dorion wholeheartedly supported the idea of a a lottery later this month and a draft in June, but they can live with the scenario the league has come up with because unlike some other teams they know Bettman and Daly are juggling a lot of balls right now so they’re making the best of what’s a difficult situation with the decision to start the process with the lottery.
In the end, Daly said the fact teams would have a difficult time reshaping their roster for the next season was the biggest reason why the draft itself was put on hold.
“There was a lot of debate with respect to the possibility of moving the Draft up and staging the Draft before the resumption of play,” Daly said on a conference call Tuesday evening. “We certainly felt like we had an acceptable window to be able to accomplish that if that was something we wanted to do, and certainly there were reasons why we thought that might be a good idea.
“But as with most issues, we brought it to the clubs, and there was not a strong consensus one way or the other quite frankly on whether we should do it, and certainly I think the people who were opposed to it felt strongly about being opposed to it.
“Some of the factors, probably the most significant one we gave the most weight to, was the lack of the ability to use the draft as an opportunity, as a jumping‑off place for forming the next year’s roster, resetting in the off‑season like many of our clubs do.”
That’s actually not the worst-case scenario for the Senators.
As part of this rebuild, Dorion is also looking to reshape his roster for next season.
As noted, the Senators have three picks in the first round, seven in the first two rounds and 13 total in what’s considered to a strong draft. But, you have to think Dorion has no intention of using all those selections to pick more prospects. The club has a lot in the organization and should get two high-end players with selections that are guaranteed to be in the top six no matter which way the lottery balls fall.
There’s no question, the Senators will keep their own pick and the one they got from the San Jose Sharks in the Erik Karlsson deal. The selection from the New York Islanders, which is lottery protected if it’s in the top three, is the one to keep an eye on. That pick could fall anywhere from 10-to-15 depending on what happens with the Isles during the play-in round to determine who goes onto the post-season.
That pick could be used as a bargaining chip by Dorion to bring in another piece that’s going to help the club right away. If the Senators decide to keep the selection that won’t be the worst thing, either, because he’s got four picks in the second round that can be used to move up, around or even bring in veteran player to help guide the youth down the road.
There’s a lot of confusion about the draft lottery, but the Senators retained their 25% odds of winning with their own pick at 13.5% and the one that belongs to the Sharks at 11.5%. Going into this process, that’s all the Senators wanted from the league and the integrity of the lottery is maintained so you’re not going to hear any complaints out of Ottawa.
“One of the things that went into the decision to create a new lottery system was for the advantage of the seven clubs who aren’t resuming play that they have the ability to engage with their fan base during that long pause between games,” Daly said
“And, we thought the draft lottery was a way to create excitement, create a way for those teams to engage with their fan base, get some certainty early on and not go into kind of a long slumber of creating noise and buzz over the summertime.”
In Ottawa, the lottery is all the rage and now that the date is set fans can return to spinning the simulator on Tankathon to see where the balls land.
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