The NHL has said it will lockout the players as of this Saturday, September 15th if the league and Player’s Association can’t reach a deal. Last night there was the news that the NHL and the PA agreed to a special waiver period that allows 2-way players to head down to the AHL, which is more or less foreshadowing a lockout. It’s awful that we’re headed down this road yet again but here we are and there’s not much we can do about it. A lot of people get hurt when millionaires and billionaires fight, and Long Island is no different. Here’s a look at how this weekend’s impending lockout will effect the Islanders and those around them.
1. Team staff and arena employees — We’ll start with the people who get hurt the most; the folks who work for and around the league and players. We don’t know what the Islanders would do with their staff in the event of a lockout but it’s certainly possible that some of the good people behind the scenes will be let go. There will certainly be some teams who won’t retain staffers, and of course anyone who works in the arena on gameday is at the very least getting their hours cut.
2. The Barclays pre-season game gets cancelled or rescheduled — This has been on the calendar for quite some time now and is an important moment in the Isles history. It won’t make or break the possibility of the team relocating to Brooklyn but a sold out arena full of Islander faithful would definitely be a positive for the franchise and apply pressure to the politicians in Nassau County.
A report from a couple weeks ago said that there were 7,000 tickets sold, which is about half capacity. That number won’t go up much more with the lockout looming and cancellation likely, so we won’t really be able to get an idea of how the game would have gone. I don’t believe they would have sold the rest of the arena out under normal conditions with only a couple weeks to go, but we’ll never know for sure. Hopefully we’ll see a rescheduled date for next October.
With a lockout looming and the game scheduled to take place on October 2nd, it’s looking like the Islanders won’t be making that trip to Brooklyn. It’s a bit of misfortune for what should have been a great night for the franchise.
3. Pressure on Nassau County will be non-existent during a lockout — With no hockey being played, don’t expect Nassau County to move any faster on the RFQ or anything else related to the Islanders staying. Remember that RFQ that was supposed to handed to a developer in August? It’s been awfully quiet and got even weirder today when the County hired a law firm to help with the development.
The game in Brooklyn coupled with the eternal hope of the team’s resurgence were supposed to be driving factors in finding a new home for the Islanders, whether that was by putting pressure on Nassau County to act or making a case for Brooklyn as a solid alternative (or both). A big fan turnout in Brooklyn coupled with a hot start to the season in October would have been the best case scenario. Now, both of those possibilities are off the table for the moment.
With the Brooklyn game looking like a cancellation and the Islanders not playing any hockey, Nassau will have no worries about getting anything done in the short term. The Islanders had a chance to really get things moving and thanks to a lockout, we’ll never know what could have happened (or, more likely, we’ll have to wait until next year when 2015 is that much closer).
4. An extra year of pressure-free training for young players — One of the side effects of the 2004-05 lockout was that an entire year’s worth of rookies had to spend another year training and playing in the minors rather than cutting their teeth in the NHL, making 05-06 an extremely talented rookie class. If we end up with a long lockout again, this will repeat. Players like Ryan Strome, Kirill Kabanov and Griffin Reinhart who are close to the NHL (Strome) or need just a bit more seasoning (the latter) will get that seasoning and be playing against a host of players from other teams that are in the same situation.
Last time around there were lots of young NHL players on their two-way ELC’s allowed to play in the AHL, making it a tougher league. There could also be a lot of players like Strome — whose only options are the NHL or juniors — in the AHL if the NHL/CHL agreement isn’t carried through. While older players would have to go overseas, the younger ones would likely have a way to play somewhere in North America. This would be another year of pressure-free training for guys who could benefit the most from it. And yes, there would be a year hiatus on debate about where Nino Niederreiter should play. He likely won’t have a choice.
5. A potential loss of value; Mark Streit and Lubomir Visnovsky — One of the things that could really hurt the Islanders, and other teams, are the expiration of contracts of impending free agents. If the entire season is lost, the Islanders would lose the final years of both Streit and Visnovsky’s contracts. Of course those players could re-sign, but the Islanders would be losing the potential value of trading them at the deadline or negotiating with them during the season under normal conditions.
This is especially worrisome in the case of Visnovsky who may not want to be here at all. There’s some loss of value if he cannot be traded for a pick later on down the line. (That could also be getting way ahead of things, as we have yet to hear back on which way his trade arbitration ruling is going to go.) While the inability to trade one of these players may be a small loss, say a mid-round pick, it’s still something the Islanders could have had but are now in jeopardy of not having. They’ll also have to find a way to fill more defensive holes in the roster.
Regardless of what the NHL decides to do, we’ll still be here blogging away. Stay tuned for continued updates and Islander talk.