The Center for Disease Control yesterday released new guidelines that called for cancellation of any events with more than fifty people for the next eight weeks. If we start the counter from yesterday, that would put us at May 10th. So in terms of sports, that probably the most optimistic timeline for a resumption of normal activities.
According to Adrian Wojnarowksi, the NBA has already been operating as if a return to games might not be possible until mid to late June and the season might stretch well into August. Given that the NBA and NHL seasons generally operate on similar timelines and the NBA is a much more well-organized league, looking at what they’re expecting is probably a good way of gauging where the NHL might end up as well.
CDC recommendation of no events of 50-plus people for next two months comes as a number of NBA owners and executives increasingly believe a best case scenario is a mid-to-late June return to play -- with no fans. League's scouting for possible arena dates all the way thru August.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 15, 2020
Realistically, we’re probably still at least a month away from having a realistic idea of when and even if sports will be able to resume and under what circumstances. Right now, we’re still too early in the process to know how severe the impacts of COVID-19 will be. It will be bad but how bad depends on how successfully we mitigate the effects. With effective action, it’s possible to conceive of the season resuming on the timeline above. Without effective action, it’s just as possible to conceive of this season never resuming.
In terms of specific hockey news, Pierre LeBrun yesterday reported that any college free agent signings will have to start for the 2020-2021 season. Part of the way teams typically get an advantage in signing these types of players is by offering for the contract to start in the current season, thus burning the first year of the Entry Level Contract so that the player will get to their second contract sooner.
Regarding college free agent signings for NHL teams, business as usual for future year contracts. But no current year contracts allowed until anyone knows what the current year looks like. So for now, any signing means the deal is dated July 1 and goes into effect next season.— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) March 15, 2020
With the remaining regular season games unlikely to be played at this point, the league has put a pause on the college free agent market until more is known about how the rest of the season will progress. For now, that likely dampens any sense of urgency for players to make decisions. If their contracts won’t start until next season anyway, they don’t have any reason to rush to choose a team.
Aside from that, there’s not much hockey news out there and that’s likely the way it will remain for the next couple of weeks at least.