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"GMs" at redrafted the entire League

by Dave Lozo /
Shortly after the rush of free agency in early July, the NHL offseason's pace becomes, well, more family skate than all-out playoff shift.

But that doesn't mean we stop thinking about hockey. In fact, the brain can wander pretty deep into the forest of sticks and pucks. One question that comes to mind: What would happen if every team in the NHL had to start from scratch? What if every single player no longer had a team to call home -- but had their current contract -- and the League had to have a draft to fill out their 23-man rosters for the upcoming season?

We figured it would be fun to answer the muse: So in late July, 15 NHL staffers gathered in a conference room at NHL headquarters and redrafted the entire League.

Next, we asked EA Sports if they would simulate an entire regular season and Stanley Cup Playoffs with these new configured teams. The answer was, sure, absolutely, so you can look for the simulation of the "regular season" posted on by the end of the month. Come early September, we will post the "results" of the first three playoff rounds, plus League trophy winners and, naturally, the Stanley Cup Final. Should be a fun way to finish off the summer before NHL training camps begin.

You probably have some questions, one of which is likely an inquiry about our sanity for doing this, but here were some of the rules we followed for the re-draft and aspects of it that may need clarification:

1. The teams we put together are for one year only. Obviously if this was reality and the teams had to do this, it would be a one-shot deal and everyone would move forward from there. But it was just easier to get this done if we treated the draft like a fantasy league that didn't allow for keepers. So when someone took Christian Ehrhoff, they were only on the hook for $4 million, not $40 million.

2. The salary cap rules apply. Everyone had to draft their team based on each player's cap hit on their current contract. Obviously real NHL teams have more than 23 players under contract with non-roster players, but for the purposes of this exercise, we just filled out our active rosters and had to land between the floor and ceiling once we were done.

Brandon Dubinsky
Center - NYR
GOALS: 24 | ASST: 30 | PTS: 54
SOG: 202 | +/-: -3
3. In some cases, we had to ballpark cap hits. We did the draft on July 21, which was the day Brandon Dubinsky avoided arbitration and signed his four-year contract. At the time, players like Shea Weber and Drew Doughty were restricted free agents without contracts, so we came up with what we thought were fair numbers for their deals. Again, not ideal, but a way to give EA enough time to simulate a season and post-season.

4. In cases with players who were unsigned and candidates for retirement, we did the same type of thing. At the time of the draft, we didn't know what Teemu Selanne's decision would be on his future. But since he could be around this season, we simply assigned him a cap hit similar to what he had last season.

5. In cases where some players are questionable to start the season due to injury, like Marc Savard and David Perron, we took that into account. When it came to how we were going to determine which team was the best (more on that in a second), we had to sort of work off the honor system.

6. For drafting, we used the true order of the 16 teams that made the playoffs and order of the standings for the 14 teams who missed the playoffs. It didn't make sense to use the lottery results since everyone was starting from the same place. So the Edmonton Oilers picked first and the Boston Bruins picked last. Also, we used a snake draft. With every team starting fresh, there's no reason to reward last year's 30th-place team with the first pick for 23 straight rounds.

7. You've probably figured out that there are 30 teams in the NHL and just 15 people drafting. What we did was assign everyone two teams that they would GM/coach, the caveat being if you picked first, you also picked 16th. That prevents a GM potentially landing two teams with back-to-back picks and sabotaging one team to make the other better. Again, not ideal, but it's pretty impossible to find 30 people who can all do something like this in one day, especially with a lot of people on vacation.

Marc Savard
Center - BOS
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 8 | PTS: 10
SOG: 50 | +/-: -7
8. You're probably wondering how any of us are going to coach our teams, seeing as how this is a complete fantasy. Following the draft, we took our rosters and created our line combinations and defense pairings, because they will be entered into EA Sports' NHL 12. We will simulate the regular season and playoffs with these rosters and see who comes out on top. Of course, with Savard and Perron, while they may not be available on opening night in October, they will be available to start the season in the game. In trying to build a real team, maybe those guys would've been drafted later, but hey, no one said this idea was perfect.

The draft was a blast, but there were some moments worth discussing, like when Frans Nielsen was taken in the third round, or when late in the six-hour draft when our minds were mush, one GM called out the names of three straight players who were already drafted, resulting in a series of curses that would've made Bruce Boudreau blush.

Feel free to peruse our rosters and line combinations and rip us to shreds (with our new commenting tool). We deserve it. We'll get to the EA NHL '12 soon to see whose team is the best, but for now, spend a few minutes imagining what Sidney Crosby would look like in an Edmonton Oilers jersey.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo


It's important to note that this exercise in nerdery wouldn't have been possible without Matthew Wuest, whose was an incredibly valuable tool for getting this done. It seems impossible that you wouldn't know about the site at this point, but it's a great resource for contract information that everyone in the business has used on multiple occasions.

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