As part of the league-wide one-day extension of the winter break and COVID pause, the New York Islanders had one more game postponed. That game versus the Sabres, originally scheduled in Buffalo tonight, was part of that one additional day of postponements.
That move was done so that all teams could evaluate their COVID situations coming out of the break on Sunday. After the Isles did that, they announced that four more players have entered protocol (though thankfully, Mathew Barzal is back): Cal Clutterbuck, Anthony Beauvillier, Zach Parise and Oliver Wahlstrom. Other teams fared worse, resulting in three more games this week being postponed.
At the same time, the NHL and NHLPA jointly announced temporary modifications to the CBA to finally allow some flexibility, the likes of which were not afforded the “guinea pig” Islanders and Senators when they went through their COVID surges earlier this season.
Among the league changes is allowing the reintroduction of a “taxi squad” that can practice and travel with teams, so that they are immediately available for recall and addition to the active roster when COVID/injuries strike.
The Islanders immediately took advantage of that by adding Simon Holmstrom, Cole Bardeau and Grant Hutton to their taxi squad. Expect more before Wednesday’s game with the Red Wings, considering all four new additions to the COVID list are wingers.
Teams are allowed to have up to six players on a taxi squad, and GM Lou Larmoiello said they will wait on results of the Bridgeport Islanders COVID tests before completing their squad.
Metro-wise, the Isles return from the break three points behind the 7th-place Devils, 17 points behind the 4th-place Penguins, and 21 points behind the first-place Capitals. They do have a few games in hand but...yeesh.
- In addition to Barzal coming off the list, Matt Martin and Robin Salo are expected to come off COVID Protocol on Dec. 29, though that’s no guarantee either would be fit for action against the Red Wings that night. [Isles]
- More about the latest additions and taxi squad entries mentioned and linked above. [Isles]
- Andrew Gross’ report on those outages and other notes from Lou’s presser. [Newsday] Ethan Sears on the same. [Post]
- Looking at the few highs and tons of lows to the pre-Christmas part of the Isles season. [Post]
More Lou: “(The NHL) can’t control the government rules whether they be in Canada or the different provinces, or the restrictions. All they can do is react to them, and I believe they are doing the best they possibly can in communicating and keeping everyone abreast."— Kevin Kurz (@KKurzNHL) December 26, 2021
The rules and CBA modifications are detailed here. Of particular note:
- Taxi squads can exist through the date of a team’s final game prior to the All-Star Break. After that final game, the squads dissolve.
- If you’re short for COVID reasons, you can do an emergency recall of any player whose NHL cap hit is $1 million AAV or less.
- If a Club has fewer than twelve (12) forwards or six (6) defensemen on its Active Roster who are able to play in its next Regular Season game specifically by virtue of Players being unavailable due to COVID-19 Protocol, such Club will be permitted to recall Players at the deficient positions without the Club having to play the previous game with fewer than 18 skaters.
So if you’re at the active roster max but have players out on COVID, you no longer have to play a game short before you can recall a replacement.
- Friedman details a few of the key temporary CBA rule changes. [Sportsnet]
- Here are the other three games postponed (thus far) later this week, two involving cross-border travel. [TSN]
- In a shot to their currently signed goalies, Bruce Cassidy says Tuukka Rask could play for the Bruins in as soon as three weeks. [NHL]
- Connor McDavid’s 2021 was the stuff of legend. And it’s not over just yet, COVID-willing. [TSN]
- The men’s World Juniors kicked off in Alberta, with Sweden beating Russia, Canada beating the Czechs, and the U.S. taking down Slovakia. [TSN WJC center]