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Coronavirus Brings NHL to a Hold
By: Michael Wax
This past week has been a complete whirlwind inside of the NHL and the rest of the sports world, culminating in the suspension of the NHL season earlier today due to the virus COVID-19, more commonly known as coronavirus. The NHL is not the only major sports league to take these precautions into effect, as every organized major sports league currently in season has suspended their operations until further notice. This virus goes well beyond the sports world, as many music festivals and other large gatherings have also been either postponed or outright canceled due to the severity of this situation. In a world that is full of questions at the moment, I will best attempt to come up with some answers to some of these questions.
First of all, I strongly implore everyone to stay safe during this difficult time. Once again, this situation comes with many questions from all walks of life. The best piece of advice I can give to anyone reading this article is to stay calm and listen to the experts throughout this medical crisis. Please, again, stay safe. Wash your hands. Avoid contact with other individuals if possible. If we can work together, this problem may be solved sooner rather than later.
What Does This Mean for the Lightning?
On a less serious note, the topic of sports has been greatly debated throughout the last 24 hours in regards to the virus. The main question for fans of the Lightning has asked whether this situation has good or bad ramifications. Now, to be clear, of course this situation has bad ramifications. As of now, sports fans will have to experience the next couple of months without any sort of sport or entertainment. However, for the Tampa Bay Lightning, this may be a blessing in disguise. The Lightning are currently without Captain Steven Stamkos, superstar defenseman Victor Hedman, and top pairing defenseman Jan Rutta, all out with injuries. Stamkos, in particular, was projected to be out until at least the second round of the playoffs. With this suspension of play, the NHL may have their season moved into the summer months. If this was to be the case, Stamkos would be ready to play by the beginning of the playoffs.
This would not only benefit the Lightning, but also other teams around the league. The Toronto Maple Leafs, the Lightning’s most likely first round opponent, would be getting defenseman Jake Muzzin back from injury. The Pittsburgh Penguins could possibly be getting forward Jake Guentzel back in time for another championship run. The Vegas Golden Knights would be receiving a healthy Mark Stone in their attempt for a title. At the end of the day, the NHL prides itself on having the best product on the ice as possible. With all of these superstars returning from their respective injuries in time for the playoffs, the NHL is ensuring that their playoff product would be the most intriguing in years.
If the worst is to be expected, and the NHL cancels the entire season, questions about the off-season still remain. At the NHL Board of Governors meeting a couple of weeks ago, the upper limit of the cap was projected to be anywhere between $84-$88 million. At that time, it was thought that the Lightning, among other teams, would be greatly helped by the increase in cap space. Now that this virus has taken the sports world by storm, these projections are very unlikely to come to fruition. Some in the hockey community have even suggested that the cap may go down as a result of this situation and the financial burden that it may cause. If this were to be the case, the “ightning would suffer tremendously in their attempts to re-sign some of their key free agent pieces. Many restricted free agents may ask for an exuberant amount of money, money that most NHL teams just don’t have available. If this situation gets any worse and the Goes down as a result, the repercussions would be extremely ugly and unparalleled.