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COVID likely to necessitate expanded NHL rosters, taxi squads

November 24, 2020, 11:34 AM ET [220 Comments]
Mike Augello
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The news that four members of the Vegas Golden Knights have tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday should not come as a great shock, based on the constant reports of NFL players getting sick and what occurred in Major League Baseball during the regular season. With all indications pointing to the National Hockey League adopting a non-bubble model of travelling to cities and playing in their own buildings next season, the league is likely going to have to alter the roster rules to accommodate the realities of the current pandemic.

The NFL addressed the issue by increasing the size of their roster, active players on game day, their practice squad and adjusted the availability of players being moved off and on injured reserve and the practice squad. MLB also expanded rosters and with the minor leagues not being active had players not on the roster at a camp separate from the major league clubs.

The NHL with a hard salary cap and the American Hockey League not playing until early February may have to adopt a “taxi squad” set up that does not count against the cap or is subject to waivers for at least the first month of the season or perhaps longer.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have the luxury of their AHL affiliate located in the same town, but others may be at a disadvantage if multiple players test positive and do not have enough healthy players to cover. Things will be even more difficult teams such as Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton, who have AHL affiliates in the US and will be prevented from quick call-ups due to the 14-day quarantine after crossing the border.

Depending on what the league will allow for expanded rosters, the players who will occupy taxi squads will likely be more veteran players on one-way contracts, since the teams will not incur additional costs as they would with players on two-way deals who make less in the minors.

For the Leafs, their extra goalie would likely be former San Jose backup Aaron Dell, who makes $800,000 this season. Instead of having youngsters Rasmus Sandin, Joey Anderson or Adam Brooks practicing as extra skaters and not seeing game action, it is probable that Kenny Agostino ($737,500), Denis Malgin ($700,000), Calle Rosen ($750,000) or the almighty and powerful Martin Marincin ($700,000) would take up those spots.


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