from Luke Fox of Sportsnet,
At the core of every good (and bad and ugly) hockey story, you’ll find people.
Here are the 21 newsmakers and game-breakers likely to define the thrilling 56-game sprint that will be 2020-21 NHL season...
2. Gary Bettman
The commissioner has scaled a mountain (awarding a ’20 Stanley Cup come hell or high water) only to look up and stare at an even steeper one. As he navigates COVID-19, fan-free arenas and a closed border, Bettman is squishing the schedule, flattening the salary cap, redrawing the divisions, and flipping over the couch cushions in search of every morsel of hockey-related revenue.
The divisions have corporate names, the helmets have corporate logos, Lake Tahoe is hosting outdoor games that matter, and the gambling game is a priority. Oh, and then there are the small matters of launching a 32nd franchise and negotiating a critical new U.S. broadcast deal to help the sport get back in the black.
1. Ron Francis
A superspy will be lurking in the shadows throughout the 2021 campaign, secretly scouting and quietly rerunning his Seattle Expansion Draft Simulator to the brink of carpal tunnel syndrome. Much like George McPhee in 2017, Francis can’t wait to get his roster construction crackin’ (sorry).
Yes, his peers will be leery of getting fleeced by the general manager of Franchise 32, but in a flat-cap world, $81.5 million in breathing room opens up a world of possibilities. Every trade, extension and transaction the Original 30 sign off on will be made with Francis’s greedy palms in mind. They don’t want to be responsible for turning the 2021-22 Kraken into a monster.
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