The NHL is coming out of an extended vacation break with taxi teams and other roster revisions, a move taken to guard against more disruption of the season amid more players and more coaches entering COVID-19 protocol on Sunday.
Each team will be allowed to have a team of taxis of no more than six players and to perform emergency recalls of minors if absences from COVID-19 force someone to play without a full roster. Taxi teams, which were used during the shortened 2021 season, are expected to be in effect until at least the all-star break in early February.
Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly confirmed the new roster rules in an email to The Associated Press, and the NHL announced the changes on Sunday night. The league also postponed three more games – Columbus in Chicago on Tuesday night and Pittsburgh in Toronto and Boston in Ottawa on Wednesday night.
âAny relief is welcome, trust me,â said Florida Panthers general manager Bill Zito, who is eager to see how the flexibility might help. âIt’s tough. What if all of your keepers got it? What are you going to do? We, as a management team, went through a number of scenarios surrounding the ‘what ifs’ – or can. -be we are deluding ourselves and we should be thinking about the ‘when’, as to who gets it and when. “
Under the new provisions, any team that is reluctant to have 12 forwards, six defensemen and two goaltenders available can bring in an American Hockey League player without playing a game with less than the usual 18 skaters. Emergency recalls can also be made for players whose salary cap reaches $ 1 million, an increase from the previous limit of $ 850,000.
Taxi team players will count as minors for capping purposes. They can be there for up to 20 days.
The goal of the changes is to keep the NHL season going after 67 games have already been postponed for reasons related to the coronavirus. The 14 games originally scheduled for Monday have been postponed to allow analysis of COVID-19 tests carried out on Sunday by players, coaches and staff upon their return to the team’s facilities.
“My understanding is that every game that is scheduled now will be played, unless for some reason there is a change,” said New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello, whose team is scheduled to play again on Wednesday. . âEvery indication that we have (is) that we will play. We have no indication that we will not play.
The return to the team’s facilities also brought the predictable result of additions to the list of COVID-19 protocols across the league.
Defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lighting added goaltenders Andrei Vasilevskiy and Brian Elliott, defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and assistant coach Rob Zettler to the roster. The Islanders added forwards Anthony Beauvillier, Cal Clutterbuck, Zach Parise and Oliver Wahlstrom and activated Mathew Barzal.
Dallas Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen, forwards Jason Robertson, Joel Kiviranta, Radek Faksa and Michael Raffl, Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ryan Ellis, Buffalo Sabers forwards Dylan Cozens and Mark Jankowski and coach Don Granato, Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau and Boston Bruins center Charlie Coyle also participated protocol.
The Sabers have said Cozens, Jankowski and Granato are asymptomatic. The team canceled a scheduled practice, which was slated to be Buffalo’s first since Dec. 18.
The NHL began its annual Christmas vacation a day earlier than expected last week amid a rapid increase in positive COVID-19 test results among players. At the time, more than a quarter of the league’s 32 teams had been closed due to outbreaks.
Due to its seven Canada-based teams, the NHL cannot follow the NFL’s lead by not doing general testing on fully vaccinated and asymptomatic players. Lamoriello said league officials were doing their best without any control over the rules and restrictions set by Canada’s federal and provincial governments.
“Unless we don’t play in Canada and we don’t have teams in Canada, you might consider that, and it would definitely be (considered),” Lamoriello said of adjusting the testing requirements. . âBut with Canada’s guidelines and rules, there is no way that will happen. We wouldn’t be able to have games without the tests required to play in Canada.
A lack of widespread availability of boosters in Canada could also hamper efforts by the NHL to ensure that an extra dose of a COVID-19 is part of being considered fully vaccinated, as has been done by the NHL. NBA.
Several NHL teams returned to practice on Sunday, including the Calgary Flames, which last played on December 11 and had been closed due to a virus outbreak that included 20 players and 13 members of the personnel found in the COVID-19 protocol.
AP Sports writer Tim Reynolds and The Canadian Press contributed to this report.
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