INTENDED IMPACT To give the game more continuity by decreasing whistles for offsides.
EXPERTS' TAKES Scott Niedermayer, Ducks defenseman "It's not a big thing one way or the other. A lot of what they've done [in terms of rules changes] is bigger than this. But this will keep the game moving, keep the energy." Bobby Clarke, Flyers G.M. (left) "You won't see defensemen backpedaling as much to open up the ice."
The Money Factor
CHANGE Teams are forbidden to have a payroll that exceeds $39 million, except to replace an injured player who will be sidelined for 10 games or more. Nor can a team dip below $21.5 million in salary.
INTENDED IMPACT To maintain competitive balance and restrain some teams' profligate spending.
EXPERT'S TAKE Brian Burke, Ducks G.M. "The biggest impact is on flexibility. You'll see a difference at the trade deadline because it was moved up [14 days]. Now, you pay a guy for 40 days [based on a 184-day pay schedule]. If you want to add a $5 million guy at the deadline, it will cost you [$1.1 million]. You won't see 30 deadline trades anymore."
CHANGE OLN will air at least 58 regular-season games as well as a number of postseason games. OLN reaches 64 million U.S. homes, down from the 89 million reached by ESPN2, which carried 50 of the NHL's 70 televised games in '03--04. (The others were on ESPN.) Beginning on Jan. 14, NBC will air games on some Saturdays through the end of the season, as well as at least two games of the finals.
INTENDED IMPACT To reach as many homes as possible.
EXPERT'S TAKE Dean Bonham of the Bonham Group, a sports and entertainment marketing firm "The league is getting a reasonable price [$135 million for two years]. Most important, this gives the NHL flexibility because it is not long term. In five years the league will be positioned to get a much higher rights fee. The product will be more fun to watch, and we'll have a much higher saturation of high-definition TV technology. An HD format completely changes the game--it allows viewers to see a play develop. And it is much easier to follow the puck."