Small Flyers transaction might be more telling on next season than we think


The Flyers on Saturday morning announced that they loaned Michael Raffl to Villacher SV of the ICE Hockey League in Austria. 

On the surface, it doesn't seem like anything crazy, especially since the NHL noted back in July how loans were going to be a tad different for the upcoming season:

Currently, the Flyers have eight players or prospects active in European leagues: 

  • Michael Raffl (Austria)
  • Kirill Ustimenko (Belarus)
  • Maksim Sushko (KHL)
  • German Rubtsov (KHL)
  • Linus Sandin (SHL)
  • Linus Hogberg (Sweden 1st Division)
  • Felix Sandstrom (Sweden 1st Division)
  • David Kase (Czech Republic League)

However, it's the timing of the move that is raising eyebrows. While there's no indication of what this transaction means, here's something that could be a possibility:

The anticipated start date of the 2020-21 season is changing. 

Since the first night of the 2020 draft in early October, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has been keen on the possible start on Jan. 1. With the turn of the calendar year inching closer and still little information on important details — season length, safety protocols, traveling, etc. — it seems very possible that we won't be seeing hockey on New Year's Day. 

The league would need at least two weeks of training camp, and assuming athletes traveling in and out of the country would need to quarantine prior to joining their teammates, Raffl would be playing in Austria for only a little over two weeks, which ... makes no sense. So, it seems like the chances of a delayed start could be looming. 

Take a look at the NBA, for instance. The league announced a Dec. 22 start date on Nov. 10 — just a little over a month of time in between to get everything ready to roll. 

I never saw a New Year's Day start date for the NHL, especially given how long the league has valued not playing/working on Christmas, which would be smack in the middle of training camp.

Pushing things back wouldn't hurt many (aside from fans who are longing for hockey to resume), but if it does want to get things rolling as quickly as possible — we're going to have to hear some news, and fast. 

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