Everything old is new again, and the taxi squad makes a comeback!
NHL Reintroducing the Taxi Squad
We have, of course, been through this before. In fact, it hasn’t even been a year since the last time we did this. However, there are a few differences this time around, including a planned end. That’s right, the taxi squads will come to an end at the NHL All-Star break! Which is one way to discover that the league is still planning an All-Star break. We’ll see.
All In The Timing
The taxi squad rules officially begin today. As in December 26th. As in right now. Not much planning involved there, but everyone should be used to the rules by now, right? At least one hopes teams were notified that this would be a possibility prior to the season starting, but with the NHL you never really know.
The end date is officially the “[…]final game prior to the All-Star break.” Sooooo…
That’s not actually a date written down on this new memo. It’s currently the weekend of February 5th. Not coincidentally, it was tied into the Olympic break. Except now that NHL players aren’t going to the Olympics and have some games to catch up on in the schedule that may well move the All-Star Game to a different slot. It probably won’t, as the NHL loathes moving that game give its local importance. But without a date on the expiration of taxi squads, they’ve given themselves an out. Because while it may be happening in 2022, this is still the nightmare year of 2021.
Calling All Cabbies!
The players on the taxi squads are going to be under different rules, too. This year has six players maximum and no official minimum. The interesting bit is that none may be on the taxi squad for more than 20 days cumulatively. So there is going to be a variety of names on that list, with players moving up and down to farm clubs. Or on and off the roster, depending on how injuries or positive COVID tests go.
The players who don’t qualify for the taxi squad are a bit of a complicated list. They have to meet three different criteria to NOT qualify: those who were on an NHL roster as of December 22nd – that includes anyone on the injured reserve list – AND is waiver exempt AND if they are a regular NHL player. Fortunately, they included a definition of “regular NHL player” for us: if they have been on the NHL roster for 54 total days between October 12 and December 22 OR participated in 16 of the team’s previous 20 games, they’re considered on the team. Whew!
Cabbies can travel and practise with the NHL squad and are given AHL-level compensation and a daily $500 stipend. Nice work if you can get it! Unfortunately for most of us, you also have to be really, really good at hockey.
Being ready for emergency situations has to be basic at this point, right? Well, they are! In the event that a team cannot dress two NHL goaltenders on any given night, they will be allowed to sign one extra. This rule is going to be in place for the rest of the season. No word yet on how long it’s going to take the Boston Bruins to finally get around to signing that guy who’s been hanging around the team all year.
Other than goalies, teams will be allowed a roster emergency exception to recall players with a cap hit below $1,000,000. Unlike other emergency call-ups, if the reason is because of a positive COVID test, then they can insert the player immediately into the lineup. This can be used if the team can’t dress two goaltenders, six defencemen, OR twelve forwards.
Conclusion (Kind Of)
Yes, there is a scheduled end date for this emergency condition. But that doesn’t mean other parts of the season won’t be affected. The Olympic Break still exists despite NHL players not going to the Olympics. The league has said that nothing is planned for those days, but if they can talk the players into it they will. That they are using the beginning of the All-Star break as the official endpoint instead of a firm date is a flare. They’re keeping their options open. And frankly, given the changes that have happened over the past two years? It’s kinda nice to see when the league learns that fire is hot.