The levy burst late Friday evening when the NHL and NHLPA announced they agreed to a 56-game NHL schedule to begin on Jan. 13. What looked implausible became a reality after weeks of negotiations and discussions. The 2020-21 NHL season is a go, and the Pittsburgh Penguins season will begin in a couple of weeks.
The NHLPA confirmed their side of the agreement via conference call Friday evening. The NHL Board of Governors will do so this weekend.
The largest remaining unsolved detail is the fate of the all-Canadian Division. According to Chris Johnston of Sportsnet, the NHL has been speaking with provincial health ministers and has more calls scheduled for Saturday. Reports varied regarding one or two provinces that held firm to rules, preventing their NHL team from playing.
On Friday, a source told the Hockey Now network that a Canadian bubble was possible if all Canadian teams could not play in their home barn.
It appears enough provinces are open for business that Canadian teams will not have to relocate to the U.S., but that is not yet confirmed.
The other detail which is not yet official is the size of the “taxi squad.” Teams may keep an extra four to six players on hand rather than send them to the AHL. The financial obligations and salary cap implications of shuffling an NHL contract to the taxi squad are not yet official. Still, it is assumed to mirror the current NHL salary cap rules.
We don’t yet know what will happen if a team moves an NHL contract to the taxi squad. Will the team merely receive salary cap relief (up to $1.075 million), or will that player pass through waivers as if he is being sent to the AHL?
The following is from a conglomeration of national reports and our own sources regarding the coming NHL season.
The firm details:
*56-game NHL schedule.
*Training camps for the 24 teams included in the NHL Return to Play will begin on Jan. 3.
*Training camps for the seven teams which didn’t qualify for the postseason will begin on Dec. 31.
*No proration of salaries. No exhibition games, per Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet.
*As previously reported by the Hockey Now network, teams will play in their own building, though there could be several exceptions, most notably the San Jose Sharks whom northern California officials may chase to Arizona or Las Vegas.
*Also, as reported by the Hockey Now network, teams will play only within their eight-team division. The Penguins are currently slated to play in the Atlantic Division, including most of the Metro Division (New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Philadelphia Flyers, New Jersey Devils, Washington Capitals) and the Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres.
The Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets are tentatively scheduled to be in the Central Division.
The above division is pending the confirmation of the all-Canadain division.
*The top four teams in each division will make the playoffs. Each division will send its winner to the Stanley Cup semi-finals.
Those are the best odds that a Canadian team will play for the Stanley Cup in a long time.
The good news remains. We have an NHL season.