After several weeks of negotiations and planning, the start of an NHL season appears to be right around the corner.
According to a report from Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet Canada, the NHL and NHLPA have a tentative agreement on a 56-game season. TSN’s Renaud Lavoie adds that an announcement could come in the next few days with the 2020-21 season beginning on Jan. 13, the most recently announced target date, and that there is expected to be an all-Canadian division.
Any agreement is subject to a vote by the Board of Governors and Players’ Association, but it is likely that the deal would pass. The NHLPA already had a meeting scheduled for Friday night and it is possible that the voting process could begin during that call.
While many of the details about how the NHL will look will likely not be known until the complete agreement is finalized and the announcement is made, hockey will be making its return soon enough. The expectation is that training camps will begin on Dec. 31 for the seven teams that did not play in the playoffs and Jan. 3 for the remaining teams, according to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun. There is not expected to be a preseason and the regular season would start on Jan. 13. Those dates are subject to change.
There is also talks about division realignment that have gone on for several weeks. The all-Canadian division is reportedly going to be a part of realignment, though there are details that need to be resolved there and will hopefully be by Monday, according to LeBrun, and the remaining US teams will be realigned to limit travel as much as possible. The structure of the schedule also remains to be seen, as does the location of games.
Some additional details from TSN's Frank Seravalli include that players have the option to opt out for the season if the player or a family member are considered high risk. He adds that there will be a 23-man roster with $81.5 million salary cap. There will also be a "taxi squad" of four-to-six players who will travel and practice with the team. The taxi squad players are paid full AHL salary and the CBA has been expanded to include more flexible emergency recalls of players. In total, that would give teams a maximum player travel party of 29 players.
There will be more to come in the days ahead as the league formally finalizes the details of the 2020-21 season, but it certainly appears that hockey is back.
And just in time for Christmas, certainly a nice early present for hockey fans looking forward to the new year.