Word came out late Thursday that the NHL had proposed a 24-team return to play format to the NHL Players’ Association. The proposal is being voted on Friday and is expected to be approved by the NHLPA’s executive board, TSN’s Bob McKenzie said in a series of tweets.
The format includes the top-12 teams from each conference and a mixture of play-in and round-robin games, depending on team seeding, leading up to a traditional 16-team playoff. The completion of this season, which will take place in front of empty arenas in two or four hub cities is expected to push back the start of the 2020-21 season until at least late November.
“While last night’s NHLPA executive committee conference call got a little heated at times, the executive committee vote by team is expected to result in NHLPA approval of the NHL plan,” McKenzie said. “If that is indeed the case, and I believe team-by-team balloting has concluded or will conclude shortly, it should pave the way for the NHL and NHLPA to perhaps formally announce the RTP (return to play) format in the coming days.”
McKenzie added that details on when the games will return are undecided.
Further reports say training camps will begin in early July if the rest of the planning goes well, which means games will begin in late July. The Stanley Cup could be awarded within 60 days of the first game with the playoff portion likely completed in 6-7 weeks.
The NHL’s 24-team proposal has the top four teams in each conference participating in a round-robin amongst each other with seeding implications. The remaining seeds will play a best-out-of-five play-in to determine the remaining eight qualifiers.
In the Western Conference, St. Louis, Colorado, Vegas and Dallas will partake in the round-robin. The Avalanche entered the March 12th pause ranked second, trailing the Blues by two points with one game in hand. The weighted round-robin is expected to give the Avs a chance to catch St. Louis for the top seed.
If Colorado finishes first, it will take on the winner of No. 8 Calgary and No. 9 Winnipeg in the first round. If the Avs remain in second they will take on either No. 7 Vancouver or No. 10 Minnesota.