Report: NHL sets important dates for Return To Play plan, offseason


The National Hockey League is currently in the process of ratifying the Memo of Understanding and the new extension of the collective bargaining agreement that was officially agreed upon on Monday. The NHLPA's Executive Board have already voted and approved the MOU and CBA, and now it is up to the full NHLPA membership to vote and officially ratify both agreements to make them official going forward. The voting process will go through Friday, and the NHL Board of Governors will also vote on the approval of both agreements on that day.

Before any official announcements have been made by the NHL, multiple reports have surfaced with key dates for the upcoming Return To Play format, as well as the offseason leading up to the 2020-21 season.

Here are some of the key dates for the Return To Play format, as reported by TSN hockey insider Frank Seravalli:

  • Friday, July 24: Teams travel to their respective hub city
  • Saturday, July 25: Teams play one exhibition game before the commencement of Phase 4
  • Thursday, July 30: Commencement of Phase 4 (Qualifying round and seeding round-robin)
  • Sunday, Aug. 9: First round of Stanley Cup Playoffs begin
  • Sunday, Aug. 23: Second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin
  • Sunday, Sept. 6: Conference Finals begin
  • Sunday, Sept. 20: Stanley Cup Final begins
  • Friday, Oct. 2: Last possible game of the Stanley Cup Final

Seravalli also adds that all these dates are subject to change, and these dates could be pushed back a few days. He says that the league lists the commencement of Phase 3 (formal opening of training camps) for Friday, July 10, but the anticipation has been that training camps will open three days later. It is also expected that the opening of Phase 4 will take place two days later on Saturday, Aug. 1.

It has also been reported by Seravalli that the 2020 NHL Draft is tentatively set for Tuesday, Oct. 6. This year's draft was set to take place on Friday, June 26 through Saturday, June 27 in Montreal, Quebec, but the coronavirus pandemic postponed the event. It is unclear at this time where the draft will take place or how the draft will be conducted.

The draft will have to take place after the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Final, as well as the opening of the NHL's free agency period.

The league still has to conduct Phase 2 of the NHL Draft Lottery to determine which losing team of the qualifying round wins the first overall pick of the draft. A time for that Phase of the draft lottery has yet to be determined.

As for free agency, the league is expected to open that period either seven days after the Stanley Cup Final ends, or on Friday, Oct. 9. Seravalli adds that as part of the free agency period, the league has eliminated the interview period before the opening of the timeframe. That means that teams will not be able to speak to any impending free agents until the period opens at 12 p.m. on the set date.
Here are a couple of other key dates for the 2020 offseason:

  • Thursday, Nov. 17: Opening of training camps for all 31 teams
  • Tuesday, Dec. 1: Opening of 2020-21 regular season

Once again, these dates are subject to change.

In addition to the reported dates for the Return To Play plan and offseason, there have also been multiple details for both the Return To Play format and the new CBA extension that have surfaced:

  • Toronto and Edmonton have been confirmed as the two hub cities for the Return To Play format. The Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final will be held in a single location, but that location has yet to be determined.
  • Qualifying round games and the seeding round-robin games will count as part of 2019-20 Stanley Cup Playoff statistics.
  • Teams can no longer set conditions in a trade that makes it harder for a player to re-sign with the team that acquired him. Example: A player is traded for a second round pick, but that pick becomes a first round pick if the player signs with the team that acquired him.
  • Minimum NHL salaries over the next six seasons:
    • 2020-21 - $700,000
    • 2021-22 - $750,000
    • 2022-23 - $750,000
    • 2023-24 - $775,000
    • 2024-25 - $775,000
    • 2025-26 - $775,000
  • Maximum entry-level contract salaries over the next seven seasons:
    • 2020-21 - $925,000
    • 2021-22 - $925,000
    • 2022-23 - $950,000
    • 2023-24 - $950,000
    • 2024-25 - $975,000
    • 2025-26 - $975,000
    • 2026-27 - $1 million
  • The league will try to minimize travel and have back-to-back games played in the same city in the future.
  • Teams that have a performance bonus overage this year will have the option to evenly distribute it between the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons.

More details of the new CBA extension can be found here:

Stay tuned for the latest developments on this story...