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Lightning Round: More information on the NHL’s return to play proposal

There are a lot of open questions but hockey’s coming back

Philadelphia Flyers v Tampa Bay Lightning Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images

After releasing their Phase 2 protocol memo on Monday, the NHL revealed their Return to Play Plan which allows the league to conduct the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs this summer. Yesterday Justin did great work on breaking down what this plan means for the NHL teams and especially for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Lightning were one of two teams (Carolina reportedly was the other) that voted no on the proposal. Their feelings were that teams that might not have made the playoffs had to great a chance to upset a higher finishing team in the first round, and that the level of competitive play among the top seeds wouldn’t match that of the teams playing their way in during the first round.

Today we will try to focus on the other news related to this announcement so you can have a more detailed picture of what the league is proposing. As you may have noticed from reading Justin’s article, the 2019-20 NHL regular season is officially over and the NHL will return with the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The top four teams in each conference by point percentage by the March 13, when the league paused their season, will skip the qualifying round and play the round robin to decide the seeding for the first round of the Playoffs. The four teams from the Eastern Conference are the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers, they will face teams from the qualifying round. While the games of the qualifying round will be played with playoff overtime rules, the round robin will be with regular season rules. The seeding for preliminary round looks like this:

The league proposed using two hub cities for each conference. These cities are still not decided but there are 10 of them under consideration. The chief legal officer of the NHL, Bill Daly is working on exemption from the Canadian rules on a mandate for a two-week quarantine [NHL.com]

Deputy Commissioner Daly: ”If we’re not able to [change] the interpretation of the quarantine consistent with our players’ ability to travel in and not have to do a strict self-quarantine in a hotel room, we won’t be a in a position to use any of the Canadian cities as a hub city. So we’re faced with having to find a solution to that. Hopefully we can.”

The teams will be allowed to carry expanded rosters with 28 skaters and as many goalies as they wanted. Every team can also have two exhibition games.

The timing is also not determined yet, but given that training camps will likely start in the first half of July, the qualifying round will likely start in the range of July 15 to July 30 or even later.

Since there are no exact timeline on the 2020 NHL Playoffs, it will definitely affect the 2020-21 NHL regular season. Per Gary Bettman, the next season might start as late as January 2021, the league’s planning to conduct a full 82-game regular season.

According to Bill Daly NHL teams can’t sign new players for the postseason during the pause. It might also force some European players to stay in their leagues for one more season. For example, there’s a rumour that Russian players Ilya Sorokin and Kirill Kaprizov will resign with CSKA Moscow for one more year to avoid sitting without playing for more than six months.

The NHL Draft lottery will be held on June 26, it will include the seven teams which have already been eliminated and eight placeholders, which eventually will be the eight losing teams from the qualifying round. The assigning actual teams with placeholders will be during the Phase 2 of lottery, which is set to be conducted after ending of the qualifying round and before start of the first round of the playoffs. The 2020 NHL Draft will be hosted after the Stanley Cup Finals. Bob Mckenzie has a detailed explanation of the lottery procedure

The league still has a lot of issues to be solved, Pierre LeBrun from the Athletic tried to guess what comes next.

It’s already been an exhaustive process (Fehr has been on 3-5 calls a day with players and staff since mid-March) and they’re maybe halfway through it. They’ve got a format — although there are still a few open issues with it — and they’ve got a Phase 2 agreement for small group workouts at NHL team facilities, but they don’t know when exactly that can start across the league other than hoping it’s sometime in early June.