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Lightning Round: NHL reportedly heading to Canada for playoffs

And the NHL might return to the Winter Olympics

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NHL: MAR 10 Lightning at Maple Leafs Photo by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The speculations about two potential hub cities for Phase 3 and 4 of the NHL’s Return to Play plan continued on Tuesday. The league hasn’t announced cities again, but according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie Edmonton and Toronto have been chosen as two final destinations.

Las Vegas, which seemed to be a lock just a couple of weeks earlier, has lost their reliability due to the rise of COVID-19 cases. Per Clark County, where Las Vegas is situated, recorded 509 new COVID-19 cases and four additional deaths on Wednesday. On the other hand, just a couple of weeks before it was hard to believe that two Canadian countries would be chosen as hub cities. But since the Canadian government approved the NHL’s plan to return and given the decline of COVID-19 daily cases in Canada, it seems very logical now. It’s also very symbolic that such rumour appeared on Canada Day.

Michael Russo of the Athletic has also reported that according to sources, the Western Conference will go to Edmonton and Toronto will host teams from the Eastern Conference [The Athletic, paid content]

There are expected to be 50 members of each team’s traveling party. All those members, as well as NHL staff, tasked with setting up the hubs and the extensive testing that will be needed frequently for players, coaches, team staffers and support staff, will have waivers to avoid Canada’s mandatory 14-day quarantine for anyone who crosses the border.

Instead, it’s believed there will be a shorter length, quarantine in the “bubble” once the NHL arrives in Canada. If U.S. media want to travel to Canada to cover the league’s return, reporters will have to follow Canadian government quarantine protocols, a source said.

Another issue that the NHL and the NHLPA have been negotiating in the last days is the new CBA agreement. It hasn’t been confirmed yet but it seems like both sides are close to signing an agreement. Per Elliotte Friedman, the salary cap will stay flat at $81.5M for the next two years and increase $82.5M in 2022-23 if the league will be able to return to a more regular schedule. A cap on escrow will be set at 20 per cent and another 10 per cent of players salaries will be deferred for next season.

If you’re struggling to understand the current NHL financial system, we highly recommend you to check articles from our colleagues at Pension Plan Puppets to get more insight.

Another thing that might be included in a new collective bargaining agreement is participation in the 2022 and 2026 Winter Olympics, but it still depends on agreement with IOC on insurance and travel issues, which was the main thing that didn’t allow NHL players to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. Craig Custance has summarized some thoughts and facts on the NHL’s potential return to the Olympics [The Athletic, paid content]

Another question regarding Olympic participation is a financial agreement with the International Olympic Committee. This was a major problem in 2018 and part of the reason the NHL didn’t send its players to South Korea. The IOC refused to pay for costs like insurance and travel, and even when the International Ice Hockey Federation offered to step in and help with costs, it wasn’t enough to convince the NHL to shut down the league to participate.

And also some sad news for teams like the Montreal Canadiens or Minnesota Wild, whose long-awaited European prospects won’t be likely allowed to join the team for the rest of the 2019-20 season

As it was announced before, the training camps are expected to open on July 13.

Other News and Notes

The Orlando Solar Bears issued qualifying offers to eight players for next season:

FORWARDS (5): Tyler Bird, Taylor Cammarata, Jake Coughler, Hunter Fejes, Brent Pedersen

DEFENSEMEN (2): Brandon Anselmini, Cody Donaghey

GOALTENDERS (1) : Clint Windsor

Justin analyzed who might follow Dominik Masin’s steps to leave the Syracuse Crunch in the near future [Raw Charge]

It’s never easy to piece together an AHL roster in the off-season and this summer may be triply difficult to figure out as there is no sense of when or if the 2020-21 season will begin. Looking at the players that occupied most of the time on defense last season, there are currently only two players under contract: Cal Foote and Luke Witkowski. Oleg Sosunov is also under contract but he may not be ready to play a consistent shift at the AHL level. The same goes for Dmitri Semykin, who signed a three-year entry contract right before sports went away.