The NHLPA Executive Board authorized further negotiations with the NHL over how a 24-team return to play scenario would play out.
“The Executive Board of the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) has authorized further negotiations with the NHL on a 24-team return to play format to determine the winner of the 2020 Stanley Cup,” a statement from the NHLPA said. “Several details remain to be negotiated and an agreement on the format would still be subject to the parties reaching agreement on all issues relevant to resuming play.”
Elliotte Friedman reported a proposed framework Wednesday, however, not all details of this framework were approved Friday night.
Under the NHL’s initial proposal, the top four seeds — based on points percentage — in the East and the West qualify for the post-season. Those teams in the East are Boston, Tampa Bay, Washington and Philadelphia and in the West St. Louis, Colorado, Dallas and Vegas.
The next eight teams in each conference will compete in a best-of-five play-in series, with the winners going on to face each conference’s top seeds.
Both the top four in the West and the top four in the East would be given a bye from competing in this play-in tournament but would play games against each other before the playoffs begin.
In the Eastern Conference, the opening round will play out like this:
• 5. Pittsburgh vs. 12. Montreal (winner plays four seed)
• 6. Carolina vs. 11. Rangers (winner plays three seed)
• 7. Islanders vs. 10. Florida (winner plays two seed)
• 8. Toronto vs. 9. Columbus (winner plays one seed)
And the Western Conference opening round shakes out as follows:
• 5. Edmonton vs. 12. Chicago (winner plays four seed)
• 6. Nashville vs. 11. Arizona (winner plays three seed)
• 7. Vancouver vs. 10. Minnesota (winner plays two seed)
• 8. Calgary vs. 9. Winnipeg (winner plays one seed)
According to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, the format of the playoffs is still up for negotiation. Friedman’s report originally indicated that playoffs would be “bracketed” similar to the NCAA tournament but that was not approved in Friday’s vote and the potential still exists for the playoffs to be seeded based on standings position.
While Friday’s vote is a meaningful step forward, there are other critical elements that would still have to be ironed out such as testing protocols, visas and whether or not the league intends to use hub cities.
The NHL is still without a firm timeline for when it will be able to resume activities after having its season paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic.