The NHLPA’s Executive Board is taking a vote on the 24-team return-to-play playoff format proposal, sources tell Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston. The vote is ongoing and results aren’t expected until Friday.
If the vote passes, there are still details to be worked out with the NHL. Under the proposed framework, as reported by Elliotte Friedman Wednesday, the top four seeds — based on points percentage — in the East and the West qualify for the post-season. The following 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 will play out like this:
• 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)
Once the play-in tournament has concluded, the playoffs will be “bracketed” — similar to what is done in the NCAA tournament — meaning any of the top-four teams in the East or West could actually end up facing the lowest remaining seed following the play-in round. For example, the No. 4 seed could face No. 12 Montreal (in the event the Canadiens pulled off an upset over No. 5 Pittsburgh) while the No. 1 seed would be left with the winner of No. 8 Toronto vs. No. 9 Columbus.
While having an agreed upon playoff framework 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.