The NHL and NHLPA have reached a tentative deal on a 56-game season, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman has learned.
Following a conference call, the NHLPA's executive board is in favour of progressing with the agreement, Sportsnet's Chris Johnston adds. The NHL's board of governors will also hold a call regarding the agreement on Sunday. Both the players' association and the board still must vote to ratify the deal before it becomes official.
The tentative agreement calls for no exhibition games to be played, Sportsnet's Chris Johnston reported, meaning the NHL will go directly from the off-season and training camps into regular season games.
As has been previously reported, the plan would be to start the season on Jan. 13, though the date is not finalized. This hope aligns with the NHL's prior plan, which included the mid-January start date. Under the new agreement, training camps will start on Dec. 31 for non-playoff teams and Jan. 3 for playoff teams.
The NHL is planning to go with a proposed division realignment that includes a seven-team Canadian division which will require approval from local health officials. If those approvals are given in Canada, the NHL's realignment would look like this:
Boston-Buffalo-New Jersey-NY Islanders-NY Rangers-Philadelphia-Pittsburgh-Washington
Anaheim-Arizona-Colorado-Minnesota-Los Angeles-Las Vegas-San Jose-St. Louis
If games cannot be played in Canada, the NHL has considered a plan that would see Canada's teams play their seasons in the United States.
At the conclusion of the 56-game regular season, the top four teams in each division will make the playoffs, Friedman reported. Each division will produce a champion for the Stanley Cup semifinals.
As Johnston noted, if the necessary hurdles are cleared to create an all-Canadian division, this arrangement would guarantee a Canadian team reaches the final four of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
In addition to the scheduling decisions, the agreement features at least three roster-related elements as well. Friedman reported that there will be no proration of salaries, teams will have a 23-man roster plus a four-to-six player taxi squad, and teams will have the option to "toll" the contract year of a player who opts out of the season -- meaning it's up to the team to decide whether that player still owes them that year of play or not.
Players on one-way deals will have their contracts dealt with the same way whether they’re on an NHL roster, assigned to a taxi squad, or sent to the AHL, meaning they will be subject to 10 per cent salary deferral and 20 per cent escrow payments. The players who are in the AHL on two-way contracts will have a prorated salary based on how many games are played in that league, with a 40 per cent minimum salary payout. And players who are on the taxi squad with two-way contracts will receive AHL pay with NHL benefits.
"Essentially the way (taxi squads) will work for all intents and purposes is those players are considered to be in the AHL, that is if they're players who would normally need waivers, you're going to need to clear waivers to be sent to the taxi squad," Johnston explained. "But that taxi squad will be with the NHL team, they'll travel with the team, those players will receive NHL benefits like per diem and the like, but they can be called up at a moment's notice and put into games."
As part of the league's COVID-19 protocols, players will be tested every other day, possibly every day, and will be expected to have minimal outside contact. More details on those protocols are to follow.