NHLPA authorizes further negotiations on NHL 24-team return to play format

  

Hockey is (almost) back.

The NHLPA Executive Board authorized further negotiations with the NHL on the league’s “return to play” plan late Friday night. The plan’s format would be an expanded 24-team playoff to determine the 2019-20 Stanley Cup champion.

“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.​”

Gabriel Landeskog #92 of the Colorado Avalanche congratulates Pavel Francouz #39 following their 1-0 win over the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on February 21, 2020 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)

In the 24-team playoff format, the top four seeds in each conference, based on points percentage, qualify for “first-round” byes to begin the postseason. The next eight teams in the Eastern and Western conferences would then play in a best-of-five “play-in” round of the playoffs.

The top four teams in the Eastern Conference (Boston, Tampa Bay, Washington, and Philadelphia) and the top four in the Western Conference (St. Louis, Colorado, Dallas, and Vegas) would play each other to determine the top four seeds while the opening “play-in” round took place for the Eastern and Western seeds five through twelve.

A look at the opening round of the Eastern Conference:

• 5. Pittsburgh vs. 12. Montreal – winner plays the four seed
• 6. Carolina vs. 11. Rangers – winner plays the three seed
• 7. Islanders vs. 10. Florida – winner plays the two seed
• 8. Toronto vs. 9. Columbus – winner plays the one seed

Maple Leafs Blue Jackets

Toronto’s Mitch Marner, left, and Columbus’ Seth Jones fight for the puck during the first period of the Maple Leafs’ 4-1 win against the Blue Jackets. (Jay LaPrete/The Associated Press)

Here is the opening round of the Western Conference:

• 5. Edmonton vs. 12. Chicago – winner plays the four seed
• 6. Nashville vs. 11. Arizona – winner plays the three seed
• 7. Vancouver vs. 10. Minnesota – winner plays the two seed
• 8. Calgary vs. 9. Winnipeg – winner plays the one seed

Photo courtesy of the Chicago Blackhawks.

There is the chance that the return to play format could change once the dust settles, as reported by Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston and The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun:

The timeline for the NHL to return to play still is undetermined. Important factors like testing, travel, hub cities, etc. are all under consideration. The most important thing the NHL and the NHLPA must ensure is the health and safety of the players, coaches, team personnel, and all those involved in the hosting of the games when the league does return to the ice.

Until then, this is a hopeful step forward for the NHL and hockey fans alike.

Center Ice Forums NHLPA authorizes further negotiations on NHL 24-team return to play format

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