The NHL and NHL Players’ Association reportedly have agreed on the protocols for the league returning to play to complete the 2019-20 season, but as of Sunday evening, the two sides had not come to a consensus on the changes that will be made to the collective bargaining agreement, which is to be extended, reportedly to 2026.
Several weeks ago, the league and the players’ union announced plans for a season restart that would feature 24 teams returning to play, split between two hub sites. The top four teams in the Eastern and Western conferences would play one another in round-robin format to determine the seeding for teams 1-4, and the remainder of the teams, seeded 5-12, would play each other in a best-of-five play-in series to advance to the 16-team playoffs.
The league last week reportedly settled on Edmonton and Toronto as its hub sites. The seventh-seeded Islanders are slated to play the 10th-seeded Florida Panthers. The 11th-seeded Rangers will play the sixth-seeded Carolina Hurricanes.
The initial target date for Phase 3 of the return-to-play plan — training camps — was set for July 10, but late last week, TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported camps would be pushed back to July 13, with Phase 4, the start of games, to begin Aug. 1.
Several reports have said the salary cap will remain flat at $81.5 million for the next two seasons and that player escrow — which is the money that is withheld from players’ paychecks until the hockey-related revenue (which is supposed to be split 50-50 between owners and players) is tabulated after the season — will be capped at 20% next season. One sweetener for the players: The NHL has agreed to allow its players to take part in the 2022 and 2026 Olympic Games.
On Sunday, McKenzie reported in a tweet that the league and union had completed the details of the return-to-play protocol but that the CBA still needed work.
Once the NHL and NHLPA agree on the final details of the CBA, it will be presented, along with the final details of the return-to-play plan, to the full player membership for a vote.