Proposed Stanley Cup Playoffs format makes for interesting reading, other NHL notes

We’ve got you covered on the latest news regarding the 2020-21 NHL season.

Rejoice, NHL fans, because it appears that we are finally on the cusp of getting a concrete announcement detailing plans for the 2020-21 season.

Following weeks of reports speculating that the new season could start on Jan. 13, 2021, with a 56-game schedule played, an agreement is now in place between the NHL and the NHLPA.

That is huge, huge news and it means that we should expect an official announcement from the league soon with Training Camps opening as early as next week. Those seven teams that didn’t play inside The Bubble in 2019-20 will be allowed to open Camp a few days earlier, while it is believed that there will be no preseason games this year.

Per Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet and a plethora of other Hockey Insiders, there is a “tentative deal” in place between the NHL and the NHLPA on a 56-game season, and that should now set the wheels in motion when it comes to everything else being rubber-stamped.

Of course, things are now changing on an almost hourly basis now and our bumper primer on everything you need to know about the 2020-21 season, which was only published last week, already seems to be out of date.

Taxi Squads of up to six players are also expected to be granted for each team, as was the case during the 2019-20 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

And, per Chris Johnston of Sportsnet, a call is scheduled for some point today between the league and every NHL General Manager in order to thrash out some final details and answer some pressing questions.

But, don’t threat because we are now going to break down all of the latest developments that have emerged over the last 24 hours or so, ranging from a schedule for the 2020-21 season and a proposed new Stanley Cup Playoffs format.

Lets dive right in!

New-Look Calendar

With a 56-game schedule now all but confirmed for the 2020-21 regular season and a Stanley Cup Champion needing to be crowned by the time the Tokyo Olympics start on NBC on July 23, the NHL will be dealing with a very congested calendar.

And, per Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic, here is what the 2020-21 NHL calendar could look like:

  • Puck Drop – Jan. 13, 2021
  • Trade Deadline – April. 12, 2021
  • End of 2020-21 Regular Season – May. 8, 2021
  • 2020-21 Stanley Cup Playoffs begin – May. 11, 2021
  • 2021 Expansion Draft – July 21, 2021
  • 2021 NHL Entry Draft – July 23-24, 2021
  • NHL Free Agency – July 28

So, there you have it and that is a lot of things to keep an eye on in a short amount of time, including the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft when we will witness first hand the construction of the first-ever roster in Seattle Kraken history.

Speaking of which, Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet has reported that NMCs have been extended through July so any player with one in their contract will still have it come the Expansion Draft.

The 2021 Entry Draft will also be key for Seattle, as will Free Agency, and both follow quickly after the Expansion Draft so the end of July will be defining for General Manager Ron Francis and his team.

Friedman has also put out there that the Opt-Out Deadline for non-Playoff teams is Dec. 24 and Dec. 27 for Playoff teams, Group II RFA’s must be signed by Feb. 11 to play this season and, finally, players on one-year deals can extend on Mar. 12.

What is most interesting, however, is the NHL Trade Deadline that is slated to take place on April. 12, 2021. We’ve already seen in MLB that it wasn’t as crazy as usual due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, and I expect that to be the same in the NHL.

I mean, will players have to quarantine after being dealt to a new team? And, if so, for how long? Because if it is two weeks then that is a lot of games to miss in what will be a shortened 56-game season.

Granted, the NHL will be hoping that by then vaccines are having the desired effect and the world will be in a better place, but it is a big if and it will be interesting to see exactly how a Trade Deadline plays out in the current landscape.

John Tavares (91)

John Tavares #91 of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Canadian Division / Realignment

One huge thing to still thrash out is the All-Canadian Division, with reports last week suggesting that all seven Canadian franchises could be moved to the United States if necessary.

However, discussions between the NHL and the provincial health authorities are expected to continue today with the hope that all seven teams will be able to play in their own buildings, or in their own country at the very least.

In regards to realignment, we looked at that in detail here but, per Pierre LeBrun, one change has been made with the Minnesota Wild swapping with the Dallas Stars.

Here’s how those Divisions would now look:

  • Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals
  • Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators, Tampa Bay Lightning.
  • Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, LA Kings, Minnesota Wild, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Vegas Golden Knights.
  • All Canadian team

Those new-look Divisions have a lot of potential to be a hell of a lot of fun and, that brings us nicely on to our final development.

Revamped Stanley Cup Playoffs

Keeping in line with the rest of the 2020-21 NHL season, the Stanley Cup Playoffs will also look somewhat different.

Per Elliotte Friedman, the Playoffs will be made up of the top four teams from each Division producing a champion for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

We’ll preface this by clearly stating that it is very likely we will get some juggernaut clashes in the Second Round and, therefore, an elite team will be knocked out early.

However, just think of how compelling the postseason will be from the very first drop of the puck in the First Round.

I mean, we could have a early battle between the two New York teams which would just be thrilling, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers could lock horns in the first Two Rounds and then you have the absolute tantalizing prospect of two juggernauts in the Vegas Golden Knights and the Colorado Avalanche slugging it out for a place in the semi-finals.

Given the issues with the border and the fact that there will be an all-Canadian Division, there isn’t really a lot else the NHL could have done but I think this Playoff format will be a lot of fun to watch.

We don’t know whether teams will be put in a Bubble again or not, but you have to think that the NHL will be hoping that some fans at least will be allowed back into buildings by the time the Stanley Cup Playoffs start in May.

Either way, we’re getting closer and closer to the NHL returning on Jan. 13, 2021 and hopefully this update has helped, although don’t be surprised if everything changes again over night given how much the COVID-19 Pandemic is still very much dictating things here.