NHL, NHLPA Closing In On Deal To Return To Play

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The NHL and NHLPA are closing in on a deal that will allow the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs to be played in August and September, according to reports. The deal will also extend the current CBA, deal with transition details due to COVID-19 and address Olympic participation for NHL players in both 2022 and 2026.

Here are some of the key details of the deal between the NHL and NHLPA that could be ‘tentatively’ agreed to as early as today.

*The NHL salary cap will remain flat at $81.5 for the next two seasons and then go to $82.5 million in 2022-23. 

This will greatly impact teams that are close to the cap and were banking on a sharp increase this off-season. The Oilers are in that group of teams. They’ll need to get creative in order to ice competitive rosters in the next two years. This puts an emphasis on value contracts and development, which are two areas the organization struggled in previously.

There will be NO amnesty buyouts as part of this agreement, per a source.

*Cap escrow will be reduced to 20-percent starting next season and move down after that

This is a win for the players, as escrow has become a major issue among NHLPA members.

*NHL players will return to the Winter Olympics in 2022 and 2026 pending IOC approval

The league will not want to miss out on the chance to promote the game in China in 2022. On top of that, this is another big issue that the players want changed. Honestly, the NHL never should have left the Olympics, it is a terrific opportunity every four years to further grow the game of hockey. No tournament compares to this best-on-best battle.

*Ten percent of the players’ salary next season will be deferred 

Players will get this money back, and it helps the owners with business costs for next season. A win-win for both sides it would appear on paper.

*The players have the right to opt out of the NHL ‘Return to Play’ plan should they feel unsafe.

We’ve seen multiple MLB and NBA players exercise the right to opt out already this summer. I’m not sure how many NHL’ers we’ll see do this, but I’m sure there will be some. Honestly, who could blame them? Everyone deserves to feel safe.

In addition to the above details regarding the extended CBA, this agreement will officially set the timeline for Phases 3 and 4 of the NHL’s ‘Return to Play’ plan. Phase 3, which is training camps, will be pushed back three days. Originally slated to start on July 10th, Phase 3 will now get underway on July 13th.

Phase 4, which is the official start of games in the ‘hub cities’ is expected to be around August 1st. Expectation is the official date will be revealed once a tentative agreement is reached. The Stanley Cup is expected to be awarded at some point in early October.

The ‘hub cities’ will also be officially announced. The league, according to multiple reports and sources close to the situation, has selected Toronto and Edmonton as the hubs. Edmonton will host the Western Conference, and the Oilers, while Toronto hosts the Eastern Conference.

Teams could report to their respective hub city as early as July 24th, according to a report from Chris Johnston of Sportsnet.

Also according to Johnston, teams will be restricted to bringing 50 personnel to Edmonton or Toronto, with 28 of them being skaters. Teams will be allowed 28 skaters and as many goaltenders as they choose.

The Oilers will bring four goalies to training camp, as Mike Smith, Mikko Koskinen, Stuart Skinner and Olivier Rodrigue are confirmed. Skinner is already in Edmonton skating, and has been since the start of Phase 2.

Lastly, the NHL is expected to announce ‘key dates’ as part of this agreement. While that means the dates for Phases 3 and 4, it also will include dates for the off-season.

That means Phase 2 of the NHL Draft Lottery, the NHL Entry Draft, Legal Free Agent Tampering Period and Free Agency are likely to have official dates as early as today.

Stay tuned for the latest. The situation remains fluid, and both the NHL Board of Governors and NHLPA membership must vote and ratify this proposal.

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