NHL, NHLPA reach tentative agreement for 56-game season

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The NHL and NHLPA have a tentative agreement in place regarding the 2020-21 season. The deal still needs the approval of the Board of Governors after the union’s executive board gave the green light Friday evening. There is also the little detail of where the Canadian teams will play home games if something cannot be worked out with provincial health authorities.

Some details of the tentative agreement (subject to change):

• No preseason games and a 56-game regular season schedule. No word yet on division realignment will be. According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the Stanley Cup Playoffs will be made up of the top four teams in each of the four divisions. The divisional playoff format will then see each division represented in the semifinals.

• The league is still aiming for a Jan. 13 start date with training camps opening Dec. 31 for the seven non-playoff teams. The remaining 24 teams will open camp Jan. 3.

• Rosters will be a maximum of 23 players under the $81.5M salary cap ceiling. Teams will be allowed a 4-6 player taxi squad. Salaries will not be prorated, per Friedman.

[Related: NHL, NHLPA working toward Jan. 13 start; CBA will not be changed]

• It’s still possible that the seven Canadian teams, which were reportedly set to have their own division, will play home games in the U.S. The league is still discussing COVID-19 protocols with provincial health authorities, which prefer the hub option. That issue could be resolved by Monday, per TSN’s Pierre LeBrun.

The latest NHL divisional realignment looks like this:

• Boston, Buffalo, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington

• Carolina, Columbus, Detroit, Chicago, Dallas, Florida, Nashville, Tampa Bay

• Anaheim, Arizona, Colorado, Los Angeles, Minnesota, San Jose, St. Louis, Vegas

• Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg

• Players will have the ability to opt-out like they had before the 2020 NHL playoffs. Teams with players opting out may toll the contract for a year.

• The NHL Board of Governors is expected to vote over the weekend.

There are a number of other important details to come in what will be another unique season. Will teams get an exception on their cap for players diagnosed with COVID-19? Will fans be allowed in arenas if local governments allow it? Will the NHL draft still take place in June? When is the trade deadline and will the border restrictions affect player movement between Canadian and U.S. teams?

While the NHL finished last season in a quarantined bubble in Edmonton, it is expected games will be played in home arenas — the preferred option — or hub cities where teams would travel in and out of. The season will be played after the two sides found labor peace over the summer agreeing to a six-year extension to the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The deal will see 10% of salaries deferred, a flat $81.5M salary cap ceiling, and a cap on escrow payments.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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