NHL 2021-22 critical dates: Trade deadline, postseason start

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The NHL has finalized its calendar for the 2021-22 season, which will begin with a doubleheader on Tuesday, Oct. 12 featuring the Penguins vs. Lightning and Kraken vs. Golden Knights in the first ever game for Seattle.

It will be a full 82-game schedule as the league goes back to its usual divisional alignment. The only changes in the divisional setup is that the expansion Kraken will play out of the Pacific Division and the Coyotes will move to the Central Division.

Here’s what to know for the upcoming season, including the 2022 trade deadline and the first day of the postseason:

Critical Dates for 2021-22 Season

February 3-22  – Olympic break
Monday, March 21
 – Trade Deadline (3 p.m. ET)
Friday, April 29 – Last Day of Regular Season
Monday, May 2 – Stanley Cup Playoffs Begin
Thursday, June 30 – Last Possible Day of Stanley Cup Final
Thursday, July 7 – Round 1 of 2022 NHL Draft
Friday, July 8 – Rounds 2-7 of 2022 NHL Draft
Wednesday, July 13 – RFA/UFA Signing Period Begins (12 p.m. ET)

Other events for this season include the Winter Classic (Blues vs. Wild – Jan. 1, 2022), Stadium Series (Predators vs. Lightning – Feb. 26, 2022) and Heritage Classic (Maple Leafs vs. Sabres – March 13, 2022), as well as NHL All-Star Weekend in Las Vegas Feb. 4-5.

Transition rules for 2021-22

Along with the calendar, the NHL also announced transition rules for the season.

In normal years, standard player contracts would expire June 30 with free agency beginning July 1. Since Free Agent Frenzy will not take place until July 13, 2022 this season, player contracts will expire on July 12, 2022.

The first buyout period will begin July 1, 2022; qualifying offers will be due July 11, 2022; and salary arbitration hearings will take place between July 27, 2022 and August 11, 2022.

Any restricted free agents — hello, Quinn Hughes, Elias Pettersson, Brady Tkachuk — must sign by Dec. 1 to be eligible to play this season. Remember that a William Nylander and the Maple Leafs took it close to the deadline in 2018 before agreeing to an extension.

Finally, as the COVID-19 global pandemic continues on, the NHL may see a return of taxi squads this season. If conditions arise where they are needed, the rules from 2020-21 would be used. That would see 4-6 extra players per roster, including at least one goaltender. Those players can practice and travel with the team is a recall is needed on short notice.

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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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