It needs to be upfront that this NHL return deal is tentative pending approval. As of late yesterday, the NHL and NHLPA had a potential deal in place to start January 13 and play 56 games. Also, the deal includes a slight divisonal realignment that puts the Minnesota Wild in the American West and moves the Dallas Stars to the American Central.
For the Vegas Golden Knights, that means the Group of Death (as Pete DeBoer called it) would change slightly. The new division would be as follows: Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks. The Dallas Stars were moved out in favor of Minnesota for competitive balance. It actually makes things a little easier for the Golden Knights in the pending division. The Wild are still in transition and have shown great potential, but the Stars are once again in the running for the Stanley Cup Final.
Training camps opening January 3 for all teams in the return to play last year. The seven non-playoff teams can start early on New Year’s Eve.
The regular season would end May 8, and playoffs would begin shortly after and the Stanley Cup awarded by the first week of July.
The NHL’s Board of Governors and NHLPA will need to ratify the agreement first. It’s possible the NHL BoG votes Sunday or Monday.
Of course, there are other hurdles to be cleared. The five provincial health authorities must also clear games to be played north of the border. Thus far, the clearance has not been granted. If for whatever reason the clearance is not granted, it’s possible that there may be another hub city setup. Edmonton has been contacted by the league about being that hub this season.
Meanwhile in the U.S., San Jose still isn’t sure whether they’ll play at home or not, and other teams could be impacted.
TSN has a great article summarizing other changes including players being paid 72% of their salaries for this season, players having the ability to opt out of the season, and rosters remaining capped at 23 players with a taxi squad.
Essentially the NHL return agreement must be ratified on both sides, which seems likely to happen with no further amending. Once that happens, the government clearances need to be obtained. The NHL and NHLPA will have to abide by whatever health codes are necessary. Quarantine issues will need to be worked out. If everything is ironed out accordingly, expect seven teams that haven’t gathered together since March of 2020 to ring in the new year with the sound of steel on ice.
Keep your fingers crossed.