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Decision making on 2020-21 season has begun in earnest

October 25, 2020, 12:36 PM ET [135 Comments]
Jan Levine
New York Rangers Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The Rangers have handled two of their key arbitration cases with two more - Ryan Strome and Brendan Lemieux to go. Once the team makes a decision on Strome, the remainder of moves that the squad likely is to make should fall in line. At a minimum, the season is two months away, and I will get back to the top-25 offseason questions, given the amount of time we will need to fill on news. But what will likely dominate that spread of time is how the upcoming season is to be handled by the NHL and NHLPA, which began in earnest the past week.

Pierre LeBrun, Michael Russo and Larry Brooks provided information emanating from the GM meeting Friday regarding this. As we saw during the first stage of the pandemic, all of this is subject and expected to change. But the conversations and topics are worth monitoring, since they provide an insight as to the thought process ongoing.

Right now, almost everything is on the table, all to be discussed between the owners, GM and the Return to Play Committee, the latter of which is being formed again and will consist of 10 players, as reported by Lebrun. The below is taken from what LeBrun and Russo wrote. Following the below, I have added in what Brooks reported today, which gets into training and conditioning camps. exhibition games, etc,:

Start Date? Despite canceling the Winter Classic still could be January 1 but that might be a pipe dream.

Shortened season? Maybe 48, 60 or 72 games, depending on start date. Russo notes this, which is a big reason why shortening this year makes some sense:1) Both sides hope to get back to a normal 82-game schedule in 2021-22; 2) NBC, the NHL’s U.S. national TV rightsholder in the final year of a 10-year, $2 billion deal, and its other platforms are televising the Summer Olympics, so it’s believed the league wants to award the Stanley Cup by June 30.

Hub cities? Toronto or Edmonton, especially if a Canadian Division, but we could also see Buffalo, Columbus or Pittsburgh in the US for the East Coast. Possible Chicago or Colorado for the Central or Mountain Zone. Maybe Arizona, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Arizona or Dallas for the West Coast or South. But the goal at some point is to have teams play in home arenas with fans, depending on where we are with the pandemic and/or a vaccine.

Realigned divisions including a Canadian conference? The latter may depend on border travel, which might not be an issue especially if the report from Thursday's Toronto Sun is accurate:  "international travelers can be tested for COVID-19 as a means to relax the country’s mandatory 14-day quarantine as long as upon entry passengers who test negative agree to a second test within a week"

Salary proration? If less than 82 games are played, the total amount of games could drive salary proration, above and beyond the escrow impact already in place.

New format? Russo notes: "The league could have four to six teams at a time in the hub. Then, perhaps every week, rotate a team or two in and out. Those teams would return to their home markets to practice. Inside the hub, there could be two games a day, the idle teams on a given day would practice and teams would play four games a week." This would limit the separation from families, but last year worked since it was the end of the season. Having this approach work might depend on the length of time this format is in place.

As seen above, a ton of topics to discuss and decide on the best approach. These also are just high level areas, with nuances and details to be worked out amongst all parties. Stay tuned as this should be the central focus for at least the next month to reach a decision before the end of November in order to try and proceed with a 2020-21 season.

- Training camp would be 14 days and include a maximum of 35 players (skaters plus goaltenders).

- A nine-day conditioning camp including up to 35 players (skaters and goaltenders) for draft selections, entry-level players and tryouts, may be scheduled prior to camp. Players participating in conditioning camp must also be invited to the main camp.

- The seven clubs that did not make the 24-team summer tournament, and thus have not been on the ice since the mid-March pause of the 2019-20 season, will be granted an additional week-to-10 days of camp.

- The plan is to play three or four exhibition games per team.

— Team practice facilities are currently allowed to be open under Phase 2 regulations. The NHLPA is asking that up to 12 players be permitted on the ice at the same time.

- Teams are required to test players twice a week during this voluntary phase, with clubs and league personnel advising players that they should use their respective teams’ facilities — and not public rinks — once “in market.”

Relatively few players, however, are “in-market,” with most remaining at home until definitive training-camp dates are set. The Post has been told that several teams have not opened their facilities

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