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NHL, NHLPA ratify plan to resume season

Updated July 10, 2020 - 7:17 pm

The NHL is ready to drop the puck for the postseason.

The league and NHL Players’ Association approved the return-to-play plan Friday and also ratified a new collective bargaining agreement that paves the way for a 24-team postseason tournament to award the Stanley Cup.

The Golden Knights will begin training camp Monday and play games in Edmonton, Alberta. They open the round robin Aug. 3 against Dallas followed by games against St. Louis (Aug. 6) and Colorado (Aug. 8) to determine seeding for the Western Conference quarterfinals.

Toronto will serve as the hub city for the 12 Eastern Conference clubs, the league announced. The conference finals and Stanley Cup Final will be played in Edmonton.

Las Vegas was one of 10 finalists to be selected as a hub city and appeared to be one of the front-runners throughout the vetting process. The league’s decision to pivot toward Canada coincided with a surge in new COVID-19 cases this month in Clark County, including an unknown number of casino and hotel employees.

“Today, the NHL and the NHLPA announced a significant agreement that addresses the uncertainty everyone is dealing with, the framework for the completion of the 2019-20 season and the foundation for the continued long-term growth of our League,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said.

“While we have all worked very hard to try to address the risks of COVID-19, we know that health and safety are and will continue to be our priorities. We know that all of our fans are excited about our return to the ice next month and that has been our goal since we paused our season on March 12.”

The Knights will travel to Edmonton on July 26 and live in the league’s “Phase 4 Secure Zone.” All members of the 52-person traveling party, including a maximum of 31 players, will be tested daily for COVID-19 and receive daily temperature checks and symptom screenings. Any individual who tests positive will immediately be isolated.

Players have until Monday to notify teams they are opting out of participating in the postseason tournament.

The Knights will play an exhibition game against an opponent to be determined between July 28 and 30. Games during the qualifying round and round robin will start each day at 11 a.m., 3:30 p.m. or 7:30 p.m., and fans will not be allowed inside the arena. Broadcast information is yet to be released.

The conference quarterfinals will begin Aug. 11, and the Knights’ opponent will be determined based on their seed and the results of the qualifying round.

The Stanley Cup Final is tentatively set to begin Sept. 22 and will end no later than Oct. 4.

The new CBA, which was tentatively agreed to Monday, provides labor peace through 2025-26 and allows players to return to the Olympics in 2022 and 2026.

The salary cap will remain at $81.5 million until revenues return to pre-pandemic levels and escrow, the portion of each player’s paycheck withheld to ensure a 50-50 revenue split with owners, will be capped at 20 percent next season.

The deal also provides clarity on a couple of issues for the Knights.

The NHL indicated teams participating in the qualifying round are considered to have made the postseason, meaning the Knights are in line to receive a 2021 third-round pick from Winnipeg based on the conditions of the Cody Eakin trade.

The status of Jack Dugan was finalized as well, with the league ruling that the 2017 fifth-round pick is not eligible to play in the postseason tournament, according to an attachment in the new CBA.

However, Dugan can sign for the 2019-20 season and burn the first year of his two-year, entry-level contract. The signing window runs from 9 a.m. Pacific time Monday to 2 p.m. Wednesday.

“This agreement is a meaningful step forward for the players and owners, and for our game, in a difficult and uncertain time. This would not have happened but for the enormous contributions that the players made throughout, particularly those who served on the Negotiating and Return to Play Committees, as well as those on the Executive Board,” said Don Fehr, NHLPA executive director. “Most importantly, we are pleased to be able to bring NHL hockey back to the fans. We look forward to the NHL’s continued growth here in North America and on the world stage.”

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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