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WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 16: A detailed view of the NHL logo on the back of the goal netting before the game between the Washington Capitals and the Toronto Maple Leafs at Capital One Arena on October 16, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

98.5 The Sports Hub staff report

The NHL is another step closer to getting back in action, announcing postseason dates for the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs as well as key offseason dates heading into the 2020-21 season.

While all dates are considered tentative due to the uncertainty of the virus and potential outbreaks, TSN’s Frank Seravalli has reported that the current plan is for teams to report to hub cities on July 24 and begin exhibition games on July 25. From there, the best-of-five play-in round involving the No. 5 through No. 12 teams in each teams and three-game round-robin for seeding for the conference’s top four teams will begin on July 30.

Following those play-in rounds and tournament, the first true day of the 16-team, 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs will be Aug. 9 in Toronto and Edmonton. The NHL will hope to bang out the opening round in 14 days, too, with the second round currently scheduled to begin on Aug. 9. Once that’s done, the two teams left standing in the Eastern Conference will report to Edmonton and join the last two teams in the Western Conference for the conference finals, which will begin on Sept. 6. (Note: Toronto is hosting the East’s qualification rounds and then the first two rounds before the entire postseason scene shifts to Edmonton for the third round and Cup Final.)

That schedule for the opening three rounds has left the NHL with a tentative Stanley Cup Final start date of Sept. 20, and with Oct. 2 being the last possible date for the 2020 Stanley Cup Final.

Under this plan, the NHL has given themselves 65 days to hammer out the play-ins and a four-round postseason. That, based on the typical length of the postseason, is certainly doable. Especially with travel taken out of the equation.

But the turnaround to prep and begin the 2020-21 season is going to test every organization’s need to sleep.

As of right now, per Seravalli, the 2020 NHL Draft is scheduled for Oct. 6. And while this date could change (all of these dates could change, as we know), it is worth noting that the draft must come in between the end of the 2020 postseason and the start of free agency. The NHL, by the way, still doesn’t know who will pick No. 1 overall in this year’s draft.

The league will also move into the start of free agency one week after the end of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final. The pre-free agency interview window has been erased, too, meaning that it’ll be a mad dash to get on the line with a free agent.

After a true free agent frenzy, the NHL will shift their focus to 2020-21, with training camps tentatively set to open on Nov. 17, and with the start of the 2020-21 NHL season scheduled for Dec. 1. That season will be 82 games, and the league hopes to have a 2021 Stanley Cup champion crowned by late June in an effort to get their league schedule back on track.

It’s an absolutely unrelenting pace for all involved in the game, but hey, it’s one more step towards a return to normal.

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