By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
The NHL and NHLPA are now a vote away from dropping the puck on a 2021 season, according to multiple reports.
The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun was the first to report the news Friday night.
The NHL has reached an agreement with the NHLPA on the season, pending respective votes by each side.— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) December 19, 2020
NHL plans to schedule a Board of Governors call/vote sometime this weekend. The NHLPA already had an exec board call scheduled for 8 pm ET tonight.
Naturally, the agreement comes with some tweaks to normal NHL procedures.
Per TSN’s Frank Seravalli, players will have the ability to opt out of the 2021 season if they or an immediate member of their family is considered high-risk. Example: Bruins defenseman Steven Kampfer opted out of the summer restart because his wife and son both suffered from congenital heart defects. That would put him in a position to opt out, and teams will reportedly have the option to ‘toll’ a player’s contract for a season should he choose to opt out.
The NHL will also create a ‘taxi squad’ of four to six players that will practice and play with the NHL squads. Members of the ‘taxi squad’ will be paid full AHL salaries, according to Seravalli.
And according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the season will be set at 56 games.
That was reported as the potential maximum amount of games if the league was able to fire things up in mid-January, which seems to be the plan, with a scheduled Jan. 3 opening for training camp (Dec. 30 for the seven teams not invited to the Toronto and Edmonton bubbles this past summer), and an Opening Night set for Jan. 13, according to multiple reports.
It’ll be interesting to see how the rest of this schedule takes shape, as the NHL will want to leave wiggle room in their schedule for potential cancelations due to COVID-19 outbreaks. (You’d hope they’d learn from some of the NFL’s problem this season.) But the NHL will by all means have to wrap things up by late July, as the league (and NBC) doesn’t want to go up against the Olympics, which are slated to begin in Tokyo on July 23.
There’s still a few logistical hurdles for the NHL to clear, including what to do with the league’s Canadian clubs. While there’s been talk of an all-Canada division, Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reported that there’s been some pushback from Canadian health officials (it’s believed they’d prefer to have bubble setups similar to the 2020 playoffs), which has prompted talk of potentially moving the league’s seven Canadian franchises down to the United States for the entire 2021 campaign.
Listen to Ty Anderson and Matt Dolloff talk about the Bruins and more in the newest episode of the SideLines podcast below.