The NHL and NHLPA have tentatively agreed to the return to play safety protocols along with a six-year CBA agreement. While several questions are answered in the information, the final vote has yet to happen. Until players and the board of governors vote to approve these measures nothing can move forward. A spike in US cases already pushed the start of Phase 3 back as the hub cities once looked at as locks had to be changed. With safety protocols and CBA details to go over lets jump right in.
With lots to get through le's get the list started. First is all players and staff will be tested 48 hours before returning to their teams for Phase 3. Interestingly those test results must be available in 24 hours. Otherwise, the player/staff member in question won't be allowed in team facilities until a negative result comes back. Phase 3 will see players and staff tested every other day. Once the league moves to Phase 4 testing will be increased to every day. Daily at home temperature and symptom checks are being done by all team personnel, as well as a repeated check when they arrive at team facilities.
As for a positive case, it will be treated as a hockey-related injury and the player will be placed in isolation. That player must then have two negative test results before he can return to play. Finally, the question on everyone's mind, what would lead to a second shut down of the season? According to the league a team outbreak that threatens player safety or affects the integrity of play. If that is a massive outbreak on one team or players across multiple teams is not yet clear. Could a team continue with three players out after testing positive? Would games need to be delayed to test players and staff in contact with the infected player? These and a few other questions remain unanswered, but once the votes take place these numbers should become available. Click here for a quick Sportsnet video covering the details mentioned.
Player and Team Regulations
First, let's start with the hub cities being chosen. So long Vegas and Vancouver, hello Toronto and Edmonton. After US outbreaks and some issues with doctors in Vancouver, the NHL has chosen two new hub cities. The league is adjusting its stance on teams playing "home" games, with the East playing in Toronto and the West in Edmonton. It also looks like the Stanley Cup Final will be held in Edmonton over Toronto. Players will be allowed to opt-out of either phase without any penalty. However, very strict protocols will be in place for Phase 4. Any player or staff member found to have violated team bubble protocols will be removed from the rest of the playoffs. The individual's team could also be fined or lose a draft pick. Players and staff will be allowed to leave with permission, but unauthorized trips away from the team will be harshly penalized.
Each team will also be able to roster up to 30 skaters and an unlimited number of goalies starting in Phase 3. As of now Phase 3 is set to begin on July 13th with the official return to games coming on August 1st. If the timeline is met and kept to, the Stanley Cup Finals should be finishing up the first week of October. With the vote still yet to be finalized and maybe a minor change or two still to come these dates could be pushed back if need be. With the plan still to have a full 82 game season, next year the longer the return to play is pushed back the less likely that outcome is.
Along with all the safety and return to play protocols the league has also agreed to a six-year CBA agreement. The new CBA will be in place through the 2025-26 season. The first major aspect is the salary cap. The league has proposed a flat cap of $81.5 Million until league revenues surpass $4.8 Billion. Getting fans back in seats will be a major hurdle in reaching those pre-COVID numbers. Another major development is NHL participation in the 2022 and 2026 Olympics. An agreement will still need to be reached with Olympic Committees, but the NHL will not block its players from participating.
Finally, the league agreed to some changes involving conditional draft picks. Starting next season conditional picks for players re-signing with a team will no longer be allowed. For example, the Bruins trade Bjork to Arizona for a conditional 3rd round pick. The condition on that pick is if Bjork re-signs with Arizona it becomes a 2nd round pick instead of a 3rd. Under the new CBA, those conditions will no longer be allowed. There are many more details that will come out once the vote is held but for now, those are the big changes on the labor side. Click here for another Sportsnet video covering more of these CBA details.
With the NHL return to play final vote coming soon any remaining questions should be answered. Also until that final vote, nothing is set in stone so changes could still happen. Something fun included in these agreements is every team will have a social media coordinator. They're responsible for keeping us up to date with teams and bubble life. They will also provide some levity for those going through these challenging circumstances. Players will also no longer have a gameday dress code. As we head ever closer to the NHL, returning to play news should start ramping up. Keep checking back here for all the latest updates stay safe out there, and Let's Go, Bruins!!
Featured image courtesy of NHL.com